I’m opening up the mailbox and answering YOUR questions!

Today, we’re solving the tough problems…

How do you create an online sales funnel for an independent retailer — where the customer likely has to come in-store to actually make a purchase?

Again, I’m working through quite the queue of Mailbox Monday questions, so it’s every day, another question answered.

Without any further ado, here’s today’s question…

Hi Roy,

A few years back we spoke about a funnel concept that you were thinking about testing. That discussion stayed with me, and the idea that a sales funnel could be utilized by offline bricks and mortar businesses has nagged at me ever since.

Because I still own a bricks and mortar business in the home decorating industry, I have been trying to develop a hybrid sales funnel approach. We provide both a product and a service. If I were an art gallery, it could work with the flow of new artists and images, show announcements and perhaps offer a value added element as a lead magnet to collect email addresses.  But because my sale only occurs when there is an immediate need, I am stumped as to how to bridge the gap between making a potential customer aware of us, creating desire and getting them into the shop when the need does arise. There really isn’t a viable opportunity to do an email or social media marketing campaign since the customer does not want to be thinking about this service until there is a need. This is a durable good, non consumable and non disposable. Any words of wisdom or resources you can offer?



The challenge, should I choose to accept it…

(And I do…)

Is to consider how to take a business that is decidedly NOT an “internet marketing” niche — for all that now encompasses — and figure out how to apply the principles, strategies, and perhaps even some techniques and tactics of internet marketing to help them get more leads, customers, sales, and profits.

As I think about this, I have a natural urge to break it down into steps.

And specifically, to go BACKWARDS in steps through the Eugene Schwartz market awareness model.

Why backwards?  Simple: because that’s the most profitable way to do it, for a small business that likely doesn’t have a huge test budget to try and fail with.

Start with the people who are closest to making a purchase.

Then, work backwards through the awareness spectrum from most-aware to least-aware, expanding your market as you go.

With the added benefit that if you already have the elements in place that make most-aware work, you’ll have everything you need as you move lesser-aware prospects through the spectrum from unaware, to problem-aware, to solution-aware, to you-aware, to deal-ready.

Shall we?

First step: get your offer right…

I happen to know what the specific business in question is.  However, to respect this reader’s wishes, I have to talk around it just a little bit.  So as not to reveal the exact product or service.

For the purpose of the question, we’re calling it a business in the home decorating industry.

And it’s a physical store, where you would go to get either an off-the-shelf or custom home decorating item.

And even when you buy this item, you may have an extra installation service needed.

For the sake of our example, that’s probably enough to go off of.

What you need to do first is to determine what people will actually come in for.  What DEAL would they want, that they saw as advantageous?  Or another way to look at it, what does everyone else charge them for that you could include “free” as part of a package, that would make them choose you?

I’m pitching slow ball here — if you said “installation,” you get the points.

I come in and get this item, either off-the-shelf or custom.  I need the installation as part of the purchase.  I don’t want to do the installation myself, but it seems silly to actually have to pay for it.

BOOM.  That’s an offer.  At least one worth testing.

(You could also do a “free consultation, quote, and installation on all custom jobs” type offer, that makes what you probably offer for free already sound more exciting.)

Now to actually make this part of the multi-channel funnel, you need a way for them to redeem this offer.  So create a coupon, either on a web page or a PDF, and make that available on your site.  Tell them they should print it out or bring it in to get the deal.

Even better, make it automatically update weekly with the next Sunday’s date as the expiration.  (Because an offer without a deadline is far less effective.)  You could always take it down if it doesn’t work, in which case you’d honor it through the expiration date on their copy.

Consider testing other offers — and tracking returns to see which are most popular — but this would be a good start.

Second step: find solution-ready buyers…

If I’m selling a product that’s typically purchased “when the need does arise,” I’m going to default to location-targeted Google Ads, within easy driving distance of my store.

(Of course, you’ll want to research local SEO and make sure you’ve already done all the free local traffic generation strategies such as business listings, etc., before you start paying for traffic.)

Consider all the keywords someone would type in when they are solution-ready.  That is, looking for the solution you offer.  I won’t give examples here, because of the whole privacy thing.  But you should be able to do this yourself.

Hint: start typing things into Google, as if you were looking for your products.  Note what you type in, of course.  But also note the relevant search suggestions Google gives.  Plus scroll to the bottom of your search results page, and you’ll see Google gives you a listing of “Searches related to…” that should also inspire more keywords.

Once you have a good list of keywords to target, create a mix of ads that essentially connect the dots between the search terms and your offer.

Send the person to a landing page that makes it easy for them to claim the offer, but also introduces them to you and why doing business with you would be advantageous.

The idea of this page should be to grab the attention of someone who knows what solution they’re looking for, introduce them to you and why they should choose you, and make them a deal they can redeem quickly.

Start with small bids and small budgets, and work your way up as early results warrant.

And note: if you’re paying for traffic, you probably want to figure out how tracking works to actually see how many people get to the coupon.  To do this, you probably need to have the coupon on a separate webpage with a tracking script or pixel.

