7 Examples of How Non-Sales Businesses use Sales Funnels

by Joe Fontenot

7 Examples of How Non-Sales Businesses use Sales Funnels

For many people, “sales funnel” sounds like something from a sales seminar, or the industry jargon used in sales rooms where making more-money is the one and only objective.

But the truth is, businesses of all types–non-profits and for-profits, service-oriented and product-based–are succeeding because they have a sales funnel in place.

It’s not about sales

First, despite its name, a sales funnel is not about sales.

A sales funnel is about moving a potential customer into a relationship with you. It’s for this reason that churches and non-profits have sales funnels, too. They may never accept a single dollar from their “customers,” but their sales funnel is alive and working.

Teams within larger organizations also have sales funnels. This article looks at how 7 different business models successfully use sales funnels.

First, what is a sales funnel?

sales funnel is a series of steps that finds your ideal audience and moves them to your ideal action.

It’s important to know why each steps works. In case you missed it, here is an article that explains it.

Here are 7 examples of how different organizations use sales funnels:

1. Church

Top of the funnel is always about awareness. The target audience of most churches are those interested in God. Because this is something many people get passionate about, spreading the word can often look like giving people a clear, focused message along with a measurable objective.

But when others do show interest, what comes next? In this case (and with all the cases below), valuable content with low barrier of entry is a risk-free way for your audience to get to know you. Are you writing blogs that are interesting to potential members? Are you putting our resource that matter to them for where they are today?

The next step is to make a small commitment. This may be a community event or attending a service or class. They’re not paying with money, but they are paying with time (and energy). After this, you need to weed out those who are only interested in freebies from those who will actually get involved.

In a church, this often looks like a person who volunteers to help or lead.

An important note: at this point in the funnel the amount of time you spend on each audience member goes up. Early on, you spent almost very little time on each individual (because there are so many, and because many are not interested in investing). Now, in order to cultivate a person who is interested in joining in with you, much more time is needed.

This raises the issue of scaling. Many churches mess up here by putting this work onto their paid staff. In order for the economics to work, paid staff needs to cultivate non-paid leaders, who then need to cultivate the ones below them (and so on). This is the difference between a culture of empowerment vs control.

2. Team within an Organization

Intrepreneurs are those who start new things within an organization. This could be anything from a new franchise to a new (or revitalized) department or even a new project.

When any kind of change takes place, three kinds of buy-in are needed:

  • decision makers
  • those who are going to cause trouble
  • the masses

You’ll use a sales funnel to recruit each of these. For instance, the top of the funnel focuses on meeting a basic need that the masses associate with. This is the justification for the initiative in the first place. The masses might be customers, or they might be other employees.

Next, you collect data and feedback from the masses to prepare answers for the trouble-makers. In the process, you might find those (from the masses) who can help you directly deal with the trouble-makers. Or you might just find solutions that assuage the trouble-makers.

Finally, you move to the close: the decision-makers. You’ve tested the market, you’ve handled the objections, and you’ve create a plan for moving forward that leaves the decision makers in a better place.

Many people don’t think of using a sales funnel here, but the principles are exactly the same. You need to convince a select few to act in a certain way.

3. Non-profit

Most non-profits need to affect large amounts of people. An entire community needs to be convinced to pick up its trash. Or, if everyone gave a dollar a day, we could end hunger. At first, this seems to run counter to the way a sales funnel works (weeding out the non customers to get to the customers).

But, in actuality, the sales funnel mechanisms are the same. Instead of weeding out those not in your target market (which you will still do some of), you’re task here is to help the inactive become active. The sales funnel then is about transforming each individual.

First, you communicate why your cause is inline with their core values (turning them into your target audience). Next, you show them why being associated with your cause is the most consistent and morally right thing to do (taking action). And finally, you provide them with a roadmap for how their action (your objective) can make a difference in the world.

The key with a non-profit funnel is to show the return. Your small action (which costs them little) creates a big result (when leveraged by us).

4. Event

Many events are either one-offs, or they are a short annual gathering. Their challenge is unique, because it’s often not something people can take with them or experience on a daily or weekly basis through the year.

