If you’re like most business owners, you’re all too familiar with the vicious cycle of periods of strong sales, followed by periods of few to no sales at all.
And I’ll bet that you are more than ready to get off the feast-or-famine rollercoaster.
So in this article, I’m going to show you exactly why the feast and famine cycle occurs and how to rid your business of it — forever.
Business growth can be hard, especially when you’re working by yourself or with a small team.
Quite often, small business owners handle their own marketing, only to end up neglecting it when business is booming.
When you’re busy, you naturally focus your energy on your customers. After all that’s how you make your money! You know that by providing good, dependable service, you’ll win repeat business and referrals.
But while you are serving your customers, who’s selling your services and generating new leads for you?
When the current work runs out, there’s nothing in the pipeline.
Downturns inevitably happen, so that’s when you make flurry of sales calls or run a promotion or otherwise market your business so that your phone starts ringing again.
And the cycle starts all over again.
“That’s just the nature of the beast.”
The feast and famine cycle is something you’ve grown accustomed to. You’re convinced that this is just the way things are.
But is that really true? Is this really the way it’s supposed to work?
It shouldn’t be. And it isn’t.
And more importantly, there is a way out.
The key to breaking out of this feast or famine cycle is to always be marketing. Always be bringing in new leads. Always have customers at different stages in your sales pipeline.
“But Eli,” I can hear you asking, “how the heck can I do that without reinventing everything I do and spending weeks changing my business in ways that probably won’t even help??
Well, luckily for you, we’re living in 2017!
If you want to stop spending all of your precious time trying to find new clients and customers — and instead focus on better serving your current clients and customers — then you need a sales funnel.
Simple as that.
Now, the phrase “sales funnel” might be creeping you out right now, and understandably so.
In the online marketing world, there are two ways to do sales funnels — and I’ll bet you’ve experienced the first way: the icky, sleazy internet marketing way.
But there’s another way as well, a better way: a genuine, from-a-place-of-service way.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer the genuine way!
Not only does it set you up as an authority in your niche, it also allows you to build a tribe of followers organically — and then effortlessly transition them from browsers to lifelong customers.
So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in and see how your business could seriously benefit from a genuine sales funnel.
Let’s start by talking about what a sales funnel is.
For those of you who aren’t quite sure what a sales funnel is, it’s basically just a marketing system.
It’s an ideal progression in which you take your potential customers by the hand and walk them through a well-planned journey — a series of content experiences that transform them from browsers into to buyers.
A sales funnel is the most ideal way to get sales from people who don’t know you, but are truly interested in you and your product.
The marketing funnel or sales funnel isn’t a new concept in business, but — unfortunately — a lot of entrepreneurs don’t know how to apply it correctly to their business.
I also know from personal experience that it’s extremely challenging to figure out and create a sales funnel that balances giving true value to people with high conversions and profitable results.
In my own experience, it’s especially tough when you’re starting out because of the overwhelming and contradictory amount of information out there.
I was continuously banging my head against that “low conversion” and “no sale” wall, trying to figure out the right solution for myself. And finally, after combing through mountains of information, studying people who were having success with their funnels, and going through endless rounds of tweaking and testing, that I was finally able to figure it out.
The way I see it, a sound, strategic sales funnel is executed across these 6 steps:
- Buyer’s Pain and Solution: Identify the exact need or problem in your niche and finding a solution (which happens to be your offering) to solve that problem.
- Authority Builder: Provide a valuable piece of free content that doesn’t require them to opt-in for anything. And while you have their attention, ask for their email address in exchange for another valuable and relevant piece of free content (we call this a lead magnet).
- Commitment Builder: Offer them a low-priced introductory product that’s instantly valuable to them. Doing this delivers a quick win and gets them used to buying from you. Win–win!
- Engagement Builder: Start engaging and building a relationship with them, while authentically promoting yourself
- Trust Builder: Send them more valuable, and actionable free content, while also telling them more about your offer and/or services and how you can help them.
- Conversion: Present a solution to them that solves that one, specific, big problem. This solution is your core offer/product/service.
Step One: Buyer’s Pain and Solution
Let’s start with your core offer. Hopefully you’ve done your research, and the product or service that you offer was chosen because you’ve identified a lack, a need or a problem that your ideal buyers have. Your core offer serves as the answer to that specific struggle or problem.
If you haven’t done that research — if you can’t establish that one-to-one correlation between their need and your solution — then you need to go back to the drawing board.
The match between their most pressing need and what you are offering is the glue that holds everything together — without a strong correlation between the two, everything falls apart.
Without that match, there’s no way your sales funnel will get results.
Promise me not to skip this step, ok?
OK, so let’s assume you’ve done that research, you’ve identified a need and now you have a solution for it, which is your core offer.
