What Is A Sales Funnel: The Ultimate Guide To Design One

By Peter Nyiri | Internet Marketing

Jan 21
what is a sales funnel

If you really want to sell your product and make maximum profit, you need a high converting sales funnel.

What Is A Sales Funnel And How Does It Work?

what is a sales funnel

A marketing funnel could be explained as a series of stages created from articles, webinars, emails, video content that the visitors of your website need to go through in order to become your customers. At each step they are less in number, therefore when you make a graphical representation, it will look like a funnel.

As new visitors move through your funnel,

  • they get introduced to you and your product,
  • get educated,
  • are given tons of value
  • trust is built
  • and pitched with strategic marketing messages throughout the process.

The landing page is dead. Long live the sales funnel.

The Traditional Affiliate Site Model

A funnel is nothing more than a flow plan for your traffic. The traditional flow plan that affiliate sites use looks like this:

  1. Visitor comes to website from search engine after searching for a keyword
  2. they read your pre-sell content
  3. and click on on your related affiliate link.

Certainly, there is a “plan” how the visitors are supposed to go… And people make a living with this type of site. They just target tons of long-tail keywords.

In fact I use this model to make this kind of money (see my income report for more details):

Aff payout Nov 1

Why Do You Need A Sales Funnel?

The problem with the above affiliate site structure is that it requires a lot of “fuel” (energy to drive visitors). You don’t own the customers that purchased and the (lifetime) conversion rate is around 1.5 percent.

Conversion rate

Having a properly built marketing funnel on your website is synonymous with the following ideas:

  • How do you grow your customer base?
  • How do you get a new customer to buy your product?
  • How to increase sales by getting someone to buy more
  • How can I get customers to to come back and spend more money?
  • How to retain and get more business from existing clients

If any of the above appeals to you, this post is a must-read and you need to sign up for my free course.

Did you know that

  • it costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one and
  • 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%?

Solution: Build & Engage Your Audience

Building an audience (or selling to someone else’s audience) will all by itself increase your sales.

Theresa Nguyen, when she was 13-14 years old, was using the following Instagram funnel:

  1. She shared videos of her homemade slime on her Instagram account that got hundreds of thousands of views.
  2. People followed her on Instagram. With just 400 such live posts, she gathered 1 million followers.
  3. Her Instagram account was linked to her Shopify store.
  4. Her follow-up? She posted videos and announced the restock on her Instagram account.

This used to be her Shopify store:

rad slime shop funnel

Since then she quit because she has other purposes in life. But this is what a Time article wrote about her:

By Veronica Quezada March 22, 2017

While most kids her age are making a few extra bucks selling Girl Scout cookies or babysitting, Theresa Nguyen is raking in $3,000 a month.

How is she doing it? By selling homemade slime on Instagram.

Theresa, a Texas native who runs the account @Rad.Slime, is one of many teenagers cashing in on the rising trend. Her homemade slime is very different from from the Play-Doh or putty you grew up playing with. It’s much more colorful and glittery, and it comes in all sorts of textures.

After seeing other people post their homemade slime on Instagram last summer, Theresa was inspired to create her own. On a trip to Walmart with her parents, she picked up a few bottles of glue to experiment with. She eventually wanted to sell her creations, so she asked her parents for permission.

“They laughed because it is silly to be honest,” she said. But soon they changed their tune.

“When I did start getting a larger following and more sales, they immediately wanted to help,” Theresa said.

At 13 years old, Theresa already had 1 million followers, more than some major brands such as AT&T, Yahoo, and CVS.

And maybe you think she is a special case? Look at the “Suggested” button on her account:

Slime Instagram account

Purple slimes, Stellar slime, Slimey fantasy… Some of these kids are 12-year-olds. They only have 41k or 234k followers…

They use Etsy as their platform.

So, if a 14-year-old can make $3,000 per month from her store, don’t tell me you can’t… (just kidding).

Do You Have Sales Funnel Awareness?

A lot of people don’t see the forest because of the trees. They see the opt-in forms, the emails in their in-box, the thank you page, but they fail to connect the dots. Such funnel blindness in a website owner will decrease conversions.

Don’t be upset, scared or confused about sales funnels… They don’t need to be confusing.

