When you think about it, it’s kind of insane. As an affiliate marketer, you’re disrupting well-established markets. You’re approaching thousands of scam-weary strangers on the Internet, introducing yourself, presenting unique value, and selling to them without triggering their scam radar.
What’s more, you have to be broad enough to attract a large audience and “niche” enough to steer clear of big competitors and differentiate yourself from what I call the “all-caps brigade,” i.e., the greasy hard-sellers who spam your inbox out of nowhere.
What’s even more, you have to accomplish all of this without any real, face-to-face interaction with your clients. All things considered, affiliate marketing can’t be more than a high-risk side hustle, can it?
Sales funnel: hold my beer.
That’s right. This post is about a hero – because we haven’t had 84 superhero movies a year since 2008. Sales funnel structure is absolutely essential to conversion, beyond the slightest doubt. If you’re rusty on what a sales funnel is, check out this intro-level post that covers all the basics. Today, I’m going to cover which kinds of sales funnels, i.e., which different structures and techniques, have been most successful historically.
Before I do that, though, let me lay a huge disclaimer on you. Copying can work to a degree, but remember that sales funnels are one piece in a hugely sophisticated engine. Just because you copy the most successful funnel you can find, doesn’t mean your content, products, ad targeting, and so forth will fall into line.
Alright, let’s do this.
Pardon the silly name, but I’m hoping it will help you to remember this 2-page selling machine in the future. The setup is very simple. Page #1 is the lure. Simply ask an enticing question – that’s it. No crazy graphics, no expensive templates, no distractions. You’re banking on curiosity, and you want to create mystery, so a plain page with a curiosity-tickling question is best.
If the visitor wants the answer, they enter their email on page #1 and click through to page #2. The nice part about this funnel is, since you’ve already got the opt-in, and you’re dealing with cold traffic, you can be very earnest “non-salesy” on page #2. Just introduce yourself. Explain the answer to the question in detail, showcasing your authority in that subject area (which is why, by the way, it’s wise to make the question pertain to your products/services). Be kind and composed. Let the new opt-in know all of the fun and interesting stuff they can expect from you in their inbox, sneak a joke in there, and you’re gone.
This funnel is great for list-builders who have not yet established a popular brand. Heck, you don’t even need a logo for this funnel – creating mystery, remember? The simplicity of page #1 cleverly disguises the fact that you’re just starting out, and the content on page #2 (ideally a video, by the way) is the perfect opportunity to warm up your traffic with a nice introduction.
The Reverse Funnel
It may sound like affiliate suicide at first, but hear me out. Using the reverse funnel, you give away *some* of your product for free. No email, no sale, nothing. If the visitor wants to learn how to fix their thingamajig using your deal-bob, it’s right there in front of them. Then, after they sample your product, they can opt in if they want. Usually, we’re looking at a 2-3 page structure here:
Free Stuff/Opt In – Thank You
Free Stuff – Thank You/Opt-in – Intro Video
So, why on earth would anyone do this? The answer exposes two very important principles dealing with consumer psychology and the almighty conversion ratio. It’s like, so “meta,” man.
Meta fact #1: When a prospect is given value upfront for free (and I mean really free, before they even opt in), their natural layer of criticism has the potential to just melt away. It’s the free sample effect. They know exactly what you’re selling, and if they are passionate about it, they will opt in.
Meta fact #2: ^^That’s all good and fine, but most consumers will still just take the free stuff and leave – really, they will. As a result, your conversion won’t be so great with this method. Why do it, you ask? Because of the quality of the prospects that stuck around. Think about it: You may have lost a few bucks in ad spend because of your lower conversion rate, but since the leads you got were interested enough to learn more even after they got a free sample, you will more than make up for it once that high-quality list starts churning along.
Good Ol’ Long-Form Letters
Remember your favorite college professor or high school teacher? You may have silently judged them for their raggedy neckbeard or outdated fashion choices at first glance, but after that first lecture, you knew you liked them. They made a dry topic seem interesting and important. They rallied you in favor of a cause. They positioned their subject much closer to you than you thought it could be.
That’s the long-form sales letter, my friends. It’s not so much a “lecture,” of course, but a conversation designed to break through the “I don’t know you” wall. It’s long because the creator has to describe the pain points (that the product solves) and build up to the solution in an impactful and relevant way. I could dedicate five or more posts to the anatomy of the perfect sales letter, but for today’s purposes, just know that it is very, very effective when done correctly.