While you won’t necessarily be able to track direct ROI for your ad spending, you can track a suggestive metric like cost-per-coupon-view.  You can also track how many views the coupon page has gotten, as well as how many are redeemed, and start getting closer to the ROI stat.

Oh, and it may decrease your total coupon page views, but you could consider making them give their email address to download the coupon.  It never hurts to build that list.  And we’ll come back to that.

Third step: consider the questions asked before purchase…

Everything before this point has been low-hanging fruit.  But it’s also an area where competitors can easily knock you off, and where it doesn’t take much marketing savvy to do a decent job.

What comes next — especially this step — requires a bit more finesse to pull off.

Because you’re moving from the area of solution-aware — “I need this specific home decor item” to problem-aware — “I need to liven things up around here.”

In essence, you have to go back further in their decision-making process, and think about the kinds of things they’d type into Google, or the kind of places they’d be browsing.

And you have to find a way to show up there, showing them a path that’s a step or two ahead of them but that clearly leads them to a good destination.

For this, I think of things like…

“Easy transformation to make your home more festive this Christmas season.”

“3 tips that can freshen up the look of any room.”

“Simple way to make your office feel more friendly.”

…  And so on.

Again, avoiding specifics here.  But…  It’s almost better that way.  In each of these cases, you’d have to write what’s essentially an advertorial article that creates a bridge between the story and your product.  And at the end of the article, a link through to that page presenting the offer.  (As well as strategically placed at every relevant point in the article.)

(By the way, this is my Value-First Funnel Strategy in action.)

While you’re at it, also consider any kind of educational piece that helps someone move from problem-aware to solution-aware.  Including how to comparison-shop between seemingly similar solutions.

Joe Polish made this famous with his “Consumer Guide” approach, where he actually offered a free guide to choosing a carpet cleaner, including understanding the different types of service available, how some cleaners rip you off, when it makes sense to pay more, and so on.

Saddleback Leather does this in a tongue-in-cheek way with their “How to Knock Off A Bag” video that shows the care and craftsmanship that goes into their products.

And for a shortcut, you can start with common questions you get asked by your customers.  I once heard of a local pool installer that made this their entire content marketing strategy.  If a sales person was asked a question, they had to write a quick response (200-500 words) and they put it up as content.  It was HUGE for SEO plus it drove a ton of new customers.

The key is to create feeder content that moves people from problem-aware, to solution-aware, and into the bottom of the funnel that cements the you-aware and deal-ready elements.

You can also re-purpose a ton of this content in the form of downloadable reports, videos, blog posts, emails, etc.

Fourth step: consider tapping into latent demand…

I mentioned building an email list.

Don’t assume because people are only buying now when the need has arisen that it must be that way.

Usually that’s the case when you don’t have an active program to stimulate more latent demand.

So, knowing the product line, I probably could come in and buy a dozen or more of what you offer.  There are special situations where I’d be more likely to buy.  But the possibilities for buying are far greater than the number of situations in which the pain of not buying is salient enough that it would drive me in.

In any decorating, things are constantly going out of style.  You could stimulate demand by tapping into that emotion.  “When guests walk into your living room, what will they think?”

If you have an email list, you can run regular specials to drive demand as well.  Be careful that you don’t create deal addicts who only come in for a deal.  But occasionally featuring certain items with a deal may help drive overall sales.

And don’t hesitate to develop a voice that goes beyond your product itself.  Share relevant decorating trends.  Put your product in context.  Be of genuine service.  And then use that content to point back toward more product-specific content, such as how to get a custom-designed version of your product that’s a perfect fit for their needs.

This is more than a set-it-and-forget-it funnel, but there is a lot of scalability to it.

Fifth step: think laterally to find a bigger audience…

Finally, consider where your audience is when they’re thinking about products like yours.  Even if you don’t sell there directly, perhaps there are alliances you can form.

You mentioned relevant art — could you offer helpful information to art buyers at galleries around town?  If so, could that information drive buyers to your site (offline to online), where they can learn more, and then be driven into your shop (online to offline) for your products and services?

Likewise, are there partnerships with other local businesses that could be relevant?

Interior decorators, yes.  But also Realtors.  Interior painters.  Furniture stores.  Carpet stores.  And so on…

All local businesses where people go when they’re thinking about their interior decorations.  But businesses that are not selling products like yours, that don’t compete directly.  And through establishing some kind of mutually-beneficial relationship (even if it’s as simple as creating a local home decor directory), you’ll have a whole new source of potential website visitors who are learning more and coming in.

Where to start?

By the time I got to the fifth step, this sounds rather complex.  And it is.

Most good marketing is somewhat sophisticated and complex, to make the customer’s journey toward the sale simple and intuitive.

Tweet that.  Print it out.  Tattoo it on your forearm.

But consider it a destination, not somewhere you need to be today.

Today, you need to make your deal the best option for someone who is ready for a deal.

Then, make sure people comparing providers know why to choose you.

Then, make sure people comparing solutions know why yours is superior.

Then, make sure people truly understand the problem they’re trying to solve and the benefits of solving it.

And along the way, provide a ton of value.

Start with the simple and direct, then build from there.

The breakthroughs will start to happen.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr