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One of my favorite past-times is listening to Q&A sessions at live events. My friends call me a “live lurker”, but that’s okay because I always learn two things:

  1. I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know. People ask questions that never would have occurred to me.
  2. I Find Out What People Want. I get personal insight into the needs of specific markets.

Recently I attended one of these Q&A sessions at a marketing conference, and what I discovered was both shocking and enlightening…

…and it had nothing to do with the questions.

More on that in a bit…

Before I go there, I want to share some insights I had while listening to these successful entrepreneurs pepper the presenters during the Q&A.

Normally The Questions Are Surprising, But This Time Was Different

Even after all the Q&As I’ve sat through, there’s usually something surprising that comes out of them.

The most recent Q&A was no exception, with its long string of basic funnel questions.

  • What’s a funnel?
  • How does it work?
  • Can it work for a brick-and-mortar business?
  • How hard is it to set up?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it cost?
  • And on, and on…

I’m used to these questions from friends, especially non-business owners, so the questions weren’t the shocking part.

What shocked me was the group these questions came from.

The Questions Were One Thing: It Was Who Asked Them That Got My Attention

sales funnel basics

The conference was focused on marketing for small business owners. There were about 300 people there, mostly owners of small brick-and-mortar businesses. The conference was fabulous, with lots of actionable information and great networking opportunities.

When one of the presenters started talking about funnels, it was clear by the audience reaction that these were ideas they hadn’t considered for their own businesses.

Now you have to remember: these 300+ attendees were mostly successful business owners… they get marketing.

And when you consider that funnels can perform like an automated sales team… prospecting, qualifying, and even selling… you can understand why they’d be interested in the topic.

When the Q&A started, one after the other came up to the microphone to ask questions about funnels…

These were the last people I would have thought needed answers to basic questions about online funnels… but there they were.

This Q&A session inspired me to spend a little time this week addressing their questions in case some of you are in the same boat.

Let’s Go Through These Questions

What Is A Funnel?

At a high level, a funnel is a word for an old technique: it’s a system that directs people to take a specific action.

In the online world, it’s an automated method of persuasion.

There’s more too.

Start With A Mess, End Up With The Best

Through the lens of marketing and sales, a funnel is a process of gathering groups of prospects, filtering out people who don’t fit our ideal buyer’s profile, qualifying the people who remain, and leading them down a path whose goal is buying a product or service.

Unqualified leads are placed at the top of the funnel, where they filter down until only the best prospects remain.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Brian, that’s just a sales process.”

Yep.

I thought the same thing when I first learned of funnels.

They can be offline, online, or a blend of the two.

Call it whatever you want: it’s a system for identifying and acquiring new clients.

Best of all, since it’s a defined process: it can be tracked, analyzed, and improved upon.

I don’t want to make this a 10,000 word post, so if you want to get more in-depth to what a funnel is, check out this article here. Neil Patel does a great job explaining funnels, and goes as deep as you’ll need to walk away with a solid understanding.

How Does A Funnel Work?

Let me begin to answer your question with a question: what action do you want your prospect to take?

At its heart, funnels filter out people who are not a good fit for your business, leaving you with people who are the closest match to your ideal prospect.

Funnels work by walking your prospect down a path of choices, and this naturally filters out people who aren’t a good fit for your offer. At the end of the funnel, the prospect is given the choice to take a specific action.

  • This might be signing up to be on your mailing list–essentially raising their hand, and self-identifying as a prospect.
  • The action might be filling out an application to become one of your high-ticket consulting clients.
  • The funnel might lead the prospect down the path of becoming a client by purchasing one of your products.

The key here is that the funnel leads your prospect along a path, filtering out poorly matched prospects along the way so that when you present the final group with a choice to act, they are the group most likely to take you up on it.

What Does A Funnel Look Like?

Earlier we defined a funnel as a process to identify likely prospects, pass or eliminate them, and lead them down the path to take a certain action.

This action could be to sign up for a list, buy a product, or anything else.

Here are three illustrations of very basic funnels, one of them offline, the second online, and the third a blend of the two.