When you look at any problem, there is usually a series of actions that someone needs to take. A series of smaller solutions they need to implement to make that problem go away, or to fix something.
For example, let’s say you’ve cracked the code and know how to create the most amazing sales landing page that people show up and drool all over it and can’t help themselves but to buy!
And now you want to package your secret into a service or a product, and teach others to follow the same process to get the same results.
In order for you to help them implement your system — and convince them that they can do it — you need to walk them through a series of actions, each delivering a solution they can put in place, to duplicate the same results.
For example, you need to show them:
- How to write an attention-grabbing headline
- How to write a persuasive subhead
- The necessary components of a good sales landing page
- The proper flow of those components
- How to set the right tone for the copy
- How to get Testimonials
- Examples of a good call-to-action
This is true with any kind of solution. Your job is to identify that problem, and then break that problem down into smaller problems and solutions.
So ultimately, what you are doing is figuring out what information your ideal buyer needs and what series of actions will help solve her big problem.
Your goal in this step is to come up with 4-5 smaller actions, solutions that they need to put in place to fix their big problem. Make a list of these. You’ll use that list to guide your efforts going forward.
Once you have that list, you’re ready for the next step: the Authority Builder.
Step Two: Authority Builder
Take of one these solutions from the previous exercise and create the most in-depth piece of content around that.
And don’t hold back!
Listen, anyone can create a 700 word blog post about “5 simple steps to grow gigantic watermelons.”
You have to be different!
Pour your heart and soul into it. Give them lots of detail and lots of actionable advice.
You want to show people you know what you’re talking about. This approach will enable you to outshine everyone else — and stand out clearly.
So, write the most in-depth article anyone has ever read about that topic.
And, while you have their attention, offer them a tightly related freebie. This is a value-added opt-in offer that should be relevant and complimentary to what they just read.
There is a reason I’m encouraging you to go about your funnel this way: Up to couple of years ago, all you needed was a global opt-in offer: “Get my 5 steps to grow your email list!” But this approach just doesn’t work anymore — because people are starting to tune it out.
However, if you offer people something related and complimentary to what they just read, you’ll have a much higher chance of having them return the favor — by giving you their email address.
Because you just gave them massive value before asking anything in return!
Also, in order for the rest of your sales funnel to work, your freebie has to be three things:
- Action driven
Give them Something small and specific that they can act on right away — and see the results of doing it instantly.
If you go about your freebie this way, you’ll have a significantly higher chance of converting them to customers as you walk them through the rest of your funnel.
Step Three: Commitment Builder
The next step is what I call the Commitment Builder, because that’s exactly what it does. And if you do this step right, you’ll fall in love with this!
As soon as someone opts-in to get the freebie, redirect them to a thank you page and present them with a one-time offer — which is a low-priced product — and give them limited time to take action and buy.
I know that sounds a bit gutsy, but hear me out.
There is a reason you want do this! The goal behind this is not so much to make money —it’s to turn those readers into customers while you have their attention.
But in order for this to work, you need to follow these 5 simple rules:
- First, this product must be low-priced. Typically, under $20. Remember, the goal is not to make money; it’s to change their relationship with you, from browsers to lifelong customers. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: this one product is responsible for 10-15% of our monthly sales. For something not meant to be a money-maker, that’s not too bad!
- Next, it must be really valuable. In fact, it must be 10 times, even 20 times more valuable than your freebie, in order for this to work.
- It has to be related to your freebie and your core offer. This one is very important. Let’s say your prospect just read about how to create high converting sales landing pages, but then you offer them an e-book on Facebook Ads. It’s unrelated — which means you’re going to lose people. Your funnel will seem disjointed, and you run the risk of losing their attention (and of course, the sale).
- It has to be placed on the Thank You page, right after they opt-in to get your free offer. You already have their attention; this is the way to take advantage of that.
- Last but not least, you need to add an element of legitimate scarcity. We typically do this through our pricing, by presenting people with a one-time offer to get our book at a discounted price for a limited time. We tell them that this price is only good for the next 30 minutes, and — if they don’t act on it, if they don’t buy now —they’ll never see it again. And we make sure they never see the offer again by using Evergreen deadlines.
Alright! If you’re ready, let’s talk about the next part which is the Engagement Builder.
Step Four: Engagement Builder
Let’s do a quick recap of where we are so far with our marketing journey:
- You’ve identified your buyer’s pain points and developed 4-5 small actions they can take to move toward a solution.
- Subscribers opted in to get your free offer (lead magnet).
- After emailing them that free offer, you’ve also presented a low-priced product offer on the Thank You page.
Now we start building the relationship and engaging them.
As soon as your subscriber opts in and gets the freebie, you send them a welcome message. This is so you can tell them about yourself: who you are, why you do what you do and why it matters to people like them!
