ClickFunnels' marketing is nothing short of genius.
However, they're often looked down on by "serious marketers".
Still - despite their huge success - I see a lot of people analysing the copy and approach of brands like Clickfunnels. They’ll say it’s…
- Scammy and spammy
- Over the top and outdated
- Is too benefit focused to be believed
9 times out of 10 that feedback is from marketers or founders running small brands struggling to achieve growth.
They’re sat scrounging around for a few bucks while Clickfunnels is pulling in over $100MM in revenue.
ClickFunnels is a seriously impressive brand.
- Yes. Their sales pages don’t fall into the bland, doppelganger design style so many SaaS brands now suffer from.
- Yes. They make huge claims.
- Yes. It can feel a little spammy.
But the system behind their success is a masterclass in effective marketing.
Their sales funnels are built on what is, essentially, a very well constructed Yes Ladder. The more of these studies I do, the more I realise that the Yes Ladder is at the core of a ridiculous number of successful strategies.
Brands that implement great Yes Ladders succeed.
And Clickfunnels is one of the brands that have perfected the Yes Ladder. Or to use the term Russell Brunson popularised for many newer marketers, a sales funnel.
In this piece, you'll learn all about the Sales Funnel / Yes Ladder Russel used to hit $10MM in year one, and over $100MM only a few short years later.
Who are ClickFunnels?
Clickfunnels is a SaaS company founded by Russel Brunson, Todd Dickerson, and Dylan Jones in 2013.
What I love about Clickfunnels is how they were founded not specifically to make money through their service, but to solve the problem of the founders.
Brunson, Dickerson, and Jones wanted a faster way to establish sales funnels for their own businesses. Clickfunnels was the solution they created. But it also became a business on its own.
What is ClickFunnels?
If you’ve somehow not heard about ClickFunnels, here’s a quick rundown.
ClickFunnels is the premium name in the digital sales funnel SaaS space. The basic functionality of their service is to help people set up simple sales funnels that nurture customers from initial engagement through to the sale.
Thanks to various templates and pre-built flows, you can get a sales funnel built out extremely quickly.
Of course, you will need something to sell.
Which means ClickFunnels is particularly popular with the small business and creator crowd along with affiliate marketers who need to run aggressive sales funnels.
The proof is in the pudding. ClickFunnels obviously use their own product to build out their own site and sales funnels.
And if their revenue growth is any indication, their approach works well.
It’s incredible growth. It’s also a testament to the know-how of the founders and the ability of the tool.
ClickFunnels uses the SaaS favourite 3 pricing tier technique.
I’ve covered the 3-tier pricing approach before in our Noom study.
Generally, brands should aim to double the value and 1.5X the price from tier 1 to 2, and use similar multiples again for 2 - 3.
However, ClickFunnels takes a much more radical approach.
The initial jump from tier 1 to 2 is not too far off the general advice. But the jump from 2 to 3 is a huge increase from $297 / month to $2497 / month.
Not far off a 10X increase in cost.
That in itself might seem odd. But I’m willing to bet as I dive into this further there’s a reason related to upsells and ad costs.
Whether or not that turns out to be true, we’ll see. But from other experiences analysing brands like The Agora I know having upsells that are massive increases in AoV seem to work.
What I like about the pricing tiers is how they align with what we discussed in our Freemium Model Growth Study.
In the freemium model you offer just enough value to help your users go from 0-1.
For them to scale past milestone #1, they have to upgrade to paid.
ClickFunnels does something similar. If you look at the features in their $97/mo plan there’s more than enough for you to make more than the $97, or even the $297 of the next plan.
That, of course, is proof and builds trust the product works.
But if you want the “next step” features, you’re going to have to upgrade to the $297 plan.
It’s again a wonderful example of a Yes Ladder. Get people to buy in for a lower threat ask, prove the value, then upsell them.
Let’s see how they actually achieve this through their marketing though.
How ClickFunnels attracts new users
ClickFunnels is the go-to name when it comes to funnel software.
They’ve done an incredible job of building buzz around their product and the results people are achieving with it. You’d be hard pushed to find someone in the marketing world who hasn’t heard about them.
We’re a couple of years behind the curve of their initial traction, but you can easily see what’s helped them climb to the top of a competitive SaaS niche.
And it all starts with their positioning.
