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A few years ago there was a local non-profit that I agreed to help, and they asked me to be a part of their call bank for a night.  

I had never done cold calling before.  

They literally handed me a list with hundreds of names and phone numbers, gave me a desk with a phone, a short little script, and told me to have at it.

I was surprised at how many numbers I needed to dial before somebody picked up.

Every person I talked to (even the nice ones) were slightly annoyed that I had interrupted them from whatever it was that they were doing… especially since I interrupted them to ask for money.

The number of calls we made seemed staggering. Compare the number of dials to the number of donations, and it seemed outright dismal.

I ended that night with a new respect for salespeople with cold calling requirements. Calling on strangers and asking them to shell out money is a task neither the caller dialing the number nor the person answering the phone find enjoyable.


Fast forward to the world of online marketing and sales, and everywhere you look you see the digital version of cold-calling… and it’s just about as effective.

Tell me, how many ads have you seen while killing time on Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn/nameTheSocialNetwork, and after you click thead you’re taken direct to a sales pitch… or worse, straight to an order page?

This is the online equivalent of going to a party and someone interrupting a conversation with your friend to tell you about a great deal they’ve got on timeshares.

You think, “ew”, and bail to find the friend who just walked away.

And people wonder why their conversion rates are so low.

This is essentially what people are doing when they send cold traffic–i.e., strangers– straight to a sales page. Seriously, it’s just as icky.

The good news is that the solution is easy to understand and implement, but before I get to that…

…let’s talk about why the direct ad-to-sales-page approach isn’t very effective.

The Problem With Hitting Someone Up Right Away

According to a Baylor University study on the effectiveness of cold calling, they found it takes about 59 answered cold calls to get a single qualified appointment or referral.

That’s 118 answered cold calls for every 2 appointments.

(I guess the sales manager from my youth was a little optimistic at 100 calls for 2 appointments.)

Online marketing is similar to in-person marketing in a lot of ways–the main difference being the internet’s fourth wall separating the prospect from the seller.

This fourth wall makes social customs even more important, because you can’t depend on the salesperson’s in-person charm and charisma to trigger social norms that would keep the prospect engaged.

What does that mean?

Well, if your ad shows up in a prospect’s social media news feed, you’re essentially interrupting a conversation. If your ad is interesting enough to get the prospect to click away, there’d better be something really outstanding on the other side to justify the interruption.

Trust me when I say that “something outstanding” almost never means a sales or order page.

The typical online “cold call” is essentially an ad placement leading straight to a sales page (most common) or an order page (most brazen).

Sometimes this works, like when someone is in a buying frame of mind. This is why PPC ads and keywords can be so expensive–you’re competing with everyone else to capture the hot buyers.

But most people just aren’t there yet… you need to build trust.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Unless They’re In The Right Mindset, A “Buy” Page Is A Big Turnoff

make sure your buyer is in the right frame of mind
The infographic above illustrates legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz’s theory that there are five levels of prospect awareness:

  1. Most Aware. Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know the “deal”.
  2. Product Aware. Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for them.
  3. Solution Aware. Your prospect knows the result he or she wants, but not that your product can deliver it to them.
  4. Problem Aware. Your prospect senses she has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
  5. Completely Unaware. No knowledge of anything except–maybe–her own identify or opinion.

If you’re sending traffic made up of people in the most aware category to a sales page or order page–and you’re offering the solution to their burning problem–you’re doing just fine.

But the other four awareness levels need much more work than just presenting an offer…

They either don’t trust you enough…

Don’t know you exist…

Don’t know there’s a solution to their problem…

Or have no clue they even have a problem.

If you send those last four groups of people to an order page, you’re just wasting your money.

The Biggest Reason Selling On The First Contact Is A Losing Proposition (And The Quickest Way Around It)

using influence to boost marketing funnels

According to Robert Cialdini, famed expert on the psychology of persuasion, there are six influencers that tap into automatic processes in our brains, and are most likely to get you a favorable marketing outcome (i.e., your prospect buying your product).

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

You want to use as many of these influencing principles as possible, but the quickest way to build rapport with people who don’t know you is to give them something without asking for anything in return.

When someone gives us something without expecting anything back, we feel a sense of gratitude towards the gift-giver. This is called reciprocity, and is a powerful influencer when trying to warm up strangers to you and your brand–if they like what you’ve given them, they’re more invested in you and what you have to offer.

