Getting Started with Simple, Effective Marketing Funnels

How many times have you been told that you have to grow your list, that you have to work hard to get people to opt-in, no matter what? Developing your list IS important, but in today’s episode we want to share what is really important, and could make a substantial difference to your business growth and profitability …

In this episode Chris and Tony reveal:

  • How even successful companies are ignoring a key opportunity to get more sales while making their prospects happier
  • Why you need a Content Conveyor Belt, and what that means in practice
  • What to work on first if you are overwhelmed or just starting out
  • How people should progress from being unaware of you, to being a loyal, repeat customer
  • The mistake many businesses make that means they are ignoring the majority of their audience

Getting Started with Simple, Effective Marketing Funnels

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Tony Clark: This is The Mainframe.

Welcome to this episode of The Mainframe, everyone. We’re talking about getting started with simple, effective funnels. How you doing this morning, Chris?

Chris Garrett: I’m doing good. As part of my hobby and also research for this podcast, I’ve been looking at other people’s sales funnels.

How Even Successful Companies Are Ignoring a Key Opportunity to Get More Sales While Making Their Prospects Happier

Chris Garrett: It’s amazing when you get out of your own bubble, out of your own space, how the things we take for granted are just not done in some industries. I’ll give you an example. One of my, as I say hobbies, is electronics and robots. My favorite websites out there don’t have effective funnels, and it’s a shame.

Tony Clark: Yeah, it’s interesting when you go into something like that, especially something where you’re the customer, you’re a fan of something, and you’re buying it. I see that a lot when there’s something I really want to buy. It’s almost in spite of their landing page copy, their funnels, their opt-ins, and even their checkout process that I push through because it’s something I desperately want to have.

Most of us aren’t that lucky that we’re going to have people that are going to push through all the terrible parts of our funnel we have just to get to buy something from us.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, and when we talk about this, we’re always talking about getting people engaged, showing your authority, building that loyalty, and just keeping top of mind, they would get so much more money out of me if they did just some very minimal things.

That makes me think this is something we need to teach on this podcast. If we’re seeing other successful companies not doing it, then anybody that isn’t quite there yet probably needs this advice.

Tony Clark: Exactly. Most of the stumbling comes from trying to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to convey at each point in the process. A lot of times, people are so focused on one type of conversion or one type of funnel — it’s not really even a funnel.

It’s what I call a straw. It’s just a simple tube. There is no real funnel. There’s no process to it. That causes a lot of issues when you’re trying to test and see what’s working — also, when you’re trying to get the message that you’re trying to identify what customers are reacting to, different types of messaging. When you have the single, one straw-like funnel, it doesn’t work well to really get a better idea of that entire process.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, absolutely. Some of these companies have really nice designs. I’m looking at, which is one of my favorites. They’re actually based out of Colorado. They have a really good email list. Every Friday, they do these product videos where they demonstrate stuff. I have bought stuff because of those product demos — probably too much. Don’t tell my wife. Actually, she’s going to transcribe this. Damn.

You have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of their blog page to find the proper call to action, which is, ‘Subscribe to newsletter.’ That’s not really very appealing. It’s not a compelling call to action. They don’t really say why you would want to sign up to that. It’s a little strip alongside their YouTube and Facebook buttons. That’s an opt-in, but it’s not a very powerful opt-in. It’s not really a funnel because it’s just a newsletter.

When we’re talking about these funnels, when we’re talking about building a business rather than just selling a product, that all has to come into it. How are you going to get people to stick around even though they’re not ready to buy yet? How are you going to get them into a buying frame of mind with the comfort, and confidence, and all the things that we’ve been talking about up until now?

Tony Clark: It’s actually pretty easy to get people to sign up for a list. You see this all the time with pop-ups and other intrusive ways to get people on a list. That’s the easy part. Getting them to do something after they’re on the list is hard. That’s why funnels are so important.

People think it’s all about list size. It’s not. You can have hundreds of thousands of people on a list, but only if a tiny percentage of them buy, it’s not even worth having that big a list. Actually, it lowers your conversion rate. What you want is effective list-building. That’s really what we’re talking about here.

Why You Need a Content Conveyor Belt, and What That Means in Practice

Chris Garrett: Yeah, Sonia and Brian once talked about the ‘content conveyor belt.’ That really stuck with me. I don’t know who came up with this concept, but it really stuck with me as the real strategy here, the real idea. Funnel, list-building, and opt-in conversion rates imply something quite different to what you really need.