If we’re to get super simplistic about the core feature set of ClickFunnels it comes down to…
- Sales pages
- Email nurture sequences
Both of these features have a tonne of highly advanced competition. Without even thinking or searching for potential competitors you’ve got services like…
Landing page builders:
Email service providers:
- Convert Kit
- Active Campaign
All of the above are great services in their own right. And they represent a tiny fraction of the other services in those industries. So why would someone choose ClickFunnels over these (often more affordable) alternatives.
One answer is having both services under one roof. But I think it’s down to their positioning more than anything else.
ClickFunnels vs Landing Page Builders & ESPs
I’ve pulled two of the more popular landing page builders to compare against ClickFunnels, Leadpages and Unbounce.
When you land on the home page for both, both USP’s are a little vague.
Unbounce does refer to the major benefit of converting more leads. But it’s a really generalised and vague promise.
Yes, we all want more leads, but how are you going to help me achieve that?
Leadpages suffers from a similar issue.
Again, I want to turn clicks on my ads into customers.
But what’s the mechanism behind it? It all feels very vague and generic.
The ESPs they’d compete with aren’t much better. Here’s ConvertKit.
To me - as a creator - the biggest need is to earn a living with what I create. If I can’t pay bills, I can no longer create. And for ConvertKit, it’s buried in the description text below the headline.
In this case, the primary benefit is most creator’s mechanism and not what they truly want/need to achieve.
They make more money by connecting with their audience. The connection isn’t the end goal of revenue, but how revenue growth is achieved.
So how could these be improved?
Back when I was solely doing copywriting work I had a very simple 3 point checklist for writing a services USP.
Each USP has to speak to...
- What do you do
- How does it help the customer
- Why should they choose you over the competition
In the above two examples, we know what they do and they allude to how it helps, but there’s nothing to make me want to choose one over the other.
This lack of specificity is often down to a lack of a detailed customer avatar and understanding of their pain points.
ClickFunnels has no such problem.
In my years of marketing, most of the people I’ve spoken to and worked with who love ClickFunnels can be best described as “performance marketers”.
They’re not in this game for branding, design, or any other such soft metric.
They’re focused on revenue.
They want to know that if they put $1 in, they get more than $1 out of their approach.
These performance marketers often rely on two key aspects.
- A simple funnel with sequential, logical steps
- Speed of implementation and experimentation to find what works
They’re aggressive and move quickly.
And from ClickFunnels’ marketing, I’m pretty sure they know this and target their ideal customers.
If you look at their USP, it hits all 3 dimensions needed to appeal to that target demographic.
- What do they do? - Sales funnel software
- How do they help? - Convert more visitors into customers
- Why choose them over anyone else? - Create quickly without the need for a tech team
The simple USP is built specifically for their avatar of aggressive performance-focused marketers.
It highlights the thing their target audience wants to build (funnels) and the speed of doing so. Both of which align with their approach to marketing.
It may seem simple and too similar to the above ESPs and landing page builders, but the minor differentiation and position is so important.
By placing that slight focus on speed and funnels, they’re instantly more attractive to the people who set up multiple funnels for testing.
And just like that, they stand out and attract the right crowd.
Let’s see how that position persists through their marketing.
ClickFunnels’ paid ads strategy
In doing these analyses I get bombarded with retargeting ads from pretty much every brand I’ve looked at.
ClickFunnels’ retargeting is one of the most aggressive I’ve experienced.
I’m seeing ads for their webinars, eBooks, and lead magnets on YouTube, Google Display network, and across social networks.
I’ve been trying to pick out the flow of their ads which hasn’t been easy. They’re running so many different ad sets it’s hard to know what comes where in a funnel.
After clicking around the ads and going through several funnels, I think I’ve managed to crack their approach and it is - like most of the successful approaches I analyse - wonderfully simple.
It seems like there’s two levels of ads they use to drive traffic on social.
- Ads for cold traffic that talk about a generic business problem
- Retargeting ads that talk more about funnels
This makes a lot of sense to me.
One of the most talked about approaches in marketing are the stages of awareness popularised by Eugene Schwartz.
In short, your potential customers will always be somewhere on this scale.
Your job as a marketer is to move them from the unaware stage to the most aware stage. The whole concept of ClickFunnels’ funnels is similar to the concept.
You move people from unaware to aware.
These ads also abode by that same principle.
The cold traffic ads are focused on people at the problem aware stage. Those who aren’t seeing the growth they want.
These ads move people to an asset that introduces the solution - in this case, funnels.
Once people know about the solution, they’re hit with an ad that promotes the product, ClickFunnels, as the best way to set up a funnel.
