Create a sales funnel to monetize your blog? Sounds simple right? It is! Affiliate programs may come and go, but your email list of loyal subscribers will stay with you forever!
So how do you get people on your email list? You create a sales funnel using free resources and you only need a basic funnel to get started.
There is no need for fancy or expensive software to start using funnels on your website.
This post was originally published April 10th, 2018 and has been updated to be current with new information. This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure is here.
Welcome to Fearless Affiliate.
My name is Irma and I help new bloggers to learn the ropes. There is a lot to take in that first year of blogging, from choosing a niche to changing your mindset from worker bee mentality to that of successful entrepreneur.
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What Is A Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a marketing tool that you create to connect with your website visitors.
You have probably seen funnels in action and not even realized it.
Or you may have been in someone else’s funnel and not realized it.
Anytime you give your email address in exchange for something, like a free checklist, you went into another bloggers funnel.
When I first started my website, my plan was to focus on affiliate marketing. But that is not effective for new bloggers unless you focus on one product exclusively and market it ruthlessly.
To do that you need a great product, which can be hard for new bloggers to find.
When I discovered a whole ‘underground movement’ devoted to Pinterest marketing, my blogging outlook changed. I saw a new future.
I found a huge world of bloggers who were creating products of their own and they marketed those ruthlessly.
Much better idea.
They were using Pinterest to do the marketing, which opens up a massive world of customers.
Pinterest is different from other search engines, in that people are not shopping…they are buying. They did their research, and now they want the “thing”.
This creates a place for content creators to showcase their wares to people who are ready to buy.
There are a lot of successful bloggers out there creating their own digital products to sell to visitors.
Most of them are following a basic marketing principle: A sales funnel with effective email marketing in place.
Some people are still offering up crappy free stuff, the value being in the eye of the beholder.
But a lot people are offering up legitimate value within their free stuff. And the people who offer massive value with their free products get tons of people on their lists.
What are The Benefits of Using A Sales Funnel?
If you want to enhance the “know, like, and trust” aspect of your website, start an email list.
1. The main benefit of the funnel is being able to connect with your website visitors.
Having an email list of subscribers allows you to communicate with people who are already engaged with your content. That is a huge win.
Because seriously, most of us are trying to earn a living with our websites, am I right?
So why not work on selling to people who are already interested in what you have to say?
Most new bloggers hope that random visitors will arrive, fall in love with their stuff, click all their links and make them rich.
This is the idea that many people have about making money online. And some course creators perpetuate this myth to sell their content.
That doesn’t happen.
People give their money to people they trust. That’s the “know, like, trust” part.
- Get them on your list, so they get to know you
- Share helpful content, so they will like you and stick around
- Promote more extensive help in the form of paid products. If they trust you, they will buy.
Helping people with lots of useful content is your first priority.
2. Creating sales funnels causes you to prioritize your money-making projects first. #ROI
In the early days of your website, you have to create lots of content and get it out there. There is no point in creating a ton of content that no one wants to read, but you have to start at the start.
Check your Google Analytics a couple of times a month to see what’s attracting visitors. When you see consistent traffic going to one or two of your posts, you want to create more content like that.
Expand on that topic.
If you expand that topic and create more posts, you can keep watching your analytics to see that, yes, that topic is popular with your readers.
Or not. If the same one post still gets all the love, try to figure out why.
- Is it a “for beginners” post?
- Or is it a list post?
- Why is it special to your readers?
When you can see clearly that your visitors are mostly coming for one post, create an opt-in freebie on that same topic.
3. An effective sales funnel helps people
People are online seeking answers. If your blog post helps someone with a problem, then you’ve done your job.
You can expand the scope of that help with a great freebie, so not only do you help a person, but they will share how great your help was with others.
FYI: When you get any great emails about how your freebie helped someone, keep them for later testimonials aka social proof.
That will bring you more people to help.
Do you see what a huge time saver that is?
No more guessing what to write about. Happy ‘customers’ do your marketing for you. #win-win.
Let’s look at what happens without the email component:
1. Customer seeks a solution
This can be anything…a recipe…how to clean your headlights…how to trim your dog’s toenails. They are searching.
Someone is seeking a solution to a problem. You have a solution for this person, so it is only a matter of making a connection between you and them.
2. Customer finds your website or link from social media to your website
You write an awesome blog post offering a perfect solution and then put your links in social media. And people find you and come to your website and look around.