Offline Sales Funnel

offline sales funnel generates leads using fishbowl method

This is the classic fishbowl funnel that you’ve probably seen in brick-and-mortar businesses since you were a kid.

It’s a simple funnel that generally works like this:

  1. Lead Capture. A bowl (or box) is set up for people to place their business cards for a chance to win some prize.
  2. Add Leads To List. People who enter the drawing are added to the business owner’s list of prospects.
  3. Market To List. The business owner sends the new prospects promotions–often coupons with a limited time offer–to entice the prospect to become a customer.
  4. Sell/Upsell Prospects. Ideally the prospect visits the business, where the business owner has the opportunity to sell and upsell the prospect.

One of the challenges with this model is controlling the traffic.

You can determine where the “fishbowl” is placed, but you can’t control who decides to throw their contact information into the contest.

You might get great contacts, or you might get the worst prospects possible. There are some things you can do to alter the quality of people who see the bowl (partner with complementary businesses who serve your ideal customers), but even then the fate of your lead quality is up to chance.

Regardless, the fishbowl is a good example of a basic sales funnel for an offline business that can be effective if you attract the right people to throw in their names.

Online Sales Funnel

For this example, we’ll look at a common funnel for identifying, qualifying, and selling using social media.

Use social media to qualify ideal prospects and add them to your funnel.

This funnel gets prospects to identify themselves on social media, then qualifies them through a choreographed process that leads the right prospects down the path to a sale.

Let’s break it down…

  1. Self-Identify. You place an ad on social media that takes you to a blog post that is topical to your offer.
  2. Retarget. Anybody who clicks your ad and reads your article is tracked so they can be targeted for qualification.
  3. Qualify. The prospect sees an ad that leads to a squeeze page (email capture), where they are offered something of value in exchange for their email and contact info.
  4. Indoctrination Email Sequence. Email sequence designed to give the prospect lots of value, and “indoctrinate” them so they know, like, and trust you.
  5. Offer. After you’ve given massive value through your email series, you present the prospect with an offer. There are three keys to a good offer that you’ll need to apply for maximum effect. (Read about those three keys here.)
  6. One-Time-Offer. When someone’s in a buying mood, it’s best not to get in their way. If you have a product that complements your primary offer, this is a great time to give your prospect-turned-client the chance to acquire it.
  7. Offer 2. Do you have a big-ticket product? Fantastic! Let your client know about it and give them a sweet deal.
  8. Check-Out. There are some keys to check-out pages that I’ve talked about elsewhere to boost your conversion rates… make sure to implement these keys when you can.
  9. Delivery. Self-explanatory? I hope so! Make sure to make it crystal clear how your new client can access their new product.
  10. Email Sequence 2. Every time you sell a client something, you’ve taken a withdrawal from the Trust Account. You need to refill that account with more emails giving massive value before you try selling to them again.

Hybrid Sales Funnel

Can offline funnels be blended with online ones? Yes, and it’s my favorite kind.

Here’s a sketch of what this can look like:

You can blend online and offline sales funnels.

This is actually two “hybrid funnels” in one drawing, so let me explain them both.

The top half starts with the fishbowl…

  • The business card is added to the contact list.
  • The prospect receives a piece of direct mail with an offer that must be redeemed online.
  • The prospect goes to a landing page set up for that offer.
  • The offer is presented to the prospect, and if it’s done right they become a client.

The bottom-half of the illustration starts with a Facebook ad…

  • The prospect sees an ad on Facebook and clicks it
  • The prospect is sent to a Squeeze Page where they sign up for your list to receive a coupon
  • The prospect gets a coupon they can redeem at your physical location
  • The prospect goes to your physical location to redeem the coupon, where they are presented with other offers in-store

These are just a few examples of different funnels you can employ in your business. You’re only limited by your creativity!

Can It Work For A Brick-and-Mortar Business?

Absolutely, and it’s something that can change everything!

If you have a brick-and-mortar business and you’re doing well, you probably already have some offline funnels working for you.