It’s a simple format which, when laid out, looks like this.
Both ad formats don’t try to push a sale. They’re offering value (which of course then leads into a funnel for the sale).
In addition to the social ads, I’m seeing a lot of ads on Google Display Network which, again, seem to follow the retargeting ad step.
Pro-tip if you’re doing your own analysis of a competitor’s advertising strategy - head to tabloid news sites like The Sun and The Daily Mail.
They often have a lot of advertising blocks on-page and you can get a good luck at the display network ads your competitors are running.
On a single page I was seeing a good 80% of the ad spaces being used by ClickFunnels.
Again, these all appear to be retargeting ads. I wasn’t seeing these before dropping onto the ClickFunnels site.
And I’ve been hit with a lot of video retargeting ads on YouTube as well.
Here’s what I love about all of this though.
None of these ads - cold traffic or retargeting - push people to a sales page to sign up for ClickFunnels.
They direct to one of 3 different assets, all of which build value and, in the majority of cases, get an email address.
- A “free” book
- eBooks are obviously free
- Physical books require a payment of postage only
- A free blog post
- A free funnel building challenge
Once you’re in the funnel for one of these items, the sales funnel begins.
But on a basic level, ClickFunnels’ ads all direct traffic to free content.
They know the value of an email subscriber and do whatever they can to get people onto their list.
If we’re to break down their lead acquisition funnel, it looks something like the below.
How ClickFunnels converts traffic
The ClickFunnel ad strategy is pretty comprehensive and covers cold and warm traffic.
However, it’s once you get to the landing and sales pages I think things really get stepped up a gear.
In short, ClickFunnels never under-produce a sales page.
It’s easy to think that your free eBook offer is a no brainer for your audience. The threat of handing over an email address in return for distilled knowledge is an easy conversion.
At least, it should be.
The fact of the matter is everyone out there is offering a free eBook, cheat sheet, checklist, or “training”.
Getting people excited about yours is no easy feat. And ClickFunnels seem to understand this.
Most people do a simple page where there is no scroll.
The above the fold section is the entire page. You’ll get a basic…
- Image of the lead magnet
- Opt-in box
- A few basic bullets
This makes it hard to get people excited about handing over their email address.
ClickFunnels on the other hand, produce longer form pages for their free offers and build them into complete funnels. Here’s a look at a few.
ClickFunnels’ upsell sequences
Below is one for a free eBook (get the full annotated version in the downloads).
And for their “pay for postage only” physical book, there’s an entire sales page that has a VSL and full sales copy.
You’ll find an annotated version in the downloads, but it’s a 13 page PDF.
ClickFunnels takes zero risks when it comes to lead generation and it shows.
Each of these pages does more to build my trust in the brand and the offer - even though it’s free - than a basic lead generation form ever could.
Here’s where things fall a little into the grey area for me.
If you purchase the book, you’re hit with a number of upsell pages.
I’ve no problem with upsells, they’re a great way to increase revenue. However, it’s very easy in this funnel to click a button which could increase the order value from $15 for shipping, to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
This is the button and “no thank you” text served on these pages.
It’s often quite hard to see the “No thanks” section, and I wonder how many people accidentally click the upsell here.
Here’s a short version of each page in the upsell funnel. You can find the full, annotated pages in the downloads.
After clicking purchase on the free book, you get hit with this page.
That adds a $97 purchase to your cart.
Thankfully, the stark contrast for the blue text makes it somewhat easy to skip this step.
If you skip, you see this page.
You can only just about make out the grey text on the black background below the CTA button.
It’s really hard to see, and if you don’t see it and click the green button, you’ll increase your order value by almost $800.
A huge expense if you were expecting no more than a $15 spend for delivery fees.
That was the end of the funnel that I went through for this purchase.
It feels sequential and is, once again, a great example of a Yes Ladder. At each step ClickFunnels builds a little more trust and asks for a slighter larger buy-in from you.
From the multiple ClickFunnels funnels I’ve been through, they all run on a similar “upsell” sequence after opt-in.
It’s quite simple. You sign up for the item (even if it’s free) and on the confirmation page you’re offered an order bump.
After you complete the checkout, you’re then hit with the upsell page.
And like I said, I have ZERO issues with adding upsells. I just don’t like hiding the “no thanks” link with black hat tricks.
I feel like that’s a great way to waste the time of your staff. The amount of complaints, chargebacks, and refund requests would likely be huge.
