Why go to the trouble to set up one sale when you can go to the same trouble to set up multiple sales, right? That’s the whole point behind setting up a sales funnel, which is a powerful sales tool that can easily escalate your sales and profits if you do it right.
Providing value, building trust, and recommending the right products are keys to working less and selling more in the long run.
Interested in creating a low-maintenance affiliate marketing funnel that creates compounding results? Keep reading.
What is an affiliate marketing funnel?
The simplest definition of a sales funnel is that it is an automated sequence of offers presented to a prospect to maximize sales.
In affiliate marketing, a funnel is a carefully designed process that helps prospects convert into customers for an affiliate product you promote, as quickly as possible. As a buyer moves through a funnel, the funnel always delivers customized value.
In the buyer’s journey, there are four key stages:
- Awareness – Prospects learn about a problem.
- Consideration – They begin to explore possible solutions.
- Conversion – They decide to buy.
- Loyalty – Positive experiences lead to repeat purchases and trust.
How does an affiliate marketing funnel work?
Before we get to the big picture of building the sales funnel, we think it makes more sense to break it down into its simplest components. Just like a savory recipe is a batch of ingredients pulled together to make a superb meal, we cover the individual ingredients first.
1. Starting with the front end
The front end is what the prospect first sees, and this offering tends to be very enticing, either as a freebie or a low-cost offering. In both cases, the main objective for the marketer is to obtain the prospect’s email, which initiates the entry into the funnel.
The free offer
For example, say you’re an affiliate for gardening products. You, of course, focus on the gardening niche and aim for gardening enthusiasts in your marketing efforts. When you find them, why not offer a free report, for example, titled “Seven Secrets for a Productive Garden”? This free report is provided to them once they provide their email address.
After the prospects provide their email address, they receive the report via email. But more importantly for you, this means they’ve entered the sales funnel, and the prospects then receive a series of offers on gardening.
The free content you provide now introduces the prospect to offers of greater value at a higher price. The free offer (also called “lead magnet”) gets the ball rolling, and collecting this lead means greater profit potential for both the affiliate and the merchant.
The low-cost offer
Free content or “freebies” are desirable and popular lead magnets, but a second approach is to make a low-cost offer, such as “Get the complete beginner’s gardening online video course for only $7,” which has also been used effectively. The rest of the process then follows the one we describe in the preceding section.
Low-cost offers tend to be in the range of $1 to $20, but the most conducive offers tend to be in single digits ($9 or less). Sometimes the low-cost offer can be a much higher amount if the core offers are very pricey, making an offer costing $49 (for example) a relatively small amount if the main offer costs hundreds or thousands of dollars.
2. Moving to the main or core offer
What is your main offer — the content you are known for? For example, in the past I have constructed simple funnels where my online video course based on my book Zero-Cost Marketing was the core offer. The components are simple:
- The front end is a low-cost offer (you can also use a free front-end offer).mIn my case, it was a mini-program titled “How to Get Paid to Do Zero-Cost Marketing.” I lowballed the price to under $5 and gave several strategies whereby you could in fact earn money, and in doing so, also get free marketing out of it as well.
- You provide your core offer, which is more expensive than the front end. When people bought the low-cost offer, I constructed my platform (at the time I used WarriorPlus) to direct them to the next step, which was my core offer — the full online video course for Zero-Cost Marketing, which included over 40 videos on soup-to-nuts strategies and resources for marketing that could potentially reach thousands or millions — even if you had no money for marketing or advertising at all. To sweeten the deal, I also offered the e-book (of the same title) and made the price under $50.
- The final offer (known as the back end) comes after the core offer and is the most expensive offer in the funnel.
- The last offer in my simple funnel was an offer to have a personal, one-on-one consultation with me for only $295 (my price at the time).
Your core offer, if you’re a merchant, can be your main book or an educational program. Perhaps you sell a physical product, so the core offer is the product itself. As an affiliate, you’re earning a percentage of the amount of the sale, and the merchant will let you know how much that percentage is on each offer in the funnel.
3. Continuing with the back-end offer
The back end of a sales funnel is typically a higher-value, higher-cost offering such as an advanced version of your core program or perhaps coaching, consulting, or a monthly membership program.
The back-end offer is the merchant selling the prospect ongoing for the higher-ticket amount, typically via a sales page that features a video and extensive text with numerous testimonials from happy customers who said yes to the expensive offer.
Fortunately, the affiliate can sit back and hope for the best at this stage. Keep in mind that the main task for the affiliate is to get prospects to enter the sales funnel and let the merchant’s efforts finalize or close the sale (or sales) via all the enticing offers presented on the landing pages.
4. Using upsells and downsells
Say that your prospect buys your low-cost front-end offering (or gets your free front-end content) and they are then automatically sent to the core offer landing page — and they decline the offer. What then? This is where upsells and downsells come in.
When prospects consent to the front-end offer, the upsell automatically occurs when your process (performed through the affiliate platform) subsequently sends them to the core offer landing page.