Add that to the power of the “like” principle, and these prospects are likely to grow fond of you, increase their trust in you, and be more receptive when you finally present an offer to them.

But here’s the kicker…

The gift must be given without the expectation of anything in return.

Violating this rule means the person will not feel that sense of emotional investment, and will think you’re a manipulator.

How Do You Transform Cold Lurkers Into Warm Prospects?

The key question is how to transform people who’ve never heard of you into happy additions to your list… and eventually customers.

There are four steps that are critical to attracting your ideal prospect (and repelling people you don’t want to work with).

First, Let Them Decide

A whole lot is wrapped up into this first step: advertisement, image/video, copy, angle, message, offer, context, ad location, mindset of reader…

There’s a whole lot going on here that we’ll dig into deeper on a different post.

For now let’s just call it the ad.

If we’re talking about cold traffic, the prospect is somebody who’s never heard of you before.

This step is critical, because you want it to attract your best people–and annoy the people you don’t want to work with.

With that in mind, the best thing you can do is be yourself–you’ll attract like-minded people. Next, you want to get their attention.

Is your target audience stay-at-home moms who love knitting?

Call them out:

“Attention: Put Down That Knitting Needle! If You’re A Stay-At-Home Mom Who Loves Knitting, This May Be The Most Important Message You See Today”

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but you get my point.

Any man who reads the ad is probably going to ignore it. (By the way, if you’re only selling to women and a man sees your ad, we need to talk about your targeting!)

Any woman who fits that description will at least look at it, and depending on the ad placement, the image, and the offer, they may click over to find out what the fuss is all about.

If the ad does its job, people will self-identify themselves as interested prospects.

Which is exactly what you want.

Second, Build Trust By Giving

This is where a lot of mistakes are made. Instead of trying to build a relationship with the prospect, many companies try to sell right away.

As we saw from the infographic earlier, there are times when that makes sense.

But for the other folks who aren’t ready to go whole hog, you need to build trust. And there’s no faster way of doing that then giving a valuable gift.

If somebody takes you up on an offer for a free doodad–something that’s so good they’d pay for it in different circumstances– then you’ve just made them a whole lot more interested in any future messages. They’re thinking, “If her free stuff is this good, what must her paid products be like?” (For more on the topic, I recommend Robert Cialdini’s seminal work, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.)

As long as they feel that you’re an honest dealer, this emotional investment is the fast-track to trustworthiness.

Third, Stay Top Of Mind

Depending on the type of buyer you’re dealing with, your prospect may take a long time to move from their position as a looker to that of a buyer.

No worries… just keep in touch with them.

If you send your tribe good info on a regular basis, you’ll build trust and be on the top of the list when they finally decide to buy what you’re selling.

The easiest way to get this done is with an email autoresponder, and it doesn’t take a ton of time–especially if you’re emailing once or twice a week.

Fourth, Give Them A Reason To Buy

Don’t kill your tribe by selling to them all the time.

Remember, you’re developing a relationship.

If you keep hitting people up to buy your stuff, they’re going to tune you out really fast.

However, if you are always giving… advice, tips, free downloads, etc., then your offers become that much more powerful when your tribe sees them.

Of course, the offer has to be good–but if you’ve made regular deposits of value, you’ll at least have their attention when you’re selling.

I’ve Been Hinting At Simple Ways To Attract Clients Online…

By the way, each step I just described is just a marketing funnel step. (I’m so tricky…)

Let’s put it all together!

Funnel Step 1: Let The Prospect Decide

send traffic to your landing page with social media ads

Funnel Step 2: Build Trust By Giving

marketing funnel landing page

Funnel Step 3: Stay Top Of Mind

stay top of mind with an autoresponder series

Funnel Step 4: Give A Compelling Reason To Buy

send them to a sales page with a great offer

Now Put It All Together…

map of client attraction funnel

That’s your funnel map, baby.

Now we’ll see one of these in the wild.

Let’s See This In Action In The Real World…

This is a funnel sequence used by Digital Marketer to capture people interested in learning how to identify their ideal prospects online. They offer a free avatar worksheet to help you get a solid picture of who your ads need to target, then make an offer on your way to getting your download that let’s people self-identify as interested buyers or researchers/learners.

