Sales funnels and the tools that enable their function are the mainstays of online marketing and sales. Tools have gone through several evolutions until we now have an incredible group that we can use to market, sell, and track without having to have a technical degree! In this article, I’ll share the ten most powerful tools that help you create traffic, generate leads, and make sales with your funnel. I use all of them and in most cases, I’ve used several other tools until I discovered and switched to the ones I use today.
This article is just over 5,000 words. If you would like to download a 40-page eBook of the article to read, click the button below. It is free and will be sent to your inbox.
In the graphic below I’ve depicted the general flow of a sales funnel. It has three primary purposes that must all work well and connect seamlessly. First, your sales funnel needs traffic. Second, it needs to convert those visitors into leads who are interested in your solutions. Third, is has to provide a path and message that create sales. Lastly, your sales funnel has to provide you with data through the entire flow so you can measure how well the individual parts are performing and how well your funnel as a whole is doing its intended job.
The flow above places each tool on my Top 10 list into its place in a general sales funnel. Several tools either cross boundaries or are used in other areas and are shown below the flow. In the list below, I’ll introduce the tools and where they fit, and then I’ll share more in-depth information about each.
Tools to Drive Traffic
WordPress – used to create your site. Not an actual traffic generation tool, but it creates traffic for your sales funnel and plays some critical roles for your business.
AdEspresso – Facebook ads are a brilliant source of low-priced and incredibly targeted traffic. AdEspresso saves you time and money while improving the results of your ads, which means your entire funnel is more efficient.
HootSuite – social media can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. HootSuite is a tool to manage your presence, share content at the right time, and monitor your brand.
Tools to Generate Leads
Leadpages – a landing page creator par excellence. It lets you make landing pages, pop-up forms, and a host of other valuable types of pages.
Drip – is an autoresponder that finally brings automation, segmentation, and total funnel
Tools to Create Customers (Make Sales)
Thrivecart – shopping cart software with loads of options designed to increase your sales and value of each sale.
Stripe – straightforward and efficient payment processor that is better than PayPal and much more convenient than the larger alternatives.
Other Essential Tools
Geru – strategic funnel planning tool and simulator that helps determine the composition of funnels and try out different options before you build your funnel.
Sumome – great set of tools for your site that help build your list, give you insight into adjusting your content, and aid in creating traffic.
EasyVideoSuite – very useful video player with call-to-action features. Use Amazon S3 for your videos and don’t worry about losing traffic, slow video speed, or giving up control of your content.
WordPress: Any sales funnel benefits from a well-crafted business site. The site is your “hub”, and while you may not have all of your leads directed at your site, you will use it to deliver useful content, display promotions, and it is your digital “face” online. Your blog gives you the opportunity to establish your expertise, engage with readers, and provides a source of traffic to your email list and sales funnel.
You can create sites many different ways, but I recommend setting up a WordPress site. The sites are easy for beginners to figure out with minimal effort, but robust enough for experts to depend on upon. It will grow with your needs and is simple enough that it won’t consume your time and energy. WordPress sites were developed with blogs in mind and are brilliant for blogging. They are also flexible enough to function as your main site.
WordPress can be quickly and easily customized via templates, which can be found free or purchased. You can start with a well-designed layout and customize it to fit your colors and content. You aren’t dependent upon developers to code your site or make any changes. You can do it yourself.
A blog is the center of a sustainable online marketing presence and helps build credibility, establish authority, bring in search engine traffic, create traffic from social media, engage with readers, etc. In a nutshell, a blog is the heart and soul of a website (except shopping sites). There are two versions of WordPress. WordPress will host your site, or you can download WordPress and install it on your site. Your host will have instructions on how to do this if you aren’t familiar, and anybody can figure it out. I don’t recommend the WordPress hosted sites. While they are free and very fast to set up, they don’t have your domain name and are subject to WordPress’s guidelines.
WordPress is used by more than 60 million websites and is THE website for many of those users. Of the top 10 million websites, around 20% are WordPress blogs. It’s been around since 2003 and is the most popular platform and has millions of add-ons, themes, and customizations you can make. While that may sound daunting, it functions beautifully out of the box with a few small additions. (Source: Wikipedia and WordPress.org)
If you don’t have a self-hosted WordPress blog, here are the necessary steps to set one up. If you’re technically savvy, you’ll be able to do this easily. If you struggle with technology, you’ll need to enlist the aid of a friend that has a few skills. You can also find paid solutions that will set up your blog and help you customize the look and feel.
