Every business, no matter how small, needs some kind of direction, intention, plan, or system so that it can produce a profit in a way that isn’t random, but predictable.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, but if your entire plan consists of posting on social media when you have the time and energy, or “hoping” that word-of-mouth will be enough for promoting your online offerings, trust me, you are going to end up disappointed, disillusioned, and exhausted.
This blog is going to focus on primarily on foundations, systems, strategy, and technology. Much of this work will also be creative work, so it’s not all about “tech” stuff.
I’ve updated this blog to streamline the process for you. A good starting point is my new blog: 7 Criteria: Setting up a System for Your Online Course or Membership. This blog is about one of the hardest parts for many: Shopping for and choosing platforms and apps. No more spending countless hours poring over features and pricing options. I’ve got you covered!
I also want you to have the confidence of knowing where to start and having an actual checklist of all the parts you will need to have in place BEFORE you worry about how the whole thing functions or try to visualize all the moving parts.
The tools I chose “play well” together, so that in most cases all you need to do is press a few buttons or copy and paste a link in the tool that leads to the next step.
A few quick things: There may be a few affiliate links sprinkled throughout this blog. I may make some coffee or wine money from them. I only recommend products and services I use or have used or in the past, and I dislike B.S. affiliate sites as much as you do. Only my honest thoughts here.
This guide is for those who already have a website in place, preferably a WordPress site. If you don’t, you no longer have to choose between getting a cheap website that doesn’t do what it needs to do to help your business grow, or paying thousands to have someone do it for you. Find out more here.
I have also not included webinars as part of a basic marketing funnel in this blog. I’ve had success with webinars and go deeper into this concept in the Future Proof Your Business Toolkit (I’ll post some resources and links at the end of this article) and in a recent workshop I’ve taught.
Let’s get started!
First I will address a few concerns or questions you may have.
How much do these “pieces” cost?
This will be covered in the blog I mentioned above, to make this blog a little easier for you.
Um, is THIS what you mean by a funnel? I’ve seen these.. they look NOTHING like a funnel.
This is a map of a quiz “funnel” I created. At first glance, it looks complicated and makes you want to reach for another round of coffee.
If you look closely, it’s not that complicated. At the very top (not pictured) you might have people see the quiz, which lives on my client’s website, from a link on Facebook or Instagram.
Once they take the quiz, depending on their results, they will be sent a series of emails that leads them to check out other offerings.
This is the visual representation of the funnel I talked about in the last blog, which is closely tied to the client/customer journey:
To clear up any confusion, the process IS often visually represented as a funnel. It’s a conceptual tool. The reason for this is that there are more leads at the top, or the beginning stages, and fewer at the bottom.
When you create your own, it doesn’t need to be shaped like a funnel. You’ll likely be working more with a flowchart model, whether you use an app, sticky notes, a whiteboard, or even crayons and a big sheet of paper.
It can actually be this simple and elegant.
You will want to give some thought to what channels you want to use, and what format.
Don’t worry too much about mapping this out right now. I talk about this in the next blog in this series: Mapping out your funnel. For now, we are just gathering tools and resources.
The Creative Tools (Foundational work)
• Quiet time, coffee, wine, an occasional walk or bike ride, a big piece of paper, a whiteboard, a blank Penzu or Google Docs page, index cards, crayons, whatever.
• A thing you want to sell, and a date you want to sell it by. This could mean a physical product by the holiday season, a course in the fall or spring, or an ongoing course you want to sell. You may have more than one product to sell, as in a low-cost, low-risk product or service. (see previous blog about marketing funnels)
• A solid idea of your target market. If you haven’t done the classic ideal client avatar exercise yet, do this now.
• Doing the foundational work, which includes your niche, ideal client or customer, your unique selling proposition aka “that which makes you unique,” your story, your message, and your branding.
Without this work, the entire funnel.. from the mechanics of the funnel to the content you create to the copy in your landing pages, will be a waste of time.
For more in-depth and step-by-step guidance, I recommend taking my signature course: Future Proof Your Practice Toolkit.
The 9 “Tech Pieces and Parts”
Pick one piece and devote a day to learning as much as you can about it.
1. The Email Marketing Piece
The “email piece” includes:
• An email marketing service. (Not to be confused with an ordinary email service like Gmail, or even the email connected to your website hosting.) You need a way to send mass and automated emails and collect emails easily, right from your website or landing page via an email marketing service like MailChimp or Drip or CovertKit.
Honestly, you can set this up in an hour.