Let’s walk through what they did…

The Ad: Letting People Decide

example of social media ad
I saw this ad on the right side of my Facebook newsfeed. The ad appeals to anybody interested in running ads to generate leads, but who need a little help defining who they should target with their ads.

Once you click the ad, you’re taken to step 2, the landing page.

The Landing Page: Build Trust By Giving

example of a landing page
What I love about this landing page is that it doesn’t assume that just because you clicked on the ad, you’re automatically going to be willing to trade your contact information for the free thingie they’re pushing.

Instead, it’s a full on sales page that sells you on the benefits of the free download, and builds up your interest in gaining the value the download offers you.

Which leads us to an upsell page in-between the opt-in (this page), and the download page…

The Upsell Page: Letting People Decide (again)

example of an upsell page
The genius of this page is that the new subscriber already feels like they got something for free, even though they haven’t received it yet.

New subscribers see a low-cost offer that lets them choose how deep they want to go. Do they just want to use the avatar worksheet to define their ideal prospects, or do they want to take it to a whole other level?

Each subscriber feels like they’re getting an amazing deal (in this case the offer is 85% off the normal price); for Digital Marketer, they’re getting a new paying customer they can market to over and over again.

This is key because once somebody buys, they’re more likely to buy from you again.

Now after all this, you finally get your stuff.

Download Page: Build Trust By Giving

example of a download page
I love this download page: not only do you get your free thingie, but there’s another bullet list reminding you why it’s amazing (in case you forgot while admiring the upsell page). This reinforces that you just received a valuable gift for free, and makes a deposit into each new subscriber’s “trust account”.

Stay Top Of Mind

The step you don’t see is the email autoresponder sequence and the retargeting ads that ensure I don’t forget that they gave me something valuable, that they have content I might be interested, and that they offer products that I might like to buy.

This step is crucial, and I’ll make sure to cover it in-depth in a future post.

Rearrange The Steps To Suit Your Needs

The Digital Marketer example is a great illustration showing you that you don’t need to follow the steps in order.

  1. Their list-building funnel flowed as follows:
  2. Let people decide (ad)
  3. Build trust by giving (opt-in)
  4. Let people decide (upsell)
  5. Build trust by giving (download page)
  6. Stay top of mind (autoresponder… not seen)

You Can Follow This Model In Any Industry…

Just for kicks (and so you can see that this model works for industries outside of online marketing), I came up with some client attraction ideas so you can see that this model can work regardless of your business.

I wrote out some notes for seven different types of companies:

  • Art gallery
  • Chiropractor
  • Dentist
  • Logistics
  • Optometrist
  • Roofer
  • Software developer

Since this article is already pretty long, I’ve made the notes about those seven company types available as a PDF download if you follow this link.

In the PDF I give you my thoughts on how you can use this strategy in each of those businesses.


Even if your business is different from those seven, I think it’s a wide enough range of business types that it will spark some ideas for you. (Or you can email me at [email protected] if you’d rather brainstorm directly.)

Here’s the link again if you’re interested in seeing how this process can be applied across a wide range of businesses.

Wrapping Up

Developing relationships with your prospects rather than trying to have a transactional interaction with them just makes sense.

  • More of the People Who Stick Around Will Become Customers. Trust-building means you’ll enjoy higher conversion rates, and longer-term engagements.
  • You’ll Move Above The Fog Of Your Commoditized Competitors. Your customers will see you as a trusted resource–someone they refer their friends to–rather than merely a vendor or service provider. You’re the trusted expert in your field.
  • Customers Will Stay with You Longer… And Buy More Often. The lifetime value of each customer will skyrocket as clients stick around, reducing churn rates, and as they buy more of your products and services.

The extra time and effort to put systems in place to develop and nurture these relationships is an investment well worth the price.

And with marketing automation software, building such a nurture funnel isn’t as hard as it was even just 4 years ago.

With the systems available to you that make automation easy, plus the benefits of adding a nurture strategy that warms up cold prospects, this is something you have to include in your lead generation roadmap.

Want A Free Funnel Template?

If this all sounds good, but you’re not exactly sure where to get started, click here or on the button below. We’ll ask you a few questions to understand the kind of funnel you’ll need, then we’ll build one for you for free.



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