Any hosting option will let you host a blog. GoDaddy is an easy solution. You may find yourself frustrated with their hosting down the road if your blog is successful, but it’s a good training wheels environment. Other options include HostGator, 1&1 Internet Hosting, and so on. You can find dozens of hosts. One excellent aspect of GoDaddy is their technical support, which has been responsive and helpful in my experiences.
If you want something more robust, dedicated WordPress hosts are an excellent option. For instance, my personal blog is hosted on Synthesis hosting, which is a WordPress specific hosting environment.
You can expect to pay around $80 a year for GoDaddy and others and around $25 per month for a WordPress dedicated solution. You’ll also need a domain name for your blog, and GoDaddy is a great option for domain name purchases.
AdEspresso: Facebook ads are hands down my favorite way of creating traffic. Not only are around two billion people on the site but over half are daily active users! If you can’t find your customers on Facebook, you’re probably trying to sell to Martians. Facebook ads are incredible. You can target your audience through demographics, interests, and customize your audiences based on your email list, site visitors, etc. The better you are at targeting, the lower your costs are per lead.
Like any marketing, your Facebook ads need to be tested. Because there are so many potential selections, testing can be a bit formidable. You can and should test your graphics, headlines, calls to action, giveaways, media, audience and any other selections you’ve made. Why test? Briefly, to save money and expedite your results. For example, if you run an ad and it doesn’t work well, your cost to acquire a lead may be $5 per lead. If you have the wrong audience, you may get zero leads and waste all of your budget. If you test everything and optimize, you may find your cost per lead sinking below $1 per lead. That is huge! If your budget is $50 for a small campaign, testing and optimization may mean the difference between 10 and 50 leads. Definitely worth your time!
Testing usually means setting up multiple ads with one change per version. Then you might test each of those versions with slightly different audiences. Once you find the formula, you can run the ad and maximize your results. But, that is time-consuming and complex. Fortunately, they can be tested rapidly and inexpensively. How? By using a tool.
AdEspresso is a Facebook advertising tool. It directly interfaces with your ad account and with it, you can create and test HUNDREDS of ads in minutes instead of hours. AdEspresso also tracks your ads and provides top-notch analytics so you can see what is working and who the best audience is for you. That information is priceless as you can use it as the starting point for your next round of ads! For me, one of the biggest time-savers is learning which types of graphics work best for my ads. That saves me so much time preparing graphics. I also love that I can try many more versions than I would do if I were running it manually. That gives me the freedom to brainstorm and think outside the box to come up with different variations. I don’t have to worry about whether or not they will work; AdEspresso will test all the variations and run only the versions that generate the best response.
I also like that AdEspresso provides suggestions to achieve better results for my ads. Instead of having to rely only on my experience and learning, I can use their recommendations to make more rapid improvements. Their website claims the average campaign will see a 42% increase on advertising ROI. I agree.
AdEspresso has a few more time-saving features like integration with autoresponders (for Lead Ads) and updating Custom Audiences as your ads run.
Hootsuite: Hootsuite is a social media management tools. It connects with a variety of social media platforms and allows you to schedule and publish content in an appropriate format across your social media accounts. It also supports engagement, and you can see conversations and engage audiences as you see them on your screen.
Hootsuite is a tool that I don’t use to its fullest potential, but that I still find valuable. You can connect your social media accounts to Hootsuite and from there the possibilities are endless. For my part, I use it to help me manage my Twitter account. In the past, I’ve used it to share content much more widely, but I’ve eased away from that level of usage over time. I still find it a brilliant tool.
I have Hootsuite connected to my browser. Then, when I find content that I enjoy or is valuable, I can click the app and share the content directly from the current browser window. I can add a comment and tag it and then share it immediately, let Hootsuite add it to a sharing queue, or pick a time to share it in advance. Without Hootsuite, I’m not sure if I would spend much time on Twitter, but with it, I share content frequently and engage with people.
As I said, I horribly underutilize Hootsuite. It can connect to loads of social media platforms, and you can share content to each of them via your connected accounts. In fact, you can connect many accounts to it and select which ones to share content you choose. For instance, you could create a Twitter account for each of your products or services and manage them all from Hootsuite. You can connect groups as well and share content to them just as you would to your accounts.
Again, I’m a metrics fanatic. Hootsuite delivers here as well. You can track the performance of your social media accounts and see the interaction that various content creates. That lets you test times to post, headlines, graphics, etc. so you can get the most impact for your social media actions.
Hootsuite supports contests, too. I haven’t used this feature and can’t comment on it. But, contests are a significant part of many marketing strategies and being able to run one from your social media manager is a definite plus. Hootsuite also has an app that allows you to manage your social media on the go. I haven’t used it, but if you’re mobile-focused, this is a huge plus.
