What happens after someone clicks on your link?

It’s the most essential question in online marketing, but you’d be surprised at just how few online businesses have it figured out. According to statistics by Salesforce, as many as 68% of companies have never even attempted to identify or build a sales funnel.

The power of the sales funnel isn’t always in the funnel itself. It’s in the way you go about creating it: you’ll segment different aspects of your own marketing program and learn to isolate those variables you can best control. By measuring each portion of your sales funnel, you’ll build a stronger sense of what works for your audience and what doesn’t work. But none of it works unless you can first decide how to build that funnel.

Defining the Sales Funnel

Let’s start with the definition: a sales funnel is a plan or process you use to identify, attract, and convert your leads into customers. Although an online search might yield all sorts of fancy, overcomplicated steps, a sales funnel essentially boils down to the pathway you create to bring in attention and make your sales.

A sales funnel is usually constructed of the following parts at minimum:

It’s possible to insert all sorts of complications and additional steps into any one of these three categories, but when it comes to your first sales funnel, keeping it simple is a great way to begin.

Step One: Choose a “Decision” Point

This is a sales funnel, after all: at some point, your lead is going to have to make the leap from “potentially interested” to bona fide customer.

For many businesses these days, that comes in the form of a landing page. Entrepreneur lists the landing page as priority number one.

Why focus on the landing page? This is more than just the decision point; it’s the place where your sales funnel comes together. It’s where you drive your traffic and make your pitch. It’s where you encourage someone to sign up to your newsletter or to take action and “Buy Now!” It’s where all of that work writing the correct headline and call to action come together to create a conversion generator—the only question is, how hard will you work to make sure it’s up to snuff?

Step Two: Decide How You’re Going to Acquire Your Customers

You can’t very well have a landing page without some potential customers coming in.

How do you acquire customers? You’ve just asked the million-dollar question, the question that marketers and advertisers have been asking for millennia. There’s no one answer to this step, but you will need to take the following into account:

Step Three: Test, Test, Test

Whether you employ a trial and error method or keep up to date with the latest in analytics, it’s important that you have some idea of how well your sales funnel is performing.

This is the step where you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. Try a different call to action. Try a different headline. Try a different advertisement. Try a different URL. There are all sorts of variables you can test once you have the right analytics in place. Use this guide to Google Analytics to establish a baseline. It’s important that you don’t start sending traffic to your landing page without first establishing the analytics to make use of it—even if you don’t convert customers right away, you can always use the information you learn in this campaign to create a better campaign the next time around.

Step Four: Evaluate and Reorganize

No sales funnel should be a static thing—a process at your company that can never adapt to emerging market segments and dynamic circumstances. That’s why it’s important to schedule regular reviews of your analytics to get a sense of how well your sales funnel is working and what you can improve.

It’s important not to overcomplicate this step. You might want to dive deep into analytics and try to uncover a wide range of insights as to why your sales funnel might need improvement. You might want to break down every single stage of your funnel into its smallest parts. Avoid this.

Instead, focus on shoring up weak points and looking for the simplest explanations for your problems. If you have a high conversion rate but aren’t getting enough customers, focus on the Attention portion of your funnel. If you have the opposite, re-think your landing page.

Build Your Sales Funnel

You don’t have to have a 10-person marketing council of elders working for you to establish a sales funnel that works. All you have to do is decide where and how you’ll capture your customers, and at which points you’ll measure your funnel’s effectiveness. Along the way, you’ll learn so much about your audience that you’ll wonder how you ever generated business any other way.