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I only slept for an hour last night, and I want you to use my experience to make yourself more efficient and effective in your business. I’m talking about the importance of documenting what you do.

Trust me.

Documenting your processes and creating systems will save you when you do something some might call *ahem* stupid.

Which is a great segue to my situation.

Let’s Take A Moment To Revel In My Suffering

creating systems in your business gives you superpowers

I have a client who’s operating in an industry I haven’t touched in years, and they called me on a Thursday asking me to build them a sales funnel.

The funnel isn’t horribly complicated, so I sketched it out and got going.

funnel sketch

No biggie, except they wanted it by Monday.

And like a fool I accepted.


I Would Have Been Up A Creek If It Weren’t For Some Unusual Advice

Most of us hear the advice that we need to set goals if we want to succeed at anything. Others go so far as to say that we need to not only set goals, but also a due date for achieving that goal.

One of my favorite quotes about goals is from Earl Nightingale:

“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder–he doesn’t know where he’s going.”

I agree that setting goals is important (after all, every journey needs a destination), but the advice I got from a friend of mine is more practical.

  1. First, set your goal.
  2. Second, create a system of daily action that moves you to the goal.

With this method you can completely forget about your goal and still reach it.

And when you find yourself in a self-created pickle like I did, you’ll have a roadmap to lead you out of trouble.

What Is A System?

The best way I’ve seen systems described is by one of my favorite bloggers, James Clear.

“If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.”

It’s the daily effort that moves you toward (or away from) your goals. This effort must have a direction, and it must align with your goal–otherwise you’ll never reach it.

In this particular case, the system I’m using is one that allows me to enter a new market with reasonable confidence that the marketing will work.

If you have proven systems that deliver great results, you’re sitting on a gold mine.

Systems Give You Freedom

Knowing I promised to get this new funnel done by Monday, I spent about 10 hours Saturday working to about midnight. When the clock struck twelve I thought, “You know what, I’m just going to push through a little bit.”

(Plus I wasn’t turned into a pumpkin, so there’s that.)

I worked until about 5 am, then woke up again at 6 to get everybody up and get ready for church.

Building Systems From Scratch Can Seem Overwhelming, But It Gives You Superpowers

Systems help you move quickly, be efficient, and stay effective. Even when you’re exhausted.

They also make your processes repeatable, and maybe more important– trainable.

This is the source of your ultimate superpower…

Being in two places at once.

That’s right, because with documented processes and systems you can train somebody to do what you do. Then you let them do it.

Simple and amazing.

This is how I was able to scale my last company’s content marketing to publish 90+ original, 1000+ word articles a week without going insane… so I know how important systems are.

The Easiest Way To Build Systems From Scratch

If you’re reading this and thinking, “This is all great, Brian, but if I don’t have a system then this article is worthless. You’re dead to me,” well, I hear you.

If you don’t have a system to lean on, the easiest way to hit the ground running is to find a system that already works. Then model it and make it work for you.

Think about it…

If there’s a system that’s creating sales every day, a system that’s killing it for somebody else, it would be stupid to recreate the wheel.

Take what they’re doing, model it, see if you can get it to work too.

And from that point you can tweak it, but then again maybe you won’t ever need to.

How Do You Do This?

  1. Find a product in your industry that’s doing really well
  2. Record the ads, placements, and angles
  3. Buy their product, document their funnel

Imagine if I ended the article here, left you hanging without an example of finding a working system that you can model, and clicked “publish” and walked away. It would get ugly.

But I’m not going to do that. Let’s look at what I would do if I needed to find a system to model.

Case Study: How To Model A System (With Startupdrugz)

One of my pet-peeves is when people pontificate without giving examples, so I want to show you what I do when trying to build a funnel in a new market.

Since my client is sensitive to her privacy, I’m going to pretend I’m building a funnel for a physical product in a different industry: t-shirts.

When selling a physical product, there are 5 things I need to figure out:

  • What funnels are working for companies already?
  • What email follow-up sequences are working for this company?
  • What ad angles is this company using?
  • Where are the ads being placed?
  • What tools can I use to put this funnel together?

Since I was only hired to create the funnel, I don’t need to worry about product sourcing, shipping, pricing, etc.

(I will document the prices, payment methods, shipping, and so on so I can let my client know if there is a noticeable difference in the market between what she’s selling and what others are doing. Think of it as a little value-added bonus.)

Let’s Start By Finding An Advertiser Who’s Making Money

The first key is to find a funnel that’s working. So how do you do that?

For this particular industry, I see a lot of t-shirt ads on social media, as well as on news sites like Yahoo’s home page, CNN, Drudge Report, etc.

find a successful advertiser to model
Since I want to see a variety of shirt ideas, I’m typing “tee shirts”, “t-shirts”, “funny shirts” into the search bar in Facebook to see what I get.

I’m not completely interested in what shows up in that search query, but I am interested in seeing what shows up in my news feed afterwards.

Why the news feed?

Savvy marketers buy ads that get placed in newsfeeds based on people’s behavior.

If I see ads from companies after searching within their product niche, I know those companies spent money to serve me their ads.

