Want to sell your online course on autopilot? Having a sales funnel in place allows you to literally make money while you sleep. In this post, we'll share 5 steps to create a sales funnel for your online course.
Online course creators, I’m willing to bet that you’ve come to this blog post for one of two reasons…
1) You know you absolutely need a sales funnel so that you can sell your course on autopilot and generate passive income, so you want to learn how to map one out.
2) You’ve heard murmurings of sales funnels, but you aren’t quite sure what they entail, or how they relate to you and your online course.
Good news, folks. Whether you fall into category one, category two, or somewhere in between… you’ve come to the right place!
By the end of this article, you will know:
- What exactly is a sales funnel
- Why sales funnels are so critical for selling your online course
- How having a sales funnel can save you time and money
- How to create a sales funnel for your online course
This is going to be one heck of an article, so be sure to keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and keep your seatbelt fastened.
Ready? Great, let’s get started.
What is a Sales Funnel?
So, before I start to blow your mind about how incredibly useful a sales funnel is for your online course business, we need to start at the very beginning.
Sales Funnel Definition:
A sales funnel is a series of steps that companies use to persuade prospects to become customers.
A sales funnel is first and foremost a journey.
Quite literally, businesses map out comprehensive sales funnels (or paths) for their potential customers to travel through to encourage them to buy a particular product or service.
There are sales funnels everywhere; you probably just haven’t realized it yet. In fact, it’s safe to say that at any given moment in time, you’re traveling through dozens of different sales funnels without even noticing.
How a Sales Funnel Works
To give an example, let’s pretend for a minute that you recently saw an ad on your Facebook news feed: a local dentist in your area is offering free cleanings.
You don’t have dental insurance, so the free cleaning sounds superb to you. You click on that advertisement and schedule an appointment through their website for your free cleaning and evaluation.
The next thing you know, you’re laying on your back at the dentist while she examines your teeth. Eventually, the dentist lets you know that you’re all good. You don’t have any cavities… yet.
But, the dentist explains that you might want to consider sealants to help prevent against cavities on some of your susceptible teeth.
Suddenly, you find yourself standing at the reception desk booking your appointment to get sealants on your teeth.
That’s a sales funnel.
The dentist offered a free service to you, provided you with superb value (the cleaning and consult), and eventually pitched you a paid service at the end.
What Does a Sales Funnel Look Like?
Many people label sales funnels in different ways, but at its core, the sales funnel looks something like the picture below:
As you can see, there are various phases, or stages to a sales funnel. Most online course sales funnels include the following basic stages:
1. The Awareness Stage – This is the stage where your prospects are just happening upon your brand. At this stage, they are looking for an answer to a question that they have, and are discovering you through Google, social media posts and advertisements.
2. The Education Stage – This is the stage where you give information to help answer their questions and to educate them, via your blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.
Image via Theme Fusion
3. The Conversion Stage – This is where a casual prospect turns into a warm lead. Specifically, they sign up for a free resource that you are offering and opt in to your email list.
4. The Engagement Stage – At this stage, your lead is consuming the free resource that they just opted in for. They are taking action and getting results from the tips you’ve taught them, which builds their trust in you.
5. The Selling Stage – This is the stage where you pitch your online course to them and the lead becomes a customer.
6. The Wooing Stage – At this stage, you’ve already converted your lead into a customer. Now they are consuming your online course, and getting value and results from it. This will make them compelled to come back for more or for higher-end courses, and to recommend your courses to others.
Image via SamCart
You still with me?
Great… let’s move onto what you came here for: how to create a funnel for your online course!
By the way, I’ve developed a sales funnel worksheet that you can use to follow along with this process, if you’d like!
Step 1: Start with the End in Mind
The first step of creating a sales funnel is to identify what your end goal is. Where do you want your customers to end up at the end of the funnel?
It may seem counterintuitive to start creating a sales funnel right at the finish line, but it’s not. Trust me.
You have to know where you’re headed before you can figure out the steps to get there, right?
So first, write your “offer” down.
Let’s say, for example, that you are an ex-math teacher, and created a math curriculum targeted for homeschoolers. You want to sell this for $497. Your offer is a $497 math course for homeschooled children.
Next, identify the main benefits of your offer.
- What problem does your online course solve? (Our program teaches math to your children so you, the parent, don’t have to rely on your terrible math skills.)
- What results will your customers get from your online course? (You’ll feel confident that your homeschooled child is learning all the standardized mathematical concepts taught in public school.)
- What are the unique features of your course? Why should they buy from you? (Unlike other math curriculums which are based on boring textbooks, our course comes with videos, interactive online exercises, group coaching calls and manipulatives that help your child to really visualize and comprehend the material.)
Finally, brainstorm all of the reasons why someone might object to buying your offer.
- Money – it’s more expensive than a textbook-based math curriculum.
- Does it really work? I don’t want to pay for something that isn’t proven successful.
- Time – can it be used independently, or will my child need me to be by them every step of the way? How long does it take to get through the course?
- My child has a short attention span. Is the material actually engaging, or will it be too boring for my child to keep him/her engaged?
This is the most important part of your sales funnel to research and map out because it’s the backbone and foundation for everything else. You’re going to use the information that you outlined here to inspire the rest of the funnel.
Step 2: Work Backwards to Write Your Email Sequence
Especially if you have a high-end online course, chances are you’re not going to sell it just by linking to it a few times in your blog posts.
In order to get people to consider buying from you, you need to build up trust and brand loyalty. One of the best ways to accomplish that is through nurturing subscribers on your email list.
Here’s the kicker though: you can’t just write emails for the sake of writing emails. If you’re going to try and convince someone to buy your online course, you need to make sure you tackle major objections.
It’s a good thing we already highlighted their major objections in step one, right?
