So you want to try your hand at online business? You have heard the term sales funnel and figure you need one, but what is a sales funnel and why do you need one? It sounds hard to build and EXPENSIVE. I am here to tell you a sales funnel is necessary for your online business but it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, in this post I’m sharing my favorite free tools to build your sales funnel so you can start collecting leads and making sales without a lot of upfront investment.
What is a sales funnel?
While a sales funnel might sound like a complicated term, chances are, you’re probably already familiar with them and have them in your business. I like to think of sales funnels similar to a dating analogy: when you first meet someone, you share a little about who you are, and as that relationship continues, you learn more and more about that person. Maybe you become more committed and start to invest more time with them because you like what they do, what they stand for, and how they make you feel. Ultimately, you might decide to make a bigger step like exclusive dating, moving in together, or marriage.
Sales funnels are they same as you move your dream clients from a cold prospect to your high-end services by sharing different products or services (your value ladder) with them.
In business, a sales funnel starts with a free giveaway like an ebook, email or audio series, video, etc. Something that you are giving away for free in exchange for an email address. It usually addresses a problem that your audience has and positions YOU as the expert to solve their problem.
You send them to a landing page with a form to collect their email address and then deliver the freebie. They are on your list and now you want to build a relationship with your audience. This is usually done through an automated email welcome series which is 3 – 7 emails.
This all is set up and automated so you can grow your email list and make sales on autopilot! Does this all sound too techie and EXPENSIVE?? It can be. While some software on the market allows you to do this for upwards of $100 a month, but there are free tools to build your sales funnel so your costs stay lower (and your profit higher!). Follow along as I walk you through the process of building your sales funnel with my favorite FREE and LOW-COST tools.
My Favorite Free Tools to Build Your Sales Funnel
Lead Magnet or Opt-in Freebie
They can come in the form of an ebook, worksheet, checklist, video, or templates for example. My favorite FREE tool is Canva. Canva has built-in templates. For ebooks, I like their magazine templates.
But, for a more custom ebook or workbook (with beautiful images), I love Styled Stock Society! Elle Drouin has beautiful Canva templates to help you custom-design your opt-in. (as well as matching social graphics and a whole lot more)
Bridge Pages, Opt-In Pages & Thank You Pages
Maybe you aren’t familiar with the term “bridge page.” Don’t worry! As the name suggests, a bridge page is a page that your follower will click on so you can gather their email information and then guide them to your affiliate resource. This is better than just sending them directly to the affiliate page.
For example, if one minute they are reading or watching something from you, click on an interesting link, and all of a sudden end up on an influencer’s page, they might think they are in the wrong place. But a bridge page can reassure them, hey this is a great way to reach your goal of whatever it is, click here to learn more about this service or product offered by so and so.
An opt-in page is different in that this is a page created by you promoting your lead magnet inviting people to join your mailing list in exchange for receiving your free resource. You’ll want to take the time to make your opt-in page compelling with great copy explaining the benefits of what they’ll get and how it will make their lives easier.
Remember, inboxes are crowded these days with most people getting an average of 120 emails a day! Make sure your potential subscribers know you’ll be worth hearing from and adding value to their inboxes.
Of course, you’ll want to add a thank you page as well. This lets your new subscriber know their information has been received and what the next steps will be. Information you can include might be how long to receive the freebie, where to look if it’s not in the inbox, how to make sure they receive future emails by adding you as a safe sender, how they can follow you on social, join your Facebook group, and so on.
Some other ideas I love including on the thank you page are
- asking your subscriber to share your freebie on social media.
- offering a free 15-minute consulting call if you sell services (with a free version of a scheduling software such as Calendly.
- using it as a “brag page” where you add testimonials to show how awesome you or your product is or add links to your most popular blog posts.
One of my favorite options for a thank you page is using it as a tripwire page. This is an opportunity to sell a low-cost product that solves your customer’s problem. It should be a continuation of your lead magnet. I like to sell a $29 offer for $9. I am sure you have come across these before. It has a timer on the page that will give you 12 or 15 minutes to purchase or it goes away. You won’t become rich, but it can pay for ads or some of your business tools. You can set this up for free on your website.
The software I really recommend for creating these pages is Systeme.io.
Systeme.io is quickly becoming one of my favorite free tools to build your sales funnel, PLUS a whole lot of other things for your business. It’s an all-in-one software that does it all from hosting your website, automating sales funnels, sending your email marketing, featuring your blog, selling your products, managing your courses, and facilitating your affiliate programs.
And you can get started for FREE!
There are four pricing tiers for Systeme.io, but the free tier allows you to get started with a website, a blog, three sales funnels, a course, an affiliate program, and up to 2,000 email contacts.