It’s not the only thing I need to find successful funnels, but it’s a start…

Most companies–especially low-margin companies like t-shirt peddlers–don’t spend money on ads unless they’re making money, so if you find a company that’s paying for lots of ads, chances are they’ve got a successful funnel in the background that you can model.

Document the Ad Angles and Placements

Since I don’t want to make this a 3000 word post, I’m going to keep it simple…

The first ad that popped up after searching for t-shirts is this one from

ad leading to funnel

Not bad, eh?

And the best part is that this is an image crowd-sourced. If you go to their site (which I recommend you do– their entrepreneur shirts are awesome), you’ll see tons of images of their customers showing off their latest buys.

Nothing says “Buy my stuff” more effectively than hundreds of excited customers showing off their purchases on social media.

Now Let’s Pay Attention To Their Funnel

I clicked the above ad to get to the first step of their funnel, and now the fun begins…

Funnel Step 1: Landing Page

This funnel is a little bit unusual because it doesn’t bring you to a particular product, it brings you to the company’s main Shopify page.
first step in the funnel is the landing page
A lot of times you’ll see people focus on a single product, and try to move people through the buying process quickly.

Here that’s not the case.

Instead, they send you to their home Shopify page that has great copy, multiple (but not obnoxious) calls to action, social proof, and a scrollbar of their best shirt designs.

This homepage is powerful.

Funnel Step 2: Product Page

When you click one of the “Shop Now” buttons, you’re taken to their shirts page.
My guess is that since they have so many amazing shirt designs–and a huge amount of social proof–they want prospects to see everything they have available, rather than just a single shirt idea.

And when you see the next step in the funnel, you’ll see how they take a page out of Amazon’s playbook.

Funnel Step 3: Individual Product Page

There’s so much to like about this individual product page it makes me giddy.
great example of funnel copy and conversion-boosting elements
First, there’s the standard Shopify design. Meh.

But then you have some pithy copy in the product description, followed by crowdsourced images of their customers wearing the product.

And of course there’s the Amazon-style “other people who bought this product also purchased…”


All followed up with more social proof.

Funnel Step 4: Checking Out

The checkout process is simple… if you’ve ever purchased from a Shopify site (and you probably have, even if you didn’t know it), then you’ll be familiar with the next several steps.

Shopping Cart

next funnel step is a basic shopping cart

Checkout Page


Funnel Step 5: Thank You Page

(I forgot to screenshot it… I know… I know… )

Funnel Step 6: Email Follow-Up Sequence

I’ll write another article later that goes more into what an ideal email follow-up sequence looks like, but for now just know that you need to be engaging, grateful, and show some personality.

Think about most of the email correspondence you get from companies you just purchased from… Most of it is bland rubbish. Give it some personality. Show a little ankle. Let your customer into your world a little bit so they have a chance to bond with you.

Trust me.

What Tools Will We Need?

It seems like whenever I talk to someone about a funnel system, email follow-ups, lead-gen… anything related to what I do, they always want to know what tools I use.

I get it. I’m the same way.

So here are the tools I used to put together the funnel for my client. For a Startupdrugz-style funnel, you’d need to modify it slightly, but it’s a similar process (I’ll note that below).

(Also, some of these are affiliate links, but if you choose to use the products it won’t impact what you pay.)

Traffic Source

Facebook is the best choice for my client, so that’s what I used. I don’t use any special tools, I just create ads in Power Editor and let it roll.

Once we’re ready to get a little more sophisticated I’ll add Needls to the mix. Needls creates multiple variations of your ads and presents them to people as they’re talking about your product, so the ad is presented at the right time and place. It’s worth checking out if you run ads and you’ve never used it.

Landing Page and Funnel

My client’s project required a landing page, opt-in page, upsell page, checkout, and thank you page.

Since she wasn’t running a Shopify store with dozens or hundreds of products, it didn’t make sense to use that platform.

My favorite landing page and funnel software is Clickfunnels, and it’s what I used with her project. If you follow this link you can get a 14-day free trial of Clickfunnels so you can give it a shot.

For Startupdrugz you could use Clickfunnels in combination with Shopify (there are integrations that allow the two systems to talk), but Startupdrugz is a purely Shopify site at this point.

Email Follow-Up

I keep it simple and use MailchimpIt does everything I need it to do, and as long as you’re building your email list the right way you shouldn’t run into any issues with delivery, open rates, etc.

Now writing your follow-up sequence? Well… we’ll cover that in another article.

The Moral of the Story

I can’t stress enough the value of using a proven system that’s generating revenue for other people. You don’t need to go through the pain and the hours and the suffering and the lack of sleep that goes into carving your own road.

At some point you might find lots of success carving your own road, but that’s probably not where you need to start.

In my case, it would have been tough if I didn’t already have a system to lean on to meet this crazy deadline (and I probably wouldn’t have taken on the project)… thankfully I wasn’t in that situation.

If you don’t have an understanding or expertise in the area you’re working in, and you’re trying to develop that expertise, it’s better to follow the path of folks who’ve struggled through and figured out what works. Once you’ve mastered that framework, that’s where your creativity can come in.

(As a side note: if you take on a client in a new industry, don’t give yourself crazy deadlines if you enjoy sleep, relationships, and sanity.)


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