When you have a correct set-up, you’re going to be

  • getting new email subscribers every single day
  • selling more products
  • making money while you do something else.

Now, the point where other guides go wrong is the following:

They show you the parts of a sales funnel.

But they don’t explain how to breathe life into it once it is set up. And this is where my guide is different.

Let’s Increase Conversion Rates

bloggers make money

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There’s a huge difference between a regular affiliate site and a sales funnel website. On a regular affiliate when site visitors come,

  • some of them click your affiliate links,
  • some of them buy,
  • but the majority (70 percent) will leave and never return. All those visitors are now lost for your business.

A sales funnel expert is able to take your site and get it to a point where it will be making more sales with the same number of visitors (improve conversions).

Unless you are happy to make some random sales here and there and only during big promos, you need a funnel, a SYSTEM for bringing in cash every single day.

You can’t just put up a product, a service or a course, and hope that sales will flood in. You need to communicate with your new subscribers, EDUCATE them, and pitch them strategically throughout the funnel.

Sales Funnel Stages

There are several different models for the stages of a sales funnel.

AIDA

This is the most basic model and it stands for

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Another extended model is this:marketing funnel diagram

  • Awareness: This is the first phase where visitors find out about your brand/website, what you offer. This is the prospecting and lead generation stage.
  • Interest/Discovery: In this phase you are sharing valuable content related to your prospect’s need. Qualifying your prospect, personal meetings, email marketing fits into this stage.
  • Consideration: A prospect already in your lead-tracking system, who has expressed interest in buying your product. We can send prospects more information about products and offers through automated email campaigns, while continuing to nurture them with targeted content, case studies, free trials, and more.
  • Intent: In the Intent stage, your prospect has made a decision to buy, but the deal hasn’t fully closed yet. This can happen after a product demo, or when a product is placed in the shopping cart.
  • Evaluation: During the evaluation stage, buyers are making a final decision about whether or not to buy your brand’s product or services. They are also looking at other options.
  • Purchase: The deal is closed and your prospect is turned into your new customer.
  • Loyalty: This is post-purchase, where you have an opportunity to follow-up to see how the product is working and ask for referrals. This is a great time to look for additional sales opportunities.

We can also classify these as TOFU-MOFU-BOFU

  • Top of the funnel – Awareness and discovery
  • Middle of the funnel – Researching solutions
  • Bottom of the funnel – Making a purchase decision

There are several other versions too.

How To Plan A Basic Sales Funnel

There are different types of funnel templates for different subjects that have been created and tested. These all describe the route of your visitors to conversion.

Now I will show you the most widespread funnel that is in use today.

  • Blog post gets visitors (from Google, Facebook, Pinterest)
  • Offer a Lead Magnet through opt-in form or squeeze page
  • Ask for an email address in exchange for the information
  • Direct the visitor to a Thank You page that contains a tripwire offer.
  • Follow up with email and/or re-targeting
  • Sell your core offer

There could be other steps and complications that can be added, but I am not going into those.

A funnel that uses content (and ads) to attract thousands of prospects every week, landing pages and offers that convert them into email subscribers, and finally a sophisticated nurturing and automated follow-up sequence that turns those passive prospects into new and repeat customers can generate 6-7 figures in sales revenue.

1. Create content based on the state of those that need your products/services

Stage of Funnel: Awareness
Tool: Blog posts, videos (tutorials)

Per Derek Halpern there are three different kinds of potential customers:

  • The informed
  • The afflicted
  • The oblivious

The oblivious don’t know that they have a problem. They think their pain is completely normal, that’s how life is, they are the ones that “learned to live with it”.

The afflicted know that they have a problem, but it is unsolvable for them and they have no idea what to do about it.

The informed already know their problem and have already done their research. They just haven’t made up their mind as to which product to buy.

Many companies make the mistake of targeting only the informed. Your content needs to fit the state of your visitors on the above scale and also their position in the customer buying cycle.

The oblivious will need engaging content to move them up to afflicted first and then to informed.

icontact email marketing-logoI have a funny example. Around 2010 I was learning internet marketing. I received the following message in an email:

“If you want to make money on the internet, you need an autoresponder.”

