How To Build a Successful & Profitable Sales Funnel

A “trend” I’ve noticed lately with online marketers and gurus is that tons of people seem to be talking about sales funnels. The allure is passive income, of course...making money while you sleep...watching the dollar bills roll in while you sip mojitos on the beach somewhere fabulous.

Set up these 6 simple automated emails and you’ll have an evergreen funnel that runs on autopilot! Sit back and watch sales happen!

Truthfully -- this is a massive oversimplification of what it takes to build a successful, profitable sales funnel.

Build A Profitable Sales Funnel

I’ve written at length about what a sales funnel is and why it is different than a simple automated email sequence (read a couple recent guest posts here and here if you’d like). One thing I haven’t done outside my virtual workshops or paid programs is talk in detail about what you SHOULD be doing with your sales funnel (specifically), and how to approach it if you don’t already have a profitable funnel running for your business. 

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time! Hopefully this will be a valuable resource you can refer to when you're ready to get started building your funnel...especially if you haven't had a chance to attend one of my workshops. 

Everyone has their own reasons for pursuing a career of entrepreneurship and business ownership. Sure, everyone likes a cool cocktail on a sandy beach every now and again...but most people who start their own business do it because they ENJOY working hard. They ENJOY helping other people. They want to LOVE the career they wake up to every day. I have yet to meet an entrepreneur who wants to hang up their hat and never work another day in their life. That’s just not how entrepreneurial folks operate!

So, put the myth of the cocktail-sipping, cash-hauling business owner aside. A sales funnel isn’t going to prevent you from ever having to work on your business again. Even after you implement your funnel, you will still be working incredibly hard on your business. You will still be busy.

What this WILL do is help you automate and streamline some of the repeatable processes in your business, help make it more clear what can be outsourced to a VA or automated with technology and software, and free up your time to focus your hustle on high-value activities (whatever those may be for your business). 

Before we dive into the meat of today’s post...I want to clear up one more thing about funnels that I think trips a lot of new business owners up. When you first start your business, you are going to feel totally overwhelmed and overworked. You’re on information overload. You’re just trying to keep your head above water. Most of your time is going to be spent on chasing the next dollar (i.e., marketing and sales) so that you can keep the lights on.

In the early days, you’re probably not going to have time to worry about process automation.

Once you’ve been bringing in a stable income for a few months, and you start to feel comfortable with your cashflow, you will naturally start to build more efficiencies into how you do business.

That is the point when I would recommend you seriously start to consider spending time on your sales and marketing funnels.

There are a few benefits to waiting until this point to worry about your funnels, namely:

  1. You know your product / service inside and out
  2. You know there is a market for your product / service … because you’ve sold it to a few customers, and you have proven to yourself you can make a stable income from it
  3. You understand all the different facets of how your business runs, because you’ve been in the shit the last few months trying to juggle everything, and keep the ship from sinking as you get your business off the ground and making money

You’ll still be very busy, but at this point you will probably start to have a little breathing room (or, you will start to see how you can make a little room for yourself by outsourcing, hiring, taking a small amount of time off, etc).

So -- let’s talk about funnels.

If you’re reading this article, you probably already know what a funnels is (at least at a high level). For clarity’s sake, let’s just review so that we’re all on the same page.

Academically, a funnel is defined as a consumer-focused marketing model that illustrates the theoretical customer journey toward the purchase of a product or service.

In layman's terms, I prefer to use this definition:

A funnel is the journey your customer will take as they transition from a total stranger who is unfamiliar with you and your business, through to a delighted customer who is ready to refer you to all their friends, family, and network.
— Me!

If you attend any of my workshops or enroll in my courses, you’ll hear me use that definition again and again.

A funnel is a process. It’s not just a series of automated emails...it’s much more than that. It takes more than a few emails to move from “total stranger” to “delighted customer”. The notion that you would be able to build a profitable funnel by grabbing swipe copy from an online guru and replicating their automated email sequences is ludicrous. As I said earlier -- anyone trying to tell you that is grossly oversimplifying the concept!

(Sadly, gross oversimplification sells because it comes off as “attainable”. It makes it seem like anyone can achieve what this six-figure/seven-figure entrepreneur did with just a few easy steps. But...I digress.)