Most people focus on that opt-in conversion rate — just getting the opt-in, like you said, Tony, the pop-ups, and practically begging, saying, “Please, sign up to my email list,” instead of saying, “Okay, this is what you’re going to get now. This is what you’re going to get in the future,” from the prospect side, and from your point of view, what you’re going to do to move people through the process. The ‘conveyor belt’ actually says to me, it’s about movement. It’s about progressing people.

Tony Clark: The idea we’re talking about is getting people to become engaged in your product or service and being a part of your community as a buyer — an educated buyer. If you’re just interested in building a list for the sake of building a list, then go for it. If you just like to talk in social media circles how big your list is, which we know quite a few of those people, great. But how much money are you actually making?

This is really what it comes down to. People ask us all the time, “What’s the number one metric we use to measure things?” We say, “Revenue.” If you’re a business, the idea is to make money, not just to have a list, not just to say, “Hey, I got X number of subscribers. I’m the greatest list builder in the world.” Well, great, if nobody’s buying, then what’s the point?

Exactly what you’re talking about here, Chris, is about moving them forward. That’s really what we’re trying to do.

Chris Garrett: It’s not even the immediate money we’re talking about. It’s not even the short-term revenue. That leads people into those get-rich-quick schemes and burning up their trust and their reputation. We’re talking about lifetime value.

It’s about serving people, about people being happy to move through the flow, being confident, being educated. Education really is underlying everything we’ve talked about up until now. I think this is episode 13. We’ve probably managed to it do in all 13 episodes now.

Educating the customer means that they’re happy to do business with you. They’re rewarding you with loyalty because you’re rewarding them with value. You have to educate. You have to inspire. You have to motivate, but then you have to give people next steps. You have to give people call to actions. They have to be happy to take those call to actions.

Tony Clark: The more they understand about what it is that you’re providing, the easier it is to do that. Like you said, this is something we talk about a lot in this show. We talk about it in Copyblogger in everything we do. It’s really about educating your buyer. When we talk about ‘funnels,’ that’s what we’re talking about.

If you take specific steps to get somebody to understand, when you flip it and you have them take specific steps to buy, or to sign up, they know why they’re doing it. They know the purpose. That’s what this whole idea of a ‘content conveyor belt,’ because you’re moving them along farther and farther.

It may start out with an opt-in, or a free product, or a low-cost product. Then you move them along until you really get them engaged as part of your buying community. This is something you have to think about through the whole process.

The very first interactions you have with them really should be focused on getting them further into the funnel versus focusing on just buying. Trying to get somebody from a landing page to purchase may not be the most effective way to do it, but getting them to the next step and then telling them what you’re going to provide each step really moves them along this whole process.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, if we go back to AIDA. I don’t know how people pronounce that — awareness, interest, decision, and action — traditional marketing, especially now in a world of noise and social media, is falling down on the decision and action piece. There’s a gap there. Once you’ve attracted awareness — you’ve built interest — you have to get people to bridge that gap between interest and decision, and taking action.

That’s where opt-in comes in. That’s where ‘permission marketing’ comes in. You get their permission. You engage — we’ve talked about that before — then you give them the call to action. You’re giving them the call to action when they’re ready, when they’re warmed up, when they’re educated.

They have all the knowledge that they need. You’ve answered their objections. You could probably just sell them by sending them to a checkout button, a buy button, because you don’t need that long, flowing sales letter. The content conveyor belt has been the sales letter.

Tony Clark: It makes them more educated, makes them more comfortable in what they’re doing. It’s also you’re coming from all these things. This is where people tend to get bogged down.

We’re talking about a single funnel here. You may have multiple funnels. You may have different leads from different places, ads from email lists, from referrals. You may have different audiences you’re talking to, different products, and you need multiple funnels. We’ll go into that a little bit more. Actually, we’ll talk about that in greater detail in a future episode.

What to Work on First If You Are Overwhelmed or Just Starting Out

Tony Clark: One thing that you need to remember is to start with a single funnel. Start somewhere. People get so overwhelmed with all of this. They don’t even take the first step. They don’t even bother trying to set up a single funnel to get people through the process. They think that they got too much that they have to deal with.

Chris Garrett: A great way of starting with a single funnel is to think about what else your prospects need to know in order to make a good decision, or to help alleviate some of their problems, or help them get that little bit closer to their goal right now.

