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The term "sales funnel" might seem confusing at first but little did you know that the concept of a sales funnel has been around since humans started trading with one another.
Clearly, to some people, a sales funnel is just a fancy term used by upscale marketers and blue-collar salespeople.
It seems like this complicated concept put together by brainiacs and can only be executed by people with a PhD degree (pun intended).
Let me demystify that theory with a quick example.
Let's assume you have a physical store in a busy metropolis where you sell fabrics for all occasions.
A lot of people walk past your store daily with a few people stepping into your store to look around for fabrics --- Attention
You talk them through your beautiful collection of fabrics and explain the benefits of one fabric over the other.
As the customer shows interest, you engage with them further by explaining to them why a particular fabric is the best fit for that wedding in 2 weeks and how glorious they will look in that dress. --- Interest
Your customer is super excited and ready to make a purchase, your sales technique has worked out quite well by providing valuable insights without charging a fee first --- Desire
But in that euphoric moment, the cost of the fabric they are interested in suddenly smacks them back to reality and they start to question themselves if they can afford it, but you have a new trick up your sleeves.
We are currently on-sale you say, with a smile on your face. You save 10% with every purchase you make today. Oh, that is a good bargain, your customer thinks.
She brings out her debit card and pays for the order --- Action
This sounds like a typical day at the store right? I'm sure we can all agree.
What you don't know is that a sales funnel strategy just played out right in front of you and without your knowledge.
What is a sales funnel?
According to this beautifully crafted article on Seriously Simple Marketing, a sales funnel is a process or series of steps a customer takes from being a potential customer to an actual paying customer.
In other words, a sales funnel is just a process or steps designed by you to convert your potential customer to a paid customer.
Each stage in a sales funnel should guide a potential customer down into the funnel until they become paying customers.
Take a look at the image below.
This is the point where a potential customer becomes aware of your product or service.
They stumble on your blog post through a Google search or through the Facebook campaign you are running to promote your product or service.
These are cold customers.
They know little or nothing about you or the product or service you are offering. All you are doing at this point is to woo them into engaging with your business.
When the customer clicks on your Facebook ad or reads your blog post and signs up for your newsletter or download a free guide, they have just indicated interest.
At this stage of the funnel, no selling takes place. It is all about giving valuable tips and insights.
All you are trying to do is get the customer more interested in your product or service and push them down into the sales funnel.
At this stage in your sales funnel, the customer is very much interested and ready to part with their hard-earned cash. They might also be considering other options as well so it is up to you to pull out the big guns.
This is where you offer extra benefits like;
- Discount coupons
- Free shipping or same-day delivery
- Payment on delivery
- 3-month free consultation
- After-sales service
and anything else in your arsenal to crush the competition and close a sale.
This is the stage in your funnel where the customer pays for your product or signs up for your service.
Most people consider this stage as the final stage in their sales funnel, while this might be true for some, others take it a step further with a customer retention strategy.
With a good customer retention strategy in place, you will recycle your paying customers into making more sales for your business without going back to the top of the funnel.
This is known in the marketing community as the AIDA Model which stands for;
- A - Attention
- I - Interest
- D - Desire
- A - Action
There are lots of books that go in-depth on this concept and I encourage you to grab a few of them to expand your knowledge.
You can also read this article to get a better understanding of the AIDA model.
So how does all this add up and how can you create a sales funnel that helps you sell more online courses.
Before I dive deep into how to create a sales funnel, let me touch briefly on how a sales funnel works in the real world.
This will give you a better understanding of how a sales funnel should work and the steps you can take to create a high converting sales funnel.
How a sales funnel work
At the top of every sales funnel is the awareness stage and at the bottom, the action stage.
But why is it called a funnel in the first place?
A typical household funnel is large at the top and thinner as it gets closer to the bottom.
This illustrates the percentage of customers who are aware of your product or service to those who finally becoming paying customers.
