CHAPTER 3: BUILDING A FUNNEL
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to sell or promote to your audience, you’re going to decide how you’ll expose your offers online. I’m going to focus on email marketing because it works. Period. There’s one secret in here that changed EVERYTHING for me when I worked it out.
In this chapter you’re going to learn:
- How to convert cold traffic into warm leads (and keep them warm).
- Why a squeeze page doesn’t have to be fancy (with examples of effective squeeze page templates).
- Why you need to provide something of real value as an incentive to potential leads (and lots of examples to help you get started).
- The one thing that changed everything for me when it came to building my email marketing business on overdrive.
- How to write an engaging email series regardless of what you’re promoting (I’ll show you exactly what my buyer and non-buyer emails series look like).
- What email ‘marketing’ is really all about (most affiliate ‘marketers’ just don’t seem to get this at all).
- Why there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ formula for when to promote an offer in an email or whether to use an autoresponder or write a newsletter.
- How to write the most engaging and persuasive emails without having to be an expert copywriter.
- How to use advanced strategies like conditions, actions and filters to segment your list and optimize your campaigns.
Once you’ve decided your niche and picked some offers to promote you’re going to want to start building an audience. You won’t start doing this with a website.
In this chapter I’m going to explain everything I know about email marketing and how to convert cold traffic into warm leads (and keep them warm).
Cold traffic refers to people who landed somewhere on your online real estate, but didn’t come there directly. I mean, if someone types ‘LeadsMonger.com’ into their browser they’re not cold traffic – they know me or have already had a taste of my reputation somewhere. But when someone clicks a link in an email sent by someone else and then ends up on my lander, they don’t know me from a slap in the face. They’re cold as ice and unless I can warm them up quickly and keep them warm over time they’ll lose interest in me and any offers I have for them.
There are three steps to warming people up turning them into an audience without a website:
- A captivating landing page
- An irresistible incentive
- An engaging email series
Let’s have a look at these steps in more detail.
A captivating landing page
The first page someone hits on your digital real estate has to make an instant first impression that captivates their attention. You must be able to get them to temporarily forget where they came from and distract them from the fact that they just have to hit the back button or close the tab or window to return there.
First, your lander has to load LIGHTNING FAST. This is essential. If it takes more than a second to load then the majority of the cold traffic you brought over from anywhere except a search engine query is going to just exit and go back to Facebook or Pinterest or whatever site they came from – before even seeing your lander.
Search engine traffic tends to be a bit more forgiving on page load time because Google has already acted as a pre-lander for your site and it’s not an obvious ad, but you’ll still lose people the longer your page takes to load, so make it fast. Besides, you’re unlikely to get much search engine traffic to a landing page unless it’s full of content. That’s not the kind of lander I’m talking about here.
Depending on what kind of traffic you’re running, you could have a series of landing pages ranging from ‘system’ messages to one-click qualifier pages, but I’m going to assume you’re not running pop-ups or redirects (i.e. where the person who lands on your page was forced to come there by another website). I’m going to recommend that you don’t look at this type of traffic until you really know what you’re doing. For now, let’s assume your traffic has had some kind of a taste of your site and made a choice to come over (e.g. Facebook ads or another website where they clicked a link).
I’ll be going into traffic in lots of detail in the next chapter.
The most typical type of landing page you’ll want to learn to build – at least in the beginning – is a squeeze page. This is a page with a form where the visitor can give you their email address in exchange for something.
Your squeeze page doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to make it clear that you can solve a problem they have. They just have to submit their email in exchange.
Of course, a lot of people will see the email submit form and instantly hit the back button. They thought that when your ad said you’d give them a free report that solved their problem that you’d be giving it without asking anything in return.
Affiliate marketing is a numbers game and a proportion of your visitors will bounce. But the ones that really want what you’re offering will happily give over their email address because you’re offering them what they need.
Over time you should test a whole bunch of different landers to see what works best for the traffic you’re running, but to start out just go with a basic template.
I use GetResponse for my email marketing (read this post to find out why) and they’ve got a bunch of great landing page templates that are easy to customize (and they’ll even host it for you). GetResponse also offers a fantastic free listbuilding mini course that I found really useful. This course makes it easy to understand how to start generating leads and building an email list. I’ve been through this course and highly recommend it.
If you’re hosting your lander on a website you can create it easily with a CMS like WordPress by using a theme or plugin. Here are some good places to create excellent landing pages and other lead capture options that easily integrate with WP:
If you’re not using WordPress or if you don’t want to host a whole website just to put up a lander then you can get a template from an autoresponder service or even use a specialist landing page hosting service like LeadPages or ClickFunnels.