In your “pitch” emails, you will need to address their objections and conquer them.
For example, if a major objection to buying your product is price, one of your emails can introduce the payment plan structure, so those who are strapped for cash may feel better investing in your course.
Another example: if a major objection is the question about whether or not your course actually works, plan to create an email (or several) featuring success stories or case studies and positive testimonials.
For example, your emails might look something like this:
SALES FUNNEL EXAMPLE:
DAY 1: Welcome email (introduce yourself and tell your story)
DAY 2: Value email (teach something valuable)
DAY 3: Value email
DAY 4: Value email + hint at your offer
DAY 5: Pitch your course (include a success story)
DAY 6: FAQ email (address common objections)
DAY 7: Reminder – cart closing soon!
DAY 8: Last chance to enroll
Remember, the emails in your email sequences should not be created in a vacuum. Plan your emails out strategically to address every potential concern so that by the end of the sequence, your leads are 100% convinced they need your course.
How many emails should you include in your sales funnel? Well, that depends on your particular course. Use as many emails as you need in order to fully explain the benefits of your program and overcome those objections we outlined earlier.
Step 3: Brainstorm Your Lead Magnet
Lead magnets (also known as freebies) are something that you offer for free in exchange for an email address. Online course creators use lead magnets to “capture targeted leads” – the people who are the best candidates for your course.
If you’re selling a math homeschool curriculum, your lead magnet could be a simple PDF like, “12 Fun Homeschool Exercises for the Child Who Hates Math”. Or it could be another simple resource like, “10 Free Homeschool Math Printables”. You could even conduct a webinar, such as: “12 Steps to Homeschool Your Child in Math When You Hate Math”.
The point of your lead magnet is to attract the same sort of people who would want to buy your course.
If someone downloads your ebook on how to teach math when you hate math (for homeschoolers), chances are they are qualified leads: they are homeschooling parents struggling to teach math. They are the perfect candidates for your end product.
Just brainstorm some ideas for now. We’ll talk about how to actually get your website visitors to download your lead magnet in the next step…
Step 4: Identify Potential Entry Points
Now that you’ve identified your end product (your online course), outlined your email sequence(s), and pinpointed your lead magnet, you need to do the most basic step of all: plan out the different entry points for your lead magnet.
That is, you need to highlight where and how people can actually sign up for your lead magnet.
Here are some examples (you could use some or all of these)…
Opt-in form after your blog posts:
Image via OptinMonster
Sidebar opt-in form:
Image via Backlinko
Opt-in landing page:
Guest blog posts:
This is where most course creators trip up– you can’t simply “build it and they will come.” However, if you set up different avenues for people to sign up, then you’ll have people going through your funnel, guaranteed.
So do yourself a favor and make sure that you identify the different entry points for your lead magnet and set those up.
Step 5: Visually Map Out Your Sales Funnel
Writing things down and mapping them out visually can be an incredibly powerful tool for you as a course creator and online business owner. Here’s why:
Mapping out your sales funnel helps you to see the big picture
It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of your business. You can spend countless hours working on small, minute details, that you easily forget the big picture of the customer journey.
Mapping out your sales funnel on a whiteboard, a piece of paper, or a sales funnel template on your computer forces you to zoom out and look at the big picture, before you dive into the specifics and details of it all. Trust me, it’s far less overwhelming that way.
Mapping out your sales funnel keeps you focused
As a business owner, it’s only natural to get pulled in a million and one different directions, especially if you’re working in a small business or a one-person shop. Mapping out your sales funnel visually can help keep you grounded, and focused on one project at a time.
It’s simple: don’t take on any additional projects until you’re done working on your sales funnel in its entirety. Turn mapping out your sales funnel into a to-do list, and work on it everyday until it’s done.
A well thought out sales funnel map can increase your conversion rates
If you’ve spent the time processing your sales funnel at a high level, you’ll end up potentially increasing your funnel’s conversion rates. The reason for this phenomenal bonus is because you created each layer of the sales funnel with intention…
- You started with the end (your online course) in mind, and highlighted the benefits and objections.
- From there, you drafted your email sequence to highlight the benefits and to address the potential objections.
- You identified a lead magnet idea and created it in order to target qualified leads for your end product.
- And you ensured that you created various technical entry points for your lead magnet throughout your website and the web.
Since every aspect of your sales funnel was created with intention, you’ll be able to see where something is broken or in need of improvement and know exactly how to fix it.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully mapped out your first sales funnel for your online course. Doesn’t that feel great to get that done and out of the way?
Don’t you feel like you have a better handle on the journey that your audience will take as you nurture them, build a relationship with them, and get them excited about your products and services?
Now that you’re all done with your sales funnel, it’s time to discuss what happens next…
When your map is complete, you need to take action and turn it into reality.
Except there’s something important to note before you get started. When you mapped out your sales funnel, you started from the end and worked your way backwards from there. But when you turn your sales funnel map into a to-do list, you need to work from the beginning.
Start with the lead magnet and the entry points. Then move onto the emails.
The idea here is that even if you don’t have your online course fully created yet, at least you’ll have a lead magnet and email sequence to capture leads and nurture them while you’re developing your program.
So, go on and get started! You have your work cut out for you, but it will be well worth it when you start generating online course sales on autopilot!
Oh, and if you have questions about sales funnels, drop ‘em in the comments below!
Eden Fried is a full-time blogger and digital marketer. In the beginning of 2016, Eden quit her day job and ditched her law school plans so she could start her blog full-time. Now she spends her days teaching aspiring bloggers how to turn their blogs into businesses without breaking the bank, turning completely gray, or other less-than-desired results. In her off time, Eden can usually be found at the gym throwing around some weights (#crossfit) or snuggled up to a good book (probably Harry Potter).