Still, I don’t know what the numbers are and have to assume all is good for them.
What’s interesting to note is the cost of the free book’s postage.
For US deliveries ClickFunnels charge $7.95. For international, $14.95.
I did a little searching on the price to mail a book and the general consensus is that, within the US, you’d expect to pay $2.75.
I’m sure that for international shipping they’re not sending from the US. But are printing and sending from various distribution hubs across the globe.
This is all a long way of saying they’re charging more for postage than they’re spending.
And that makes sense because they’re trying to set these books up as a self-liquidating front end offer.
Or in simple terms, the ~$5 extra they make from each book sale is likely what covers their ad costs.
Which is exactly what we should all be aiming for.
This means they’re probably getting new leads on their list for nothing or next to nothing which allows for greater scaling of ad spend.
And with those back end upsells, they’re turning a small percentage of book purchasers into higher AoV customers.
It’s a great way to do this because the idea of getting a physical book for “shipping only” is far more attractive than a simple eBook.
The tangibility of it makes it feel more premium and so fewer people question the cost.
Here’s what I find truly interesting though.
Whether it’s the free eBook funnel, the “postage only” funnel, or another kind of lead magnet - there are ZERO CTAs to sign up for ClickFunnels’ software.
All of the sales pages and CTAs are focused on things like scripts, templates, and books.
It’s once they’ve got your email address that they switch gears and push you towards “webclasses” that are essentially VSLs for their primary service.
And all of this secondary funnel is handled through their email service.
ClickFunnels’ email sequences
For a lot of the funnels you’re quickly asked if you want to take part in a live webclass.
It comes up as a page within the upsell sequence, but you’re also auto-registered and various emails are sent out to you.
I received the below email after signing up for their free eBook. I didn’t ask to be registered, but they send the email anyway.
And so begins funnel number 2. The goal here is to get you into the webclass, which is simply a demo of the product and VSL.
The emails themselves run on a very simple formula.
- Email #1 - Registration confirmation
- Email #2 - Reminder just prior to starting
- Email #3 - Email after the webclass talking about how good it was
- Email #4 - Replay link
- Email #5 - FAQs
- Email #6 - Replay going away (FOMO)
- Email #7 - Written summary of webclass
- Email #8 - Social proof
- Email #9 - Urgency offer
- Email #10 - Last call sequence
You can find the full annotated email list in the downloads.
Here’s a view of the overall funnel.
The webclass / VSL has a link direct to the checkout at the end of the presentation.
If people don’t convert, they’re entered into the email sequence.
Beyond the initial 3 emails (which let you know when it’s live), each email either…
- Redirects back to the presentation (which I assume drives most conversions)
- Directs to the checkout
This email funnel is simply a method to get people who have expressed an interest in the solution to sign up for the paid offer.
It’s creating multiple touchpoints and building value and trust along the way.
You’ll note it’s not just 100% sales.
A lot of the emails direct back to the webclass which provides free value.
One of the things I find really interesting and that I’ve noticed with a lot of the brands in these analyses is the frequency with which they email.
In the last month alone I’ve had conversations with multiple clients and potential clients about email frequency.
99% of the time brands are concerned they’re emailing too often and so reduce their sends to weekly or fortnightly.
And yet, the brands I’ve analysed who do 8-figures+, like ClickFunnels, have no such worry.
They email at least once per day.
Sometimes, they’ll email up to 3-4 times per day.
Daily emails might seem a lot, but when you break down the numbers it really isn’t that bad.
The average email open rate is around 20-25%.
If you have a list of 10,000 people, that means 2000 - 2500 people are opening your emails every day.
Which also means 7500 - 8000 people won’t have seen your message.
Each email isn’t opened by the same 20-25% either. So emailing daily shouldn’t be the worry many people think it is.
Daily emails are what a huge majority of the most successful digital brands on the planet rely on.
You should be running tests with your email frequency to see what works best.
As long as you provide some form of value in each one, your audience won’t mind receiving them.
All of the emails and sales pages lead to a very simple sign up flow.
ClickFunnels sign-up flow
There’s a simple 3-step sign up flow for ClickFunnels that covers.
Step 1 - Email capture (for retargeting if you abandon)
Step 2 - Billing details
Step 3 - Completion (which is also the entry point for another VSL funnel)
Put it together, and it looks like this.
What I’m not keen on here is the hidden additional costs.
I signed up under the impression I’d go onto their $97 / month plan.