It’s not rocket science.
I’ve included a few examples of some landing page templates below.
On LeadsMonger I use a two-step landing page with a lightbox form (i.e. a form that opens over the current page) activated by clicking a link. This is on the Doing it Wrong lander, where I give people the opportunity to read the first chapter of the report.
To continue reading they have to opt-in:
This is really effective (in some cases it’s been shown to increase conversions by 785%) and dead easy to set up with Optinmonster’s Monsterlinks.
So you’ve got the landing page template down, now what about the incentive?
An irresistible incentive
As soon as someone lands on your squeeze page it has to be obvious what solution you’re offering to the problem they came to you to solve. They have to instantly understand what’s in it for them and be able to get it.
If we assume someone clicked a link to visit your page then you’ve got to deliver on the promise that brought them there.
Did your ad say they’d get something?
Did you promise to teach something?
Did you promise to reveal something?
Now is the time to deliver the incentive for joining your list (I hate it when people refer to this as a ‘bribe’). This is also sometimes called a ‘lead magnet’ (I hate this name too).
Most people won’t just give their email address to anyone and when cold traffic hits your landing page, unless they’ve come to you because of your reputation you’re just ‘anyone’. (Sorry. I know your mother always said you were ‘special’.)
To get over the fact that you’re completely unknown to cold traffic, you need to provide something of real value to compensate for the risk. Ultimately, you want to offer them something so valuable they’d actually be willing to pay for it, which is effectively what they’re doing in a way by giving you their email address on faith.
Your incentive can be the solution to an urgent problem or expert knowledge that’s rare and difficult to get access to for free. It could be any number of things (or a whole bunch of things – just look at what CopyBlogger gives away for an email submit). Ultimately they need to say ‘I must have that’ or at least ‘I can’t afford not to check this out’.
Simply offering to provide ‘regular updates’ usually isn’t going to cut it, particularly if you don’t have any kind of reputation.
If you want to get some pro insights into creating an irresistible incentive for your campaign, I’ve posted a really good video on the LeadsMonger blog. It’s a webinar with Barry Feldman called ‘Marketing Automation Ground Zero: Building Email Lists with Lead Magnets’.
Unfortunately, I can’t just tell you what to do here. I don’t know your niche or your market so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a great incentive. The only overriding piece of advice I’ll give you is that there is no ‘perfect’ incentive. Start with something that you’re capable of creating that feels right in your market and then test and develop it from there. Sometimes you can even contact the product owner for the offer you’re promoting and ask if they have anything you can give away – I’ve even had them contact me and let me know they’ve got plenty of eBooks and things if I want them.
Use your imagination and think about what you’d like to get if you had some problem relating to your niche’s interests (remember how I said to choose a niche you’re personally passionate about – this is an example of why this is powerful).
You don’t need to offer an incentive that is long, involved or complex. It simply needs to provide a solution to one specific problem your ideal lead struggles with. That’s it. That’s the value proposition.
There are lots of different types of incentives you can offer. Here are some ideas and examples to get your own creative juices flowing:
- a cheat sheet or reference guide or shortcuts (like this or like this or like this)
- a useful template (like this)
- a complete toolkit (like this or like this)
- a detailed step-by-step blueprint or course (like this or like this)
- something inspirational (like this)
- a webinar (like this or like this)
- a coaching or consulting session (like this or like this)
- a case study, interview or resource (like this or like this)
- a physical book (like this)
- a quiz (like this)
- a promise (like this)
If you’re not confident you can write or create your own book, guide, blueprint or report to get started, you can hire someone to ghost write something for you. Here are a couple of good options for hiring writers:
Or you could use something like Pictochart to create an impressive infographic.
You could even buy an existing eBook with resale rights. Here are a few sites you might like to investigate if you’re interested in this idea:
So you’ve got the landing page, you’ve got the incentive and you get a subscriber!
Send ‘em an email?
No. Not yet.
Before we get to the email series, let me explain the one thing that changed everything for me when it came to building my email marketing business on overdrive. It’s something that took me a while to UNDERSTAND after I started doing it. It’s called a self-liquidating offer.
A self-liquidating offer (SLO) is something you offer your new lead as soon as they sign up to your list. It’s something they have to pay for, albeit it’s usually something at a low price point (anywhere from $1 to about $30 is a good idea to get started).