Leadpages: Leadpages is landing page creation software on steroids. Your landing pages are often the front end of your sales funnel, and well-designed bulletproof pages are essential. Leadpages is second to none. It sits on speedy servers that host your pages, or you can opt to host the pages on your site. If you use WordPress, adding pages to your site is a matter of a few clicks.
Creating a landing page is as easy as selecting a category for your page, selecting a template, and customize the elements with your message and links. When you are picking your template, you can sort the options by a variety of criteria including “conversion rate,” which is wonderful if you are just getting started. You can pick from hundreds of templates in a dozen categories and then customize them to fit your needs. Or, you can start from scratch and build exactly what you want.
I love the variety of pages that you can create, which include thank you pages, about me pages, sales funnel pages, landing pages, webinar registration pages, 404 pages, and so on. The pages link seamlessly with autoresponders, can link with cart software so you can create sales pages, and are easily used for almost any purpose you can think of.
You are also able to create pop-up forms that are displayed when a visitor clicks a link. That allows a sign up occur right on your site without having to leave your content. You can also use Facebook information to automatically fill out forms, have one-click sign ups, use mobile to add subscribers, and select if you want one or two step form entry (which impacts conversion rates).
Leadpages charges a monthly subscription fee, which is becoming the standard for tools that continue to evolve with changing technology and market evolution. You can create as many pages as you like, hosted on your site or Leadpages servers.
I’m a big fan of metrics. Leadpages lets me monitor how effective my pages are at converting visitors to the desired purpose I have in mind. Testing goes hand-in-hand with metrics. A significant reason behind measurement is to make improvements. Leadpages lets users create A/B tests (actually many versions) so you can rotate versions show to your visitors and select the one that performs the best. Then you can test that one against another version and so on.
Speaking of metrics, you read about how AdEspresso provides metrics earlier. Now you see Leadpages provides metrics. If you put these together, you have the ability to track and improve your ads and then follow that traffic to your landing pages and track performance and make improvements there as well. Ensuring your sales funnel tools can provide you with accurate and timely metrics allows you to track the performance of your funnel as a whole as well as each component. Improving every step of the way means that you get far better results for the same marketing budget, and you can predict your marketing results!
One final note, Leadpages has an excellent blog and whether you use their software or not, you should be learning from their great lessons!
Drip: Drip is the tool I have been waiting for my entire marketing life! OK, a bit over-the-top, but I’m infatuated with how powerful Drip is and what it adds to my sales funnels. It enables natural segmentation of subscribers, can change segmentation and tags based upon actions made on other tools or sites, has a visual automation builder, and captures leads. Autoresponders have been around for a long time, but Drip is the first one that I’m genuinely happy with. The interface is clean and easy to use, the tool is incredibly powerful, and it has brilliant metrics.
Did I mention that you can subscribe to Drip for $1 a month? That is for the full-feature set. Once your list grows, you graduate into normal pricing. But, that lets you ramp up your profitability at the same time so that you can accelerate the process.
OK, a bit about the software. Drip makes it easy to create email lists. It integrates with Leadpages (and a bunch of other lead page tools) seamlessly to add new subscribers to my email list. It uses a visual workflow builder that is so simple that you may not do much more than watch a five-minute tutorial before you start using it. The workflow lets you build a flow for subscribers and can interact with other tools, monitor for actions, and automate everything.
For instance, I could create a form to link to Leadpages to sign up visitors to my list. I could have them tagged with a label that identifies what they responded to in joining the list. Then I could add them to a campaign that sends them a series of emails. I could set it up so that if they take an action during that series of emails, such as requesting a demo, I could stop those emails and move them to a different set of actions. I can also assign “points” to actions and track lead scoring to segment out who my best prospects are and what they are responding to best. I can have the workflow change emails that a subscriber is receiving if they buy a product. For instance, I could move purchasers to an email series that helps them get the most value from their purchase with tips or instructions.
Do you see how powerful this can be? I’m blown away that this level of automation, ease of use, affordability, and control has finally made it to small businesses. There are tools that can do similar functions. But, they suffer from a variety of issues. They are either so complex that users can’t get the full value from them, or they are incredibly expensive. Most are both complicated and costly and fail to live up to expectations because their customers can’t use them very well. Drip is amazing as it solves these issues and makes marketing automation available to small business owners.
When I say easy, please understand that I mean easy to use. The tool isn’t going to think for you! But, you won’t be constrained by the tool itself, and you can use your brain power on marketing and delivering value to your customers instead of spending your time trying to figure out a tool.
