How to Build a 5-Part Sales Funnel for Bloggers (With Examples)

sales Jun 19, 2019

Want to sell stuff with your blog? Building an effective sales funnel is key. In this tutorial, we'll share how to build a 5-part sales funnel for bloggers (with examples).

Blogs are a powerful tool that can establish trust with your audience, drive traffic, and sell your products and services.

Is your blog living up to its full potential?

I'm guessing, probably not.

A lot more goes into an effective blogging strategy than meets the eye. And as you've probably figured out by now, writing and publishing your blog posts is only half the battle.

You need the right strategy, not only to attract a readership, but also to turn those readers into customers.

Salesforce argues that a whopping 79% of marketing leads are never converted to sales. This is likely because 68% of businesses don’t have any clear sales funnel.

We don't know the exact stats for blogs, but it's likely WAY more dismal than that.

So if you’re tired of pumping out blog posts without seeing results, it’s time to change your strategy.

One such winning strategy, as you might have guessed, is a blog sales funnel.

What Exactly is a Blog Sales Funnel?

In the marketing world, the term “sales funnel” is tossed around so frequently that it sometimes sounds like nothing more than a trendy buzzword. In reality, it’s at the heart of authentic, impactful marketing.

Visualize a sales funnel like an actual funnel. (You know, the kind you use in the kitchen.)

The top of the funnel is where you gather an audience.

Then as the funnel gets tighter, your audience becomes interested in what you have to offer (middle of the funnel).

Eventually, they are “converted” into customers (bottom of the funnel).

That's the simplified version. In the blogging world, there are actually 5 key stages you need to get blog readers to go through in order to reach the bottom of the funnel.

The 5 stages are:

  1. Reader
  2. Subscriber
  3. Buyer
  4. Enjoyer
  5. Referrer

Don't worry– we’ll break down each stage so you know exactly how to implement it on your own blog.

Oh, by the way: the right sales funnel can be completely automated, essentially creating a passive selling machine that works for your online strategy. So it's particularly great for bloggers who want to make money without trading dollars for hours.

But real quick before we get into all that, let's briefly cover why having a sales funnel is important for your blog...

Why Do You Need a Sales Funnel For Your Blog?

While you can learn more about the role of marketing when starting your business in How to Start a Business: A Complete Playbook, it’s important to take a closer look at the inner workings of sales funnels.

When your customers interact with your business, they’re on a journey. This journey starts with them learning about your business (awareness), and ends with them referring other users to your business

That’s right– you might be surprised that, in our 5 stages of the blog sales funnel, the funnel doesn’t actually end when users make a purchase.

If our only goal was to get one-time users to make a one-time purchase, we’d all be out of business really quickly.

If you want to create real relationships and value, you need to focus on long-term customer relationships.

What would you rather have for your business: a one-time customer who never interacts with your business again, or a raving fan excited to share their positive experience with others?

I'm guessing you want the latter, right?

When people first visit your blog, they’re just learning about you. They aren’t ready to buy anything yet. In fact, 96% of first-time visitors to your website aren’t ready or willing to make a purchase.

However, if you nurture your relationship with these users with a sales funnel that follows their journey as a customer, you can end up with an authentic relationship that lands you a sale, and referrals.

Even if the above logic doesn’t have you convinced, a sales funnel saves you time and money.

Because you can automate your sales funnel through an email autoresponder sequence, for example, you don’t have to spend time nurturing your relationship with every individual blog reader. It’s automated, affordable, and gives you more time to focus on the parts of your business that matter to you.

So: are you ready to build a sales funnel for your blog?

Great! Let’s get right down to it.

Stage 1: Reader

As we mentioned before, 96% of first-time visitors aren’t looking to make a purchase. However, you still want to make a positive first impression and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

When you’re in this first stage, you need to make some assumptions:

  • Your audience doesn’t know very much about you or your brand.
  • Your audience doesn’t trust you.
  • Your audience is experiencing some sort of pain or need.

You want to turn these people into avid readers of your blog.

To start, your audience might just be seeing your content for the first time. It’s safer to assume this is their first time on your website, so you’ll want to wow them with something useful and informative.

In addition, it’s safe to assume they don’t trust you. Think about your own experience on a new business website. You need some coaxing and proof before you can trust 100% of what a blogger says.

Finally, your audience has a pain point. This is what drove them to your website in the first place. They have a question they need answered or a problem they need solved.

This is where you come in. This is how you establish yourself as an authority.

The type of content you create will depend on your business type. For instance, you might provide information about a niche topic or even a source of entertainment.

Let’s look at an example. Jordan Roper of Creative Revolt sells online courses on how to start making money as a freelancer. For those of her audience in the "Reader" stage, she wrote a highly informative blog post on how to start freelance writing with no experience or degree.

In her article, she shares examples as well as her own experience starting without any formal degree or education in writing.

Throughout the post, users learn a lot about who Jordan is, and it’s clear she really knows her stuff when it comes to making money online. This makes first-time visitors interested in learning more.

Stage 2: Subscriber

Now that you have your visitors interested and reading your blog posts, it’s time to convert them into subscribers.

This means that they take an extra step to engage with your content. In our case, we’re going to have them sign up for your email list.

