In the first part of this series on the Blog Sales Funnel, I went back in time looking at the various projects that preceded my step into blogging, and how I eventually combined the power of the email list with a blog to sell digital products.
I recommend you read it now if you have not done so already.
In this second part of the series I’m going to explain how I created my first three blog sales funnels, and how you can apply this model to your own blogging business.
The Product Launch Formula
In the past I have made very good money online selling digital products, primarily using the launch formula popularized by Jeff Walker.
Each launch promotion I did grossed at least $50,000 in sales. A couple broke the $150,000 mark. It’s primarily because of these launches that I have sold over $1 million in digital products via this blog.
Bear in mind this was done with no employees or purchased traffic. Just a blog and email list with a small loyal audience (we’re talking a few thousand active people – not millions of visitors like other blogs need to bring in that level of income).
Launches are powerful because they tap into persuasion techniques. The deadline-driven nature of a launch makes them especially effective.
In every single launch I have done, during the final 24 hours I’ve made at the very least 50% more sales in that one day — usually more than double in one day — than the entire rest of the launch period.
To put that into numbers, this means if I made 200 sales during the opening week launch campaign, in the final 24 hours before I close the offer another 200 customers will sign up.
Why does this happen? Because of the deadline.
These results are incredibly consistent. I’ve done more than ten big launch style campaigns for my own products and in every single one that final day is a sales-fest.
However, as good as launches are, they have their weaknesses too.
Launches take a lot of energy, especially the first time you do one since you have to create everything from scratch. The deadline that drives sales is also your own deadline, which certainly forces you into action, but makes for a rather stressful few weeks.
You can’t keep launching to the same audience expecting the same results. You will burn out your list and burn out your relationships with affiliates.
Speaking of affiliates, working with them is at times frustrating. You can’t control what they do or when they do it. You have to basically run a separate launch campaign to them if you’re doing a big affiliate backed launch (which is the only way to do a true launch process since you need a lot of important people talking about you at once). It’s like running two launches at the same time.
I think Rich Schefren said it best:
A launch is a great way to begin a new business or promote a product for the first time (if you have the resources and connections), but it can’t be your only long term model.
If you want a sustainable model, you need something that can make sales without you stimulating the process manually like you do with a launch. If you want a business that can grow without you, there has to be some kind of system to bring in customers that exists independent of you.
The Perfect Blogging Model?
As I evolved as a blogger I came to know the two elements that bring me the most financial and personal satisfaction. They are –
- Using my own free content as a way to build an audience. I like to write, I like to teach and I like to share ideas that help people. I like that I can give these things away, grow my influence, and make money as a result. I enjoy this method of audience building a whole lot more than buying traffic, or asking other people to promote me.
- I like to sell my ideas too. Making money from blogging is great, but there is something especially wonderful when you sell your own work. It’s so much better than advertising and affiliate marketing because people are saying they value your work (or the outcome you can help them achieve) enough to pay for it.
At the heart of it I am a content creator. I love that I can build my audience by giving content away and make money by selling it. It’s the artist’s dream – making a good living from your own work, without depending on any patron or employer to carry you.
I haven’t always had this level of clarity. During the early days of my blogging, like most bloggers at the time I was following the magazine model, pumping out a lot of content, hoping to increase my pageviews so I could make more money from advertising.
I also enjoyed great results with affiliate marketing, and of course as already mentioned, benefited tremendously from launch campaigns.
However as I used all these different models I started to see what I didn’t like about them –
- I hated the constant demand for more and more content if I wanted to earn revenue from advertising.
- Often when promoting affiliate products it felt like I was doing it just for the money.
- And as I already mentioned, doing big launches wasn’t how I wanted to keep my business running forever.
Back in 2008 I felt I had discovered the answer that could lead to the perfect blogging model without the above issues, but I hadn’t completed the full picture to know whether it worked.
Now was the time to test the theory…
A Sustainable Profit Model
A long time ago I wrote how the only way to create a sustainable business model behind blogging was to outsource the writing of your blog.
If content fuels your profit model (which it does with advertising) you must find a way to ramp up content production by leveraging other people.
I was wrong.
There is another model that is sustainable too, one that most non-publishing businesses use every day – the sales funnel.
It’s hard for most bloggers to grasp this because it means turning your attention away from pure content publisher, to sales driven marketer. It means you care more about conversion than page views. This is not natural for a blogger.
However there is a solution. There is a way that a blogger can focus most of his or her time on blogging and helping people with their ideas, and let the “funnel” take care of the selling (once it is set up).
