how to build an affiliate marketing sales funnel

How To Build an Affiliate Marketing Sales Funnel

Welcome to the world of an affiliate marketing sales funnel. It wasn’t so long ago affiliate marketing was dominated by techie SEO experts promoting the latest and greatest thing. Nowadays, many business owners realize it’s a smart way of boosting revenue through the simple step of promoting other brand’s products and services.

But throwing a few links on your website isn’t the greatest way to make affiliate marketing stick. Instead, you need a well-structured sales funnel. It serves as a roadmap, gently leading your prospect to your affiliate product. It’s a low-cost revenue generator that’s easy to set up once you know how. Read on to learn some simple steps to getting started.

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Understanding Sales Funnels: The Basics

A sales funnel is essentially a journey for your customers. You take them from their starting point – a casual observer, to the endpoint – a committed buyer. In affiliate marketing, this funnel will walk your prospects through the different phases of the buying process. It’s a process most of us go through before making a decision – even if we aren’t aware of it.

That process starts with a phase called “awareness.” That’s where the customer becomes aware of a problem they have, though they might not realize they need a solution (or what that solution should be). As they proceed, their thought process becomes more focused. It goes from understanding the need for a solution, identifying viable solutions, and finally – to the decision-making process.

Here is a real-life but very basic example to illustrate the point. Let’s say you realize you aren’t drinking enough water. You read up on the health benefits of water, and you decide that you need to drink more water in the future. You read up about how to do that, and you get plenty of recommendations – an app, a water bottle, flavored water drops. You evaluate all this and decide on a water bottle that you can carry around with you all day. Now, you make your purchase.

The benefit of a sales funnel is that you aren’t waiting for a potential customer to come to these conclusions on their own. You’re helping them using your funnel together with tailored content and marketing messages. By doing so, you can guide them to move from one stage to another.

The Structure of an Effective Affiliate Marketing Sales Funnel

You can split an affiliate marketing sales funnel into stages, representing where the prospect currently sits on their journey from awareness to making a purchase.

First, you have the attract stage, which is where you entice a prospect into your funnel. You might do that through website content, ads, or social media. It’s content that taps into the problem, like a blog post entitled “Are you drinking enough water?” using our example from earlier.

Next, you have the interest phase. That’s where your lead starts to become curious about a solution. You’ll tailor your content and messages to gradually lead the customer from the problem to the solution. You’ll see this every day in marketing messages around you: the number one way to get a better night’s sleep, the tool that can half your time spent promoting your business on social media.

After this, you have the desire phase. That’s the point where the prospect knows about the product or service, and they are considering buying. That’s the point you want to make the product desirable. Testimonials and reviews work fantastically well at this point.

Finally, you’ve got your action stage, which is where you close the deal. You present your best offer and encourage your prospect to commit.

Finding the Best Affiliate Products

The trick to succeeding with affiliate marketing is to focus on quality over quantity. Don’t try and promote everything.

Start with some research to help shortlist some viable products. Affiliate platforms like Amazon Associates or Impact are useful starting points. Look at products that are trending on affiliate platforms and check out the conversion rates. There is no point in promoting something that doesn’t convert well.

Focus on products that are most relevant to your audience. Do they add value?

Next, look at quality. It’s best to test products first before promoting them, so become a customer and try them out for real. At The Smart Funnel, we tend to run affiliate promotions on products we already use, and we do so because we like them enough to give them a shoutout. If buying a product isn’t practical, focus on reviews and testimonials instead.

Finally, look at the sales page for the affiliate product. It’s got to be tempting. If that sales page doesn’t tempt you to buy, will it tempt your audience?

Getting to Know Your Audience

Defining your target audience is the bedrock of any marketing approach, and that’s true for affiliate marketing too. The more you understand about your audience and their needs, the easier it will be to promote affiliate products to that same group of leads.

It requires research, but don’t limit that to listing the demographics of your target customer. You want to go more in depth than this. Look at interests, challenges, behaviors and values. Social media, google analytics, and online forums are all rich sources of information to help you carry out this research. Focus on their needs and pain points, because once you understand that it becomes far easier to match it with the perfect product or solution.

