How to Create a Top Converting Application Funnel

If you want your business to run as efficiently as possible, then you have to make sure that you are investing in a quality marketing funnel. This essentially refers to the process of converting a website visitor into a paying customer. It’s important to know that a sales funnel and an application funnel follow a very similar strategy. With a sales funnel, the end-goal is to get your customer to purchase your product. With an application funnel, the end-goal is for them to apply to work with your company.

What is a Marketing Funnel and an Application Funnel?

A marketing funnel is basically a way for you to break down the journey that your customers are taking. It starts with the “awareness” stage, which is when your customer first learns about your business, all the way to the “purchase” stage. This is when they are ready and willing to invest in either your product or service. Sometimes it’s possible for you to adjust your funnel so that it contains additional stages, such as follow-ups after the purchase has been made or even up-sells. Of course, it’s important to know that your sales funnel is entirely unique to you and your business, so you can control how long, or how short your funnel is depending on the business goals you want to achieve. An applicational funnel works slightly differently but incorporates some of the same key points. The client must apply to work with you first, and therefore is showing interest from the get-go.

Getting Traffic to your Site

The first step would be for you to try and get traffic to your site. You can do this by creating SEO-friendly content, or even by publishing white papers. The more you do this, the more leads will progress through your funnel and the more personalized their experience will be. If you want an example of a sales funnel that is effective, and one that isn’t effective then you can find one below.

Example One- A Funnel that Isn’t Effective

Business owner Mandy has her very own software company. She sells one product and has a team of ten salespeople.  She’s not savvy when it comes to marketing, so in order to get sales, she hands her team of salespeople a huge list of potential leads. The leads have been purchased online through a data collection service. Mandy’s sales team then have to ring up or contact each individual lead. The problem is that the team often get frustrated because:

  • The leads just aren’t interested in purchasing the software
  • The software just isn’t what they are looking for

The end result? The team convert just 1% of leads into sales.

Example 2- A Funnel that Is Effective

John has a similar-sized company to Mandy, but instead of using her traditional outbound approach to marketing, he chose to create a team that consists of just three salespeople. He also has a marketing funnel which helps him to close more sales with less effort. John created some marketing pieces that are all connected to the landing pages on his site. Potential customers who are interested in the product are then engaged through blog posts, video content, infographics and more. John’s customers are given the opportunity to learn more about the company without experiencing a cold call from a salesperson.

When John’s customers are interested enough, they can then request a demo by completing a form on the landing page. The requests are then sent to John’s team, who are then able to convert 50% of leads into sales.

The end result?

John’s company is able to close more sales, make more money and with fewer salespeople. Of course, these examples are somewhat simplified. Your business probably falls in the middle of this spectrum. Even if you have never heard of a marketing funnel before, there is a high chance that you have one. You just don’t know it yet! If you’re not quite sure if you need a sales funnel or an application funnel, then look below to see some of the many uses.

The Uses of an Application Funnel

Authors, Speakers and Coach Consultants

If you want to sell some high-ticket items or even coaching services, then you have to place a video or even a success story on your landing page. This sells your visitor the benefits of signing up to a program with you. This is essentially stage one of the process, but more on that later. After this, they would be taken to the application page, which is stage 2.

Ecommerce

You can also use the application funnel to get someone to buy an expensive product from you. The product might be limited edition, for example. You can use a demonstration video to show them what it can do, and then get them on the waitlist.

B2B

Potential sponsors might be sent an application funnel which then results in a phone call.  The squeeze page will highlight the success of other companies who might have been involved in the same program.

Affiliate Marketing

This is the ideal way for you to add people to your program. You will showcase the potential earning power of the members who are already signed up, which will encourage people to apply using your application page. This shows a level of serious interest in your program and it closes with a phone call. You will then ask them a series of questions and enroll them.

Professional Services

Customers who are already in the funnel are asked to continue for a very low price. They will be screened during the application and then those who do qualify will be given the chance to be added to the program. This involves identifying your SQL and MQL, but again, more on that later.