The email was promoting iContact’s 30-day free trial. I took this to heart and signed up, curious to find out how it would bring money…

At that time I had no idea what an autoresponder was for and expected to find some kind of a tutorial on the make money aspect…

I searched their website trying to figure out how to make money with an autoresponder… Eventually my trial expired and I didn’t even touch my account.

2. Create an opt-in offer that targets a real need of your ideal customer

Stage of Funnel: Interest/Discovery
Tool: Lead Magnet

Too often we throw together a simple e-book or some other download, without ever thinking over if our ideal customer—the one we really want to sell to—really needs or wants it. Unless your opt-in offer answers a driving question or solves a problem for your client, he’s not going to sign up.

A PDF download is not necessarily the best opt-in offer. Check out this one from SEO SpyGlass:

SEO Spy funnel

Blog owners want to see the backlinks to their blogs, right?

Normally such a service costs $50 or $100 a month.

The opportunity to use it for free is pretty compelling if this is what someone is looking for. I have been using the free version for two years…

Is your “lead magnet” super compelling for your potential subscribers? If not, you need to find a better one.

The above kind of opt-in only works for the informed.

3. Create a tripwire offer that follows naturally from the opt-in

Stage of Funnel: Interest/Discovery
Tool: e-book, software, course, etc.

It costs money to get new customers. It’s easier and cheaper to sell to an existing customer.

Your existing customers have already bought from you, therefore they probably know the quality you deliver. They are part of your database and are more willing to give you money on complimentary products.

The hard part is getting those customers in the first place.

This situation is solved with a tripwire.

A tripwire offer is a relatively low-cost high-quality product specifically designed to build your customer list. They’re priced at $1 – $50 with the majority being less than $20.

You shouldn’t use a tripwire right upfront. It is first necessary to use a lead magnet to capture the email address.

A tripwire needs to have a high actual value as well as a high perceived value. If people don’t think your tripwire offer has value they won’t buy it.

Your core product is probably made up of different parts. A successful tripwire takes one of those components of your core offer and promote it as a separate offering. So basically, you are splintering off a piece of your core product or service.

It is important to remember that the goal of a tripwire is not to make money, but to turn leads into first time customers. Then, once you capture those customers they are more likely to continue to purchase from your company.

Tripwires give a taste of your product. They also prime your customer for your main offer.

DoorDash tripwire offer

The $1 delivery for new DoorDash customers is a great example. The screenshot shows the results…

4. Create a follow-up series to continue to help resolve their problem

Stage of Funnel: Interest/Discovery
Tool: email, autoresponder software.

This is another point where a lot of funnels fail—in the follow-up.

In order to keep your readers’ interest, your follow-up emails should continue to address the problem that originally brought them to you.

Rambling about irrelevant subjects, offering unrelated products and random affiliate offers do nothing to build trust and can even lead to unsubscribes.

Email marketing is the EASIEST and MOST EFFECTIVE of all marketing tactics.

Email is one of the most important elements in your sales funnel. An automated email follow-up sequence done the RIGHT WAY can take a website that only converts 1% of it’s traffic into sales and leads, and easily triple that.

Have you noticed that spam e-mails are at their highest point? This proves the same thing: e-mail marketing is effective, even for spammers, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

If it is profitable for them, then you, with your awesome content, why would you have trouble?

5. Create your main offer

Stage of Funnel: Purchase
Tool: e-book, software, course, etc.

If your opt-in incentive is designed to do one thing, your main offer needs to be on the same subject.

And your main offer needs to be an outstanding product that sells well.

Is your main offer (if you have one) really hot?

Your offer (product) should be desirable on its own, even to cold traffic. To show you what I mean, take a look at this offer for $47 – would you feel tempted to take it?

10xHosting offer

All the pieces of your funnel need to flow naturally from one to the next. It’s this alignment that will help keep your prospective customers interested and eventually buy from you.

 6. Create an upsell

Stage of Funnel: Purchase
Tool: e-book, software, course, etc.

Upsells are a simple method to increase your average order value and boost your bottom line. If you’re not upselling to your customers, you’re missing out on a LOT of revenue.

The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. Putting the right upsell offers in front of people at the right time is an important sales growth tactic.

