Most sales funnel examples are incredibly complex. Sales funnel experts call their own funnels “easy and fast to build.” But still they spend 4-6 months building one for themselves. Most of them don’t even do it alone; they hire two or three companies to help with the workload.
I always aim to get the first version of a funnel ready quickly. But even the fastest-to-build funnels I build with clients take a couple dozen hours to finish. And as with all normal sales funnels, you need to get them ready to get results.
The autoresponder sales funnel example we look at here is different. An “autoresponder” is a series of automated emails people get when they join your email list. You don’t need to write all the emails at once. As soon as you have one ready, you can set it up and get some results. Sure, you won’t get much out of a single email—unless you’re an amazing copywriter. But this makes it far easier to build a sales funnel while you’re busy with other work. When you have time to write another email, you add it to your autoresponder funnel. And sooner or later you’re ready.
Another unusual benefit is that it’s especially good for selling complicated, customized, and/or expensive things. You get people to apply for a sales call. Most sales funnels can do that with some modification. But they’re aimed for (and therefor better for) automated sales.
If people already join your email list, this is the easiest sales funnel I can think of. There’s another funnel that might be even faster to finish. I’ll go through that another time (click here to get updates). But even that one is more difficult to build—and it won’t work until it’s 100% done.
If you want to generate sales with your email list, this sales funnel example might be your best option.
If you just want to download the autoresponder sales funnel examples, click here.
The examples are:
- B-to-B service company targeting small and mid-size companies
- B-to-C product manufacturer targeting middle-class men
The main 3 problems of normal sales funnels
Just about all sales funnels share these problems. No matter how “easy” the salespeople call them, you’ll run into these issues.
You need to solve the problems (or use the autoresponder funnel to avoid them).
1. Most sales funnels are damn hard to build
Experts call their own funnels “easy to build.” Never mind there are six videos, two webinars, a live stream, 70+ emails, 20+ landing pages, 50+ advertisement variations, and automated segmentation that customizes the content based on people’s birthday, favorite color, and shoe size.
None of that is especially difficult… if you’re an expert. You already know how to setup the segmentation. How to get the video lighting and white balance right. How to send different emails to people based on how far into a video they got. And how to estimate their shoe size based on their mouse movements on a sales page.
But are you a sales funnel expert? Have you built dozens or hundreds of funnels?
Even a funnel without complicated parts has a lot to do.
For most business owners anything that takes a lot of time is hard. Really. Damn. Hard.
Lack of time is the world’s most common problem. Try to build an “easy” funnel that takes 250 hours to finish… You might as well aim to become the principal violinist in Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Do you have time for that?
I could list some relatively easy sales funnel examples from my clients. But even the fastest-to-build funnels took at least a couple dozen hours to finish. Most of my clients get their first funnel ready in 30-50 hours. That’s a lot more manageable than usual funnels. But even though we avoid the most complex things, there’s still plenty to do. They can easily have dozens of questions about the details. If I didn’t hear those questions all the time, maybe I’d start to think it’s all “easy for anyone,” too.
There are as many unfinished funnels in people’s hard drives as there are unused gym membership cards in their wallets. It’s one thing to start building a masterpiece of a funnel. It’s another to get it all done—and get it all done right, so it actually works.
2. A sales funnel that’s 99% done—or only 99% good—doesn’t work
A typical sales funnel has no purpose before it’s ready.
Until you get the last piece in place, you haven’t achieved anything. It’s not like a marathon; there you get bragging rights for managing to run 40km (24.9 miles) out of the 42,2km. No one needs to know you then collapsed and deliriously screamed, “Mommyyyyy!” while wetting yourself and got rushed to the hospital. With a funnel you either get it ready, so it generates sales—or you don’t.
You might think that the videos you’ll make for a funnel are valuable on their own. But you can’t really use them alone. They reference the other videos, mention an upcoming webinar, or something else. So, unless you publish them all, publishing any of them doesn’t make sense. The autoresponder funnel is the only sales funnel example I can think of where you can use (almost) every piece individually.
Another issue in most funnels is that each piece has a crucial task. And if one fails, one crucial task is left undone. Since each of those tasks is more-or-less necessary to make sales, any small mistake can break the entire funnel.
The more complex a funnel is, the more important it is to get everything right immediately. Improving them is incredibly difficult, so you either get the details right from the get go, or you’re screwed. Just finding the problem is often very difficult—even for experts. And changing things can take so much time, it’s not worth the effort.
The simpler the funnel, the more flexible it is. The autoresponder sales funnel is the most forgiving funnel I could create. It’s easy to modify and improve. We’ll get to that later.
3. Most sales funnels are as flexible as train tracks
That means a few things:
- They’re meant for one kind of a situation (usually automated sales of information products or simple commodities). It’s possible to modify them, so they work for you. But that takes expertise. Change the wrong thing, and you just break the funnel.
- Every part of them is hopelessly reliant on every other part. Ever wonder why the experts re-do their entire funnels, instead of improving the weak links? If one video, for example, doesn’t work, all videos need to change. And if you change the videos, you need to change the emails, landing pages, and sales pages, too. That’s why improving a complex funnel is so time consuming. First, it’s tough even for experts to find the weak links. There are countless moving pieces connected to other moving pieces. Second, if you think you found a weak link, testing it is difficult or impossible without changing many other things, too (which makes the results unreliable).