There’s a transition to make, but based on observation of my successful members (graduates of my Blog Mastermind program), the Blog Sales Funnel is by far the best model to use if you are an individual expert, author, speaker, trainer, teacher or anyone who wants to sell digital products and services to help people solve a problem.
The Steps I Went Through To Build A Blog Sales Funnel
To clarify, this was my desired outcome as a result of setting up a Blog Sales Funnel –
- My products sell automatically without needing to do live launches or broadcast emails of any kind – everything is automated.
- I’d still use launch techniques, but they would be embedded in sequences that are evergreen. This means anyone can enter a sequence any time to receive my free training, which also sells my products.
- I’d get the knowledge in my head into digital products that are always available for sale. This allows me to have various front end products to cater to different needs.
- Once the funnel is set up, my main job would basically be to “blog” – to create content and grow my audience, knowing that as I attracted people to my blog, some of them would enter my funnel if they wanted more specific information.
I liked the idea of having a solid back-end behind my blog that delivered value and converted sales. This meant I could blog more and sell less, since my back-end did the selling for me.
I liked the idea of having educational content sequences that lead to products about each of the areas I could help people with based on my experience and knowledge. I’d always have a place I could direct people for help, which happens to fuel my business too.
It wasn’t going to be easy to set all this up. There was some planning to do and a lot of work ahead. But I was excited, I’d wanted to test this model since 2007 when I first began selling information products.
Here are the five steps I went through over a year or so to get my first Blog Sales Funnel up and running.
Step 1: Kill The Old Model
My goal was to derive my income almost entirely from my own products. Since I had none of my own products on the market when I began this change having shut them all down over the last three years, I knew I was heading into some lean months.
The plan was to change my blog design to remove advertising and instead focus on having various email courses for my audience to subscribe to based on their needs. Two years later you can see the fruits of this plan executed right here on this blog.
When you pull advertising from your site, stop doing affiliate promotions and you have no products for sale, you’re not going to make much money.
I didn’t feel great about it at the time, but there is value in resetting your business like this. It makes you humble. It makes you appreciate what you had and hungry to create again.
Step 2: Select A Technology Platform
The big challenge with this change was the amount of content I had to create. I had some ideas to speed things up (rapid product creation techniques like content repurposing), but I was still going to have to write a lot of emails and create new products.
Email is the glue that makes a funnel work. It keeps traffic flowing, it segments people to the right content based on what they show interest in, and delivers product offers, driving sales.
When you start to build a proper funnel your eyes will really open to the kind of emails you need. For example, have you considered adding these sorts of automated email sequences to your online business? –
- Shopping cart abandonment – Bring someone back to your offer after they made it as far as your checkout without buying
- Second chances – Give someone a second chance at a bundle or upsell if they said no during the order process
- Resource download confirmation – Followup if someone opts in to get your free resource but does not download it after receiving the link
- Triggered response sequence – Send a specific sequence of emails if someone clicks a link in an email or blog post
- Post-purchase engagement sequence – once a product has been purchased, you use email to motivate the customer to actually use it
…And so on. I’m only brushing over the possibilities here, but there are a lot of things you can do if you have the right technology.
I had a fairly good understanding of funnels to begin with, but after going back and studying my materials again, and also taking a couple of courses from Todd Brown (really great stuff focused specifically on funnels – he used to be the funnel guy at Rich Schefren’s Strategic Profits company) I felt I knew my potential.
The next step was to make sure I had the technology right so I had all the options available to me as I built my funnel. Needless to say, my previous system of just WordPress and AWeber to deliver everything was not going to cut it.
I researched a few options, from membership plugins and themes like Wishlist and OptimizePress, shopping carts like Nanacast, to more all-in-one solutions like FusionHQ (my friend Gideon Shalwick uses it) and Infusionsoft, which many people in the industry use.
My main goal was to try and avoid “frankenstein syndrome”. I didn’t want to create a monster by paring together all kinds of different platforms, plugins, themes and scripts. Ideally I wanted just one platform to handle everything.
In the end it came down to Infusionsoft and Ontraport/Office Autopilot as the two best options since they seemed capable to do all the funnel things I needed, handled transactions and were email autoresponders too.
Infusionsoft had a reputation for being confusing to work with (my friend Leslie Samuel was using it, but would eventually leave). James Schramko tried Infusionsoft and quickly switched to Ontraport. I heard that Eben Pagan had started using Ontraport (he turned out to be an investor too), a big endorsement in my mind since he has a huge information marketing business. I also noticed that Marie Forleo uses them.