You don’t have to be limited to offline ways of bringing in new customers…

Here are three examples of basic online funnels that can bring your brick-and-mortar or service-based business new clients:

Funnel_Physical-Location-Online-Store-540-213

Funnel_Offline-Physical-Location540-188

Funnel_Offline-Service-Funnel-540-201

How Hard Are Funnels To Set Up?

This question is hard to answer without digging in to your specific situation (click here if you’re interested in a free training and free funnels!).

Here are some factors that change the difficulty of the funnel setup…

Desired Action

What do you want the funnel to do?

This will have a huge impact on the complexity of the funnel, and how difficult it will be to create, test, and maintain.

For example, does the funnel need to introduce you to a new audience, then automatically lead them through a warming process where they get to know you, trust you, and ultimately buy from you? Does the funnel also need to deliver the product to minimize you and your team’s involvement?

That is a more complicated funnel than one designed merely to acquire names and contact info.

Current Systems

What systems need to be integrated into the funnel? The more systems need to be integrated, the more complicated the funnel setup.

Also, some systems are more complicated than others. There’s a reason Infusionsoft is frequently called “confusionsoft”.

Online Store

If you want to integrate your online store with your funnel, this can add complexity to your funnel.

Design

Do you have specific ideas about the funnel’s design? If so, that’s awesome! However, depending on your vision this could add to the funnel’s creation time.

Your Level Of Involvement

How much do you want to be involved? Do you want this to be turn-key, where you meet with a funnel-builder and let them run with it, or are there certain pieces of the puzzle you want to handle yourself?

What Does A Funnel Cost?

Going It Alone

If you’re doing it yourself, there are some hard costs for the funnel systems, and depending on your setup you might also be paying for additional web hosting, email systems, and other integrations. A decent funnel software will cost you a minimum of about $100 per month, but this doesn’t include any other systems.

You also have to factor in the cost of you or your team’s time to get the funnel rolling. All that will depend on your situation.

The biggest cost I see with DIY funnels is the cost of lost opportunities…

When you don’t know what works, or you haven’t built a funnel before, there is a lot of trial and error. Time is wasted, and potential sales are lost while you figure it out.

Most of the time, the cost of hiring a pro is more than offset by the increased revenue and speed-to-market it brings.

Hiring A Pro

If you’re an established business with more money than time, hiring a pro is almost always the best choice.

Costs vary, but depending on the complexity of your funnel and scope of your project, you can expect to pay $3000-$5,000 for a simple, quality funnel that is ready for you to add images, copy, and deploy on your site.

Prices in the neighborhood of $20,000-$30,000 are not unheard of for a “done-for-you” funnel, which includes design, images, copywriting, email sequences.

Depending on the project, some funnel-builders may take a small fee for their time, and then ask for equity in the funnel.

Is this expensive?

I guess it depends on the results you’re looking to get…

If you hope to have a funnel that generates $20,000 over the next 12 months, then spending $20,000 on a done-for-you funnel wouldn’t be a good move. However, spending $3,000 to bring that $20,000 up to $30,000 or $40,000 makes a whole lot of sense. 

Similarly, spending $30,000 on a funnel to deliver an additional $100,000-$200,000 to your original $200,000 goal is a no-brainer.

It all depends on where you’re at with your business, and what goals you need to reach.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed…

If you’ve made it this far, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff.

I don’t want you to be overwhelmed.

Funnels are simply any system you put in place to qualify your best prospects and give them the most value by offering them the best products.

That’s it.

You’re giving your clients amazing value by showing them the best products for their situation–and they will reward you with more business.

Funnels are an extremely powerful thing.

Closing Thoughts

The power of funnels is real.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending more blog-time with online funnels to give you a better understanding of how to use, build, and design them to boost your business.

So stay tuned.

If you’re interested in working with me to build your funnel, or just talk about how they can be employed in your business, click here and let’s schedule a Skype call.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear if you’ve implemented online funnels in your business.

If you haven’t created any funnels, what questions would you love to see answered?

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