But, as you’ve seen from the three examples above, the sales funnel’s job is to clear the clutter out of the way for your potential audience to take action.

So, what’s the clutter stopping potential attendees from registering for your event? There is typically just one answer to this: is it worth my time and money?

The sales funnel for an event starts out like a tradition sales funnel, isolating the target market. But then it shifts to showing the deficit in what your audience is already doing.

For instance, if you’re putting on a conference for programmers, then you need to show how this is going to change their daily work. The action points may be downloading a free tool or watching a webinar. This isolates those with an interest, so that you can continue to communicate to them in a special way.

The larger buy may be social. “If you’ve registered, we’ll give you [some relevant perk] when your colleague registers.” In this case, the company likely paid the bill (so the employee may not be as deeply bought in), but by offering a personal perk, you’re prompting them to spend their social capital.

5. Retail

There are two kinds of retail: low price products (clothes, souvenirs) and high price products (electronics, jewelry, cars).

If your products are low enough to be considered an impulse purchase, some of the steps in the funnel can be combined. For instance, you might not need them to make a small purchase before making a larger purchase.

However, in this case yours becomes a volume game. The bottom of the funnel–a part we haven’t talked about much yet–becomes important here. When you’re selling volume, you need to enlist the help of your current customers. You need to make the experience so valuable, interesting, or exciting, that they naturally want to share it with their friends (word of mouth).

How you do this may become your blue ocean strategy. If you’re customers are eclectic, then hiring eclectic staff may be the key. If you’re audience are business people, then showing them how others (like them) have used your products in unconventional, but effective, ways will make you stand out.

Because your product is not terribly expensive, it’s easy for the right audience to buy. Your job is to get them to multiply those efforts for you.

But if you’re selling more expensive products, then your sales funnel will not only be longer, but it will be more important. Here the primary issue is trust. I need to trust youbefore I give you a lot of my money.

As such you’re going to spend a lot of time in the middle of the funnel overcoming objections, proving testimonials of others who have succeeded with your product, and, generally building trust.

6. Service (for-profit)

Service businesses are similar to retail businesses. The exception is that service businesses can allow their potential customers to try their product before they buy them.

But in order to keep your funnel in tact (to keep your customers moving toward a purchase), there are two caveats to keep in mind.

First, don’t discount. Offering your full services at a discounted rate is pretty much just satisfying bargain hunters. Most argue that their service will convert them. But they usually don’t. As soon as your price is no longer the lowest, they’ll move on.

The better alternative is to give it to them for free.

People will get used to discounts (case and point: look at all of retail). But they won’t get used to free. Free doesn’t make sense, there’s an obvious economic gap. Later when you charge them, it’s both expected and understood.

Second, don’t water down your trial. Many people are afraid that if they give away too much of the good stuff, then their customers won’t return for the paid stuff.

But this is not how buyer psychology works. By giving away A+ quality, you’re telling potential customers that this is what your product is like, and if you want more, here’s what you can expect. It’s a trust issue.

7. Individual

Finally–and this applies to just about everyone–your personal brand. This affects the health of your network, getting new clients, and even keeping current clients.

Start by identifying your core value. Are you a writer? A connector? A builder? Find your thing, and focus on getting that out to as many people as possible. The affect is that you’re going to top-load your funnel. But that’s okay, because the other funnel components will move pretty quickly.

As an individual, the question you need to be asking is: how can more people experience your value? The rest of your funnel looks like making sure they know how to find (and purchase from) you.

An author writes a blog that reaches out to her target market, gets buy-in through comments and post-shares, and then finally sells her book to her audience. Or, a pastor makes his teaching available through a podcast or livestream, creates a relationship with those who interact, and then provides a place for those same people to get involved.

Where most Err

Each element of the funnel matters, though, from case to case, they often look very different. What matters is that you understand how to use them. And that you are applying them specifically to your world.

Many err because they skip steps. They spend a lot of money on an ad, but don’t do the work of cultivating trust that walks the customer to the sale. Or, they build a great product, but they don’t put in place ways to get the word out.

Understanding how the sales funnel works will move you a long way to getting your product in front of those who need it most.