But as you can see, I’m auto enrolled to the $297 / month plan which is triple the cost.
I was able to get an exit intent popup to populate which offered the $97 / month plan. But I don’t like how the cost was increased without me explicitly requesting it.
What I do like, however, is the addition of the bump of templates
It hits the two key criteria for an effective bump.
- It improves the value of the main offer by giving people the templates to get more out of their ClickFunnels account with next to no effort.
- The price is right. If you’re about to pay $297 / month (or even $97), a $47 additional cost isn’t a huge ask.
A bump sale is a little different than an upsell.
There is overlap between the two, but from my own experience it comes down to one key difference.
Is the offer a low-cost different product that increases the value of the initial purchase?
If it is, it’s a bump.
For example, the templates above are a different product to a ClickFunnels membership, but they add value by making it easier to get results.
An upsell is there to replace or increase the value of the product.
For example, in ClickFunnels case it might be offering a year’s membership at a discount when someone signs up for a month.
The product is the same, but the order value goes up.
Similarly, it could be upgrading to a different tier of ClickFunnels (Basic > Platinum, Platinum > Two Comma ClubX etc).
In this case, the upsell replaces the initial purchase.
This isn’t a hard science though, and there is a lot of overlap between the two.
The key difference is where to offer a bump and an upsell.
Bumps should be added on the checkout page to add a small $$$ value to their order.
An upsell should come after the purchase is processed.
A bump is a small ask which, if not wanted, doesn’t stop the initial purchase from being made.
As you see in the above ClickFunnels example, the bump has to be explicitly requested.
It doesn’t interfere with the purchase and won’t cause anyone to question whether or not they need the initial purchase.
An upsell is often a much larger ask and requires more of an argument to persuade users,
A small box with a “tick to add” element isn’t enough.
You need a full page explaining why they need to double (or more) their spend.
And often, that page is going to annoy users. Placing it after the initial purchase is made means you’re not going to have people cancel their purchase because of that annoyance.
You’re serving a slightly annoying (but easily skipped) stage that won’t damage sales on the front end, but could increase AoV on a small percentage of those sales.
How ClickFunnels engages new users
The sale is the end of the purchase journey, but the beginning of the customer journey.
If you mess up engaging new users, you risk them quickly churning out of your service because they’re not sure what it is they should be doing.
I’ve written around this topic before with a process I call the “Key ROI Feature Model”.
In short, you have one billing cycle to get your user a better ROI than they’re paying to your brand. If you can’t help them get a positive ROI in that period, they’re going to churn.
And after working with countless brands on this, the best thing I’ve found to achieve this is to…
- Identify the feature / action the majority of users who don’t churn have taken and love
- Create an onboarding sequence that gets new users to take that same action
I’ve seen success with this through email and in-app chat.
One thing I’ve always found to be less effective are the “checklist” widgets on the home dashboard.
Honestly, I was so disappointed when I logged in to ClickFunnels and saw the below.
It’s the typical, almost lazy “do this to get started” checklist.
It puts too much responsibility on the user to…
- Notice the section
- Take the relevant seps
- Complete them
When all they want is to get a result.
I was pretty disappointed with this as I thought ClickFunnels had done everything else so well up to this point.
Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint for long and implemented something I’ve not seen before.
The next time I logged into ClickFunnels I was greeted with this popup.
At a basic level, this is a simple onboarding call to show you the key features that will help you achieve your goal.
But if we’re being honest, how often have you taken a brand up on these kind of demos?
I rarely do.
- I have to book a few days in advance (in which time I can usually figure it out myself).
- I know that at some point the demo is going to go from soft sell to hard sell (and I don’t want to be sold to)
ClickFunnels have circumvented this masterfully by offering an incentive for going to the onboarding Q&A.
That being an extra 30 days for free, which in this case is worth $297.
Of course you can’t just schedule an appointment and get the discount.
You have to…
- Join the onboarding call
- Join the One Funnel Away (OFA) challenge
- Attend the OFA training
Here’s what the flow looks like after clicking on the popup.
You’re first served a basic page that asks you to book a call with a short video of Russell explaining what’s happening.
Book that call and you get another page which is where you book the OFA challenge.
And once you’ve clicked that, you get taken through to another long form sales page for the OFA challenge.
The whole thing is yet another funnel (unsurprisingly).
The process looks like this.
But rather than simply trying to make a sale, the primary goal is to get you on the call that helps you get the most out of ClickFunnels.
Of course, there is a promo within that call.
