Funnel Drift Defined: A Silent Conversion Killer Costing You Big $
Imagine you have a loaded (metaphorical) gun.
You hold it in your hand, it’s light, cool to the touch.
Now you look down at your foot.
“Hello foot, you look nice and functional, good for walking and such,” you say casually as you aim the gun at your foot.
And you know what happens next — BANG!
But why would you (or anyone!) do that?!
Ah, but that’s what funnel drift does to your sales funnel every day as you grow if you’re not careful: you and your team are blowing holes right in the side of it.
While you’re looking the other way — focused on important priorities, no doubt — someone or something might come into your funnel and unintentionally explode a hole big enough to drive a Tesla cyber truck through. This, of course, leads to a drop in your sales.
Worst of all? Like many business owners and marketers, you probably won’t know for days or weeks the change is about to cause a big sales drop…
In this article, I’m going to teach you (based on me making this mistake in a major way 3 times now — and then fixing it) the following:
- Defining The Problem: The painful lesson of funnel drift (when you understand it, you’ll avoid this $500,000+ mistake)
- What’s Causing The Drift? You will be left scratching your head: “Why did our sales drop now? Huh, I guess it’s seasonal…” (but it’s not)
- Examples of Funnel Drift: The many faces of funnel drift — recognizing different scenarios where it can happen
- Funnel Drift Solution #1: The importance of team communication and collaboration in avoiding funnel drift
- Funnel Drift Solution #2: Strategies for future-proofing your sales funnel against funnel drift
- Funnel Drift Solution #3: How to recover from funnel drift and get your conversion rates back on track
Let’s do this!
Defining The Problem: Funnel Drift Is…
Funnel drift plagues many marketers and their sales funnels. It is far more common than you might expect, silently eating profits as it slashes conversion rates of even the most experienced brands and entrepreneurs.
The key to beating it is learning what it is, what it looks like, and how to defend against it.
Funnel Drift Definition:
Funnel Drift means for one or more parts of your funnel — which includes webpages, emails, ads, and more — to move out of alignment with the needs and preferences of the market. This “shift out of alignment” can happen due to external factors outside of your control (e.g. seasonal changes, economy), but especially for reasons within your control (e.g. a poorly written landing page, content that doesn’t “hit the mark”, a broken link in a key email automation).
It’s likely in your funnel, in one shape or another, right now.
But the worst part is if you’re like most people, you probably aren’t fully aware that it’s happening… Oh, but you probably have / will feel it when it happens.
Picture this: your sales funnel is humming along, leads are flowing in like a well-oiled machine, but then, out of nowhere, your conversion rates nosedive.
That’s when it’s most apparent. Most of the time, though? It’s more like a slow and delayed erosion in results.
Common Causes? It Might Be You! (Or Your Team)
All successful businesses (including our company, AutoGrow), have to fight hard every day to combat funnel drift. One of the most common causes of funnel drift is changes made to the funnel by inexperienced or misdirected team members or partners.
Or, it could even be you, you little conversion killer, you!
You might have a strong hunch that changing your homepage headline will grow leads or sales… but then you make the change, and it isn’t until weeks later that the results do not come out as expected.
But the issue is that by that time, you’ve either forgotten (hey, you’re busy, it happens) or made other changes, and you simply can’t tell which are adding and which are subtracting.
I’ll give you more concrete examples of funnel drift coming up.
Successful Marketers Further Define Funnel Drift
To further understand funnel drift, let’s take a look at what some of the most credible digital marketing players have to say on the matter:
“Funnel drift is a common problem for marketers, especially when campaigns run for long periods of time without optimization. It’s important to continually monitor and analyze your conversion rates at each stage of the funnel to identify potential issues and make adjustments accordingly. Failure to address funnel drift can result in lost sales and wasted resources.” — Neil Patel, Marketing Guru and Co-Founder of Neil Patel Digital
“Funnel drift happens when the message, audience, or product changes, but the same marketing tactics are applied. It’s important to always be testing and tracking your marketing campaigns to ensure that they are still relevant to your target audience and driving conversions.” — Ryan Deiss, CEO of DigitalMarketer
“Funnel drift can be caused by a number of factors, including changes in user behavior, new competitors entering the market, and shifts in your target audience’s needs and preferences. To avoid funnel drift, it’s important to stay on top of these trends and continually optimize your marketing strategies and tactics.” — Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro and former CEO of Moz
I agree with their ideas, but let’s be more specific and give it to you straight.
What am I referring to? This fact:
- The degree of funnel drift you experience is (largely) within your control.
