How to Create a Sales Funnel
Whether you are starting your business from scratch, looking to make a pivot, looking to add a new sector or stream of revenue to your business, OR if you’re curious about what steps you might take in that scenario, keep reading.
Today I’m going to walk through the exact steps we take our clients through to get their new product, service, or offer up and running and selling consistently using a simple sales funnel.
Before we continue, I just have to say, DON'T let the term “funnel” throw you off.
A sales funnel doesn’t have to be complicated or have 25 steps or tons of moving parts to be effective. A sales funnel is just the way you attract customers and then move them closer to a buying decision, and ultimately convert them into a customer. Most existing businesses already have sales funnels or processes, but they’re not converting as well as they should. That’s where we come in.
At TCG we help clients set up their sales processes to optimize revenue and free up the key players in the business to do more intentional work as a result of this automation, but you don’t need to hire a consulting firm to make this happen! You just have to implement these five steps.
Step 1: Identify your ideal customer
Step 2: Put Together a Content Creation Plan
Step 3: Create a Lead Magnet
Step 4: Write an Amazingly Valuable Nurture Sequence
Step 5: Create Your Offer
Late last year I launched one of my own courses called Play Cafe Academy (PCA), where I teach aspiring indoor playground owners how to go from daydream to opening day. I’m going to use the PCA funnel as an example while I talk about each of the above steps. For reference, you can visit the PCA Pinterest, YouTube channel, blog, and website.
Let’s jump into Step 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer. First, what is an ideal customer avatar, or ICA?
An ideal customer can be thought of as someone, or maybe a group of people, who your products or services can provide the most value to, it’s who you had in mind when you created your product or service. For example, if you are a Sleep Consultant, your ideal customer might be “new moms.” An ideal customer avatar takes this a step further and forces you to dive deep on ONE person within that ideal customer group YOU should be focusing on. When you’re creating your ICA, you should outline everything about this ideal customer including their age, gender, job title or role, income level, etc. BUT in addition to these basic stats, we also must outline how they are feeling, what they struggle with, how they consume content, and how they spend their time, among other things.
With clients just getting started, we typically recommend choosing an ideal customer avatar one of two ways:
Choose a past version of yourself as your ICA. Ex: If you are an infant sleep consultant and struggled with your children’s sleep issues before becoming certified, YOU may be a good fit as your ICA.
Choose a past client or customer who you not only got GREAT results for but who you LOVED working with. If you are BRAND new and don’t have any past clients or customers, choose someone, maybe a friend or family member or someone you follow on social media who fits into your ideal customer group.
Go as far as to give your ICA a name and write down everything you can about them. Here’s a specific example...
TCG offers one-on-one consulting and funnel-building and a membership, Digital Brand Envy.
Digital Brand Envy (DBE) is one low monthly price where we give all of the strategies that we are providing one-on-one clients, but all of the implementation responsibility falls on the members themselves.
For DBE, our ideal customer’s name is Taylor. Taylor is 28, listens to Gary Vaynerchuck’s podcast or reads Rachel Hollis’ books and know they are, to quote Miss Hollis, “made for more.” Taylor has started a business or has an idea for one and is mainly doing it on the side, perhaps selling products locally or working one on one with clients. Taylor’s main form of advertising is curating content on social media, they haven’t become a true CREATOR yet, because they are feeling stuck in the process and overwhelmed by tech. Taylor really needs some inspiration from those further along in the process and could benefit from an easy-to-follow plan to get started and continue scaling.
For our consulting business, our ideal customer’s name is Brian. Brian is 35, has a business, has some content created, and is ready to scale. They’re ready to make a serious investment in our expertise because they’ve done their own implementation for a bit, seen some results, but KNOW they need help to really break through to the next level.
Now, this isn’t to say that you HAVE to be 28 to join DBE or you have to listen to Gary Vee but when we create a piece of content, we create specifically for Taylor with their needs and struggles in mind. Do people that fall outside of this ICA find tons of value from the membership? Of course. But creating with ONE specific person in mind helps us to connect more genuinely and create better content that’s more actionable and relevant.
Often when we are marketing online, we often create content or present in videos like we are speaking to a crowd, especially if we are doing something like a Facebook Live or a webinar and we can see how many people are watching.
Many of us forget that almost every single one of the people watching are watching alone. They want to feel connected to you and like you are having a conversation with them, not that you’re on a stage speaking at a conference and they are just a face in the crowd. Hence, the individual ICA you should be creating content specifically for as if they were a real client or customer.
If you are starting from scratch or are launching a new program or making a pivot, just take a stab at this at first and continue refining it based on the results you’re seeing. Do your best to design your ICA, then move on to Step 2: Put Together a Content Creation Plan.
Step 2: Coming up with a strategy for content creation
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer, it’s important to create a content creation plan around their needs. If a client already has an email list or an audience on social media, we recommend surveying their audience to see what they’re struggling with, what they’re wondering about, and what they really need to move forward.
If you are starting from scratch or looking to make a strong pivot, however, I recommend starting with a quick and easy keyword research strategy. We’re going to dive deep into SEO and keywords in a few weeks with an expert but for now, I want to just walk you through how we use keyword research to decide what types of content to create.
So, what we typically do is start typing our topic into the search bar or tool (we use Google Chrome plug-in called Keywords Everywhere) and see what comes up.