Professional Services

Stages in the Funnel

It doesn’t matter what kind of purchase your customer is making or even how much they want to spend, because they will follow a very similar path whenever they decide what to buy. John Dewey introduced the buying process in 1910. Fast-forward 100+ years and you’ll find that this methodology is still the foundation of the buying process today.

Stage One- Recognition

If someone doesn’t know they have a need that is waiting to be filled, then they probably aren’t going to make a purchase. Let’s say that your furnace breaks down. The problem then becomes obvious, you have to go out and get a new one. Your next step would be for you to call up a few providers in your local area to see if they can give you a quote. This is a pretty simple problem with a very simple solution, but it’s not always that black and white.

Let’s say you are in the market for a new car. Would you buy a hatchback? Sedan? Station wagon? This is one example of how even though the need has been identified, the solution is somewhat vague and not as clear as the example listed above. If you were to transfer this concept a stage further so that it relates to an application funnel then you would ask your customer to register their interest in purchasing a certain model or car, or a high-end vehicle. When they register their interest, you can then move onto the next step.

An application funnel tends to be based more on selling a service, rather than a product. You encourage people to sign up with you in anticipation of receiving something they’re after, but either way, it all starts with the recognition process. They have to know that they have a problem before committing to a solution.

By reading the examples above, it’s easy to see that buyers need to reach the problem, or recognition stage before they can progress through the funnel. When they have come to the conclusion that something needs to change, or that a problem needs to be solved, they can then move onto the information stage.

Stage Two- Information

Recognizing a problem then triggers the next stage. At this stage, the person in question is then prompted to find out more information.

For example, you might recognize the fact that you are hungry. When you have come to this conclusion, you then might do a quick Google search to find out if there are any restaurants open in your local area.

According to Internet Live Stats, 3.5 billion searches are conducted every single day. The average person also conducts 3-4 searches a day as well.

People also use social media and even forums to try and find recommendations as well. It’s important to remember that your potential customer isn’t looking for any kind of promotional content right now. Instead, they are trying to find out more about a possible solution. If you want to encourage your customer to progress through the funnel, then it helps to position yourself as a “helpful” industry expert. Provide them with informative content that has no strings attached.

For example, if you are a marketing agency then you might want to create posts that explain link-building, advertising on Facebook or even the foundations of SEO. You need to push content you think your customers are going to be searching for at this point.

So now you know how a sales funnel works at this stage, it’s important to know that with an application funnel, you would try and withhold high-value information, in an attempt to get the user to sign up through application. Again, same process but a very different form of delivery.

With an application funnel, you might ask your customer to register their interest for upcoming ticket releases. At this point, you might not provide them with the venue, the sale price or anything else of the sort. You’d just say “register your interest for Bob Dylan” tickets now. The user would then fill out their information, and submit. At a later date, you’d provide them with the information they were seeking originally.

That brings about the next question, how do you know what kind of content your customers are searching for? There’s a very simple answer, and that’s to do keyword research. You need to find the hottest search terms in your niche as this will help you to create content that not only matches the query, but also gets high volumes of traffic.

Stage 3- Evaluation

Potential customers will then start to compare the options that are available. Using an example from above, you might feel hungry (stage 1) and then do a Google search for what restaurants are near to your location (stage 2). You might then look at the options that are available, and come to the conclusion that you feel like Chinese food, and not Mexican (stage 3). At this stage, your customer will then be evaluating the information they have been given so that they can come to a conclusion based on their individual needs. This is a pretty simple sales funnel, but they can easily be more complex than this.

Another example would be if you were experiencing poor sales (stage 1). You’d then do a search for the best marketing companies in your area (stage 2). When you have completed this stage, you might not be ready to choose. Instead, you might feel inclined to request a free trial of the companies you have found, or you might want to watch a few videos to find out what each company can do for you. As you can see, stage 3 for this example would be a much longer and more winded process, but it’s the same process all the same.