When Amazon introduced the upsell in 2006 (using the phrase “customers who bought this item also bought”), their sales increased by 35%.

amazon frequently bought together

So offer your upsell everywhere it makes sense. Some typical locations for upsells include:

  • Bundles on product pages
  • When people add items to the cart, show supplementary products or services that help them get more value from what they’re already planning to buy
  • When the customer reaches a milestone.

Types of Sales Funnel Software

So far it sounds very easy.

When I first read about it, it sounded like I hit the jackpot.

A problem we all face is the implementation.

  • How do you construct a landing page?
  • What copy do you put on it?
  • How do you drive traffic?
  • How do you capture the leads?
  • What are you going to say in the e-mails?
  • What autoresponder service to choose?

In order to build the above structure or a different one, you will need some kind of a sales funnel software.

There are a multitude of apps and software available today. Many of them have been created for the non-techie user in mind, and they also provide upgrades and features for the more tech savvy. There are two basic ways to go.

1. Self-hosted

The key to self hosting is ensuring each of the elements you choose integrate and are compatible. Most service providers have a list of products that are compatible and products that have known issues.

2. Off-site

The second way you can create an online funnel is using a fully hosted software program. This gives them all the control, they control your content and prices will also be higher.

How I Built The Sales Funnel For My Blog

1. I wrote all my site content in one blitz.

I didn’t do bits and piece writing. I simply took 20 blog posts from my old blog (didn’t worry about duplicate content at all).

Then I updated these posts with my new knowledge and I left the ones on the old site unchanged. Now the content was unique.

Note: Copying content didn’t mean that it was unoriginal and low quality. On the opposite – very high quality unique content, just like this post. In fact I had someone telling me about the “crazy deep posts” that I have on my blog.

I also wrote several new blog posts, and all this content was strategically incorporated into my free email course.

I used all my SEO knowledge, I tried to use long tail keywords with low search that no one was targeting.

The purpose of some of these posts wasn’t search engine traffic, but having material that my email subscribers find useful and end up with long time-on-page to generate trust with Google. Look at this screenshot:

Time on Page 19.1.2018

4:05 average time on page, but some has over 11 minutes.

These posts also had the function to provide materials that can be promoted in Facebook groups.

Almost forgot, I created my Facebook page, my Pinterest and Twitter accounts, added my new interests to Quora.

2. I figured out my niche

First of all, I gradually worked out what my blog FunnelXpert stands for, and this is what I communicate on all channels.This may not be a one-time thing… And just because you have a subject for your blog, it doesn’t mean you found your niche. I always knew that FunnelXpert was about sales funnels, but unfortunately that’s not well defined.

This is what I mean:

  • FunnelXpert originally was for bloggers that had trouble getting traffic to their blog and making it profitable. NOT for the ones that were trying to figure out how to set up their domain and hosting, etc.
  • FunnelXpert teaches value, trust, engagement. These are the factors that I thought would set me apart from the rest of the blogs on the internet.
  • Then I figured out that “make money” niche aspect is not the best, simply because trust level is very low and I didn’t have any results (proof) to show.
  • I started to also address the technical aspects of setting up a sales funnel. Setting up email, plugins, lead magnets, hosting, creating videos, etc.

This was where I eventually started making money – affiliate commissions from software tool tutorials.

It started to function as an affiliate site and this is how I found my niche.

3. I ensured my site looked great and was opt-in friendly

I use Thrive Themes and Thrive Leads and I would never switch. I wrote an entire post about Thrive, but it doesn’t communicate everything – it only shows the “shell” of the funnel.

I am using the Pressive Theme, but Thrive Themes has a total of 10 themes you can pick from. (They are also putting together their theme builder.)

There are pre-made templates that you can use for home page, landing pages, opt-in forms, you name it:

Thrive Templates

I have no problem creating landing pages, opt-in pages, I just pick the one I like and replace the text, which is a great function of the Thrive Architect plugin.

In terms of opt-in forms, my Thrive Leads plugin automatically places my opt-in boxes to the bottom of each post, I set my opt-in pop-up to go off 30 seconds after the visitor arrives, and this converts the best.

Using this plugin does result in more opt-ins, I never in my life received opt-ins on autopilot like this.