This brings up a challenge for a lot of people. They realize they have a product rather than a business. One of my friends who just spoke at the Calgary WordCamp, he spoke actually straight after me. He’s got a business called It’s a sock subscription service. It’s a fantastic idea.

Basically, you get a pair of socks in the post every month. People buy it as a gift. They buy it because maybe they don’t know anything else to get their partner, especially with Father’s Day coming up. People get socks. This is a sock of the month club. It’s a great business. It was profitable straight away, miraculously.

He’s having problems scaling the business because he realizes he doesn’t have a funnel. His difficulty building a funnel is because he has one product. The lifetime value is about churn rather than being out to upsell or cross-sell. My advice to him is to think about what other products these people potentially want.

If they’re buying it as a gift, then it’s other gifts for dudes. If they’re buying it for themselves, what else do they want on a monthly basis that you could also put in the box? If you only have one product, and it’s a one-and-done product, you’re going to struggle to build your funnel. That shows that you need to have that awareness of who your customer is, what else they need, and their eco-system — their life or business outside of that single product.

Tony Clark: It’s really about meeting them where they are. When we’re talking about you have multiple things, but you need to start with one. We were talking about Dungeon & Dragons before we started this episode. It’s kind of like that. If you’re starting out a new campaign, you’re starting out with a group of inexperienced characters, you can’t just throw them into a huge thing and just kill them all. I guess you ‘can.’ There are people that love to do that.

You really want to meet them where they are. That’s what makes the game fun and engaging. You give them challenges that are at the level that they’re at. Then the next level, you give them a little bit more difficult challenge, and with rewards accordingly.

The funnel is very much like that. Even if you have multiple things going on, having a single funnel that meets the customer where they are at each point allows you to further them in a way that lets them feel rewarded, but also lets them not be overwhelmed by everything you’re offering.

What you were just talking about with scaling makes a lot of sense. Sometimes you think it’s easier to do a funnel for one product — one product, one funnel. If you don’t have a way to utilize different levels of that product, it’s harder to get people in the funnel. You’re really just doing a one-for-one buy, which works for a lot of products.

But for some products, and a lot of services in particular, you really need to have a progressively more rewarding, or more advanced that you go throughout the funnel to get them better engaged at each step. And know that the next time, or what’s coming next, or here’s where you go next in each process, gives them a map of where they’re going, but also allows them to feel more confident in that level that they’re at. The call to action is a lot more likely to be taken.

Chris Garrett: Let’s talk about how we deepen that relationship and build that engagement using the funnel so that they get more loyal to us and spend more money.

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How People Should Progress from Being Unaware of You to Being a Loyal, Repeat Customer

Chris Garrett: Brian has spoken quite a lot about how to move people from being unaware of us into having a deeper relationship. I’m sure you know a lot about this, Tony. Can you talk about how we build that relationship, that loyalty, and get people deeper into the company?

Tony Clark: If you picture a funnel, if you’re looking at a funnel from the top down, it’s more like a target with different levels as you go down. That’s what you’re trying to do. That’s the whole concept of the funnel. You’re taking a wide audience that knows nothing about you. You’re engaging with them, and getting them to know a little bit more on the next level, and a little bit more, a little bit more until they’re at the point when they’re ready to buy.

If you talk about these different levels, you start out with more the general audience, and your social media, and this whole wide group of people that you’re trying to engage with. That’s the starting point.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, they’re practically unaware of you at all. They might hear though Twitter with a link or some word of mouth, but they don’t really know you. They don’t know your product. They don’t probably know how your product fits into their world.

Tony Clark: By starting there, you need to bring them on to becoming a customer of your content, or somebody who’s aware of what it is you do. That’s more content marketing. This is that bridge where content marketing is really the first way to engage an audience and get them interested in what you’re doing.

By providing more general content that you send your larger funnel — to your social media and larger referrals to — that content gets them engaged and educated about what it is that you do and what it is you provide to move them further in the funnel.

Chris Garrett: A lot of people that talk about that first engagement, that first email opt-in — going from being a social media follower, or social media audience, into being more engaged with the other — they call it a ‘trip wire’ or a ‘lead magnet.’ You do need to incentivize.

I like to think of it as being how can you both reward and engage somebody with something that they can use? How can you give them something that’s a quick win for them? As soon as they see value for themselves — see evidence that what you’re talking about works and helps — then they’re going to be more confident to move forward.

