It all started in a Facebook Group. It was one I frequent where female entrepreneurs gather asking for marketing and sales advice. There was an early-stage business owner  and they were wanting to know, “How do I get a sales funnel?”

I’m sure you’ve seen this type of post before if you’re in the online entrepreneurship space. The digital marketing world is saturated with claims of “we’ll build your funnel for you,” “how to build your own marketing and sales funnel,” and “what to include in your sales funnel,” that it’s easy to feel like you can’t even build a successful business without it.

Why is that? Why, for so many folks, is a sales funnel the end all be all? The magic bullet that all our businesses hinge upon? For one, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a lot of people who are making money on that idea. People who have even tried to sell me a funnel for several thousands of dollars.

But it’s not just that. When you’re a business owner, it would be awesome, tempting even, if there were a Holy Grail– something that once I have it my business will fall into place.  When people are depending on us, we need consistent and predictable income. And there’s some folks who aren’t willing to put in the time to build a business/brand and want a plug and play quick fix.

Building a sustainable and thriving business that you love is vulnerable, it’s hard, and it takes a lot of energy. It’s not always about a quick fix but having some sort of “guarantee” that the long hours and sweat you’re pouring into the thing you’re creating will bear fruit. The truth is, sales funnels aren’t for someone who’s in their early stages. They require a big audience and they won’t work. You, as an early stage person, can and should do something much simpler.

When you’re building an audience, you do not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your sales funnel.

Before you do anything, you need to have an understanding of:

  • the problem you solve for people
  • the ideal audience who were trying to reach
  • what people will feel, experience, and be able to do after they work with you

These are all different aspects that coaches, copywriters, and branding specialists can figure out with you. These options are worthwhile investments, but you can also figure this out on your own. If you work through these, you’re going to know who you’re targeting with your website copy or your content. As a consequence, you’ll make sales.  

This is what an early-stage marketing funnel should look like:

  • How are people landing on my website?
  • How can I get people to stick around and join my email list?
  • How do I continue the conversation and build trust?
  • From there, how will they know how to invest in my services?

Honestly, that’s it. What people are actually selling you when they talk about building sales funnels are a bunch of technically intense things like tripwires, landing pages, and evergreen webinars. Entrepreneurs are in such a rush to automate and systematize that they haven’t even fully validating if their copy is truly connecting with people in a way that the person wants to work with them.

Another consideration to the sales funnel conversation that some of these folks neglect to mention is the necessity of substantial traffic to your website. You won’t know what’s working and what’s not if you don’t have a reasonable sample size to test. And if you’re just starting out, driving traffic to your website is a long-term strategy.

Investing as an Early Stage Entrepreneur

If you’re going to spend money on investments for your early stage business, I would suggest ensuring that your messaging is on point. Any sort of tech that you are going to try to invest in is potentially a waste of effort and money if the messaging isn’t there.

From there, I would invest in improving your own copywriting skills and on your visual brand. Every business owner needs to know how to write stellar copy. Even if you plan on outsourcing this later, you still need to be able to communicate your needs to who you are bringing on. Copy pervades everything: email, landing pages, your website, social media, and it’s an essential skill to have. Even if at some point you do invest in a sales funnel, making sure that the content that accompanies the tech is an absolute must.

I mentioned the visual brand as well because you need to think through how you’re going to represent yourself visually. Your brand should reflect how you’re trying to show up online and in your community. Without this, you’ll have trouble being consistent with your marketing and content.  This doesn’t mean that you need to spend thousands on a brand designer, but it does take time to refine.

Can Your Content Be Your Sales Funnel?

I actually do use a funnel when I develop content for my clients, but not in the way you may think. Content takes someone on a journey. It entertains, educates, and inspires them. You can show your ideal clients what’s possible through your work together. People who are on your website or social profiles are at a certain point in their own journey. They frustrated, overwhelmed, and know that they need to do something. Maybe they’re even in crisis.

Your content should use emotionally powerful language and empathize with people at this point in their journey while also giving them something tangible to learn and put into practice to show that it’s possible to get to a better place, one they can be excited about.

From there, your content doesn’t have to be overly self-promotional or salesy. It should connect people from where they’re at now to the person they can be. Your content should help them shift their thinking so they truly believe they’re able to achieve the result they’re wanting. Content gives people empathy and hope.

The truth about sales funnels is that they’re not the magic bullet we may want them to be. You can have effective marketing and sales without fancy tech tools as long as you’re intentional about how you connect and communicate to your ideal audience.

If you're looking to tailor your content to your ideal audience's journey, click on the image for the resource I use to make content emotionally engaging.

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