I didn’t spend time on creating a lead magnet, I just used my sales funnel course (autoresponder series) as my lead magnet.

I did make mistake of naming it incorrectly – what you call your lead magnet can mean the difference between 1 percent and 20 percent conversions. I know a blogger who is getting a 40 percent sign-up rate for an email course to increase blog traffic.

4. I wrote my autoresponder series

In fact I had to rewrite it 3 times so far…

The emails need to have catchy subject lines that people open. I am averaging 20-40 percent open rate, depending on the email.

The next email1problem I ran into was the click-through rate from my emails… Around 10 percent.

I had to realize that writing an email needs to be treated the same way you would treat writing a blog post…

It needs to be engaging, stuffed with value… Not just a “click here to read my post”.

One thing I need to use is story telling.

If you think back to the story of the teenagers selling their slime, you will have an idea what I am talking about.

Stories create engagement through an emotional effect.

People make a lot of decisions (also buying decisions) because of their emotions and not because of rational reasons.

You need to utilize this in your content.

5. I added my affiliate offers

This was very tricky…

I don’t have affiliate offers in my emails at all. Many email providers have strict rules on affiliate marketing and you can have all your work shut down like it happened with my MailChimp account.

On the affiliate offers it is very important to pick the right product that matches your subscribers AND converts – I spoke about this above.

If you see you are getting sales from a specific product, start pushing it more.

I used to always have the in-text links, which are not bad, but don’t give you maximum conversion. It is a good practice to use offer boxes.

You have to break up your text anyways with images, so why not use the opportunity to insert some pictures and link to an affiliate offer that matches the text? I am about to do a whole number to implement this.

6. I drove traffic and wrote more blog posts

My traffic strategy was very simple.

I am a member of a Facebook group that has Comment-for-comment, Share-for-share. But not just the kind where you have to share 5 posts. If 50 people are on the thread, you need to comment all 50. It’s a lot of work, but you get 50 comments in exchange.

The key is that my posts are engaging for anyone who is in these groups. To do otherwise can destroy your Analytics metrics.

I kept pumping traffic. I watched the email open and click-through statistics and I tweaked the subject lines and the email content.

I wrote more posts, but now only with long-tail keywords to build more organic traffic. With my low authority blog, I only used keywords that have less than 100 monthly searches, but I packed as many as possible into my posts without destroying user experience or stuffing keywords.

I tweet regularly, not just my own stuff, but other people’s, this give value and authority to my profile, as people like and retweet the stuff that I tweet out.

I regularly answer questions on Quora, but I take it to a new level compared to what other people do. Here is an example:

Q: Which domain registrar is better: Namecheap or name.com?

And this is my answer:

Peter Nyiri, FunnelXpert.com Owner (2017-present)

You need to know that pretty much all domain registrars provide very similar service in terms of regular domains. The main difference is prices and customer service. Let’s do a very simple comparison.

As you can see, I am very thorough, just like in my blog posts and I link back to my relevant articles. (Affiliate links are not allowed on Quora.)

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About the Author

I'm building my 5-figure blog and sales funnel and help other bloggers do the same. You are welcome to join and learn from my experience and mistakes! Are you ready for this?

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(6) comments

Maya Maceka January 21, 2018

This is quite the interesting read Peter! Although I implement keywords and utilize affiliate links in many of blog posts, I never thought of it as a sales funnel. It looks like I have a lot to learn! Bookmarking this post so I can come back to it again later. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

Reply
    Peter Nyiri February 6, 2018

    Unfortunately there is too much data…
    Trying to collect all the information that matters!

    Reply
Rawlings sunday January 23, 2018

Thanks for this post with its depth and insight. Well-detailed and very helpful. Will use this as a measure for my blog.

Reply
Lesley Lenard January 25, 2018

I agree that sales funnels are vital, without them blogs don’t make money.
Thanks for sharing!

Reply
belinda January 28, 2018

Very interesting and informative post. A lot to take in and digest. I will be returning to this post to read indepth. Thank you.

Reply
    Peter Nyiri February 6, 2018

    I decided there is no point writing shallow posts…
    Need to stand out from the 1 billion existing blog posts…

    Reply
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