If you have attention grabbing blog posts, videos, cheat sheets, etc. that are relevant to your core offer, you should include links to those in this welcome email.
You should also include links to your social sites and encourage them to join and/or follow you. What I do is tell people that not only do I share ton of valuable resources on my social sites that they don’t want to miss, this is also the best way to communicate with me and ask me questions.
Your goal at this stage is to deepen that relationship, by inviting them to get to know you more.
The very last thing you want to include in this welcome message is — casually, not salesy or pitchy — an introduction to your core offer.
Briefly let them know what it is and how it might be valuable to them. The crucial part of doing this right is making sure to offer a limited-time incentive for them to buy this core offer.
This can be a bonus or a discount; we typically do a combination of both. We offer a free e-book plus a 30% discount, and we give them 7 days (which is the duration of the rest of the funnel) to get both.
Again, the goal here is just to introduce them to your core product. But again, this only works if you are not being pitchy or pushy! Just mention what it is, how it benefits them and leave it at that.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk more about your offer in the remainder of your funnel.
Step Five: Trust Builder
This is where the initial research you did comes in handy.
I want you to go back to your action list and pick 3-4 of those topics or problems — and then create a sequential series of content, to be delivered by email. Each of those emails is going to address a different solution to one of those particular problems on your list.
So going back to our sales landing page example, one email might be about how to have persuasive sub-headline. Another may explain how to get testimonials when you’re just starting out. Another might describe the proper flow of your content; so on and so forth.
Now, there is a specific way that I want you to go about this.
Some people call this educational phase. What you’re doing here is educating your audience about specific topics, which gets them to see the value in what you’re offering. By the time they’re presented with your core offer, you’ve built trust with them. The result of that educational content is that they think, “Wow, this person really knows what he/she is talking about! I bet that product would really help me.”
But while that’s an important step, it’s not enough.
In order for you to outshine and outsmart everyone else, you have do better than that.
You have to be different.
It’s not enough to just educate someone about a certain topic. Why? Because while they might see the value in the information you are providing them, there is also fear that may prevent them from acting on it.
They might not be sure if they’ll actually be able to pull it off. This may be all new and unfamiliar, and they’re not convinced that they’ll get it, that they can do this.
This doubt is what you need to speak to when you create the content for these emails.
So in addition to education, you need to provide small chunks of actionable advice, things they can go and try on their own and get quick, positive results.
This way, you’re building their confidence that this will work for them. The results quiet that fear and remove those doubts. They have proof that this is possible, that they can do it.
If you give them small wins each time they see or engage with your content, they’ll be back for the big win – to buy your core offer.
Step Six: Conversion
Now we’re at the last part of the funnel, which happens to be the fun part as well, because if you’ve done everything right, this is where you get paid!
At the end of every email you send, you talk to them about your core offer.
Let them know that if they found this information valuable, then they should check out your paid offer, which is going to solve their bigger problem and give them that big win they really need.
You also want to remind them that they have limited time to buy to get the incentive (bonus, discount, etc.).
You do this every single time, until they get the last email.
Up to this point you’ve given them lots of valuable and actionable advice. So this time, you send them one email that is all about your paid offer: What it is, why it’s valuable, and how it’s going to solve their big problem.
If you have social proof or testimonials, include those as well.
And then remind them once more about the limited time incentive.
Again, this is where using an evergreen deadline, to add an element of legitimate scarcity, is going to be the critical part of your marketing effort. Because reality is that people procrastinate. If they know that your offer is always going to be there, they’re going to put off buying it — because they know they can get it at any other time.
So the real key to converting on your core offer is to add that element of scarcity. What you do is set and clearly communicate the limited timeframe they have to take advantage of that discount or bonus.
Make sure to keep that timeframe very short. Preferably no more than 48 hours from this point forward.
Then send them 3 reminder emails on the last two days. One 24 hours before, and two more on the very last day.
These emails tell them that if they don’t buy, the incentive will go away. And what you’ll notice is that somewhere between 50% of your sales will come through over the last 2 days — because you’ve added that element of scarcity.
But you have to make sure to follow through; this only works if the scarcity is real. In other words, they should not be able to get that bonus or discount at any other time but this time!
So there you have it.
What I’ve just shown you is the antidote to the cycle of feast and famine that’s keeping you stuck. It’s a simple, straightforward method that, once you put it in place, works for you continuously.
It’s always building, always educating, always marketing. Always working to build your customer base and bring consistency to your business — and your life.
If you build this automated marketing funnel, following and implementing these six steps as I’ve shown them to you, I guarantee you’ll consistently attract and convert more customers.
It’s worked for me, and that means it can work for you, too.
Take the first step now, and get off the feast-or-famine rollercoaster — for good.