- They don’t allow you to change the offer you make. Need to change the service’s details, have a new version of the product, or want to increase your prices? Re-do the funnel. In rare cases you can change just a few things (usually a video, sales page, and a few emails). But even that’s an exception—and it still easily takes 20+ hours.
What makes the autoresponder funnel an unusual sales funnel example
It’s definitely not the fanciest or most advanced funnel. But it’s an unusual sales funnel for a few reasons:
- It’s ideal if you need to have a sales call before people buy. It’s fine for automated sales, too. But unlike other funnels, the autoresponder sales funnel is even better for selling complex, customizable, or expensive offers that require talking with prospects.
- It doesn’t need to be 100% ready (or even 15% ready) to work. As soon as you get the first email written, you can set it up and see results. When you get the next email written, add it to the autoresponder sequence and get a little more results. Add more emails when you can, and see more results.
- It takes far less time to get ready than usual funnels. You’ll struggle to find an example of a sales funnel that would take less time to finish. There are no videos, complex segmentation, or webinars that would take lots of time to prepare.
- It’s easy to change and improve. You can change every email separately. For example, if one email doesn’t perform well, you can test a different version or replace it without worrying about other emails.
- It tells you what blog content you should create—if you want to. You don’t need a blog to use the autoresponder sales funnel. But if you have a blog, there’s a natural connection. While planning the autoresponder funnel, you also get to know what blog content would generate sales.
How the autoresponder sales funnel works
The autoresponder funnel is based on the same principles as all effective funnels. But in many ways, it doesn’t look or feel like a funnel.
In simple terms, it’s about 10 emails that mainly answer your potential customers’ questions.
But there’s no point in just answering their questions.
Your marketing should never just answer questions. That’s what Wikipedia is for.
Like all effective marketing, you need to make people see why they’d want to buy what you sell. Doing that while answering their questions isn’t incredibly complicated. But most people haven’t done it. And they don’t know how to do it without sounding awkward or pushy.
The key is picking the right questions. That makes the autoresponder sales funnel work—or not. If the questions don’t do everything they’re supposed to, you need to compensate with amazing copywriting. But if you’re that good of a copywriter, you can pick the right questions in your sleep (or even while still passed out after the unfortunate marathon).
Here’s what the questions (and answers) need to achieve:
- Make people interested in the email and answer.
- Make people trust you.
- Make people see the benefits they’ll get if they buy from you.
- Make people see the downside of not taking action (=not buying what you sell).
- Make people believe your offer is the best option for them (so they don’t buy from your competitors).
Here’s the main point: the questions and answers need to do all that before you mention what you sell.
If you talk about your offer too early, you come off sales-y. That’s even more detrimental in an autoresponder funnel than in usual sales funnels. People will stop reading your emails as soon as they feel like you’re being pushy. They might not unsubscribe, but they won’t read anything either.
How to make people want what you sell before you even mention the offer is worth its own article. And I might write it—it’s one of the topics people most often ask me about (click here to hear about new articles about smarter marketing).
But what makes the autoresponder funnel truly easy is that the questions set you up for success. You don’t need to think about how to use hidden calls to action, how to differentiate your offer (without talking about it), or how to make people see all the negative consequences of not taking action (without being aggressive or pushy about it).
The types of emails in your autoresponder sales funnel
80% of the emails in the easy autoresponder sales funnel fall into these categories:
- Answers to “early-stage” questions
- Answers to “late-stage” questions
- Case studies
Early-stage questions are usually about the problems your products or services solve—but not about the specific kind of solution you offer. For example, “How to avoid back pains if you work on a computer all day?” (I’m correcting my posture as I write that… and again while reading through this before hitting “publish.”) They’re the questions potential customers ask when they’re in the early stages of looking for solutions to their problems. While answering these questions, you need to make them see why the benefits they could get from you are valuable.
Late-stage questions are mostly about the solutions you (or your competitors) offer. For example, “What are the differences between standing desks?” or “Which type of yoga is best for alleviating back pains?” These are the questions they ask when they’re starting to think about buying something. While answering these questions, you need to make them see why the things that differentiate you from your competitors are important. So, when you offer them your product or service, they can immediately understand why it’s not the same thing your competitors sell.
Case studies are stories of your customers. But please don’t do the usual case studies. They’re generic. They sound scripted (even if they aren’t scripted). And they don’t work well. Your clients might tell how a case study convinced them to buy. But just because a few people bought doesn’t mean countless others could’ve but didn’t buy. The best case studies make potential customers see themselves going from where they are now to where they want to get to. They don’t just see someone else getting the results. They see how their problems can be solved, how they can reach their goals, and how they can take the first step right now.
The last 20% are the emails where you ask them to take a clear step toward buying. It can be reading a sales page. But it’s just as often a call with you (or one of your sales people). Of course, if you just tell them buy something or call you to talk about buying something, you can’t seriously expect to make sales. You need to setup the offer so it feels helpful—just like all the other emails they get from you.
The autoresponder funnel is one of the only sales funnel examples that work just as well—if not better—for selling complex products and services that require talking with prospects before they buy. That’s because it sets you up as an expert they expect to get good answers from. They can’t see you as just another company trying to sell them something.