However, there are just as many if not more well-known marketers (like Todd Brown, the funnel man himself) using Infusionsoft. I wasn’t entirely convinced either way.
In the end I decided to try Ontraport first and see if I could make it work without any help. I didn’t intend to manage it all myself, but if I could learn it quickly and do the core things, that was a good sign.
After studying Ontraport’s “9 Moves” training videos, which were quite funny and instructional, I was excited. There was so much potential here and I understood it.
I immediately started playing around with the software and felt confident I could manage it. I decided to stay, and a couple of years later I’m still happy with it.
Ontraport is not perfect – no system is – but it’s what I use today to power my funnels and it’s doing a pretty good job so far. I feel comfortable because I understand it, which was a big concern about Infusionsoft, although I hear they have made things simpler in recent years.
Once you commit to a system like this you don’t want to change things. You become entrenched, since so much of your business is being driven by the platform. Hence you really want to be certain when you make the choice that you are in it for the long haul. I recommend Ontraport and I believe Infusionsoft is a great choice too.
Step 3: Which Product First?
With the technology sorted the next issue is a product creation plan.
To create a basic front-end funnel you need to factor in a few things –
- What entry-level product you will offer?
- What bonuses will come with it?
- What is the first upsell/bundle?
- What is the second upsell/bundle?
The challenge is deciding what products to create, where do they fit into the funnel, and what order do you create them in.
You need to factor in your audience too. These have to be solutions to problems your people have and will pay money for help. Upsells need to add value and relate to the same core needs.
In my case, I knew I had the information to create three entry-level guides about subjects I felt people would pay for help with, especially at the low pricing point I was planning. I also wanted to do an interviews club because I’ve always wanted to have a “next level” option for my podcast.
I decided I’d start with the podcast product, knowing that it would end up being an upsell to the guides. I figured it made sense to have the upsell ready first so I could launch each guide with it ready to go, rather than do it the other way around and miss out on offering the upsell as I released each guide (begin with the end in mind).
From Launch To SystemIt made sense to me to do a small internal promotion each time one of my products was first released (a mini-launch). That however wasn’t the primary goal. The plan is to create educational content sequences delivered via email and blog posts that sell these products all the time, not just during launches.
I figured why not get the best of both worlds. Launch, and then set it up as a system.
I planned for the podcast product to be a series of interviews and action plans on a subscription. Because it was a subscription, I could begin selling it without needing to have all the interviews and action plans done. Which is exactly what I did (you can find the Interviews Club here).
While I was busy working on the interviews club, I had an editor working on the first guide and some bonuses to go with it.
This worked great as I could roll out the interviews club as a standalone offer, then a month or so later launch my first guide with the interviews club ready as an upsell. I could then have the editor work on the other guides, while I continued to record interviews and write action plans for the interviews club.
Adding Community Coaching
What I didn’t have was a second upsell offer. I had plenty of ideas for what it could be, but no spare time to create another product.
One night I was exploring platforms for running online communities. Ever since I closed the old private members forum for my original Blog Mastermind and Membership Site Mastermind members I was missing a community aspect to my training.
I had plans to offer a group coaching offer at some point, but not before I finished all the front end guides and flagship courses – at least two years away.
I came across an old social media tool I had explored many years ago called Ning. The platform had changed from a “run your own myspace” tool to more like a forum combined with a blog.
I signed up for a trial month account and within a couple of hours had setup a pretty cool members community. It didn’t take me long to learn how to use the Ning platform and I was instantly excited about it.
I decided to push my group coaching plans ahead and launch the Laptop Lifestyle Academyy, a place where I could interact every day with people who are all working towards the same goal – building a blog sales funnel. Since this was a service, I could offer it straight away.
I offered the community as my second level upsell. It made sense since a second level upsell should be a higher priced and more intensive offer, but still connected with the core problem that the person bought the front-end product to solve.
It took almost a year, but I had my first funnel ready, including a low-priced guide with bonuses, a subscription upsell and a members community second upsell.
The next step was to test whether the “funnel” aspect worked. I had my offer ready to go, now I needed to set up the emails and content that comes before it.
Step 4: The Email Course
This part of the process is relatively straight forward if you have done any kind of launch before.
Using email and blog posts you educate your market about a specific subject, offering them a result first, before making an offer.
This is often called “preselling”, a phrase coined by marketing legend Jay Abraham to explain how to use education to sell (he used this principle even before the internet).