- With every change to your website, emails, ads, and so on, you are either causing funnel drift or minimizing it. Even when the economy is bad or seasonal changes occur, you can’t control those factors, but you can anticipate and adapt your marketing easily. More on this below.
With those insights in mind, let’s look at some examples because if you can truly understand the causes, you’ll avoid them and keep AutoGrowing your business.
Examples of Funnel Drift: Recognizing Different Scenarios Before They Hurt Sales
There are numerous scenarios where funnel drift can occur (and is likely occurring for you right now).
Let’s take a look at some of them so you know what to look for and can plug the leaks before they sink your sales.
Example 1: Broken Links
Picture this: Your Facebook Ads campaign has been a roaring success for months and sales are soaring. But then, out of nowhere, your conversion rates plummet. “What the…!”
After calming down, you investigate… You discover that a freelancer you hired to update your funnel accidentally broke a vital link while updating your landing page.
And it happens to be your checkout page. Ouch.
(This is what’s called a “zero multiplier” by the way)
It’s only been a week, but still, that’s one week of lost sales.
But at least you caught it, right? (I’ll answer this with a recommendation later on)
Key Takeaway: Double-check your links and test your funnel regularly to prevent this issue from sinking your sales.
Example 2: Bad Copy Craters Your Conversion Rate
Funnel drift can also rear its ugly head when someone on your team tweaks the copy on your sales page or email sequence.
It’s worse if they changed it without proper testing or understanding of your target audience.
Your Updated Copy: “Do you want to buy some Arctic ice? Fresh from the north pole!”
Your Audience: “I’m an Eskimo, I’m surrounded by arctic ice, bro.”
Here’s a more practical scenario to better teach the idea…
Imagine your original sales page copy was converting sales at a remarkable 10%. But after a well-meaning team member tinkered with the copy, your conversion rate is slashed to 3%.
That’s a staggering 70% decrease, but the reason for it? The original copy clearly explained the value and features, but the updated copy was not as clear in these critical areas.
We had something similar happen within our own funnel some months ago. I assigned the wrong copywriter (who I had not properly trained) to rewrite some copy in a key email sequence of our funnel.
Her copy was significantly less clear and so when we swapped her out with a different writer, conversion rates went right back up (one of the many benefits of AutoGrow is that you can easily find the right talent for your delegated tasks).
And this example of copy clarity makes sense based on the data, which shows us what your customer and clients are looking for:
Crafting clear, compelling copy that resonates with your audience is crucial for maximizing conversion rates. According to anecdotal data from Hubspot, effective, conversion-focused copywriting can lead to a 240% boost in monthly revenue.
Key Takeaway: Before making any changes, ensure your copy aligns with your audience’s preferences and needs.
Example 3: Plugin or 3rd Party Tool “Breakage”
More tech (WordPress plugins, CRMs, form builders, website themes, tracking codes) can mean more productivity and more sales results.
But it also means more maintenance and more opportunity… for funnel drift to occur.
For example, you could have a social media share button plugin, that works great, looks great at first. But then you update your WordPress theme. And suddenly the share buttons are floating in places where they shouldn’t be, covering the screen on mobile devices.
You get the picture.
It’s unwise to set up your automations and not check on them as time moves along. You need to monitor the performance for proper display and interaction between digital tools and the plugins you use. Consistent upkeep will help you to avoid funnel drift and maintain your conversion rates.
A few more examples of where funnel leakage may occur:
Example 4: Visual Design Alterations
A new designer might decide to “improve” (lol) a landing page’s layout or color scheme, inadvertently making it less effective at capturing leads or converting sales.
And sometimes, less is more. Check out this case study from Unbounce:
All it took to get 16.93% more conversions was to minimize the number of choices for the prospective client — one little layout tweak.
Example 5: Audience Targeting Changes
A shift in your target audience, whether intentional or accidental or based on something like changing demographics or economics, can result in funnel drift.
This happens when you start targeting a new demographic without adjusting your messaging and offers to suit the new audience. New demographics mean an updated message.
Example 6: Product Updates
Changes to your product or service offering can also lead to funnel drift. If your marketing messaging and sales funnel don’t accurately reflect the updated product, potential customers may become confused or disinterested.
Always keep your message simple and clear.
Example 7: Ineffective Delegation
Funnel drift can occur when you delegate tasks to team members without providing clear instructions, training on the target audience, expectations about what you want, or accountability.
This can lead to a lack of cohesion in your marketing efforts and a decline in overall performance. Ensure everyone is on the same page.
Solution #1: Awareness, Team Communication to Avoid Funnel Drift
Now that we’ve covered some examples of funnel drift, let’s discuss how you can prevent it from destroying your conversion rates.
One of the most essential and effective ways to avoid funnel drift is to maintain open communication and collaboration within your team.