3. Customer assesses your solution
They may look at your post and scan the text looking for clues as to whether you can help them or not, such as inter-linked posts. The post is helpful, but they need more…
4. Customer leaves
Bummer. They got an answer but no way to get more of the same or an expanded version. Nothing left to do but seek more help elsewhere.
5. Lost Opportunity
So we can see that the problem happens at point number 3, when the customer assesses your solution.
It may be an awesome solution but it is not keeping them at your site and it is not encouraging them to come back for more.
How To Build Your Sales Funnel for Free
You need a few tools to create your funnel, but they are all free to use:
- Email service provider – MailerLite and MailChimp are free. I recommend MailerLite
- Graphic design program – Canva is a popular free product for this purpose
It is a good idea to get your email service provider set up first. Once you know how to create opt-in boxes and can connect them to your website, you can create multiple funnels.
1. Sign Up For MailerLite
MailerLite is free for the first 1000 subscribers, easy to use, and you can create tons of opt-in boxes for your website that you can customize with your brand colors. MailerLite has comparable features to ConvertKit, but without the price tag.
Related Post: How To Use MailerLite
Write a blog post about your freebie, i.e. “Today’s post is all about widgets! If you’d like a free guide to shopping for widgets you get one when you sign up for our mailing list”. Something like that and with your GDPR compliance items, if necessary.
An easy way to come up with freebie ideas is to reverse engineer your freebie from a final paid product. It looks like:
Higher priced paid offer > tripwire product aka low cost offer > freebie.
If you don’t have a paid product or tripwire idea yet, keep moving forward. Keep shopping around for higher priced products that you can reverse-engineer a freebie for. Or think about creating one yourself.
Research what other bloggers offer and look for holes in the market that you can fill.
An example is:
- Blog post: Cooking With Apples (listing one or two varieties that you can cook with but is more about how to cook with apples)
- Freebie: Checklist – Which apples are best for cooking?
- Low-cost paid item (tripwire): 25 recipes for cooking apples (pies, crisps, coffee cake etc.) for $7.
- 5 eBook package: Buying cooking apples; 30 pie recipes; 20 different pie crust recipes; Heirloom Apples You Can Buy Today; Carving apples for fun. $24
Another example might be:
- Dealing with back pain blog post
- Stretches for back pain checklist
- Eliminating Back Pain The Easy Way eBook for $9.
- Never Have Back Pain Again eCourse $67
In both examples, you can earn money from 2 different products at 2 different price points. Ideally, you have multiple products that can all link to tripwire and/or sales pages.
Think about what steps you took to learn about a topic and create a free and paid item that shows how to progress so that you eliminate the pain point.
Only create freebies for blog posts that already get decent traffic. Decent = More traffic, by far, than your other content.
Examples of great freebies are:
Coupons, Discount codes, and Special offers – Incentive to buy from you in the future!
Giveaways or sweepstakes – a great way to get a bunch of signups is a contest that you can promote on social media. They have to sign up for your newsletter to get their name in the draw (check your local laws for how to set up this type of giveaway so that you are not doing anything illegal!). The prize can be an ebook that you have written or a personal consultation for 30 minutes.
Checklist, Worksheet, Free Report, PDF, Infographic – These are simple to create in Canva, which already has tons of free templates. Just swap out your brand colors and pertinent information. Create a mock-up or screen shot the freebie and put in your blog post!
Free: Consult, shipping, upgrade, personal call (Value of $), strategy session – these are great for people who need to connect to a real person so that they can ask questions or gain clarity.
A free 5-Day email course – These are great because you can link to a different resource each day.
Think about creating an “enhanced” freebie
Beyond that one page free item, you can create something so awesome that you could charge for it. I’m talking 6 or more pages.
Using the ‘Cooking with Apples’ example above, you could have:
- 1 intro page that includes a couple of tips
- Shopping list with photos of the apples
- Printable shopping list, also with photos
- 2 free recipes
- A tips sheet on regular apples vs organic vs heirloom
- A tips sheet on how to quickly prepare apples prior to cooking.
- Plus a cover page and a final page with a CTA (this can eventually lead to your low cost offer)
If you know your topic well, it should be easy to figure out what kind of tips will benefit your customer.
Imagine putting a pin image on Pinterest encouraging people to sign up for your 8 page freebie of tips and recipes for purchasing cooking apples.
Versus someone else’s one-page dealio.