For example, for Play Cafe Academy, I used this exercise when I first created my blog and YouTube channel. This was a little unique because NO ONE was really putting content out there about opening an indoor playground, so I enjoyed some advantages.
If you type “indoor playground__” or start to type “open an indoor playground” into a search bar, suggested phrases will start to populate before you hit search.
Phrases that stood out to me were “indoor playgrounds profit,” “indoor playground annual income,” “indoor playground business plan,” “how do you open an indoor playground,” “indoor playground equipment,” and “indoor playground business cost.”
This told me right away that people researching this topic were concerned about the sustainability of the business model, how much they’d need to invest to get started, and exactly what steps they’d need to take should they take the leap.
Since no one was putting out any content for indoor playground ownership, I decided to go RIGHT for the big topics. If you look at my early blog topics, you will see that I titled them with the exact phrasing of the search phrase, which helped me get right to the top of the search results. The blog and video “Are Indoor Playgrounds Profitable” is one of my most popular consistently, and drives tons of leads and customers into my program.
People were also really wondering about getting started and seemed like they were getting stuck around the business plan. So I decided that, before I even put a full course or program out there, I would strip the business plan I created and used of all of our personal or detailed information and sell the template as an introductory, low-priced offer. This is sometimes referred to in marketing as a “tripwire.”
Once you have a list of topics to create content for, you have to come up with a content creation plan. We recommend that clients just starting out choose ONE platform to focus on, like Instagram or Youtube. You can, of course, repurpose content on multiple channels, but focusing on one channel will really help kickstart your lead generation because you can tailor the content to that platform.
For clients starting from scratch, a weekly piece of content is a great place to start. The big trick here is to put it on the calendar and make it a non-negotiable. Intentional and strategic content creation is one of the BIGGEST opportunities to move the needle in your business in 2019, no matter what business you have.
Step 3: Creating a Lead Magnet
Now that we have your ideal customer avatar identified and you’ve decided on a content creation plan, I recommend creating one primary freebie or lead magnet. If you’re not familiar with the term lead magnet, it’s just a piece of free information that is gated, meaning someone needs to enter their email address to receive it, and you deliver it via an automated email.
The content here can be simple. For clients that are further down the road, we often recommend creating an opt-in lead magnet for every piece of content, but you don’t need to start there.
The information, as a rule of thumb, should be able to be consumed AND implemented or digested within an hour. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with way too much information at once. If you do, you risk them feeling totally satisfied and not needing to come back to you for a while.
You can organize the information into a PDF and again, deliver it by email to those who opt-in. For PCA, we have a short eBook with some advice and steps to get started in their business-ownership process, which, if you remember from Step 2, is exactly what they are looking for.
We have a client who sells courses to hairstylists, and her lead magnet is just ten simple tips to stand out as a colorist because she knows her ideal customer is struggling to differentiate themselves in a saturated market.
A nutritionist client offers a one-week meal plan and grocery list because he knows his customers need to know their taste and lifestyle matches the coaching service he offers.
Hopefully, the wheels are turning in your head of what you can create for your ideal customer. And again, all you need is a landing page to send people to and an automated email sequence to deliver on your promise, which can be done for free using a service like MailChimp if you are just getting started.
If you follow the steps and create truly valuable and relevant content, you will soon be watching the leads or email addresses roll in.
Ok, now to Step 4: Write an Amazingly Valuable Nurture Sequence.
Don’t make the mistake of ghosting your leads once you deliver your lead magnet. Every time we create a piece of content, like a blog, we add an additional email to our nurture sequence. When someone opts into our Play Cafe Academy eBook, for example, they will hear from us for 4 months, without any intervention or manual sending from us, and we add to that every week. You always want to stay top of mind because you just never know when that lead is going to be ready to move forward with a purchasing decision.
A good practice would be to provide as much value to your leads before you ever try to sell to them so that you can establish know like and trust with your leads. However, don’t take that TOO far.
Our nurture sequence for Play Cafe Academy, in the beginning, was too much value, not enough call-to-action. So now, while I do still focus on the value, I also make sure that they’re aware I do have a paid offer and they CAN accelerate their success and learn from me in a more advanced setting.
Finally, Step 5: Creating Your Offer.
I am not going to dive TOO deeply into this because we’re talking about starting from scratch, and realistically you can collect leads and warm them up via step 3 and 4 for months and months while you are creating your paid offer.
But the big point I wanted to get across here is that a paid product does NOT have to mean some big fancy signature course. It could be a $5 ebook, or a coaching consult, or a membership offer. Even if you are a restaurant owner, this applies to you.
While it is best to at least decide on and outline your paid offer before collecting leads, don’t let this step hold you back. You can do what we did with Play Cafe Academy and get a low priced offer out there to gain some revenue while you work on something bigger. Or you could work on a lower priced offer that leads into one-on-one consulting. Just have SOME way for your leads to convert into customers because the first dollar that you earn from them will always be the most difficult.
Once you convert them, even to a $5 offer, it’s up to you to blow them away with your content and value. If you do, they will be ready and willing next time you present them with an offer.
While this was a high-level overview of each step, this is the EXACT path we take our clients down to get their offers up and running and selling consistently using a simple sales funnel. You too can implement this automation in your business with just a little time upfront!
Looking for more? I talk through each step more in-depth and offer specific examples in The Digital Brand Envy Podcast. Connect with me on Instagram at @MicheleCaruana or join us directly in Digital Brand Envy.