What does this mean?
Well, as your business grows, so does the complexity of your digital marketing (your overall funnel).
To scale, you have to delegate and rely on others for help.
Regularly discussing the goals and status of effectiveness of strategies at Team Meetings, for instance, can help ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives.
Just look how much it improves a business’s overall performance:
Further, encourage team members to share their insights and ideas, as this will lead to innovative strategies and improvements that can help counteract funnel drift, as well as free up your time.
Solution #2: Strategies to Dodge Funnel Drift
To minimize the risk of funnel drift and guarantee your sales funnel remains profitable, consider incorporating these strategies into your game plan:
- Monitor Your Key Performance Indicators: Regularly check your conversion rates and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to spot any potential issues before they morph into massive headaches. What does this look like? It could mean a drop in traffic, a drop in click-through rates, or a drop in sales — all because, for example, you switched one email out for another in your campaign. Remember, if any changes are made, even small ones, it’s essential to monitor how those changes affect your funnel.
- Create a Checklist: Incorporate a clear set of guidelines for your team and add it to your weekly workflow. The 11 Laws of Sales Funnel Physics is an excellent place to start, which outlines proven strategies for building and maintaining every aspect of your funnel. Ensure every team member is in the loop about these guidelines to prevent any unauthorized or uninformed tweaks that could jeopardize your conversion rates. As an example, at AutoGrow, we have dedicated team members who test and optimize our funnels weekly according to these guidelines.
- Provide Training: Conduct training sessions, share insightful articles, and give your team access to webinars and other learning materials that align with your goals and provide more understanding of the most effective, conversion-focused sales funnel strategies (like this very article).
Solution #3: When Bouncing Back from Funnel Drift…
Don’t lose hope or panic if you discover your sales funnel is floundering due to funnel drift.
Follow these steps to not only recover your lost sales, but use this as an opportunity to propel your conversion rates to even higher levels.
- Uncover the Bottleneck: To fix the problem, you must first know what’s causing it. Analyze your sales funnel to pinpoint the specific alterations or issues that led to its performance slump. This might require reviewing analytics data, gathering input from team members, or conducting user testing.
- Undo the Changes that Triggered the Funnel Drift: This could involve reinstating previous copy, design elements, or technical setups. If you can’t reverse the changes, brainstorm new strategies to tackle the issue and improve performance.
- Leverage Existing Assets: Don’t start from square one if you can manage it; instead, build on what you already have. Assess your landing pages, email campaigns, articles, and ads — and identify the most successful elements that can be refined or repurposed. This will save you time and resources while ensuring that you’re capitalizing on proven strategies.
- Keep an Eye on Performance: After making adjustments, monitor your funnel’s performance to verify it’s improving. This vigilance will help you figure out if your actions are effective or if you need to make further modifications.
- Open Communication Channels: Share your findings and actions with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page about the problem and the steps taken to resolve it. This can help prevent similar snafus from happening in the future.
- Learn and Grow: Use your experience of rebounding from funnel drift as an opportunity to level up. Identify any knowledge or process gaps that contributed to the issue and take action to fill them.
Conclusion: Keep Your Funnel On-Course for Growth
We’ve reached the end of our journey exploring the treacherous waters of funnel drift. By now, you’re well-equipped to recognize the warning signs of a leaky sales funnel and take the necessary steps to keep it shipshape and sailing smoothly.
- We defined funnel drift, which means that one or more parts of your funnel — including webpages, emails, ads, and more — have moved out of alignment with the needs and preferences of the market.
- We heard from some of the most credible digital marketers — the likes of Neil Patel, Ryan Deiss, and Rand Fishkin — about what they have said about funnel drift.
- We looked at several examples of how funnel drift can appear and wreak havoc on your sales, such as broken links, bad copy, faulty plugins, design alterations, and audience targeting.
- And finally, we discussed some proven strategies that can help you combat and fix funnel drift before and after it happens, including tight-knit team collaboration, monitoring KPIs, and pinpointing the cause of your funnel drift.
So, now that you’re a funnel drift expert, you know the importance of continuous monitoring and can spot potential issues before they become full-blown disasters.
Remember: Stay vigilant — always remain aware of the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of both your business and the market itself — and your conversion rates will remain robust. And hopefully, we can also avoid shooting ourselves in the feet (even intentionally).
We’ve come a long way together and learned a lot, but now we want to hear from you so we can keep improving and growing. Have you battled funnel drift in your marketing adventures? What clever strategies have you employed to conquer it?
Share your wisdom and insights in the comments below, and let’s build a treasure trove of knowledge to help one another conquer funnel drift once and for all.
Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.