The SLO does two things:
- It immediately provides a premium solution to their problem
- It helps you quickly recoup your advertising costs
It’s as clear a win-win as you’re ever going to see.
The best SLO is your own product because you can instantly segregate buyers on your list. I’m not going to go into creating your own products in this book, but it’s something I’m thinking of doing in the future because it opens up a whole world of opportunities. In the meantime, I highly recommend the free product creation masterclass run by the folks at ConvertKit.
Let’s say you want to use an affiliate offer as an SLO. If you wanted to go into the World of Warcraft niche and promote the Dynasty and Hayden guides you might use Hayden’s guide as your SLO because it only costs $5.00 (it’s a monthly subscription, but the initial cost is dirt cheap).
Regardless of what you use, you should always put something in front of your new subscribers that solves their problem immediately if they’re ready to buy. I mean, you don’t know whether this lead is just dying to get the whole solution to all their problems, do you? Why waste a couple of days sending welcome emails if your lead is ready.
Getting your SLO right is a game changer because it means that you’re quickly recovering your advertising costs, which you can reinvest in more advertising. This means with the right SLO your advertising costs is minimised or neutralized!
An engaging email series
I almost always use an autoresponder – a preloaded email series that runs on autopilot – and I send emails with an offer almost every single day.
When I started email marketing I used AWeber, which is very popular. AWeber actually has a pretty good course about writing effective emails which you might want to check out in addition to what I’m going to lay out for you here.
There are a lot of other email services and they all have slightly different pros and cons, but just to get you started here’s a list of a few of the more popular ones:
My emails include stories, case studies, info and entertainment to engage with my subscribers and build a relationship, but at the end of the day I have no hesitation promoting an offer (see rant at the beginning of the book).
An email is just content you create to solve someone’s problem. If you can solve a problem in a few words, then write those words. If you know where someone can go and get the solution to their problem from someone else, whether it costs money or now, then link to the solution. The value of the email is usually the context it provides for the link to the solution.
What I’m saying is that there’s no right and wrong ‘formula’ for promoting offers in an email series. Sometimes every day is the right way to do it. Sometimes you might only promote once in a series of 30 emails. Sometimes it’s random.
You can also broadcast emails or use an autoresponder if you want.
Nothing is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
It just depends on how you can provide the most value to your subscribers by solving their problems.
Every email series I write is tailored to the people on my list and their problems as tightly as possible. It takes a bit of experimentation and a few advanced techniques to really nail the exact thing that my subscribers want to hear and the offers that will best solve their problems. Having said this, at the most basic level, I have two different types of series: one for people who buy something and one for people who don’t.
This isn’t because these two groups have different problems. It’s based on the fact that they’re engaged at different levels – one group have shown they’re ready to buy something to solve their problem, the other group hasn’t (or the incentive might have already solved their problem and that’s fine).
Here’s how my standard email series usually looks for people who don’t buy my SLO:
Day 0-1: I send an email instantly with a link to whatever I was offering to give away for free. I then send another email the next day with another link to the giveaway. These are welcome emails and reminders of who I am.
Day 2-7: I send a few emails re-promoting my SLO and reminding who I am.
If I get a sale on my SLO I move the lead over to another list, otherwise I’ll give the SLO a break and start promoting affiliate offers.
Day 8-9: I send two emails promoting a free/cheap trial to a premium monthly subscription product (if I can find this type of product for my niche). I’ll try to tie these to my own personal story if I can. It reminds them who I am.
Day 10-30: I send emails promoting the best paid products relating to the niche. Depending on what kind of offers I can find I’ll usually send between 3-5 emails for each product. The ‘best’ products are the ones that convert the best. Sometimes I don’t know which ones these are until I’ve been testing for a while. I’ll usually also start promoting the most expensive products first – because these are the offers that are most likely to solve more problems.
After day 30 I’ll go into my autoresponder account dashboard and manually unsubscribe any leads that haven’t opened any of the emails I’ve sent yet. I mean, I’m paying my autoresponder service provider per subscriber, so I don’t want this expense if someone isn’t interested in the emails.
For those leads who are reading some emails I’ll keep emailing every day as long as I can keep finding products to promote. I’ll generally run 3-5 emails per product. If I run out of products to promote I’ll just load up a bunch of emails promoting my SLO again. Usually I’ll aim to load up at least 90 emails. This gives me the opportunity to promote at least 10- 20 products.
What my buyer email series look like
For people who’ve bought my SLO I’ll do things a little bit differently. The basic concept is the same, but I’ll just take a little more care with this group because I know they’re definitely interested in solving their problems and definitely buyers.