When the prospect declines the core offer (by either clicking on the X or clicking on the provided link that usually states “no thanks”), he is sent to an alternative landing page presenting him with a lower-cost offer, which is the downsell.
The downsell is an offer with a price tag lower than the offer on the page the prospect just came from. Say that your core offer was $59 and the prospect declined it.
This is where the next page to pop up is a downsell where the offer may communicate something like “Was that offer too expensive? No worries! You can get [alternative offer] for 50 percent off!”
How To Build An Affiliate Marketing Funnel
As an affiliate, you can actually build a marketing funnel that converts more prospects and gives you the leverage to ask for higher commissions.
To help you do just that, here is our five-step system.
We will be working backward through these steps to establish a solid foundation for an effective funnel.
Step 1. Choose your offer
In affiliate marketing, a great offer is the cornerstone. In case you don’t have one yet, here are some tips:
- Consider a product you are familiar with. If you already use it and love it, that’s even better.
- Your message must be relevant to your audience. It’s not worth pitching a product if prospects don’t know what it’s about.
- Take a look at online reviews on sites such as G2 and Capterra. You can even check the product’s social media handles to see if it has a good reputation.
- Keep an eye on the conversion rate. You may need to test a private program first. It’s easy to see this with programs on networks like ShareASale, however. While this is a great starting point, you should be aware that network numbers might not apply to your content or audience.
- You can include product images, manufacturer specifications, and information about how the product sells.
- What are the merchant’s strategies for marketing the product to their own subscribers? See how the brand promotes its product by joining its email list. In addition, you don’t want to send your audience to a site that doesn’t respect their inbox.
Step 2. Create a bridge page
There are times when you find the perfect deal, but the sales page looks like something from a 1990s flick, or the copy is just plain bad.
It is at this point that a bridge page really comes in handy.
You have the opportunity to stand out from the rest of the affiliate army by creating a bridge page, even if you have a stellar sales page for the product.
Many affiliate marketers include a video introducing themselves, sharing a review or testimonial, a call to action, and sometimes a free gift.
Another great way to layer social proof is to get testimonials from your affiliates if it’s your own product.
Bridge pages can be created using landing page builders like Clickfunnels or Leadpages. But if you use WordPress, Elementor will make creating a stunning landing page easier.
Step 3. Create your opt-in and email automation
Automation is one of the best features of an affiliate marketing funnel.
In addition to your opt-in form, you set up an email campaign to guide the leads to eventually buy your affiliate product.
So, you’ll do the work upfront then continually earn affiliate income afterward, even if you’re not actively promoting a product.
For example, if you run a food and cooking website, you might start with an optin for your best Instant Pot recipes.
Then, you create an email series using your preferred email service provider that guides new subscribers through:
- Recipes for the Instant Pot you love.
- Common ingredients you need to recreate them
- Use of an Instant Pot (highlighting issues with similar recipes made on a stove)
- Your Instant Pot affiliate product pitch and why it’s the best (what you use as your model)
- Discounts or other FOMO strategies
- So on and so forth
Adding upsells and downsells here can bring in even more revenue, and they can also capture otherwise lost sales.
Step 4. Create a landing page and thank you pages
You must get people into your series once you have set up an opt-in and an email series.
An opt-in landing page is required for this. Here’s one to look at.
An opt-in landing page should:
- Your freebie should make a bold and relevant promise. What will it help them achieve? That should be your opt-in page’s introduction. To reduce confusion associated with customer retention, this opt-in is intended.
- Despite wanting to list features down the page – especially for advanced audiences – you should describe relatable benefits above the fold.
- Use clear and visible calls to action. Avoid using colors for your call-to-action (such as the signup button) that are prominent throughout your site. Choose something that stands out.
- Include social proof whenever possible. Those are testimonials, recommendations, or simply the number of people who have already subscribed.
- Describe some of its unique features. Some of these features may be your favorites, while others might address common concerns before purchasing.
After you create an optimized landing page, you can create a thank you page to connect with new subscribers.
You can use this opportunity to showcase your personality, remind them to whitelist your emails, and explain what they need to do next.
Step 5. Drive traffic to your landing page
The final step involves pouring leads into your affiliate funnel, just like you pour water through a funnel.
1. Paid ads
Affiliates typically think of ads as a way to drive traffic directly to the affiliate sales page, or a bridge page.
There is, however, a better way. Instead of driving them to a pay-per-click page, why not send them to a free lead generation page. Your offer should get them on your list, so they can be sold to over and over again.
2. Social media marketing
Sharing your free offer on social media is another popular way to drive traffic to it.
SEO is the process of optimizing your website content so that it appears in search results. By targeting buyer intent keywords, you can create blog posts that guide your readers through the buyer’s cycle.
Learn more about the best traffic sources for affiliate marketing.
Monitor and optimize your affiliate sales funnel
Affiliate marketing funnels aren’t difficult to create. Choose the right offer, create relevant opt-ins and bridge pages, set up email automation, and set up landing pages that you can drive traffic to. It doesn’t stop there, though, if you want the most out of it.
Affiliate marketers who are the most successful track and monitor their processes to see where they can improve.