I teach my clients and students a five-stage framework for constructing a successful and profitable funnel. Here’s the graphic I use to illustrate the framework:

Sales Funnel Graphic

Every person who comes into contact with your business and who ultimately becomes a customer will go through these five stages:

  1. Attract
  2. Engage & Educate
  3. Build Interest & Desire
  4. Take Action & Convert
  5. Retain (and Refer)

Whether you use automated email sequences, webinars, online summits, in-person events or trainings, live speaking, sales calls, blogging, Facebook ads, podcasting, affiliate marketing, guest posting...whatever, those activities all will correspond with one of the five stages of your funnel.

It’s your job when building out your funnel to make sure you have all five of those stages covered...that you are guiding your future customer through your funnel with care and consideration every step of the way. How exactly you do that will depend on lots of different factors…

  • What type of business you have (brick and mortar, online, wholesale, service business, etc)
  • What sorts of products you sell
  • Who your customer is
  • How your customer makes purchasing decisions (HUGE … is it an impulse buy? Are they buying for a team of people? Is it a giant investment? Does it need to be professionally installed? Etc. Etc. Etc.)
  • What industry you’re in, and possible regulations or compliance issues that might apply to you
  • Your budget
  • Your personal preferences for doing business

And any other myriad of considerations I’m not thinking of right now!

Bottom line -- there is no “one size fits all”. There is no “steal my swipe copy and watch the money roll in”. There is no “follow this formula and you, too, will be successful”.

  • There is knowing your business and customers inside and out.
  • There is experimenting.
  • There is measuring.
  • There is automating and streamlining when you hit on a formula that works.

That's all hard work, and there's no shortcut or "one-size-fits-all" template someone can give you to copy from. I can teach you the framework, but I don't know your business. YOU do!

To get started, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How am I attracting NEW customers to my business?
  2. What do I do to engage with new customers when they express interest in my business?
  3. How am I educating my future customers about my products and services?
  4. What am I doing to build my customers’ interest and desire for my products or services?
  5. What am I doing to instill a sense of urgency to buy with my customers?
  6. Am I asking for feedback after customers work with me or buy from me?
  7. Do I have a process in place to make it easy for my customers to refer me to others?
  8. Am I re-selling or up-selling other products or services to my customers, to earn their repeat business?

^^ This is a LOT of work. It's a lot to think through. These aren't simple questions you'll be able to nail down in just a few minutes. They are meant to invite deeper thought and reflection on how you're running your business.

At each stage in your funnel, you’re moving people along towards becoming happy, paying customers. If you understand what the stages are and what their purpose is, you will have an easier time effectively marketing & selling to your customers. Your messaging will be more focused, your customers will be clear what the next step in the process is, and you will stop driving yourself crazy with shiny object syndrome (I need to do webinars...NO, I need to do Facebook ads...NO, I need to be hosting events...NO, I need to be emailing my list...NO, I need to be guest blogging!)

Approaching your funnel in this systematic way will also help you measure its effectiveness more easily, and make strategic tweaks and changes based on how your marketing and sales efforts are performing with your customer base (i.e., are they buying?!).

Let’s talk through the 5 stages in more detail. I’ll also give you some ideas for practical marketing and sales strategies you can use at each stage.

Stage 1 - Attract

This is the stage where you are getting new eyeballs on your business. There are obviously LOTS of different ways to attract new business, be it through affiliate marketing, guest blogging, optimizing your website or blog to get more organic search traffic, using paid advertising, social media, hosting in-person or virtual events, etc.

Whatever the latest marketing trend is, it will likely fall into one of these four categories:

  1. SEO (optimizing your content so people find it organically when searching for topics on Google, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc)
  2. Paid Advertising (self explanatory, I think)
  3. Affiliate (You’re working with someone to capture traffic from their audience somehow...be it guest blogging, participating in a summit, being a speaker at someone’s event, hosting a viral giveaway, creating an affiliate or referral program of your own, etc)
  4. Referral (You are well-known enough where people send traffic your way without you needing to do anything...media coverage, getting picked up by a round-up, being featured on someone’s blog or website, being asked to be a guest on someone else’s show/channel/group, etc)

You’ll spend a lot of time working the “Attract” phase to get new eyeballs on your business, and there are plenty of effective ways to do this! Don't let anyone tell you there's only one way or one best way. There's a lot you can (and should) experiment with.