Why use an email list? Email marketing is a powerful tool when done correctly. Email has a 2-times greater ROI than telephone marketing, so it’s time to get in on this while it’s still hot. Even more important, email marketing is easy to automate so you can strike when your leads are ready to buy.

Here’s the thing: people aren’t going to just sign up for your email list because they read a good blog post. Something needs to be in it for them to make them take that extra step.

People are hesitant to give their email out to just anyone. You need to throw in something high value that interests them. This is called a lead magnet. Basically, it’s something that attracts a casual visor to turn them into someone who is actively engaging with your brand. 

A lead magnet can be anything. Ebooks, webinars, and even free courses are all great ideas for lead magnets. If you sell products online, a discount is also a great idea.

Using the Creative Revolt example above, we can see that Jordan encourages users who want to learn more to sign up for her free email course.

Stage 3: Buyer

You’ve done it! You’ve converted a casual reader into a subscriber. But don't get too excited just yet– this next step is an important one. What you do next will make the difference between someone making a purchase and someone unsubscribing immediately.

Think about how swamped your email can be sometimes. The average email user gets over 147 emails a day, 71 of which are deleted immediately. 

What you say matters. After you deliver your lead magnet, it’s time to build a relationship with your subscriber.

Don’t jump right into your hard sell right off the bat. Add value. You might offer a discount, another freebie, or something that solves your subscriber's pain point. But you do want to get them to become a buyer, even if they only buy a small product.

Think of this as an opportunity to prime them for future selling. If you shared a free online course as your lead magnet, your initial offering might be a paid course with a discount code. See how it naturally all ties together?

This isn’t necessarily the place you’ll be making the big bucks. In general, your customers still aren’t ready to make a major purchase.

Slow and steady wins the race, remember? It’s in the follow-up stages that your audience really trusts you.

Below, see how Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents uses her blog sales funnel to offer special deals to her engaged users. By offering a lower cost for these special users, she helps introduce them to her products and services and keep them engaged in her business.

Stage 4: Enjoyer

Your blog sales funnel doesn’t end when you’ve made a sale. Your first sale isn’t likely to be your largest, and that means you’ll want to pursue a longer, more genuine relationship with your email subscribers.

Let’s face it; most of your most expensive products and services likely only appeal to existing customers. How else would those customers trust you as a quality investment?

Invesp argues it costs up to 5-times more to sell to new customers compared to retaining an existing one.

This means it’s much gentler sailing from this point onwards! The goal is to increase your overall lifetime value of every customer, thus increasing overall profits.

After your customer has made an initial purchase, it’s time to keep them loyal. How can you keep them coming back and engaging with your products? How can you keep them making additional purchases?

Well, you want to turn them into "enjoyers".

First, include them in your best content. Share customer stories, testimonials, and add additional value. Give them a reason to consider buying something else, and keep nurturing your relationship.

This is when segmenting comes in handy. When you segment your customers, you separate them by interest. For instance, if a customer purchased a book on DIY home repair, you wouldn’t want to send them an email about marketing your blog.

The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to make them happy.

Alien Valley, an online design resource blog, frequently sends existing customers their latest design bundles. These usually come with a steep discount, so they’re an exciting way to bring customers who might have forgotten about Alien Valley back into the loop and ready to make a purchase.

Stage 5: Referrer

We’ve done it. We’ve finally reached the last stage of the funnel. Now, you’ve not only landed a customer, but you’ve landed a repeat customer. This is what all businesses strive for, so this is an exciting place to be in your sales funnel.

As we said, in the past, many sales funnels ended once a customer made an initial sale. But if you really want to make the most of your blog, you shouldn't stop there.

We want to create customers who are so passionate about our business that they essentially do our work for us. We’re talking about turning "enjoyers" into "referrers"– people who just can't wait to share our blog and our products with everyone they know.

People trust other people. It’s as plain and simple as that. Think about this concept in your own life. Are you more likely to purchase something that a salesperson told you about, or that your friend told you about? There’s no competition between the two.

So how do you get people to refer others, both in-person and online? You have a few different ways to go about this:

  • Encourage users to engage on social media - Offering a discount or some kind of incentive to share something on social media often works. Over 50% of users are more likely to give a referral if they’re offered an incentive like a discount.
  • Affiliate program - Offering an affiliate system or referral system in which a user gains a bit of profit from the sale is also a great idea, though it can be more complicated to manage.
  • Share referrals - When users see others speaking openly about a product, they’re interested in speak up too. Don’t be afraid to share your best customer stories.

There’s likely no one-size-fits-all way to go about this. If you’re creating positive experiences and engaging your customers on social media and on your blog, referrals will come naturally.

For example, Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit that helps build schools around the globe, encourages users to share their involvement through a simple tweet embedded into the email. It’s simple, but it works.

Build Your Blog’s Sales Funnel Today

Now that you know the 5 stages of the blog sales funnel and how to successfully implement them, it’s time to take your blog to the next level. If you’re posting consistently, but you still can’t land the sale, you need a sales funnel that works. Just because these funnels are automated doesn’t mean they can’t be personal, engaging, and high-value for your audience.

How do you get started? Besides needing a blog, you’ll also want to choose an email management system (EMS). The best one for bloggers is ConvertKit (affiliate link).

There’s no time left to waste. Your customers are reading your content every day. Now it’s time to make them take that important next step towards their first sale. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion in providing creative solutions for building brands online. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches.

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