Defining your audience effectively will help you tailor your content and marketing campaigns throughout your funnel. It will make your messages more meaningful and you’ll get better engagement.

Getting Leads

The early part of your affiliate marketing sales funnel is all about attracting an audience and turning them into leads. Content marketing is ideal for this as it will help you build authority in your niche. Social media works great too. In both cases, entice your audience to delve deeper by signing up an email list. You’ll need a lead magnet and landing page, and you can learn more about the steps in our post on setting up your sales funnel.

Paid advertising is another option, if you want to supercharge your new funnel with lots of leads. Be sure you have the budget to test first though. An alternative to traditional paid advertising is a collaboration with an influencer on social media or with another blogger in the form of a guest post.

The most important thing to remember about funnels is that you’ve got to offer an enticing and relevant lead magnet that adds lots of value. It must align with your target audience and the affiliate product you intend to promote.

Nurturing Leads Through Your Affiliate Marketing Sales Funnel

Occasionally, you’ll have an impulse buyer who will snap up your affiliate product immediately. However, most people aren’t in this category, and if you only market to impulse buyers you’ll limit your revenue opportunity. For the vast majority of buyers, you’ll need to nurture them to help secure the sale.

Content is your secret weapon here. A personalized email campaign with valuable content can help woo those leads. Use written content, guides, video series, webinars, or anything else you think works for your niche. You’ll establish trust and help answer their questions and ease any reservations they might have. Use storytelling techniques to keep your reader engaged, and make emotional connections with them. Again, this is why it’s important to know as much as possible about your lead – the more you know, the more your content is likely to resonate with them.

Securing the Sale

If you’ve nurtured your lead and built trust with your audience, securing the sale will become much easier. Think about it from this perspective: are you more likely to listen to a product recommended by a close friend or a stranger on the street?

When securing the sale, you want to make the offer as compelling as possible. Don’t rely on the brand to do all the hard work for you. You can add your own extras to make an offer more appealing, like throwing in a freebie when they purchase via your affiliate link.

Other useful ways to secure the sale include showcasing testimonials (videos are excellent for this) and answering questions via an FAQ. If you have used the product yourself, this is the perfect time to explain about the benefits you got from it.

Post-Sales and Upsells: Maximizing Lifetime Value

After you’ve secured a sale, there is still much you can keep doing in your affiliate marketing efforts. Every lead has the potential to become a customer, and every customer has the potential to become a repeat customer. So focus on continuing to build that relationship. Send personalized thank you messages, for example. Or offer a discount on their next purchase with you.

You may find you can promote other affiliate products to a customer in the future, or upsell a premium service as an add-on for something they’ve already bought. Cross-selling is another effective sales technique to try with people who have snapped up one of your affiliate offers. Continuously engaging with your customer will boost their lifetime value and make your affiliate marketing efforts more financially rewarding.

Analyzing and Optimizing Your Affiliate Marketing Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is never perfect the first time you build one. Any good sales funnel needs optimizing and to do that, you’ll need lots of data and analytics. Measure every touch point in your funnel to find out your bottlenecks. For example, if you have plenty of new leads but no-one is clicking on your affiliate link, start investigating that in more depth. Look at the open rates for those emails. Are they too low? Do you need to try a different headline? Are you losing too many people at this point in your funnel? That could mean you aren’t nurturing your audience enough before you present the offer. The more you analyze your data, the easier it will become to fine-tune your funnel and improve your results. You can find out a bit more about improving your funnel conversion rates through this post about landing pages.

Some Key Takeaways on Building an Affiliate Marketing Sales Funnel

Building an effective affiliate marketing sale takes planning, but it’s worth the time and effort. If you already have revenue streams and an established audience, adding an affiliate income is an easy way to help grow you business. It’s important you build a funnel that gives you time to nurture your audience. The key to winning a sale is getting your lead to trust you – if you can master that, you’ll reap the rewards.

We’ve touched on some of the steps to building your funnel, but there is more to tell you. So we’ve created a free sales funnel eBook which provides a more step-by-step guide to creating a sales funnel. If you haven’t built a funnel before, grab this resources now by completing the form below.

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