Guess who will be more popular…
2. Sign Up For Free Canva
Use free Canva to create your freebies. You can create webinar slides, workbooks, eBooks, etc. There is also Canva Pro, which has more options and folders.
Read my blog post A Simple Branding Tutorial on how to use the main features of free Canva.
If you want a more expansive option, consider purchasing templates for use with Canva.
There are free templates on the internet, but they will each have different formatting from each other.
Good for single page items, but no so much for eBook purposes.
For templates for bigger projects, go to Creative Market and search for “Canva eBook templates” that are for sale.
I recommend signing up for the Creative Market mailing list, because they send free stuff every Monday, like free fonts you can use on Canva!
If you think that you might want to create multiple eBooks, purchasing an eBook template package will save a lot of time. You can move pages around and duplicate them.
This is handy and makes the package an affordable option for creating resources to sell.
You can get basic book templates, books with pages for recipes, habit trackers, resource list pages, bio pages and more.
Pinterest Tip: Make a pin with a thumbnail of your freebie and put that on your pin.
- Use large easy-to-read fonts
- Emphasize the word FREE (call to action).
- Make sure that your website URL is on your pin as well.
Then link it to the blog post. Part way down your blog post you put the box with the freebie opt-in. Monitor the results.
Your freebie needs to encourage the people who see your social media posts to feel compelled to click on over to your website and check it out.
This creates the link from #2 in the funnel to #3.
Once you have people on your email subscriber list, you want to nurture that relationship. You send them:
- Great tips
- Links to blog posts – don’t assume they have read all your stuff already!
- Helpful information from other bloggers in your niche
- Strategies that they can use to help themselves.
Be consistent and helpful
You will get people signing up for your free stuff and then unsubscribing.
They may be at a very early stage in searching for a solution, but discovered that your freebie isn’t it.
Don’t let unsubscribes discourage you. Everyone who does email marketing has them.
But if the subscriber sticks around, THEY ARE YOUR FANS!
You can now nurture your relationship to them and have a better chance that they will make a future purchase.
In the early stages, during your welcome series of emails, you can promote something low-cost and not offend too many people with a sales pitch.
If you are doing 4 or 5 emails in a welcome series, promote your item in the last or second last email.
You want to do this after you have introduced yourself and explained how you can help the person.
More on eBooks and Tripwire Products
If you have series of posts, you can re-package them into an eBook and sell it for around $14, for example. You can just sell the book as is with a nice link on your website.
Or use it for a tripwire product.
If you sign up for someone’s freebie and the thank you page gives you a bargain offer with a timer, that’s a tripwire.
Tripwires are called that because of the urgency.
The timer is 15 or 20 minutes long and that offer disappears when the timer runs out. That’s the urgency part.
Tripwires are also called low-cost or no-brainer offers, because they are inexpensive and the buyers logic is that they won’t feel too bad if they only spend $7 and it doesn’t deliver.
So you can sell the eBook for $14 regular price and use it for a tripwire at a $9 price. #passiveincome
If your customer misses out on the tripwire price, they can still get the book, but at a higher price.
If someone buys the tripwire, they will likely buy again from you later.
You can also offer your subscribers a discounted (tripwire) price before offering it for full price on your website.
This gives your subscribers exclusive content which helps with loyalty.
Add in bonuses like checklists, resource lists (affiliate links!), or step-by-step instructions to entice buyers further.
You are not trying to make a fortune with Tripwire products
Instead, you want to give a little bit more of what you have to offer for a small amount of money.
You are kind of testing the waters with your subscribers to see what interests them and who wants to buy.
This also gets them used to purchasing from you.
A quick story…
This reminds me of when a tail light went out on my car and I could only find one YouTube video on how to fix it, and wow it looked complicated.
I bought the tool that I needed but when I started the project I gave up because it was clearly going to be a pain in the neck. I did not want to be hanging off the back end of my car in the hot and sweltering summer heat trying to figure it out.
A few weeks later, I went to one of those quickie oil change places. The guy there offered to fix my tail light for 5 bucks. I jumped on that!
At that point, I was very willing to pay 5 bucks for someone to fix my problem for me.
The point with my story is that people are at various stages of research and may encounter your website at any point.
The odds are that some people will see your offer and jump on it.
Never assume that you won’t sell any inexpensive products.
Many bloggers make full-time income selling only low-priced products. It’s about marketing and volume.
People will not mind paying $7 or $19 for a solution. Even if it is not too helpful, it is still not much of a financial loss, so it is easier to swallow that price.
