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Referrals and Repeat Customers: Making the Sales Funnel a Sales Hourglass

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley

During a recession caused by a pandemic, or other social or economic crisis, it’s not easy to be a business owner or team leader. Your business will have to struggle, shift, and adapt. But it can still grow if you stay aggressive and keep developing your business by building your sales funnel into a sales hourglass that focuses its marketing on valuable, existing customers. The result: steady, ongoing sales that persist, even in an unstable climate.

Here’s how you do that.


When customers are continually aware that you’re there, and still in business to help them through a tough time, they’re more likely to re-engage. You can maintain awareness through:

  • Advertising: Get the word out with paid search advertising through platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and more.
  • SEO: Optimize your paid search and organic search campaigns with keywords your current, loyal customers actually use.
  • Calling or Emailing: Call people or drop them an email to check in. Let them know you’re available to help and there to serve during this challenging time.
  • Direct Mail: You’d be surprised how effective a card, letter, or handwritten note can be when it comes to keeping business going. Just be sure to add personal touches, and keep your tone clear and sincere.
  • Video: It’s reassuring to see someone’s face and hear their voice. Video offers a way to do that readily without overspending, overstretching your resources, or posing a safety risk.


Once you capture their attention by raising awareness of your brand, products and services, customers continue to engage with you because you’re engaging with them. If you’re not proactive, lead generation will suffer and people will fall through the cracks.

How do you make sure people stay engaged with you and your team?

  • Opt-ins: Use simple opt-in forms to capture email addresses so you can share special offers, news, and other happenings via email newsletters.
  • Social: Keep social channels up and running and continue posting content regularly. As always, interact with people who like, comment on, and share your social media posts.
  • Cookies and Retargeting: Use cookies and retargeting to tailor the online customer experience for each visitor.
  • Appointments and Offers: Stay available for appointments (even if they have to be by phone or video for a while). If there are some enthusiastic “hand-raisers” who jump on board for these meaningful conversations, let them know you value their time with an offer.


Whether it be the traditional sales funnel or the sales hourglass, the action phase is the same. It’s the moment when someone becomes a customer (or a repeat customer) by making purchases as a result of your marketing. Don’t forget to:

  • Track purchase activity for every customer in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
  • Thank every customer for every purchase or service, every time.
  • Provide strategic opportunities for them to write a review.


Keeping customers in the fold after they’ve made a purchase is critical, especially since repeat business is more likely to bolster you than new business if the economy is stagnating or trending downward. Retaining customers may not be easy, but it’s relatively simple:

  • Do Good Work: Doing what you do, and doing it well, is always the best way to keep your customers and make them loyal advocates for your brand and your team.
  • Don’t Be A Stranger: Find ways to check in and maintain a “human element.” This is always a great way to build trust, but especially when times are tough.

Additional Services

Just like you, your customers want to grow and scale their business. You can help them do this by offering additional, related products and services and maintain contact with them.

  • Empathy: Be empathetic toward their evolving challenges and offer solutions to rising and changing needs.
  • Vision: During your check-ins and meetings, ask what is new and upcoming for your clients and customers. Help them envision growth and success, and offer ways you can help them get there.


Referrals are one of the most powerful ways to broaden and strengthen your business during a tough time. Ask for referrals when appropriate, and likely a bit before you feel ready. A few suggestions from the Dodgeball Marketing team:

  • Ask for referrals as part of your email marketing.
  • Add “refer a friend” content to your landing pages.
  • Add value for people who refer new customers with finder’s fees or other special offers.
  • Send a thank you gift for referrals: gift cards, plants or flowers, or their favorite treat. Get creative!

One thing is clear, if you’re dedicated and driven to be there for your customers and clients, they’ll help you turn your sales funnel into an hourglass as you continue to grow and evolve your businesses together, no matter what comes your way.

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