With an application funnel, you wouldn’t really need to concern yourself with this part of the process. Ideally, you would have provided your customer with the information they need prior to this point. They wouldn’t need to evaluate the options that are available, because they have already registered their interest with your company. That being said, competition on the internet is rife, so it’s important to be aware and understanding of a customer’s thought process before you consider this stage fully completed. This will come into play later, when “exits from stage” is discussed. After all, your client may sign up with you, and then gain interest in another company, leaving you without a hot, potential lead.

Stage 4- Purchase

The purchase decision comes naturally, as the result of the previous three stages. The potential customer will have identified the fact that they have a problem. They will have found more information and investigated their options, and then decided which solution is suitable for them. After all these stages have been completed, they’ll then be ready to pull out their wallet. Now is the time for you to help your customer feel confident in their decision.

Using the example above, let’s say you’re in the food business. Your customer might have recognized the fact that they are hungry, done a Google search, realized that they wanted Chinese food. You’ve checked all the boxes for the above stages so far, so now’s the time for you to drive home the sale. One way for you to do this would be for you to have several, great reviews on your home page or even for you to show them good photographs of the dishes you cook. You might also want to provide a discount code or anything else that can be used to hook them and drive the sale. Again, this is a very simple example with a simple result. Another example would be if you wanted to choose a marketing company. You might identify the fact that you are not experiencing many sales, and then proceed to do some research on a good company. You might then compare the companies you have come across, which would put you at stage 3. If you want to progress here, then some compelling statistical data or even a case study from a reputable company might help you to decide whether or not to go ahead with the full purchase of the option you have settled with. This sounds simple, but there are things that can hinder you at this stage. It all comes down to two major factors, which include negative feedback from customers, and the chances of the prospective customer accepting this feedback.

So that’s how a sales funnel works- but with an application funnel, you’d hope that your customers are going to purchase from you naturally because they have already registered their interest in your product. That being said, you still need to keep them hooked, and the same concept applies to the ones listed above. You have to make sure that you are getting great reviews, and that you also provide them with additional purchasing incentives. If a customer was to register their interest with your service and then read an awful review at a later date, they probably wouldn’t stick around to purchase, even if you had a strong lead originally. Understanding the concept of a sales funnel is vital if you want to pull off a successful application funnel.

Creating Content for Every Stage of the Funnel

Authors, Speakers and Coach Consultants

So now you understand the process of how people make decisions, it’s time for you to work on creating your own sales funnel. If you want to do this then you need to create content that will effectively appeal to your customer at every stage. If you want to do this then you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How did my potential customer find me at this stage?
  • What information are they looking for, to move them onto the next stage?
  • How will I know if someone has moved onto the next stage?

Cold Traffic

If you want to make sure that the leads you are getting are solid, then you need to understand the difference between cold traffic and warm traffic. Cold traffic can include guest blog posts, social media posts that promote guest articles, templates and even downloadable assets. It also includes social advertisements and Google advertisements.

Warm Traffic

Warm traffic could be a competitor comparison chart, a case study from a successful customer or even a pop-up on a site that is relevant to the page that it is leading to.

Hot Traffic

Post-purchase emails, new content on the checkout page or anything else that is engaging someone who has already purchased, or is in the process of purchasing again.

Professional Services

Customers who are already in the funnel are asked to continue for a very low price. They will be screened during the application and then those who do qualify will be given the chance to be added to the program. This involves identifying your SQL and MQL, but again, more on that later.

If you want to find out more about leads, watch the video below.