For example, if you run a Facebook ad that reaches 35k people a month and 500 people buy your product or sign up for your service, you can start to get a better understanding of why it is called a funnel.
Your goal is to plug as many leakages as possible and drive more people down your sales funnel.
Let me give you a deeper understanding of how a sales funnel works in an actual business.
Take an auto repair shop for example.
They can set up a quick sales funnel by following the AIDA model in the following way.
Step 1: Awareness
Funnel more people into their auto repair shop by offering a free car diagnosis and professional advice. This will only cost them time (I also agree that time is money but it this stage, their only goal is to build awareness about their services and hopefully, get more paying customers).
When a new customer walks in, they are asked to fill a simple form to access their free car diagnostics. This can be the customer's email or phone number.
The goal here is to have the means to reach out to the customer.
Step 2: Interest
Once the customer has provided them with their details, the auto repair shop will go ahead and run a diagnostic scan of the vehicle.
All trouble codes will be printed out and handed over to the customer with a brief professional recommendation.
At this stage, no sales have been made yet.
The auto repair shop is only focused on winning the customers trust and hopefully, woo the customer into a longterm relationship.
Step 3: Desire
A few days later, a call is put through to the customer enquiring about the state of the vehicle and if the trouble codes have been fixed.
At this stage of the funnel, the auto repair shop will offer more professional advice regarding replacement parts and common issues specific to the vehicle.
After which, a request will be made to the customer to bring the vehicle in for repair at a discounted rate.
Step 4: Action
If all goes well, at this final stage of the sales funnel and with the customer overwhelmed by the free diagnosis and information he has received so far, plus, the proposed discount for repair, they might sink to the bottom of the funnel (pun intended).
At this stage down your sales funnel, it a lot easier for the customer to make a buying decision.
This is not a tried and tested sales funnel strategy for an auto repair shop so please do your research properly before creating a sales funnel for your business.
Now that you've seen how a sales funnel can be implemented for a fictional auto repair shop, let us take it a step further by designing a sales funnel for your online course.
How to create a sales funnel to sell more online courses.
While this sales funnel strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach to selling more online courses or ebooks.
You can find useful tips and trick on how to create a sales funnel that works specifically for your needs.
It is not a good practice to copy and paste a sales funnel strategy hoping it will work.
Start yours by understanding the target audience for your online course and build on that knowledge to design your sales funnel.
That said, the technicalities required to build a sales funnel for online courses cuts across. The actual process involved is where the difference is.
Components of a high-converting sales funnel for online courses.
Like I said earlier, the technicalities required to build a successful sales funnel cuts across the board when referring to online courses.
While your strategy might be different from others, the component relatively stays the same.
In this guide, I am going to break these components into three separate stages in the sales funnel lifecycle;
- Top - Awareness
- Middle - Interest and Desire
- End - Action
Awareness - Top of your sales funnel
At the top of your sales funnel is where you create awareness about your online course by not directly trying to sell.
This stage is all about driving traffic to a landing page (more on this later) that provides valuable information to your target customer. This could be in the form of a blog post, infographics, YouTube video content or podcast.
This should be a high-value content that is relevant to the online course you want to sell.
It should solve or provide clarity to an immediate problem your target customer is facing.
At this stage, people are not aware of your prowess yet. Your goal is to help them understand that you can solve their problems. DON'T BE TEMPTED TO SELL AT THIS STAGE.
If you are using Facebook ads to drive traffic to your landing page, read this post till the end for a little hack to increase your conversion by pushing more people down the funnel.
Interest and Desire - Middle of your sales funnel
The next step in your sales funnel is to convert your traffic into leads.
The easiest way to do it is by asking the prospect to opt-in for a free webinar, workshop or download a free guide/checklist.
This is what is called a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is some sort of value given in exchange for your prospects email address. Remember our example above about a free vehicle diagnostics at the auto repair shop? That is a lead magnet.
See the example of a checklist lead magnet below;
Your lead magnet should be placed on your landing page. This is the page receiving all the traffic.