You may surprise them by giving them super awesome value for that $7. Now you will now have a very loyal repeat customer.
And the best part is that if people do purchase these products, then it is likely that there will always be a market for it.
And that means you create it once and sell it forever. Evergreen passive income…yippee!
FYI: You can make steady income with low-cost offers. However you need a large volume of people coming into your funnel. To get this done, you should consider paid ads either on Facebook, Pinterest, or both.
It doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to do all the time. But pushing your landing page out into the feed will help get it in front of potential subscribers, who are potential buyers. Then get your buyers to help you promote it!
I hope that I have inspired you to start an email campaign and create the start of a sales funnel. You hear tales told of 6 figure bloggers who all say that they regret waiting to set up email marketing, and who knows how much money they left on the table because they did not take the time to “get ‘er done”.
An effective email system is hub of successful affiliate marketing and a sales funnel that will bring some cash for your hard work. And creating your own digital products to sell guarantees that your product is always available. Then you just have to keep working on step 2 in the funnel because everything else is done.
Please share this post with others who may benefit and sign up for my FREE weekly newsletter of exclusive content, tips, and free stuff for bloggers, including my Copywriting checklist.
Happy Blogging and follow me on Pinterest.
24 thoughts on “Creating An Effective Sales Funnel”
Comprehensive post. I like the ethical take. Going to follow you and subscribe.
Thank you Verla and thanks for visiting us today!
I need to create a sale funnel but I feel as if my website is not mean’t for these kind of sales, maybe if I create another website I can give it a go. I agree with everything that you’re saying though! building trust is the number 1 solution to creating any good business relationship with your consumers!
Thanks for the great article Irma:)
Hello Jeremy and great to see you here again!
I hope that you can find some kind of incentive for people to sign up to a newsletter; it really is a great way to connect with visitors. Maybe you could offer a fun t-shirt as a giveaway prize? Or some other inexpensive gaming-type item?
This is some great information Irma and one I have been thinking a lot about lately. I have several things I can offer my website visitors but I just haven’t decided on what it is going to be. I also have yet to get my CTA in place, another thing I am working on.
I definitely am going to check out MailerLite. I need to research and see what are the benefits over MailChimp. But either way, this is information I needed to read because it has created some inspiration in my approach to this issue I have been debating. Time to get to work on this. Thank you.
Hi Robert and thank you for visiting today!
Yes, I regret not working more on what I had set up last summer with MailChimp, but it could not be helped. It is just another awesome way to connect with our audience!
I recently (like 3 days ago) turned on the “sign up” feature on my website, haven’t actively started using it yet. My initial thoughts were simply to notify users of a new post, but you have given me some additional things to consider to leverage this also.
THanks for sharing.
Oh that is awesome and thank you for visiting us today. Let me know if you need any assistance!
Hi Irma, This wonderful information has given me a whole lot to think about. Am trying to work out what sort of give-away things I could use as my site is all about sewing and crafts. Will have to put on my thinking cap. Also living in Africa posting things is a bit of an issue. Hope something clicks in my addled brain and I come up with a solution.
Hi Jill and thank you for visiting today!
You are in the craft niche and there are tons of things that you can giveaway. You can do an 5- day organize your sewing room course, or how to get started (things you need to sew your first skirt or top or something), or how to alter different types of clothing.
I would suggest that you go to Pinterest and search your niche and look at pins to see who is giving away something. Download their freebie and take a look at what they are offering.
I typed in “sewing” into the Pinterest search bar and I found an infographic on how to measure (your body) correctly, how to clone your clothes and a pattern for a stuffed animal right at the top.
And once you start you will find that all kinds of ideas come to you. Enjoy!
Thanks for sharing these reminders. I wonder how much I am missing out. I have a website, but to date I don’t have an email list. With the hope of getting more traffic, I signed up with Mailchimp a few weeks ago, but it is not fully activated yet. I am also in the process of finishing up a free gift. I see that you have mentioned Mailerlite. Is there a big difference between the two?
Hello Carol and thank you for visiting us today,
I switched from MailChimp to MailerLite because I was taking a course in building an email list and it was easier to follow along.
Both are free but I think MailerLite has more options for custom opt-in forms and I think the interface is easier. Plus there is free help right on the dashboard. There is no help at MailChimp except videos or tutorials on the internet. MailChimp only offers support for paid plans.