It’s far more long-winded than throwing up a few messages in chat that direct people to a feature they should activate.
But it’s also far more personal and, I’d imagine, effective at helping people set up ClickFunnels to get the value they need.
Here’s the thing.
Offering a $297 discount for such a time-intensive process seems like madness.
But ClickFunnels have built in a little something to cover the cost.
The OFA challenge costs $100.
So, If I follow these steps I get 30 days free but have to pay $100. Overall, I save $197.
But ClickFunnels also makes $100 per person who takes it.
That covers the cost of the calls for them, but also helps them identify people likely to open their wallets.
One thing any serious marketer will tell you is how it’s easier to get a repeat sale from an existing customer than to attract and convert cold traffic.
By getting someone to pay $100 now, ClickFunnels identifies people who are willing to open their wallets. Which means they can then segment their audience and know who’s going to respond to future promotions well.
What I especially love though is how this is another perfect example of a Yes Ladder.
You’ve already bought into ClickFunnels as a customer, so the big hurdle is out of the way.
They know they need to get you on a call to show you the key features and help you achieve a positive ROI so you’ll stay a paying monthly member.
Rather than just saying “join the OFA challenge to set up a profitable funnel (P.S - It’s only $100)” they’ve built a little funnel that adds value and maks that final $100 sem lik nothing.
Here’s how it breaks down in terms of the questions they’re asking.
- Q1 - Do you want 30 days for free?
- Q2 - Do you want a ClickFunnels pro to show you how to set up your account for maximum rewards at no cost?
- Q3 - Do you want to join a challenge that will help you make money and gives you 30 days free ($100)
All of which leads to you increasing your LTV and perhaps even the ClickFunnels’ plan (so also AoV) you’re on.
These questions are delivered in 2 ways.
You can blitz through them all yourself and take all the steps (except doing the call as you have to book that in advance) in <30 minutes.
If you take the time to follow the steps in order and complete each step (doing the call, then joining the OFA webinar and challenge) this could take a few days to get into the OFA challenge.
Across those days, ClickFunnels is adding value and hyping the product up for your specific needs.
Which means when they ask for that $100, you’re less likely to consider it as a cost but instead look at it as a saving of $197 from your regular monthly fee.
Which builds into the larger yes funnel of getting people to agree to the $297 / month price.
With the onboarding training, users will know how to get the most out of ClickFunnels.
The discounted month 1 (after going through training), means they’re going to be more invested in the product and have more funnels set up.
Those funnels are more likely to be profitable, which means the user won’t blink when the $297 billing cycle comes up.
From a billing perspective, it’s a gradual increase over up to 6 weeks to get them on the full pricing. And it looks like this.
- Day 0 - 14 = $0
- Day 14 - 44 = $100
- Day 44+ = $297 / month
It’s a great way to mitigate the risk and let people see what ClickFunnels can do at low cost.
I’ve never seen an onboarding funnel that helps users get maximum value from the tool organised in this way. And I think it’s genius.
Not only does it build value and trust in ClickFunnels, but the addition of the $100 cost means they’re also adding their own financial buffer for time, resources whilst identifying those who are willing to pay.
This is how it differs to the approaches I often see and have used in the past.
My own “Key ROI Feature” approach looks something like the below.
You basically identify the feature / action that adds the most value to the user and guide them on how to action it through direct messages (in-app chat or emails).
ClickFunnels takes a more personalised approach and gets people on a call to run them through how to do the actions whilst also adding in a small charge which is positioned as a saving.
Yes, these are group calls (likely because 1-2-1s cost too much), but they stil help you understand how to set up the tool for maximum traction.
And thanks to that training, the users are going to be much happier because they’re getting results and earning back more than they’re spending.
Which makes the final step much easier.
How ClickFunnels gets users to refer new customers
The final stage in any growth model is to look at turning your best customers into evangelists and referral partners.
We’ve covered referrals in the past, most notably in the Morning Brew study.
ClickFunnels takes a slightly different approach.
They still focus on turning their current users into affiliates. Which makes sense as the people who know and use the platform daily are those who will be best suited to sell it effectively.
However, while Morning Brew offered rewards that helped strengthen your connection to the brand (branded swag etc), ClickFunnels goes down the tried and true method of financial compensation.
At first glance and comparison, you could easily think ClickFunnels is missing a trick here.
After all, the Morning Brew swag builds a little more brand loyalty.
But you also have to consider the difference in tool and audience.