In my experience, there are 2 important guidelines you should follow when using lead magnets to generate leads.
- Relevance: Your lead magnet should be closely related to the content that receives all the traffic. As an example, if you are in the health and fitness niche and you drive traffic to a blog post about Keto diet, your lead magnet can be a checklist about the top 5 Keto diet recipes your prospect can try today. As you can already tell, both topics are related and very relevant to the reader.
- Placement: Your lead form should be placed higher up on the page. Somewhere below the page title will do just fine. Avoid placing your lead magnet further down the page. Another little trick is to use a popup form that is displayed after a few seconds or triggered when the prospect attempts to leave the page. This is called exit intent.
Once your prospect shows interest by opting into your workshop, webinar or downloading your ebook guide/checklist, it is time to start warming up for the big sale.
While this sounds great, it is not time to sell just yet.
Your strategy is to reach out through email marketing and keep them engaged with a series of value-packed emails providing more insights leading up to your course.
At this point, they are no longer cold prospects but warm prospects.
They know your name and they understand what you can help them achieve.
The emails leading up to your final sales email should always include a call-to-action. Actions like asking them to read a new blog post or listen to your podcast.
You have to be very engaging, ask them if they need help. Use testimonials and reviews as social proof.
Earn their trust while leading them gradually to the final sales pitch.
When you are ready for the final sales pitch, sell hard.
Tell them why they need to sign up for your online course today and what they stand to lose if they opt-out.
You are free to use whatever sales techniques you've learnt, but keep it human. Offer a discount coupon or additional benefits like access to a membership site or Facebook group.
Make your offer irresistible.
At this point, some of your leads will leak out from the funnel (pun intended) but don't be dismayed.
Some leads may not be fully warmed up to pay for your online course and there may be several other reasons you are not privy to.
The good news is, you can always reach out to them and find out why they didn't purchase your course.
You can offer additional discounts if you can afford to or devise a different strategy to get them to buy.
Whatever steps you choose, you are not starting at the top of the sales funnel.
Action - Final step in your sales funnel
Congratulations, you've made the sale and acquired a new student.
Your sales funnel strategy has worked and you are ready to promote your next online course.
But hold on one second.
How about creating a retention strategy? Wouldn't you agree that it easier to sell to an existing customer than selling to a new one?
Imagine having to go through the same sales funnel strategy every single time. Frustrating right?
This is where your retention strategy comes in.
At this point, you can upsell your other online courses or new and updated course worksheets or a discounted access to your upcoming live coaching session.
The opportunities are endless.
If you don't have a retention strategy or you've never thought of one, you can start by sending out periodic emails to check up on their progress on your course.
Find out if they are having difficulties understanding any of the course materials.
Be a teacher and earn their trust.
You can also ask for feedback or reviews or use the opportunity to ask what they will be interested in learning next. This can prove useful when you are planning your next online course.
Sales funnel don't always work as we expect
Unfortunately, that is the sad reality of life.
Things don't always work the way we envision it but not all is lost. There is a little concept called iteration.
Yes, you heard that right, iterations.
Your first sales funnel might just suck, it might not generate enough leads or you might have difficulties managing customers through the funnel.
It can be frustrating, trust me, I've been there before.
Here are some things you can do to improve your lead magnet conversion rate.
Improve Your Sales Copy
More often than not, the main culprit might just be your sales copy. The devil is in the details.
Take a look at your sales and ask yourself if it persuasive enough to convert your target audience.
Studies have shown that a little tweak in your copy can either improve your conversion rate or crush.
If you're not sure how your sales copy can affect your conversion rate, read this article Neil Patel to get a better understanding.
Tweak Your Lead Magnet Placement
Sometimes, the placement of your lead magnet and surrounding elements can affect the overall conversion rate of your landing page.
- Check to see if your lead magnet is placed too far down the landing page making it hard for people to reach. Also, be aware that the average attention span of a visitor to your landing is around 3 seconds.