This is what bloggers do all day – we educate people. Your job when creating a funnel is to sequence your content so it’s like a mini-course, and throw in some offers and selling psychology.
My plan from the start was clear. I was going to link together my previous blog posts that focus on the same subject and use email as the delivery mechanism to send them to subscribers.
I’d end up having three email courses, all leading to my front end product offers. I educate first with the blog posts, make offers for my product and let people go through the courses whenever they wanted to. You can experience this live on EJ right now.
I can’t go into the psychology behind the email sequences now as it would take another blog post to cover it, and this one is long enough!
Hopefully you understand the principle… Find three to seven blog posts about a subject (or start writing them) and string them together through an email course. Your audience experiences a more guided education process rather than having to randomly dig into your blog archives.
There are other options too. You can have the lessons embedded in the emails and not use blog posts. You can deliver a series of videos instead, or a short report, or audios, or all of these things if you really want to blow people away with value.
Whatever the case, the information you deliver educates your audience and gives them a result they can take away, and you make your offer multiple times via the content sequence. This results in people hitting your sales pages and going through your offer sequence.
Step 5: Roll Out The Funnels
The final step is to swap your blog optin forms to point to your new email course and then wait and see how it works.
People should sign up, go through your email course, get presented with your offer and – fingers crossed – sales will come in.
If things don’t work then you have to look at each step in the process…
- Do you have traffic coming to your blog?
- Are they opting in to your email course?
- Are they opening and clicking the links in your emails?
- Are they going to your sales page?
- Are they buying your product, including the upsells?
You can review each of these parts in the process to find your weakness and work on it until you have a working funnel.
Bear in mind this is just a front end funnel. You can offer higher priced products like flagship courses, live events, membership sites, private coaching, software and services. This is much easier once you have paying customers already coming in thanks to your blog and front end offers.
The power of the Blog Sales Funnel comes from using your blog to automatically create customers. Yes there is a lot to do, especially when it comes to product and content creation, but once you’ve done the work, it delivers value long-term and sets you up to create a truly successful business.
My First Funnel
I launched my first front end funnel off this blog in 2013. I remember adding the new optin box to my blog, watching the first few people sign up, checking to see if they opened the emails and clicked the links.
Then I left it alone and waited.
A couple of weeks later I experienced a wonderful moment when a sale came through. Although I had already made sales of this product because I had promoted it internally, this was the first automatic sale thanks to my funnel. The system worked, and boy was it satisfying.
Since then sales keep coming in every day from the various funnels I’ve created. It’s a great feeling to know that my blog automatically leads to sales without me constantly needing to promote manually. It’s also wonderfully satisfying that it’s my content – my writing and ideas – that people are buying and benefiting from.
There’s so much more to cover about the Blog Sales Funnel.
I haven’t even mentioned the back-end products and how they link together, or covered all those different sub-email sequences I mentioned earlier that bring people back, or how to price your products, or the exact combination of one time purchase and subscription products I recommend you create, how to rapidly create products, the psychology behind the offer sequence, not to mention all the standard blog issues like traffic and content creation.
There is a next step you can take with me when you are serious about creating your Blog Sales Funnel. It’s all covered inside my flagship course…
Blog Mastermind: Your Step-By-Step Blog Sales Funnel Course
All of the subjects I have talked about in this article series and more are covered in my Blog Mastermind flagship course.
The 2.0 version of the course was completely re-built from scratch (I’ve only just started teaching it again). It is designed to focus on the new model – The Blog Sales Funnel – to teach you how to create your first front-end funnel.
It’s not about making money with advertising or affiliate programs, it’s about using your blog and email list to sell digital products and services. It’s particularly relevant to you if you are the expert, the teacher, coach, speaker, author – the person who helps others.
It’s the ideal system to translate what you know into a stable online income stream where you are not getting paid by-the-hour and have the freedom to travel and work on your terms.
You can register now, classes start this week. Go visit this page to find out all the details –
I hope you benefited from this two part series introducing you to the Blog Sales Funnel.
It’s a great model. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the most enjoyable and satisfying online business I have ever had and by far the best lifestyle business out there today.
I believe this is true because unlike other models, the Blog Sales Funnel focuses on you taking whatever expertise or craft or knowledge or skill you have that other people want, and allows you to indulge in it, getting paid to help others.
Blogging has always been a great way to make a living, but using model means you have a greater chance of actually pulling it off.
I’ll speak to you soon,
Still Blogging 10 Years Later
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