The sales funnel, also known as the sales process or purchase funnel, is the journey potential customers go through on the way to purchase.

The funnel starts with the “awareness” stage wherein your business is exposed to new prospective customers (via a tweet, Google search, etc.). As they browse through your content and/or products, trying to find a solution to their problem, they may develop an interest in your offerings. They may sign up for your newsletter or fill out a form on your website — this is known as the “interest” stage. Now, that prospect has turned into a lead.

Next, the prospect starts evaluating their options (considering your competitors) before making a decision — the “decision” stage. Sending useful content and special offers to your leads can help stack the odds in your favor. Finally, after careful consideration, the prospective customer takes “action” and hopefully, chooses to buy from your business instead of from a competitor.

Now, as you can see, the sales funnel is pretty elaborate and lengthy. But there are things you can do to shrink it and get faster conversions. Here are five extremely effective ways to do just that:

1. Improve Your Organic Search Rankings

How your business is first exposed to the prospect can make a huge difference in terms of eventual conversion, if it happens. Because depending upon how they’ve arrived at your website, prospective customers will view your offerings differently.

Specifically, for example, generating brand awareness through a paid ad is substantially less effective than through an organic listing. When a prospect finds you organically through Google search, they’re able to appreciate the fact that you have some level of authority because you’re ranking at the top of search results.

And when you have authority, prospects are more likely to enter into your funnel because they know that if you’re ranking high for relevant terms, what you’re providing must be of great value. That’s why focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) and inbound marketing is so important. People avoid ads and are aware that anyone can pay to rank high, so the element of authority and credibility diminishes.

To start improving your SEO, optimize your web pages’ titles, meta descriptions, URLs, and content for the right keywords. Build relevant backlinks from high-quality websites through guest posting and outreach. Slowly but surely, you’ll climb up the Google rankings and generate truly authoritative brand awareness.

2. Create Interactive Content

All your competitors are churning out content such as blog posts and how-to guides. While publishing such text-based long-form content is important for SEO, you can kick things up a notch by creating interactive content.

Interactive content in the form of quizzes, polls, infographics, embedded calculators, augmented reality ads, and 360-degree videos provide an immersive experience to your audience, boosts engagement, and ultimately, increases the likelihood of conversions.

Such content is fun, fresh and exciting. It makes prospects feel more connected to your brand and the small extra effort they put in to engage with your content means they’re more invested in the buying process.

Simply put, interactive content is more memorable and thus, more likely to generate quicker conversions.

3. Incorporate Conversational Marketing

At the heart of a thriving sales funnel is a great customer experience. Even after leads turn into customers, user experience is pivotal. For example, if you’re a B2B SaaS business, showcasing a robust user onboarding experience will be key to capturing the interest of leads and retaining them once they’ve converted into clients.

Now, in every stage of the funnel, if you’re able to resolve the customers’ doubts and questions, and provide immediate support, you’re far more likely to convert them quicker.

That’s because everyone appreciates good customer service which doesn’t involve much waiting. It shows that the business actually cares.

One super-effective way to provide instant clarification and customer support throughout the buyer’s journey is by incorporating live chat on your website and social media accounts.  Modern consumers actually prefer messaging over calls, and while you obviously can’t have a human sitting behind the chatbox 24/7, you can use chatbots to facilitate conversational marketing for your business.

Chatbots are fantastic virtual assistants and even loved by customers because they give answers promptly, perfectly recall your entire buying history, and never lose their cool.

Conversational marketing is all about enabling a one-to-one interaction between businesses and consumers. Such real-time conversations with your prospects boost the customer experience (CX) which, in turn, drives rapid sales.

4. Tell a Great Story

Stories sell, plain and simple. If you’re able to convey your brand’s backstory in a way that prospects instantly feel a connection (i.e. trigger a response like “Yes, that’s so relatable!”), then you may very well forget about any other sales tactic you have up your sleeve, because guess what, you’ve just converted the prospect.

It’s true — people don’t like sales pitches, they like stories. Your ability to weave words into compelling stories using creative copywriting can be one of the most effective ways to shrink the sales funnel.

So, go ahead and get personal, be earnest yet humorous, narrate why and how your business came into existence, and what kind of problems it aims to solve. If you tell a highly relatable story that people care about, they will be exponentially more likely to buy from you.

5. Add Abundant Social Proof

Before they part with their hard-earned money, people want proof that your business is legit. And the bedrock of any business is trustworthiness. One does not simply buy something from you because you’re offering it for a cheaper price, but because you have gained a certain level of their trust.

That trust comes in the form of word-of-mouth, aka social proof. People trust other people more than they could ever trust a brand. Think about it, wouldn’t you trust your friend’s recommendation more than an advertisement from a company?

No level of paid advertising can ever beat an honest review by a verified customer, letting others know that someone just like them made a similar purchase and is happy with it.

So, social proof in the form of product reviews on platforms like Yelp, social media shoutouts, celebrity/influencer endorsements, third-party badges, and case studies serve as a clear testament that your business is authentic.

One great way to garner more social proof in the form of user-generated content (reviews, testimonials, shoutouts, and so on) is by running contests on social media. For instance, a hashtag contest on Instagram presents an incentive for consumers to publicly tag and praise your business (and hence, to some extent, endorse it).

The more social proof you have, the faster you can convince prospects, and the shorter is your sales funnel.

Over to You

Essentially, shrinking the funnel is about making it as easy as possible for the customer to find you and believe in your business’s credibility. You’ve experienced it yourself as a customer: when you feel the chemistry is just right, you buy immediately.

So, try the aforementioned tactics to generate higher-quality awareness, more engaging content, and absolute authority for your business, which will inevitably translate into quicker and better conversions.