Sales funnels – is it just me or is there a lot of talk about sales funnels going around?
The term seems like it’s simple enough – you lead people down through your sales funnels to the sale. And in a way, it can be that simple.
Let’s see how it might apply to your freelance writing business. First let’s look at a definition.
What, exactly, are sales funnels?
Simply put, sales funnels are the process or steps you take to find potential customers, educate them about what you do, offer your services, and close the deal. The advantage of creating this process is that once you’ve got it working, it’s repeatable without much trouble.
Most of the hype around these funnels is aimed at products, and we writers are in a perfect position to create information products for sale. But a sales funnel can also work on marketing your writing services, and that’s today’s focus. I’ll talk about using a sales funnel for an info product you create in another article.
Although there are lots of ways to build sales funnels, I like this five step process.
Step 1 – Locate potential customers
In my mind this is the biggie. Here’s an approach that has worked for me:
When I want to market my ghostwriting services, for example, I first decide who might want it and has the money to pay for it. Say, for instance, I want to find a sales person who has a wow of a story to tell. I’d start by googling something like ‘top sales people.’ I might find some lists of people there or not. I might find some forums where I could post, or some websites that might let me write an article and include a link to my new (see below) opt in page.
The people you’re looking for might be middle management in a particular industry, or retirees who want to tell their story. You get the idea, define who you want then go out and find nests of them.
Step 2 – Your lead magnet
Once you have defined and located your potential customers, you need to create what’s known as a lead magnet. The purpose of a lead magnet is to get an email address from your potential customers. The easiest way to do this is to offer something of value at no cost to them.
As a writer, the easiest thing to do is offer something you write – this also acts as a sample. Warning: it’s really easy to get hung up here. You want to keep it simple and quick – something you can generate in an hour or two. Suggestions might include “The Top 3 Marketing Ideas for (Industry)” or “Seven Websites About (Industry) You Don’t Want to Miss.” Something tempting, of some value, and easy for you to produce. Ideally it will relate also to the kind of writing you’re offering. And yes, you could list your top articles in that or an allied industry. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
You use this as bait for for the people you located in Step 1. You set up an opt-in page and set it to deliver your free offer once they sign in. Please, include their phone number along with the email and name. If your sqeamish about this, make it optional and make it clear it’s optional.
You’ll need to automate the delivery of whatever report, ebook, podcast, video you’ve offered. Yes, you’re using email marketing. If you don’t have an email autoresponder, start with Mail Chimp; it’s free for the first 2000 or so contacts. Make sure you understand how they count so you’re not surprised down the road. Or use my favorite, Get Response, which is offers complete marketing and is free for the first 30 days. (Yes, the link to Get Response is an affiliate link which means I’ll get paid a small percentage if you buy their product – which BTW I love. They offer all sorts of marketing tools that will make your life easier.)
Step 3 – You also need a follow up sales sequence
Your follow up or follow through sequence is several emails, each with a link to your sales page (see Step 4), something like this:
Day 2 (a day or two after you’ve delivered your lead magnet product) – a thank you email that also tells them what kinds of services you’re offering. It’s a good idea to include a helpful tip of some sort. Link to your sales page.
Day 3 (two or three days later) – introduce yourself, thank them for subscribing to your series and talk about your pricing – your approach. If you always work from a proposal say that, or if you prefer flat fees to hourly, tell them why. You may or may not want to mention a specific price. Lead or end with another tip or a link to a useful website, etc. Link to your sales page.
Day 4 (two or three days later) – spell out what information you need from them to make a specific proposal. If you haven’t gotten their phone number before, ask for it now so you can call if you need to clarify any issues. Great place to include some testimonials. Include another tip or resource. Link to your sales page.
Day 5 (two or three days later) – this is where you push to set an appointment with them. If you don’t have a number to call ask them to call you – in fact I often say something like ‘expect a call from me by the end of the week or the beginning of the next week – or you can call me at [number]. This way when I call I can ask for them by name and tell the gate keeper they are expecting my call. Again include a tip and/or tell a story about a someone who was successful because of your services. Link to your sales page.
These are just some ideas off the top of my head to give you a feel for how it can work. Feel free to mix, match and generate your own.
Step 4 – Your sales page
Your sales page is critical. Since you’re offering a service that isn’t easily defined, your goal, in most cases, is to land an appointment for a conversation.
Imagine why a potential customer might call you. Obviously they want some writing done. Write your sales page showing how you can solve their problem. More importantly, figure out what they are trying to accomplish with it. Talk not about the piece but about the sales, or fame, or acknowledgement of authority they will get. Sell the result, the cure for their pain if you will.
Step 5 – Launch and track
Once you’ve got all these elements in place, and it may take you a week or two or more to actually assemble your first sales funnels – you will get faster – launch it. Let social media and any mailing list you’ve already got know about it.
Now track everything you can think of – day and date launched, even the time of day. Note how many people you either know or suspect had a chance to see your initial lead magnet. Log in the number of hits, downloads, etc. day-by-day. You want to count delivered, clicks, click throughs, number of phone numbers, number of requests for calls, the number of calls you made and how many sales you actually closed. You’re looking for requests for phone calls in the neighborhood of five percent or more. It it’s close, great. Rinse and repeat. If not, look at each element and improve one only at a time – if you change more than one you won’t know which caused what to happen.
This type of series seems to be best when it runs for 5 to 17 days, or so say some experts. I don’t know how true those actual numbers are. Follow your intuition.
Will a sales funnel work for you? It’s likely to if you work it. It can be a lot of work to set up the first one – it will get easier. On the other hand, making sales funnels work means you’ve gone a long way toward automating your marketing – way better than cold calls.
Let us know what happened.
Write well and often,