Sometimes I’ll promote one product to this group for 10-30 emails in a row, particularly if it’s a premium product. This series probably won’t have affiliate links in every email, but most of them will. I’ll also provide a lot more helpful content of my own to these emails. Sometimes I’ll even jump back and forwards between products. And I might write up a series with over 300 emails in it.
I’ll also send broadcast emails to my buyer’s list. Broadcast emails are emails that are sent instantly, not loaded up to fire out automatically. I’ll use these when there’s something going on in the present that my subscribers might want to know about. New product launches/news is one of the main reasons I’ll broadcast out to this group. Broadcasts are more hands on than an autoresponder series, but they show your list that you’re engaging with them in the here and now and help you build a relationship.
How to write the most engaging and persuasive emails
I’ve debated what to write in this section because the subject of email copywriting is a massive course on its own. Given everything else I want to share with you in this book, I know I really can’t do justice to the topic of direct response copywriting in just a few paragraphs or even a whole chapter.
In the end, what I’ve decided to do is give you a quick summary of some key elements of an engaging email series and refer you to the two people who taught me almost everything I know about effective email marketing.
I hope this is enough to get you started (and you can make a lot of money even without being a first class copywriter if you follow the rest of the strategies in this book).
So here we go – how to write killer emails in a nutshell:
- People want to read what you have to say – if you have to choose between some ‘template’ you think you should be following, or saying what you really want to say, go with option 2. People are smart enough to know when they’re getting some formulaic marketing pitch rather than a real person with a real opinion.
- People love stories – if you want your emails to be engaging then tell stories, use anecdotes, create parables and document case studies/lessons you’ve learned. If you don’t have any great stories of your own, tell someone else’s story and relate it to what you’re teaching. And here’s a pro tip you can’t afford to ignore: if you want people to open your emails every day, regardless of what you write in the subject line, craft engaging stories that carry over from email to email, ending with some kind of cliff-hanger.
- People buy take action when they’re emotional – if you want to engage your list then evoke emotion. It doesn’t really matter what emotion you’re going for, just go for emotional rather than rational. Pain, pleasure, love, humour, fear, anxiety… evoke them all.
- People are curious – after your storytelling skills, your ability to write your subject lines are your opportunity to pique someone’s curiosity or otherwise make opening your email irresistible.
- You’ll get better at writing by writing – there’s no substitute for practice when it comes to copywriting. Sure, you can benefit infinitely by reading the best in the business, but at the end of the day writing more is going to teach you how to write compelling copy.
I’m no copywriting expert, but I’ve learned enough to be effective and found some people who stand head and shoulders above the rest to help me along the way. If you only get advice from two people about email copywriting, I recommend Ben Settle and Andre Chaperon.
(Ben and Andre have very different styles, but their message is essentially the same – write really engaging emails. You’ll probably gravitate to one or the other depending on your personality, but don’t dismiss either guy out of hand. I mean, if you find Ben getting under your skin or provoking some kind of explosive reaction from you, he’s just proven his point about how effective his methods are. Do what these guys teach and you’re set.)
Advanced autoresponder strategies
There are some pretty advanced things you can do with an autoresponder these days.
You can implement conditions, actions and filters to optimize individual campaign journeys and even progressive profiling to collect data about your subscriber’s interests and behavior. You can do this directly with quizzes and polls or indirectly by tracking clicks on different links you’ve inserted into the emails for the specific purpose of trying to see what your subscribers are into.
These strategies help you to segment your subscribers onto discrete lists that cater to their personal preferences (e.g. at a basic level you might have two identical series sent from two lists – it’s just that one list goes out in the morning and one goes out at night because you’ve segmented your subscribers based on when they prefer to open their emails).
You could also segment your lists based on user gender or preferences like reading on a desktop or mobile device. Or you could create new lists depending on whether people are opening your emails (i.e. to send them onto a ‘last chance’ series) or whether they’re visiting your blog (i.e. to send them to a series that includes updates on your new posts).
I’ll leave you to explore these advanced topics once you’ve mastered the basics. Your autoresponder service will have a lot of training material to help you understand the options they offer. In fact, thanks again to the wonderful peeps over at ConvertKit you can download a completely free email marketing book (that is really pretty good).
If you’re interested in jumping into this now, I’ve posted a video on the LeadsMonger blog of a webinar with Kath Pay called ‘Optimizing your marketing automation program for success’.