Morning Brew is aimed at young students who want to differentiate themselves from the stuffy business news the old guard rely on.
Being able to show they’re part of the modern business news movement would appeal to them.
ClickFunnels is aimed at performance marketers who shoot for higher ROI and profits at every opportunity.
A financial incentive is aligned perfectly with their long term goals and needs.
A referral program is only ever going to be as successful as the reward your referrers get for telling a friend.
Yes, a financial reward is going to be received well whatever the offer. However, if you can find what it is your ideal users truly care about, you’ll find uptake and effectiveness of your program much higher.
And that’s why I think ClickFunnels’ program isn’t jus about the financial reward.
Yes, the performance marketers are going to love getting paid for a successful campaign.
But the funnel focused marketers out there are going to get an almost equal level of enjoyment out of crafting a funnel that helps them generate that cash.
They’ll enjoy the strategizing, testing, and improvements of setting up a great campaign.
Let’s take a look at how ClickFunnels promotes the program.
ClickFunnels’ Affiliate Program
As mentioned above, they don’t run this as a referral program but as an affiliate program.
From the navbar within your dashboard you can find a link to the “Affiliates” section of the site.
Clicking on it takes you through to a page that allows you to apply to become an affiliate.
Again, this page is built within ClickFunnels and uses a great template and flow - it's a similar approach to their other sales pages. Traditional good DR copywriting at work.
Now, most affiliate programs simply explain the percentage you’re going to receive.
You can see that in the above on the left hand side.
You get 40% of all sales you generate for ClickFunnels.
Here’s the thing though. It’s just a number.
And I mean that it can make it difficult for you to understand what that number would actually do for you as the referrer.
I love how ClickFunnels has also made the referral numbers “real” on the right hand side of the same page in the above the fold section.
They have the “Dream Car” program.
If you refer a certain number of active users to ClickFunnels, they’ll pay for the lease of a car from the below list.
You’ll note that ClickFunnels cover the…
- Number of referrals you’d need to make to qualify
- The price of the lease you could get with each band
It just adds a level of tangibility to the offer.
Rather than having to work out 40% of the fees, the conversion rate to hit it, traffic, and so on. You’re told “refer this many people and we’ll also pay for this car for you”.
It’s one thing that’s missing from a lot of affiliate programs out there.
It’s often hard to understand how many people you’d need to refer and convert to get to your goal.
And while the car program appears to be a bonus, it makes it seem far more achievable because 100 isn’t a high number.
Getting 100 referrals seems achievable, especially for the performance marketers and funnel lovers of the world.
Once they’ve hooked you in with the bonus offer of getting a car lease included, and you click through to join the program, you’ll notice a little change in the rules.
On the next page you see the below.
It outlines that the 40% commission rate is available to those with an existing base of 40 paying referrals or more.
I’m not surprised by this.
Most brands lead with their biggest benefits and then later on introduce the rules and regulations.
What I do love with their affiliate program is how easy they make it.
The secret to effective affiliate programs
A short while ago I covered the system for an effective affiliate marketing program.
In short, you should…
- Give your affiliates all of the promotional materials they’ll need
- Work with them to create multi-week promotions that go from low-threat offers to a sale
ClickFunnels does a great job of this.
In their affiliate dashboard you’re able to choose what you want to promote. They have everything from low-threat books which are “pay for shipping only”, to high-ticket offers.
You could easily set up a great little funnel that leads people from almost freebies to upsells to multi-thousand dollar programs.
In addition, each of those entries includes multiple assets for you to use in your marketing. From ad creative to swipeable copy.
I know it takes a lot of time to figure these things out and craft the copy and creative for these campaigns.
But it really does help out in terms of the number of affiliates, and thus promotions, you can onboard and get running.
The gap in ClickFunnels’ referral system
ClickFunnels affiliate program has almost everything you’d need.
- All customers have access to the affiliate program ensuring most affiliates have a good knowledge of the product
- Swipeable copy and creative to make setting up campaigns easier
- Training materials on how to run an effective and ethical affiliate campaign
Because you don’t have to be a ClickFunnels user to sign up for the affiliate program, this could also be used as a way to get more users.
ClickFunnels is one of the biggest names in the funnel building space.
There will be affiliate marketers out there who are promoting it but don’t have an account.
If the ClickFunnels team built out funnel templates within their dashboard specifically for their various programs, they could direct affiliates to those funnels to help them set something up in record time.
