At Written Word Media, we love mental frameworks. They help us work efficiently by dividing processes into bite size chunks, look at problems from different angles, and measure progress over time. In digital marketing, a commonly used mental framework is the funnel. As most indie authors quickly turn into also being digital marketers, we think this framework can help you organize and optimize your marketing efforts.
What is a digital marketing funnel?
The digital marketing funnel is a way of thinking about digital marketing. It breaks the customer journey into distinct steps, which makes it much easier to focus and be intentional about your marketing efforts.
Here’s an example of how a typical marketing funnel could be defined: 100 potential customers become aware of a product via ads, 30 potential customers show interest in the product by clicking on an ad, and 10 customers buy a product upon visiting the website.
You can see how in each step of the funnel the number of people decreases as people decide not to buy or have a technical issue. Ideally, these drop offs are small, but not everyone who sees a product is going to buy it. In fact, within eCommerce, on average only three out of every 100 people who enter a funnel will eventually transact. So naturally the journey of customers buying a product starts to look like a funnel.
We normally use percentages and hard numbers to show how many potential customers are progressing along the funnel. This helps us identify big drop-offs and compare steps.
What makes up a marketing funnel is defined by whoever is making it. They are flexible and can be tweaked to help reveal different insights or look at different business goals.
Why should authors use a marketing funnel framework?
Using a funnel framework can help authors in two main ways.
One, a conceptual funnel can help authors understand the impact of their marketing efforts, and if they should be adjusting their strategy. Book marketing can be complex and confusing. With ads, promos, book pages, email lists, and marketing schedules, it gets difficult to understand the impact of each action you take, or what you should do next. A conceptual funnel can help you understand where your marketing activities fit in your overall strategy.
The second way a funnel can help authors is to identify specific weak or strong points in their marketing strategy. A narrow single channel funnel can reveal where exactly an author should focus their efforts to maximize results. By single channel, we mean one source. So you could make separate funnels for Facebook ads, social media posts, etc.
First, let’s work through how to make a broad conceptual funnel to help organize your book marketing. And second, we’ll explain how to make narrow funnels to find specific strengths or weaknesses in your marketing.
How to Make A Book Marketing Funnel
You can identify where you are having success by breaking down your reader’s journey into a series of steps. Once you identify where things are going well, you can lean into your strength. To start, creating a broad funnel that includes all of your marketing activities can help you get organized. And, even better, understand what parts of the reader journey you are impacting with each action you take.
Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, and draw a V that takes up the entire page. Next, decide if you want to make one funnel for all of your books, or a funnel for each series or individual title. It’s up to you, but starting with a single series or title could be a little easier.
At the top of the paper (the widest point in the V), start writing down all the ways readers can become aware of your book or books. This could include retailer websites like Amazon or Kobo, social posts, ads on various platforms, book promo sites (like Written Word Media), and any other ways you show your work to potential readers.
Make sure to include your impression metrics if available. This is how many people saw your posts about your book on various platforms or viewed one of your ads.
Once you have filled out all the ways a reader could learn of your work, it’s time to define how they can show interest in your work. Draw a line beneath the awareness section at the top of your funnel, and start to fill in where readers show interest in your work. By interest, we mean taking concrete action to learn more. Most of the time, this is a click.
This section will likely include many of the same items as section 1, but instead of recording your impressions, write down your clicks. This where you can start to see if certain marketing activities are really driving any traffic. Again, you likely won’t have click data for every source, and that’s ok for this exercise.
This step is all about sales. How many sales do your marketing efforts generate? Unfortunately, for book marketing, this step often feels incomplete as it is difficult to know where your sales are coming from.
For this step, write down how many sales you generated in the same time frame you used for counting your metrics in steps one and two.
This is the final step in the reader’s journey. If you have multiple books or a series, you want readers to buy more of your books after they finish one. So, what is your read-through percentage? Is it lower than you’d like? Think of ways to improve this part of the funnel.
This is a fairly broad example, but remember you can tweak this framework to help you in any way you need. Don’t have any hard numbers to assign to each step? No problem! Just knowing which activities go where in the funnel can help you understand how to communicate with readers.
Now that we have a broad understanding of funnels and some ways readers find books, it’s time to get specific. Here’s how to build and use a data driven funnel based on Facebook ads.
How to Use An eBook Marketing Funnel
Create a Funnel
Analyze the marketing funnel
Define the issue or way to improve
As we mention above, there are many different types of funnels you can create. To get started, create a funnel that focuses on the area you are trying to understand better. For this example, let’s use a Facebook Ads funnel. The funnel captures the primary steps a user takes along their journey:
1. See a Facebook Ad (Impressions)
2. Click on the Ad (Clicks)
3. Purchase the Book (Sales)
Fill in each of the steps in your funnel with data from a specific time period. You’ll want to include enough data to gain actionable insights, so you do a time period that a campaign has been running, the last 30 days, whatever you think will be most informative for you.