Stage 2 - Engage & Educate

At this stage, you’ve successfully attracted someone to your business. They’ve said “yes” somehow:

  • Walked into your store
  • Signed up for a workshop
  • Opted in to grab a free download
  • Joined your Facebook group
  • Requested a discovery call
  • Liked you on Instagram
  • ...whatever else

Now it’s your job to engage with them...make them feel welcome, show them that you understand their problems/pains/desires, and begin to share about what you do and why.

At this stage, you might be hosting events, webinars, using automated email sequences, getting on the phone one-on-one with people, engaging on social media, sharing content on your blog, conducting weekly podcasts, delivering a free ecourse...whatever it is, your job at this stage is to engage & educate your customers, and keep them moving along in your funnel.

Stage 3 - Build Interest & Desire

At this stage, you’re starting to filter down to potential customers who actually are a good fit for your business and for your paid offers. You’re starting to eliminate people you can’t help, or who aren’t ready to buy for whatever reason. You’ve established some level of trust and rapport with the people who are still hanging around in your funnel. Finally...you’re ready to start building interest and desire for your paid products.

You may use some of the same strategies you were using at the “engage & educate” stage, but now your messaging and focus is different. Your audience already knows you...and your relationship with them is deepening.

How do you need to tweak and adjust the marketing and sales strategies you employ at this stage of the funnel to reflect that?

Stage 4 - Take Action & Convert

By this stage, you’re actively asking for the sale. You’re telling people clearly how to buy. There may be sales pages on your website, invoices delivered over email, a sales script you’re using on a phone call, a pitch deck.

What about up-sells, and down-sells? How is the actual money transaction happening? Once they pay...how do they get a receipt, and any other info they’d need to get started?

Finally -- What can you do to make your new customer feel like your only customer?

Stage 5 - Retain & Refer

Often the most forgotten stage of the funnel! You closed the deal...your customer is happy...now what?

What are you doing to either earn their repeat business, or get them to refer you to others? You can automate a lot of this stage using various software and technology. Think: automated follow-up emails, thank-you letters, reminder emails to leave reviews, and referral incentives. Don’t let your customers forget about you. How can you stay top-of-mind?

Two things before I sign off today:

1 - I created a sales funnel roadmap you can use to get started mapping your funnel.

If you got value from this post and you'd like to start implementing for your business, sign up below and I'll send you my sales funnel roadmap . I think you’ll find this to be a valuable resource as you begin to build out a funnel of your own.

2 - I am opening up enrollment for my new funnels course in early October.

I have gone back and forth on how to structure enrollment for this course, because I really only want to work with students who will complete the curriculum and be an asset to the other students in the course. I don’t want to sell a bunch of seats to the course and only have 20% of students complete the content, or find that the content doesn’t apply to where they’re at in their stage of business.  

SO...all that to say, I have decided to cap enrollment for the new course at 40 students, AND I am going to have an “application” process for the course. If you think you might want to enroll, please let me know by clicking the button below and I will shoot you an email with more info. 

Thanks for reading!

Consistently attract new leads with these 5 simple marketing tasks

Do you have a strategy in place for consistently attracting new followers + fans to your business? Or, do you feel like you’re shooting arrows in the dark, with traffic growing only sporadically?

What are you doing consistently to grow your brand online, and connect with your audience so that they will be excited to purchase your products and sign up for your services?

Are you consistently attracting new customers to your business? These five simple marketing tasks will help you bring in new leads regularly, so you'll never wonder where your next client or customer is coming from!

Today I’m sharing five things I do EVERY week (and some every day) to build brand awareness and generate more leads for my business. Best of all -- these are easy (really!), and they won’t take over your entire day or leave you spending hours on social media every evening. In fact … you will actually SAVE time using these strategies, while still attracting consistent leads.

Let’s jump in!