Qualifying Leads

At this point, you might have a fantastic campaign outlined but if you want it to be well and truly effective then you have to take things that bit further. You need to determine how you are going to qualify leads throughout the entire process. This will help you to utilize your salespeople much more and it will also help you to capitalize on the amount of sales you are making. You have to understand that not everyone who makes it through stages 1-3 are going to have the money or resources required to actually make or complete the purchase. You might even have a lead who is very enthusiastic about your product, but do not have the authority in their business to make the final decision. The same concept applies to application funnels because someone might register their interest with your service, but not have the full authority to continue with the decision. This would not be a qualifying lead, even if the lead appeared to be strong and determined in the previous instance.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

If you want to take things that next step further then you need to understand what a marketing qualified lead is. An MQL is a customer who might have demonstrated a level of engagement to the point where the marketing team knows that the lead exists and has potential. The complexity here will depend on the resources you have, as well as how long your sales cycle is in general.  You might conclude that anyone who fills out a request for your demo is an MQL, or you might determine your MQL as someone who has been through several forms and who has interacted with a certain form. Either way, when you have determined the MQL, you can then pass on their information to the sales team so that they can follow-up on the lead knowing that there is some degree of interest already. So that’s how a sales funnel works. With an application funnel, you already have that degree of interest and that’s great. You’ll probably have your clients’ email, phone number or any other relevant data. That being said, you still need to make sure that the lead is qualified. Just because you have their data, doesn’t mean that they have given much thought to your service as a whole. Misunderstandings happen after all, so this is an important concept to wrap your head around.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead?

When a salesperson qualifies a lead and thinks that it is going to end up in an opportunity, then it becomes an SQL. This is a very similar concept to MQLs because at the end of the day, it is completely up to your business to try and determine what criteria results in an SQL. Salespeople will qualify the lead by looking at the fit and the interest. Interest is how invested the potential prospect is and whether or not they want to move forward. Fit is how closely the lead aligns with your company’s idea of an ideal buyer. From this, you have four options:

Low Interest and Low Fit

The first option you have is someone who is a low interest and a low fit. This means that the lead doesn’t meet your criteria and therefore is probably not going to move forward within the process. A common example of this is someone who cannot afford your service or someone who is not qualified to take it out within their company. They might have also signed up with your application, without fully understanding what you can do for them.

High Interest and Low Fit

This criteria often consists of someone who is looking for a solution, but who are unlikely to go with you. For example, if you are selling a coaching program for eCommerce entrepreneurs, but your client wants something to help them with their retail store instead.

Low Interest and High Fit

Low interest and high fit leads often involve target customers who fit your ideology, but who aren’t seeking solutions. They might not be a good fit immediately, but it may be worth trying to pursue them so that you can create a brand awareness that will pay off later down the road. An example of this would be if you are selling a course for entrepreneurs, to someone who wants to start a business, but haven’t started the process yet.

High Interest and High Fit

High interest and high fit MQLs are the sweet spot. They are people who are trying to seek out your product and who are also very likely to convert into a buyer. These leads should always be your highest priority.

Sales teams who have senior sales personnel and junior representatives are a good mix. You might have your junior representatives conduct the initial calls so that prospects can be qualified before being assigned to the sales representatives who have the most experience. The specifics aren’t important here, but what is important is that you have parameters set. This will help you to identify the marketing campaigns parameters you need. It also means that you will be able to use your sales team effectively, so this is a very important point that you need to understand.  Of course, if you know that you are not converting your MQLs or your SQLs, then it may be worth looking at the feedback from your sales. You can then find out what you are doing wrong or if any of your processes need to be improved. It’s very easy to do this and it can work wonders for your campaign overall.

This video will show you how to quantify your leads even more efficiently.

Tracking your Metrics

So now you have established your funnel and you know how your team are going to interact with it. The final stage of the entire process would be for you to try and figure out what metrics you are going to use to track how well your funnel is functioning overall. It’s very crucial that you work with the data you have, whether it is MQL or SQL so that you can track your patterns properly. You can also find out how your customers are interacting with your site, your channels, your content and even your advertisements. When you have all of this information, it is then very easy for you to continue to optimize your funnel after all. One word of caution here- every piece of content you create will be generating data. All of this is very useful information but you don’t want to create so much that you just end up getting bogged down with it all instead of focusing on the performance indicators that you are supposed to be tracking. One way for you to get around this would be for you to experiment with tracking the metrics below. You can choose between 2 and 5 to focus your attention on if you want.