Alright, so let’s talk format for a bit. The nice thing about long-form sales letters in funnels is that you can treat it as a one-stop shop. Video and/or text at the top, offer at the bottom, and upsells just underneath. Boom – one page and that’s it. A thank you page is always nice, but not imperative in this case.
Just Use Your Site
Marketers who are passionate about their products sometimes feel frustrated when creating sales funnels because the minimalistic approach (using static lead capture/sales pages) doesn’t capture everything they want to convey to their audience. If this is you, and you feel like you’re torn between the authenticity and quality of your site and the effectiveness of a standalone sales funnel, then prepare for the ultimate facepalm.
Just refer from your site to the funnel, silly!
That’s right, who says you can’t have both? The site-to-funnel approach is really convenient in a number of ways. If you already have a decent traffic flow, you can expect your landing pages to fill up consistently like little tide pools on the beach without constantly adjusting keyword sets, flipping ads on and off, and so forth. If your content is more technical or nuanced, you can publish a hundred informational pages on your website if you want, or two hundred – it doesn’t matter. You get to say everything you want to say, warm up your traffic, and gently but effectively direct them to the sale.
This is more of a method than a specific sales funnel, so really, you could set up any funnel you like. Consider that referring from your site, however, will weaken the appeal of a lead magnet because prospects may just be able to grab whatever information you’re offering for free from your site.
Go Cheap, or Even Free
Speaking of lead magnets, we have to talk about the bread and butter of sales funnels, of course. Even if you’re brand new to the game, you’ve likely landed on a ton of these pages yourself. All caps, 64-point font, in your face: FREE (or ridiculously cheap). Get your free x. Download the free y. Claim your free guide for the 501 best blanks to blank your blank. You get the point. The first page offers something for free in exchange for an email address (often referred to as an “ethical bribe”). From there, you can branch in a number of ways:
Offer/Opt-in page – Thank You
Offer/Opt-in page – Thank You/Upsell – Intro Video
Offer/Opt-in page – Thank You/Upsell – Learn more (link to your site)
And on and on and on it goes. The structure is actually not the most important part here. The magnet is the most important part, because it will determine how your list behaves.
Not all magnets are created equal. If your information is too comprehensive, meaning it solves all of the page visitor’s problems, they’re not going to be active in your list. If your magnet is too skimpy or filled with useless “fluff,” they’re not going to be active in your list.
Remember the reverse funnel? Well, this is the reverse…of the reverse. You will enjoy a high conversion rate if your content isn’t terrible, BUT your people will not be as committed as the reverse funnel audience. If your magnet is concise and helpful, however, while also hinting at other problems that it doesn’t solve, then you will help to close the gap by using the customer’s curiosity to drive engagement in the list.
You want to sell people fitness and weight-loss products in your list, so you offer them a free eBook that breaks down a lot of harmful diet and exercise trends. If your book is too specific in terms of workout and diet recommendations, then why would the customer want anything else? If your book is super generic and filled with errors, why would they listen to you?
You need to do some research, intelligently state your case, and then hint at some spin-off issues that the consumer may not have thought of. “This low-carb diet is excellent for trimming, but you will struggle with energy levels at first. Don’t worry, I’ve compiled a list of the ten best energy-boosting snacks for low-carb dieters in my list, so keep an eye out, etc…”
Make sure that worm is all the way on the hook!
How to Choose One
Even this humble offering of five funnels is a ton of information, and there are many, many more strategies out there. So, how on earth do you pick one? You must first establish a state of mind that emphasizes your preferences, style and goals.
Here’s the mentality I DON’T want you to be in:
-One of these funnels is the best, I just have to try each one.
-I should Google examples of each funnel and just use those as templates.
-If my content doesn’t work with any of these, I’ll just pick one and make it work.
Here’s the point I’m getting at: you have 100 billion neurons in your brain. Sales funnels don’t have brains (that is, until AI takes over the world). You are the creative engine behind the content. Therefore, it is your unique abilities as a marketer that should determine the funnel structure, not the other way around.
If none of these will work for your content, then don’t even try them. If one of them halfway works for you, then take that idea and customize the rest. And I stick to my guns in my belief that ClickFunnels is the best on the planet for funnel creation.
As with all things in affiliate marketing, be mindful and appreciative of what others are doing right, but never to an extent that harms your ability to innovate. When that funnel starts humming, you’ll feel it. It’s an incredible feeling.
Disclaimer: The link is a ClickFunnels affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission. This helps fund my online business and I appreciate the support.