For existing ClickFunnels users, it would simply be another useful resource that would help them set up a profitable campaign faster.
For affiliates who aren’t ClickFunnels users, it could be yet another method of getting more people to sign up as a user.
It would be great to see a “ClickFunnels Affiliate Funnel - [Product X]” filter option here that has a basic funnel and page template laid out for users.
The full ClickFunnels Growth Model
Let’s pull all of the various sections together to create the complete ClickFunnels’ model and run through everything quickly.
From a high-level, the model looks something like this.
It looks complex, so let’s break it down by stage.
This is the simple ad approach ClickFunnels uses to get in front of cold traffic, and then warm them with retargeting.
- Target people experiencing the problem ClickFunnels solve with problem focused ads
- Retarget site visitors with ads that feature one of ClickFunnel’s solutions
And some more detailed explanations.
- Step 1 - Understand what your ideal audience’s biggest problem is
- Step 2 - Create ads that hint you have the solution for this problem
- Step 3 - Direct to a page with an opt-in
- Step 4 - Track people who visit your site (both those who sign up and those who don’t)
- Step 5 - Serve those who visited the site with ads about the solution, hinting how your product can get them the results they want faster
- Step 6 - Direct to a page with an opt-in for the product
It’s simple, but it hits two major steps of the stages of awareness. You intro the solution to people who have a problem, then intro your product to the people who need the solution.
Traffic and leads need to convert to customers.
ClickFunnels uses, essentially, the same funnel whether they’re trying to convert traffic to leads or leads to customers.
What I love is how they never miss an opportunity to increase AoV or LTV through bumps and upsells.
Here’s what it generally looks like.
Here’s a run down of the steps.
- Step 1 - Create a well written (often long-form) sales page for your product.
- Step 2 - Direct people to a checkout/sign up page where they can enter their details.
- Step 3 - Include a product bump on that page to add a ~$49 product to their cart
- The product bump should add value to the initial lead gen/product offer
- Step 4 - Regardless of whether the bump is taken, hit them with an upsell after the purchase is confirmed
Of course ClickFunnels are also running retargeting ads for this. If anyone exits this at any stage, they’ll get an ad redirecting them back to the sales page.
The silent business killer is churn.
You need your users to get a positive ROI from your tool within the free trial period. If they can’t see themselves earning more money than they’re paying for the service, there is no incentive to stay.
ClickFunnels takes the most involved approach to this I’ve ever seen. And I love it.
They not only help the user get the most out of the tool through group calls, but also incentivise them joining with a money off offer. And yet they still manage to get $100 off the user for this. It’s incredible.
- Step 1 - Add a popup to the dashboard explaining how they can extend their trial, redirect to a sign up (which starts this funnel)
- Step 2 - Get them to book a time for a live call explaining how to get the most out of ClickFunnels.
- Step 3 - Reaffirm the benefit on the thank you page.
- Step 4 - Conduct the call. This call is part instructional video, part VSL for the one funnel away challenge
- Step 5 - Direct call attendees to the sales page for the challenge with a custom link.
- Step 6 - Extend the 14 day trial by 30 days if the user also joins the OFA challenge
ClickFunnels aren’t just helping people understand the tool. They’re getting them to open their wallets and get a recursion on month 1 of the tool by spending $100.
But the way this is done, the customer feels like they’re getting a deal when they’re really paying to better set up the tool they’ve opted in for. Genius.
No growth model is complete without a referral strategy.
ClickFunnels is no different.
What I like about their referral program is it’s obviously developed specifically to appeal to their ideal users.
There’s no relationship building swag or useless assets. The reward is monetary - which fits well with their ideal customer personae of performance marketers. And then they stoke the fires of competition by having multiple tiers of rewards and even a “we’ll pay your car lease” reward.
The system though, is super simple.
- Step 1 - Redirect users of ClickFunnels to the affiliate sales page.
- Step 2 - The sale spage lists the top level commissions and the “lease your car” offer.
- Step 3 - Offer multiple lead magnets and sales pages for multiple products in a custom affiliate dashboard.
- Step 4 - Offer templates for each offer (generally copy and creative)
- Step 5 - Foster competition with tiered rewards and special milestone rewards
This is one of the more simple referral programs we’ve seen. The reason this one works so well is it plays to the intent and personality of ClickFunnels’s users.
These users want sales and, often, to spend cash on luxury items. They’re competitive, and want to be recognised for their wins.
This whole affiliate program plays into all of that, which is great.
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