1. Automate social media posts weekly

Are you already automating your social media posts to promote your business? If not, then you have to get on that! This is the easiest thing to do once you are up-and-running, and if you use a tool like Meet Edgar or SmarterQueue (my fav), you can automatically recycle old content...so you’ll keep driving social media traffic to your older posts, long after you hit “publish”.

You can also promote your content upgrades via social media, to drive even MORE traffic to your site. This is such an easy win, and something that won’t take you more than 30 minutes each week once you get rolling.


(If you’d like to grab the recording of my social media 101 webinar for even MORE detail on how to market your business on social media … sign up below and I’ll send you the recording!)


2. Engage directly with your audience online

Once your social media posts are automated, your work is not done! Set aside 10 minutes each morning, and 10 minutes each evening to show up in-person on social media and engage with your audience. Answer questions, offer advice, re-post other people's’ content, and just get to know the people who are hanging out online with you. These are potential customers and clients, but more importantly...they’re potential friends and mentors! I don’t know about you, but I have been AMAZED by the people I’ve met online, and have learned so much from chatting on Facebook and Twitter with other entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes each morning and evening, and dive in. Close all your other tabs, and go for it. If you're using more than one social media outlet, consider splitting this time between different platforms. I usually do 10 minutes on Facebook, then 5-10 minutes on Twitter. Once I get my Instagram up-and-running, I'll dedicate time to that as well.

Engaging in-person will humanize your business, and help you form closer connections with your potential audience. It is well worth the 20 minutes per day to show up and interact with people for a few minutes while you drink your morning coffee, take a quick walk around the block after work, or wait for the train :-)


Don’t forget to grab the recording of my social media workshop if you’d like even more tips and strategies for marketing your business on social media! Sign up below and I’ll send you the recording.


3. Show up “live”

One of the biggest hurdles I had to get over when starting my own business was the fear of showing up “live” online or in-person to advertise my business. I am a really shy person, and this just felt so weird to me. BUT, I know that this is one of the greatest ways to make connections with people and really grow your audience, so I swallowed my fears and started doing it.

Sure enough, after the first couple times...it felt more and more natural to me.

If you’re not already using Insta Stories, Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or webinars to engage with your audience “in person” online...definitely give it a go. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment! One of the greatest things about this is that you can repurpose the content as social media posts later on, so this time investment can do double duty for you.

And for me at least … I find it WAY faster and easier to create “live” content like this than written blog posts.

In addition to online live events, seek out networking opportunities in your local community, as well. If you live in an urban area or town, you probably have a local chamber of commerce that hosts events for businesses. Check out meetup.com or Facebook groups to see if you can find local chapters of entrepreneur organizations or small business organizations to meet up with, too. This is a great way to connect with local business owners and grow your biz in an unexpected way! I'm trying to go to one in-person event every month. 

4. Communicate directly with your audience, and ask them to “share”

Even if you only have a small list (me too!), you should still be reaching out to them regularly to stay in touch. Since you already know these people are a fan of your work and want to hear from you, don’t forget to tap into the power of community and ask them to share with their friends or colleagues if your emails and blog posts are resonating with them!

Leveraging your existing audience to reach new potential readers, customers, clients, and connections is a great way to grow your following quickly … with no additional effort required from you beyond asking them to share.

5. Get exposure to new audiences 

I try to challenge myself to pitch at least one partnership opportunity per week. This could be a guest post on someone else's blog, a joint venture webinar or workshop, applying to speak at a conference, panel, or summit, participate in a Facebook Live collaboration, or any other partnership opportunity you can think of. Working with other business owners and entrepreneurs is a great way to grow your audience and get exposure to more potential customers and clients. You can find out about these opportunities on social media (Facebook Groups, Twitter Chats), by directly reaching out to other business owners or brands you admire, or through good old fashioned in-person networking.

Build this into your schedule each week … maybe you spend 30 minutes every Monday morning seeking out a new partnership opportunity, then spend an hour generating content for the partnership later in the week. I especially love podcast or webinar joint partnerships because they are “live”, and for me...engaging “in person” with my audience online is my favorite way to connect with others.

Don’t get down if you get rejected, either … that is the name of the game. Even if you only get a “yes” 10% of the time, it’s still worth your while! Eventually, you’ll build up momentum, and this won’t seem so overwhelming. Just go for it -- the worst that could happen is they’ll either say “no”, or not reply at all. On to the next one!