Again, like my other recommended tools, Drip has great metrics. You can see what actions your subscribers take, what they respond to, and made adjustments. Now you can track your how effective your ads are at driving traffic, how well your visitors respond to your landing pages, and how your subscribers act on your list. It is critical to be able to track every element of this flow if you are going to understand your marketing ROI (return on investment) and improve your results.
Thrivecart: Thrivecart is shopping cart software. Again, you may not find this exciting, but an optimized cart can mean a huge difference in the number of sales you make. Thrivecart is easy to use and full of features. It links to almost all payment processors (I recommend Stripe and PayPal as options). Your cart software is a part of the sales funnel where you can make a significant impact on the value of a customer.
Thrivecart allows for upsells, downsells, etc. as your customers flow through the process. You can also incorporate coupons into your flow that are very important for limited time offers, special offers when you give a presentation, or nice to give to your existing customers. Metrics abound at every step of the way which allows you to track how effective your offers are and how your upsells and down sells are impacting overall sales totals.
Thrive cart has several templates you can use, which are tested and optimized to maximize sales and minimize friction that reduces sales. You can select from one or two-step checkout, use testimonials, incorporate videos, and change any element that you want. It is easy to setup post-sale thank you messages, fulfillment, list integration, and payment options.
It is great to have the flexibility to change everything, but unless you’re a sales page expert, it is much nicer to have a proven template to customize, and that is what Thrivecart offers. Again, it has metrics and tracking that complete the data picture from prospect through customer and repeat customer.
Thrivecart sold initially to a small group to solicit feedback and gather analytics. Now it is reopening to new subscribers and has a host of new features coming.
Stripe: Stripe is a payment processor that lets you accept credit card payment and provides forms for purchasing. Not very exciting. But, gas isn’t very exciting for a car, until you don’t have any, and your car doesn’t move. Payment processing isn’t very exciting until you can’t do it and your company doesn’t have any revenue.
Stripe is easy to set up and begin using. When you make a sale, you can get your funds quickly. It isn’t very expensive and operates on a per transaction model. Typically when you make a sale, it charges you $0.30 and a 2.9% fee. You don’t have to pay a subscription fee. You don’t have to go through the agony of trying to set up payments through a typical bank or authorize.net. You can get your money rapidly, unlike authorize.net. It isn’t as fragile and annoying an environment as PayPal that results in lost sales.
No, it just works and is easy to use. It is also easy for your customers. They simply fill in a payment form like every other payment form they’ve seen, and they are done. That doesn’t seem very exciting until you don’t have it. Or you are struggling to get your payments. Or your customers abandon your cart because the process is unfriendly. What I like about Stripe is that it is invisible, and it works.
It works in many places around the world, which is important if your business relies on global sales. You can also set up payment periods, recurring payments, coupons, trials, and so on that are essential elements in a sales funnel to improve sales and increase retention while reducing the number of clients who request refunds.
Geru: I’ve built my share of spreadsheets to do this, but if you’d rather spend your time on more productive things, Geru is the tool for you. It is a hosted app that lets me model sales funnels and business plans. In effect, it is a simulator that lets me create models, enter parameters, and see what the results would be. Then, after I have a sales funnel up and running, I can compare the results and see where I want to focus my attention to making improvements.
Now, when I have an idea for a new product or service, I create a model in Geru to compare the results of different scenarios. This gives me a jump start in creating my sales funnels and setting my targets.
But, I don’t have to start my funnels and scenario-based planning from scratch. Geru comes pre-loaded with over 20 different sales funnel models. I can pick one that matches the product or service I’m thinking about and start from a template. This cuts my workload by 80% and also gives me preloaded targets to hit various revenue goals. I can use real examples to adjust from and begin altering to suit my needs. The pre-loaded models have services, products, wide variances in revenue targets, different price points, etc. Browsing through them gives me great ideas when I’m stuck!
Geru is a drag and drop process creator. I bring elements into the flow, define their characteristics, and then the model generates the output. It includes traffic sources, which lets me look at the entire cost of the sales funnel and incorporate advertising costs and effectiveness into the simulations. I can also vary the types of forms, which impacts the conversion rates. You aren’t limited to “conventional” online sales funnels. You can include phone or offline contact steps into the process and any other costs you can think to get a truly accurate view of your products costs and revenues before you build a thing.
If I choose, I can also start from scratch and build a totally customized model. It is an incredibly powerful tool, and I can’t recommend it enough. It covers often forgotten or overlooked elements of sales funnels and businesses in general – planning, simulation, contingency planning, and metric-based goals.