Simply put, I wish they had something like this in place when I started my business. It would have saved me a lot of money and would have allowed me to grow without spending a lot upfront. Additional pricing tiers are $27, $47, and $97 but only need to be added as you build multiple funnels.
Once you have made the opt-in, the next step in your sales funnel is to create a way to capture an email address. This can be done through a landing page provided by your email provider. (OR if you use Systeme.IO, you won’t need a separate email marketing platform)
Two free options are Mailchimp and MailerLite. While both of these are popular and as I said, free, it’s worth noting that both of these expressly state in their terms of service that you cannot use them for affiliate marketing purposes. Therefore, I’d recommend choosing something else, because the last thing you want is to get your email list shut down losing all your contacts and the hard work you’ve invested in your automation and copywriting.
Personally, I have used Convert Kit for years. for my email provider. There are options to create forms and landing pages as well as emails (of course). I love their advanced automations and autoresponders which can get pretty techy. Luckily they have great support and a ConvertKit community to help. The subscription is just under $30 a month, although it’s less expensive to subscribe annually.
Again, going back to Systeme.io, their paid tier starts at $27 a month (which is less than a monthly ConvertKit plan!), and this allows up to 5000 email subscribers and ten different email campaigns.
Another thing to consider is adding a pop-up form or a form across the top of your website to capture emails. FREE options to make these include HelloBar and MailMunch. I have used both and love that they are easy to set up. They integrate with your email provider so leads will be added to your email list.
Email Welcome Series
After you have gotten the email address, you need to create an email welcome series. It should be at the minimum 3 emails and the average is between 5-7. This email series is just that, a welcome. Welcome to get to know you, your brand, and what you are offering. You may not have a product or service to sell yet, but that’s ok. When you meet someone for the first time, are you trying to pitch them something from the get-go? You want to build a relationship so that when it comes time to offer your product or service, they run to purchase because they know you.
If you don’t know what to say for OMG THREE emails, my friend Meera Kothand has a blog post How to Write a Staggeringly Good Welcome Email Series which will help you write your email welcome series. You can sign up for her freebie that is incredibly helpful as to what to say in what email. You may not consider yourself a writer, but Meera is amazing at breaking it all down. I have signed up for everything she has ever offered and bought her workbooks and they are so helpful. I can’t recommend Meera enough.
Traffic to Fill Your Funnel
You have created a beautiful opt-in that people want and a way to collect their emails. But now you need to get your opt-in in front of your ideal audience.
Sure, Facebook and Instagram ads are expensive. But one of the best free tools to build your sales funnel can be social media. You can start generating organic buzz around your business for free on any of the social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube.
How do you choose where to post? My best advice is to know where your “ideal customer” will be hanging out and start there. In other words, if you’re an affiliate for Shein, you probably won’t be sharing your posts on LinkedIn.
My second best piece of advice is to start slowly with one or two platforms. You don’t need to be everywhere all at once (that was only in the movies).
My favorite platform is Pinterest. The next step would be to create multiple pins (again using that free tool, Canva) that drive traffic to your sales page. If you need help with your Pinterest marketing, I offer my Pinning Foundations course which will help get you started fast! If you’d like to learn more about exactly how I use Pinterest for my affiliate campaigns, you can read my article, Affiliate Marketing for Pinterest.
A surprising place no one thinks to generate traffic for their funnel is their email signature! Remember how I said you are likely to receive an average of 100 emails a day? Chances are you’re sending a lot of emails as well! Consider adding your site link or social links along with your tagline to your email signature to let people know what you do and how you can help them.
ALL OF THIS will take some time. You have to pay with $ or time as with everything, but it doesn’t have to be hard, or complicated. I know your time is precious but I know you can do it!
A good book I recommend is Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson. He goes through many different ways to drive traffic besides just paying for ads.
Don’t let the overwhelm creep in. Create the parts one by one and then hook it up!
Never Stop Learning
Knowledge is power and there are lots of ways to continue your growth and personal development without spending anything!
I love podcasts because I can listen to them on the go whether I am out running errands or just listening as I am completing other tasks throughout my day. These are free to listen to on any podcast player such as Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts.
Books are another great resource for ongoing learning. My daughters and I make weekly trips to our local library (of course there’s an obligatory Starbucks stop along the way!)
Starting Your Business Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
Many people tend to shy away from starting their own business because of the initial investment, and so they find themselves in a job that might leave them unfulfilled or making choices to be away from their family.
With the free tools to build your sales funnel I’ve have shared above, it’s possible to start growing your business right away. If you choose to share affiliate marketing, you are leveraging the knowledge and resources others have already invested and just inviting a larger audience to learn more about it. If instead, you’re starting a journey as a virtual assistant or virtual bookkeeper, chances are you already have the tools you need to get started without additional start-up costs.
So go ahead and get started building your sales funnel – and your dream – today!