You can easily add more at a later date, but ultimately, you want to make sure that you are making changes based on the data that you generate before you expand your business operation.

Application Funnel and Conversion Rates-If you are going to just focus on a couple of metrics to begin with, then you have to make this one of them. This metric tracks the number of people who are entering your funnel at any stage of the process. It also helps you to track how many of them are converting to customers. As you make changes to your strategy in the future, you can then see the number improve.  This will let you know that you are on the right track and it will also help you to get a much higher level of control over your operation in general.

Entry SourcesMonitoring the sources at which customers are coming through your funnel can be useful if you want to keep your data on track. It gives you some ideas that will help you to expand your reach from your campaign as well. For example, if you see that a huge number of your prospects are coming from one guest post then you can easily upgrade or even expand on it. Consider adding a free consultation option at the bottom of the post, so that if anyone wants to take further action, they can. You can also explore other guest author positions to see if you can engage your customers even more.

Time in Stage In an ideal world, your content would be so compelling that people would move from the first stage to the end stage in a single day. This is rarely the case though, so it’s worth finding out if your prospects are getting hung up on a single stage now and again. If you know they are then you know that you need to try and add even more content to your site. Ideally, you want to try and answer the questions that they have while also making sure that it is unique to that stage of the funnel. This coincides with tracking your results because then you can find out if the content you are adding is working or if you need to try and take another route. Little things like this can really help you out and you would be surprised at what a difference it could make to your sales process overall.

Exits from StageSeeing a huge number of people falling out from a single stage really does show that you are not doing enough to try and answer their questions. Either this, or you are asking them to commit too much at an earlier stage. If you want to get around this then you need to add more content as this will give them the information they need to ideally move forward. If you are not sure if you are asking your customers for too much of a commitment, then asking a customer to give you their phone number when they are just trying to read and download an eBook is a good example.

Content Engagement Rate If you have calls to action on your various blog posts or on other content pieces, then you’ll want to replicate or even upgrade that piece of content. You might also want to send paid traffic to the post that you created, or you can even promote it via email if you want. Tracking engagement rates on every CTA you have is essential. If you want to do this then you can do it by using Google Analytics. This is very easy to do and when you get the hang of it, you will soon find that it is easier than ever for you to gauge the results of your post.

Opportunity rate – this is essentially the number of opportunities that are in your funnel right now. You need to track this rate so that you can see how the changes you are making to your strategy are benefitting you. Ideally, you should always see a positive increase in the number of opportunities you are able to generate as time goes on. This will show you that your strategy is working.

Close RateYour close rate is essentially your win rate. This refers to the amount of opportunities that actually turn into sales. If you know that your close rate is much lower than you originally expected, then you have to look at some of the other metrics you are tracking. This will give you a good idea about how to improve the success rate of your funnel. You might be sending unqualified leads to your sales team because your content is much more technically savvy than it should be. This is especially the case if you are pushing your content onto a novice audience. One example of this would be if you are trying to pitch your marketing services and why they would benefit a small business, by using technical terms that only industry experts would understand.

There really are a huge range of tools available on the market today that can help you to track all of the metrics you need. Google Analytics tends to be the go-to because it is very comprehensive, and it is also easy to implement. The best thing is that it is free, and it helps you to determine the effectiveness of your programs right from the get-go.

Conclusion

Creating a sales funnel, or even an application funnel using the above process is not an easy feat. It’s not something that you can do in an afternoon, in fact, it’s something that you will want to do for the entire time you are in business. It’s a lot of work as well, but on the flip side, it’s a very effective way for you to almost guarantee future success. You really can’t put a price, or timescale on that.