Geru is opening back up again shortly. Like Thrivecart, it opened to a small group and is now adding features based on feedback and will open up again when they are incorporated.
Sumome: Sumome is a suite of website traffic tools designed to help you build your email list and track the performance of your site pages. They integrate with any site, but especially well with WordPress sites.
There are fourteen tools in the Sumome toolkit currently. They break down into three general categories. Tools that help you track site metrics, tools that enhance content sharing and tools that contribute to improving email list sign ups. Each tool has individual metrics and most have A/B testing that will automatically shift traffic to the best performing version after statistical significance is established.
The tools that are designed for metrics integrate with Google Analytics. They display data on a dashboard and also provide three elements on pages that you can see if you are logged in and visit your site (your visitors can’t see them). I find this much simpler than going to the Google Analytics site and tracking down the information.
The tools that enhance content sharing are easily incorporated into your blog posts and your site in general. There is a great sharing bar that can be set up do display the sharing platforms of your choosing and have counters that can automatically be displayed after a set number of shares is reached. This feature is very useful in preventing the opposite of social proof from happening on your site. If you haven’t had many shares and your counters, show that people will leave your page more quickly.
There are also tools for use inside of blog posts that make it easier for your readers to share pictures, to share quotes, or to share selected text directly to Twitter with a link to your page.
My favorite tools are oriented towards helping grow your list. The Welcome Mat displays a whole-page form with your custom message and graphic added to one of their awesome templates. While you might feel that they are intrusive, they are proven to increase sign up rates, and if you manage how many sign up options you have on your pages, they aren’t obnoxious. There is a pop-up box app that can be set to trigger based upon time, user action, and how far in a post a user has read. What I love is how easy it is to create a pop-up box for a single page. If you have a great article, and you have a giveaway that is directly related to the article, it is easy to create a pop-up box that will only show when somebody is reading that page. You aren’t blasting a generic offer; you are making a value-based offer directly related to the content they are reading at the time. Powerful stuff!
There is also a Smart Bar tool that lets you place a bar on the top or bottom of your page that can move with the content as readers scroll through an article.
If you manage your messaging carefully, these forms can be used to great effect. I’m shifting much of my content to this model, and all of my future content will have it incorporated. If you go to the trouble to share your knowledge in articles, why not take an easy extra step and make a compelling marketing opportunity from it?
EasyVideoSuite: Video is important in marketing. It is also important to many online businesses. It is used on sites, to present information, and in online courses. I include EasyVideoSuite (EVS) in this tool list because it is an integral part of how I use video in my sales funnels and my business in general. It is very much designed with video marketing in mind but is sturdy enough that I use it in lots of other ways.
The software lets you record, publish, market, and track videos. That covers the bases for my usage. I create lots of different video types. I shoot head-shot videos, typical videos with walking and talking, screen shot videos, whiteboard videos, explainer videos, and videos from webinars I give. EVS works with each of those content types and gives me loads of options.
I can load my videos into EVS and create a page within the tool. I can then share that page. I can load videos easily into my blog posts or anywhere on my site with a few clicks through seamless WordPress integration. Where ever I put my videos, they display perfectly on computers, tablets, phones and so on.
But, where it gets powerful, is for marketing and calls to action. At any point in my video, I can put a call to action. I can have it stop the video if it is a glimpse of a paid product, I can share a link at a point where something is discussed, or I can add an email sign up form at the end.
I can also create an endless variety of shells to host videos. That means I can use the video player to help with the design or flow of a page or help set the stage for the type of content within the video.
EVS has metrics that provide insights into how many views a video has, at what time most people drop off, what time people watch the video and more. With this information, I can change the video to avoid drop-offs or ensure my offer is shown before a drop off point, which increases my conversions.
I also love that EVS doesn’t use YouTube or any other video service. I don’t have to worry about visitors leaving my page after a video to watch another YouTube video or have limited player options. EVS lets me set up videos on Amazon S3 servers. It took me about 15 minutes to follow the simple instructions and create the server space. Now, when I create a video, I click a button on the software, and it uploads it and brings it to my EVS dashboard. From there I can choose my options and use the video as I see fit. The price can’t be beat either, most months the hosting on Amazon is less than a few dollars.
While you can use Wistia, YouTube, or Vimeo, I’m a big fan of software that gives me loads of control and options while being very easy to use. It is also great that my videos never slow down or break up because of the server speed.
I’m a fan of metrics and improvement, as you may have gathered by now. I’m also a fan of modeling to establish the potential of a sales funnel before I build it and to establish goals for the overall sales funnel as well as individual components.
Download this article: download now.