Once the funnel is set up, it’s time to analyze it. Here, we’ve made a simple funnel in a spreadsheet.
In this example, the author saw 250 clicks from 7000 impressions for a 3.6% click through rate (CTR). This will vary for different authors and books, but let’s say that’s normal for this author. They often see CTRs of 3% to 3.8%, so they know this step in the funnel is about average. Impressions and clicks are looking good.
It’s in the final step, from click to sale where we can see a potential issue. Two sales from 250 clicks, for a purchase rate of .8%. While the purchase rate could be different for every author, this is concerning for this given author.
One, they aren’t sure those purchases came from Facebook Ads. Amazon doesn’t tell authors where their customers come from, so we know that at very best the purchase rate from facebook ads is .8%, but at worse it could easily be 0%.
Two, this author has seen purchase rates as good as 2% to 4% in the past. And, the idea that 250 people were interested enough in the ad to click, but at least 248 of those decided not to buy is concerning.
Once you have found the spot in your funnel that has the largest dropoff, it’s time to decide what action to take. This isn’t always easy, but if you’re seeing a big issue like the author in our example, doing something is often better than nothing.
For the author in our example, we know that readers are clicking an ad and then deciding not to buy when they land on the Amazon book page. Time to brainstorm reasons why this is happening:
- The ad is misleading or setting an expectation that the book page does not meet
- The book is too expensive
- The book does not have an appealing cover or the cover is not included in the ad
- The book description is not compelling readers to buy
Any of the above could be true, or it could be another issue. But, we know we need to improve somehow, so it’s time to make a judgement call on what to change.
The book is priced similarly to other books in the genre, and the price is included in the Facebook ad, so it’s unlikely that readers are clicking the ad and then being turned off by the price.
Same with the cover, it is included prominently in the ad, so we know it’s appealing enough to get readers to click.
Finally, we’re able to narrow down to what is most likely the issue. The ad copy and book description don’t quite match up. The ad copy mentions a Fantasy book, but when readers land on the book page, they can see that the book is categorized as YA and Fantasy.
It’s likely that Fantasy readers are clicking the ad, but then being turned off when they see the book is actually YA Fantasy. It’s subtle, but readers are clicking the ad with a certain expectation, and when they land on the book page, they see the book isn’t what they initially thought.
Make a Change
Ok, time to improve the funnel. For the author in our example, they will want to edit their ad copy to match the signals they give on their Amazon book page. They may also need to adjust their targeting to reach readers interested in YA and Fantasy.
Using a funnel won’t always reveal what actions you should take as easily as our example does, but it will help you understand what impact your changes have.
Not many clicks on your ads but you see a good purchase rate? Time to work on improving your ad creative or targeting to get more readers in the top of your funnel.
Lots of clicks but not many sales? Time to focus on conversion and making sure your ad creative and book page are in harmony, and make sure your book page is optimized to capture reader’s attention.
After you make a change to your marketing activities, it’s time to measure. Do you see a change in the number of clicks or sales? Is this change expected or unexpected?
If you see an improvement, stick with it. If things don’t change or get worse, go back to your old method or try another one. The idea is that over time you make small improvements along your funnel that combine to make a big difference.
Next, we’ll show an example of how to make a funnel for driving email list signups.
How to Make An Email Signup Funnel
One of the great things about a marketing funnel is that it can be changed to help reach different goals. Building an email list is a great way for authors to connect with readers and sell future books, so here is how to make a marketing funnel to build your email list.
Much like our first funnel, this is when readers first become aware of your email list or your website. Sources for this awareness could be your back matter, ads, social media posts or online searches of your name or books.
For this step, include any way a reader could become aware of your website.
These are readers that visit your website. The great thing about creating a funnel for email signups is that you can use tools like Google Analytics on your site to see how many visitors your site has, and where many of them are coming from.
For this step write down the different sources of traffic for your website. Examples of this include Facebook ads, social media posts and organic google search results.
For this step, we’ll be measuring how many readers who visit your website also visit your email-signup page, and therefore show interest in joining your mailing list.
What is the percentage of users who visit your website that also visit the specific email signup page?
For this step, we’ll measure how many users that visit the email signup page actually complete the signup. By setting up goals in Google Analytics or another website metric system you can see what sources drive the most signups. Or, if there are sources that drive lots of pageviews but few signups.
You can end the funnel at decision, but it can also continue on. You could add a step for readers that open your welcome email, or click to buy a book in an email and feed into the top of your book sales funnel. Bottom line: create a funnel that you understand and helps you improve.
Marketing funnels are a great way to wrangle complicated strategies and tactics into a manageable, measurable format. Building a broad funnel can help organize your marketing and see what is going well, and building funnel specific to a platform or goal can reveal specific issues with your process. Try building one for yourself and see what you can learn. You might just discover a new insight into your book marketing.