I’d like people to get away from thinking that they’re tricking people onto their list almost. It’s more about what can you do for people right now that they could be happy to obtain, but also eager for stuff in the future.

Tony Clark: Right. This is really, in my opinion, the most important step. This is getting that general content audience to a specific email list audience. This is really the most important thing. Anybody who knows Copyblogger knows about how much we talk about email marketing. To us, it’s the most effective way to get your content out there, to get people engaged, and to ultimately sell what you’re providing.

Tricking people onto a list, it’s like digging a hole and people are just falling in to it. It’s not really going to do any good because those people aren’t going to be happy with the fact that you dug a hole and they tripped and fell into it versus if you think of it as a waystation that you provided that people come up to you voluntarily and learn more about things. Then you send them down the path you want them to. This next step in the funnel, the specific email content, they’re never going to get there — or they’re going to get there, but not be engaged — if you don’t do the content properly.

Once you have them at that email level, that’s really where you can really engage with them with specific messaging that allows them to move to the next level — which is when they become a customer.

Chris Garrett: When they become a customer, you have an opportunity there through great customer service. Really, what Copyblogger sells is customer service at the end of the day. Through a great experience, they’re going to become more loyal. They’re going to refer other people. Then they’re going to become a repeat customer and a loyal, long-term customer. That’s when you get your lifetime value.

That’s what I was talking about with the electronics examples like SparkFun and Adafruit. They’ve made a lot of money off of me. They could make even more money by bringing me up to a level where I’m confident to buy more — and that’s through education.

If they actually had a funnel that educated me from being the clumsy nube that I am now to being quite more aware, more experienced, and more expert, then I would buy everything they do because I would know what I was buying. It’s not just making more money for you. It’s also a really good experience for the customer.

Customers might not necessarily want to shop around. They might be happy to buy more from you because they’ve got confidence and they’ve had a good experience in the past. It’s a service as well as getting more people onto your list and making more money.

Tony Clark: Right. You’re really trying to get them to that customer, but ultimately to that repeat customer. That’s the levels we’ve talked about. You got your general social media audience — or the audience that doesn’t really know anything about you, or knows very little about you — moving them into their more general content audience that knows more about what it is you do.

You use that content to engage with them to get them on the email list, which is the next step, where you can give specific messaging. That takes them to becoming a customer and then a repeat customer. How do you find out if that’s working along the way? That’s where we get into testing and optimizing, which is really the third most important piece of doing funnels correctly.

The Mistake Many Businesses Make That Means They Are Ignoring the Majority of Their Audience

Chris Garrett: Yeah. We’ll have an entire episode about testing and optimization. For right now, just remember you have these stages. You can see people moving from one stage to the next. If you do it right — and obviously we’re going to talk about maxing automation in more depth in the future as well — you will not just nurture the people who are saying ‘yes,’ you will also remember the people who say ‘no.’

Remember, 95 percent of people are going to say ‘no.’ It’s not for them right now. So many autoresponder sequences, so many funnels, lose people when they say ‘no’ because it’s all about the people who say ‘yes.’

That’s what we’re saying about lifetime value, nurturing people, and looking after your entire audience. At any one time, there’s only going to be a tiny percentage of people who are ready to buy. You’ve got to also look after the people who are not ready to buy … yet.

If it’s a definite, “No. No way. Not ever,” then they should be happily allowed to leave. But the people who say, “Not yet,” or “I’m confused,” or “I’ve got these objections,” you need to nurture them. You have to bring them through.

Through testing, optimizing, and some automation, you’ll know where those blocks are. You’ll know where those trigger points are. You’ll know where people get confused or fall down. You’ll know how to move people to the next stage. It’s that conveyor belt — always be moving people to the next stage.

Tony Clark: Right. That’s the different parts of an effective funnel. Number one, the content conveyor belt, getting people moving through there, educating them, inspiring them, motivating them along the way so that they take the next step in the funnel to move them along.

If you have a lot of different leads and a lot of different things coming in, the second thing to remember is to focus on one funnel at a time. Make sure that that funnel is set up as effectively as you can. The way you do that is through testing, which is the third part of building the funnel. We’ve talked about that a little bit here. We’ll go into more on testing and optimizing in the next episode.

Chris Garrett: Thank you, everybody, for joining us. Please, if you can, leave a review, and check out the next episode where we’ll talk about testing and optimization.