- Ensure that you don't have other call-to-actions in the form of links or additional content that can be distracting to your audience.
- Finally, take a good look at your lead magnet form. Ensure that your form is legible and the submit button has a distinct colour that stands out.
Try Different Lead Magnets
Another area worth looking into is the lead magnet itself. It is ok to assume at first that your lead magnet is the bomb while in reality, sadly, people are not just interested.
In that case, you can try out a different lead magnet to see if your conversion rate improves.
Don't be afraid to try out a couple of ideas until you find one that sticks. If you want to be double sure about the viability of your lead magnet, you can conduct proper content research to identify areas within your niche that is invaluable to your audience.
There are several ways to carry out content research but that is beyond the scope of this article.
A good place to start is Quora and Reddit. If you'd like to learn more about how to do content research, drop a comment in the comment section below.
Revisit Your Email Sequence
You will be shocked how much improvements you can make to your overall conversion rate if you look into your email sequence, trust me.
Your email sequence is the series of emails you send out to your prospect leading to the final sales pitch.
While it might not be obvious at first, I encourage you to read through your email sequence yourself and ask the following questions;
- Did I attempt to make an early sale?
- Have I been providing value through my email sequence?
- If someone else sent this same email sequence to me, will I be willing to buy their course?
Try to answer the questions without being biased.
It will help you identify areas that need improvement in your email sequence.
How do you set up a landing page with a lead magnet?
While this is not an article on how to create a landing page or integrate a lead magnet, I believe I owe it to you to shed some light on some of the steps you can take to create a landing page.
In all honesty, there are several ways to set up a landing page with a lead magnet.
It all comes down to personal preference.
If you are tech-savvy, you can set up a simple landing page using WordPress and integrate email collection forms like Sumo or MailChimp. Although, I know a handful of content creators who don't have a personal website and don't feel the need to have one. Maybe this article might just be what you need to set you up on the right path.
If you are not tech-savvy and you don't want to be held down by heavy recurring monthly bills, you can higher a website developer on Fiverr to put the landing page together and integrate a lead magnet. Although this might get costly when you have to iterate and try out new strategies, it is still worth a shot.
Finally, there are platforms like ConvertKit, Clickfunnels and a host of other Saas software that can help you set up landing pages and lead magnets while automating the entire process of your email sequence, audience filtering and a lot of other helpful resources.
You need to be aware that they can be very pricey and you might easily get discouraged if you are not hitting your target to keep up with the running cost.
However you choose to go about creating your landing page and integrating your lead magnet, be sure to choose one that gives you the flexibility to try out new strategies cos you are going to need it.
BONUS: Facebook Ads for Selling Online Courses
Using Facebook ads to promote your course is an inexpensive way to get more people paying attention to your online courses.
However, this can get quite costly with time if you don't know what you are doing.
To help you get the most of your Facebook ad spend here is what you need to have in place before you spend a single penny on any Facebook ad.
- Ensure you have a landing page/website set up for your online course and you have Facebook pixels installed. If you don't know what a Facebook pixel is, drop a comment below.
- Create retargeting ads to reach people who "leaked" out of your sales funnel at different stages. These ads should be relevant to the stage they dropped off.
Finally, avoid trying to sell directly on any social media platform, Facebook included. It is social media, people come to have a nice time, watch videos, engage with their friend's post and be entertained.
“No one comes to watch your ads”.
Focus on providing real value that can stop your target audience in their tracks and make them pay attention to you.
I hope this guide has sparked your creativity enough and given you some ideas on how to create your sales funnel.
While I can agree that it is quite a lengthy article, I aimed to provide you with enough information on why a sales funnel might just be the key you need to unlock more sales.
If you've never considered setting up a sales funnel before for your online classes (mostly because you have a large following on Instagram), I sincerely hope I've been able to change your mind and convince you to start a sales funnel today.
Until my next blog post, stay safe, wash your hands regularly and observe social distancing.
Got questions, leave them in the comment section. I will provide the answers you need.