Now time for some homework: spend 5 minutes scheduling time in your calendar for each of these five tasks every week. Once you start doing these things consistently, you’ll build up a momentum with your marketing game!


If you’re looking for more ideas for how to grow your business through online marketing, I have a social media workshop I’d love to share with you! Sign up below and I’ll send you a link to the workshop replay right now :-)


I was trapped in the frenetic corporate rat-race. And then, I quit my job.

Plenty of entrepreneurs start their side hustle with the intention of leaving day jobs they hate. I loved my job, but I was trapped in a rat race day in and day out trying to keep all the balls in the air. Finally, I had to give it up.

 

Today is my first day being 100% self-employed.

A lot of people dream of “quitting their day job” and striking it out on their own, but that wasn’t really my path. I loved my job, and I especially loved the people I worked with. I felt really, really sad last week packing up my desk, and nervous about handing over the reigns to someone else...would they care as much as I had?

Still, it was nice this morning to wake up early, make myself a cup of coffee, walk the dog, and be sitting down at my computer to write by 7:30. It felt good to have a morning where I’m not overwhelmed, rushed, and worried I’m forgetting something. And I’ll be honest...I really won’t miss the 45 minute train ride with my fellow bleary-eyed 9-5’ers :-)

I’m glad I finally worked up the courage to make the leap--even though I still think it’s a little bananas that I don’t have a “real job” anymore, after working more than half my life for someone else.

I used to think I’d have “made it” if I only achieved the next milestone:

  • Finish my master’s degree
  • Open my own business
  • Land my first client
  • Earn a 6 figure salary
  • Become a homeowner
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Along the way, it turned into a rat race.

I’m more unhealthy now than I was ten years ago and just starting out, earning minimum wage, sharing a tiny 1-bedroom apartment with my older sister, and eating microwave noodles from a styrofoam cup most nights for dinner. Now, my furniture isn’t (all) from Ikea or picked out of the alley, I can afford to buy milk whenever I want, and I have a 401K. How luxurious!

But, I’m also 30 pounds heavier, I frequently bolt awake in the night in a total panic over the most ridiculous things, and my husband and I struggle to find time to hang out. I started imagining my life 5 years down the road, and it was hard to figure out when I’d have the time or the energy to start a family. It made my heart race and my palms sweat to even think about taking a couple days off for a short vacation, let alone introduce another human life into the mix.

In the end, these were the reasons I finally decided to make the leap, leaving my full-time job and all its trappings & benefits behind. Even though I checked off all the milestones on my arbitrary checklist, I am mostly a mess.

There has to be a better way.

So here I am...day 1, starting over again at something new. I’m setting fresh intentions and making a NEW goal list.

(Yes, I still have to make money. Yes, I still have to save for retirement. Yes, I still have to do my part to put food on the table and make sure the mortgage is paid.)

All that aside, I hope this new life affords me some new kinds of “luxuries”:

  • More time for walks after dinner with my husband, just to talk about our days, laugh, and joke around
  • Waking up early in the morning to spend some time outside with the dog and a cup of coffee, just because I can
  • Enjoying time with my family, without falling asleep or being so harried/distracted that I don’t remember what we did together or talked about
  • Focused time spent on growing my businesses in a sustainable way...without feeling overwhelmed or like it’s an afterthought at 8pm after a full day of work
  • More smiling, more fun, more laughing, more saying “yes” to things that make me happy...family, friends, lunch dates, time in the garden, swimming in the lake, going to baseball games, grilling outside with my dad, planning road trips, working on the house, volunteering, keeping up with the laundry, living life

I know building a business is hard work...heck, I willingly signed up for the sleepless nights! I know this next phase will have challenges of its own, but this time I’m going to try to stay more focused on what matters...on why I do all this hard work in the first place.

For this next turn of the crank, I’m setting different intentions.

Time to get to work.
 

P.S. -- My dream is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners launch & grow profitable businesses. So tell me...what are YOU struggling with right now? What keeps you up at night? What’s holding you back from making that next “turn of the crank” in your business? I’d love if you would leave a comment below to connect and share your story.