I have read over and over again about how many bloggers regret not setting up email marketing earlier. It is all part of the learning curve, but it also a way to actually connect with the people who really want to know more about what you are offering. The people on your list WANT your information, as opposed to the people who click and leave your website.
Irma, this thought totally resonates…”people are at various stages of research and may encounter your website at any point.” I’ve been in marketing since 1994 and have always taught others the concept of a ‘buying continuum’ when thinking about lead generation. You have zero control over what ‘stage’ your visitor is at when the hit your content, but you can make your content relevant to the people who are at the stage you want them to be at as you develop your Avatar. Some marketers love targeting people at an early stage of research while others target ‘now’ buyers. I for one love reaching peeps at all stages with both low and high ticket offers. Great post!
Hello Dana and thank you for visiting us today!
Yay! Thank you for saying that. I do believe that we should give away as much as we can, but there is also room to earn some money so that we can afford to keep doing that.
Thanks for the advice about using email as the bridge to move from “considering solution” to “buying.” My site isn’t precisely oriented around buying products, but I do use affiliate links and product recommendations to help keep the site funded, so making that process as easy as possible for people is important.
I’m still tweaking with options for building an email list, but you’ve given me some good ideas and some things to think about. I’ve wanted to put together a “free content” offering for some time but haven’t really settled on what that should look like.
In any case, something that you’re making clear in this article is that we have to provide value for our audience. A lot of other things will fall into place if we maintain that focus on how we can help the people who will come to our website as opposed to what we can sell the people who come to our website.
Thanks for the article!
Hello Phil and thank you for visiting today,
Yes, the main aspect is to provide value to our visitors. The sales funnel is just a way to earn an income so that we can continue to do that. Not everyone will buy a course or product, but a lot of people will take the free courses and get benefit from them.
Hello and thanks so much for sharing, this is a good help and I must go back and read what you have written. Your readers will also love what you are sharing. Tons of awesome information that is a great help.
Hi Norman and thank you for visiting today and I am glad to help!
Thank you for pointing this out to me Irma. I think I am ready to take a step like this and move forward with my blog. I don’t have a lot of traffic right now, but my site is still pretty new. Do you recommend this at a certain stage or is anytime okay to get started? I need to figure out what a good freebie would be, something related to my niche website. You made me think about it and that is a good thing. I will check back with you if I have any more questions. Thanks for sharing this, it’s very timely!
Hello Steve and thank you for visiting us today,
No, the sooner the better. There is a bit of a learning curve to setting up your email marketing so it is good to start now.
You can offer a cheat sheet on different things that you can do progressively to help back pain (day one do this, day two do this) related to how you have solved your own pain in the past (because you do not want it to look like you are giving any kind of medical advice).
Or list which types of problems are related to which body part ( like the symptoms of sciatic pain may be similar to another type of pain and how to tell the difference). Basic information.
Or you can offer a list of things to do on a regular basis to prevent general back pain.
You have lots of options. But if you had “general” back pain, before you knew what you know now, what kind of information did you look for? Probably how to relieve pain or discomfort right away. Or what you can do for yourself and when is a good time to see a doctor instead.
Hope that helps!
Hi Irma, and thanks for reminding me.
I’m still not ready for my mailing list but have come one step closer.
I have signed up to GetResponse, not very expensive but with great value.
Great to see your tips here now so I can start implementing these steps.
Writing a weekly newsletter scares me a bit though, Isn’t it hard to stay fresh and have new ideas every week?
Hi Stefan and thank you for visiting today,
I felt intimidated when I wrote my first newsletter as well, but that goes away. Remember that the people who sign up want to hear from you, so give them something that you really want them to have…tips, links to blog posts, or even point them to other bloggers that you respect that have something great to say.
If you are signed up for any mailing lists that are offering special deals, like free courses or free or cheap tools. For your Thailand blog, maybe if you get emails about flight deals or hotels, or if there is a promotion coming up for a festival you can send links for great places to dine or fun places to visit. For your flip flop blog, if there are any good sales on products that you promote or new and interesting product launches.
Thank you for this very helpful information. I’m one of those with a “sign up” box at the bottom right sidebar of my blog and I don’t recruit subscriptions aggressively. I need to change that, because I have high traffic and am missing opportunities. I’ll check out Mailerlite!
Hello Penelope and thank you for visiting today!
Until I heard someone use the words “leaving money on the table” that was my setup as well. The great part is once it is done, you only have the weekly newsletter, which does not take long to create and can link to blog posts or special deals on products that you want to share.