I know everyone has their own personal preferences and the big default seems to be MailChimp, but I think that the best options are MailerLite for those looking for a free option or who are just starting out, and Active Campaign for those who are ready to take their business to the next level. The entry level price has come down significantly. ConvertKit is another option.
It will pay off to get an account and start to familiarize yourself with the terminology if you have not already done so.
Learn these terms and concepts:
• List (groups in MailerLite)
• Automations (sequences in some systems)
• Subscribers (terminology varies depending on the service, but we are talking about the actual PEOPLE that are subscribed to your lists.
(Get used to the concept of tracking data and analytics as well. Begin with the data you can find on the dashboard of your email marketing service. See what emails are getting opened as a start, and who is clicking on the links you include in your emails.
2. The opt-in form piece
What it does: This is your main tool for converting social media audiences or visitors to your website into “warm leads” by offering something of value (like a free piece of information or “lead magnet.”) They are designed to connect to your email marketing service so that when someone signs up, they will automatically receive emails, which you set up in your email service behind the scenes.
An opt-in form (a regular, inline form or popup) is the EXACT place in your funnel where someone goes from being a visitor to your website to a subscriber or warm lead.
There are examples of live opt in forms on this page. Go ahead and try one, so you can see a funnel in action!
The one pictured below is also an opt in, but it is just a screenshot:
How do these things magically appear on a page?
This is where it can confusing. You can create these in several places.
The first is in your email marketing service. Active Campaign and ConvertKit include landing pages with forms like this. Some prefer to go this route.
I prefer to design my own, which I do in WordPress/DIVI.
You can also do this via a plugin. There are plugins for popups, slide ins, and top bars/ HELLO bars. My picks:
• Divi Bars (works with the DIVI theme)
• Thrive Leads
• Poptin (for popups)
My favorite way to create forms is by using the DIVI theme/builder to create a form, which is a fairly simple process. (You start with a template you can modify) I create all my websites using the DIVI theme/builder.
Hustle is free. Zotabox has a low cost monthly option with a lot of cool features.
Thrive Leads has what I think are the best-looking and highest converting (meaning that people are more likely to click on them) opt-ins. You can check it out via a membership or purchase a license for a one-time very reasonable fee.
Thrive Leads excels at something called conversion optimization. That’s a fancy way of saying that a website can be designed for encouraging visitors to take action, instead of scrolling for a few minutes and doing nothing.
Which reminds me: Hotjar is a free way to record exactly what visitors are doing on your site, how they scroll, actions they take, etc. (It’s anonymous, of course) This is a great way to see if the pages of your site are “converting” or not. Don’t worry about this yet.. it’s something you can add later.
Poptin also has good free and entry-level options for creating well-designed popups that convert.
Divi bars are also pretty cool.. You can sometimes see it in action at the top of the pages on my website. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but those top bars can be pretty effective!
Don’t think too much right now about what you will be linking these pieces to. Just investigate a few options and take the time to learn one or two to keep in your “toolbox.”
Here are a few tips/side notes to help you avoid some unnecessary headaches:
1: There are other things to consider, such as GDPR compliance. I won’t dive into that here. Just know that you don’t need a bazillion checkboxes like people were using a few years ago. That makes for a terrible user experience.
You will just need to be transparent about letting people know they will be receiving more emails from you (subscribing) by entering their email address, and that any “free gifts” that you offer are only a bonus for signing up.
2: If you are still using a service like Wix or Weebly or SquareSpace, as of this writing you will need to pay for a subscription to a 3rd party OR be limited to the email services provided by these platforms, which are not, in my opinion, sufficient enough for creating effective marketing funnels. (Most of my 7 Criteria are missing from these platforms, and you’ll need to fill in the gaps, especially if you have an digital product to promote and sell)
What this means: If you have already invested in building a list in another email marketing service, you won’t be able to use that service AND create attractive forms on these self-contained, closed platforms. Your hands will be somewhat tied unless you get super creative and/or pay extra fees.
If this all sounds complicated, it CAN be! My goal here is to be honest and tell you exactly what problems you may run into when using those “easy to use” solutions for real-world marketing purposes. They often turn out to not be so easy after all!
Without getting into how to set up opt-in forms for each of the services I listed above, (this blog would get insanely long) just know that the goal is to connect the form to a specific list that you set up in your email marketing service (such as ActiveCampaign, MailerLite, ConvertKit, etc) which isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Take some time to explore some of these options. The three basic choices:
1. Taking yourself through an intentional learning stage, by creating some mock opt-in forms, lists, and test email addresses. You can even “spy” on me by subscribing or opting in to one of my email lists using one of the forms you see on this page! Do this so that you aren’t in both learning and deadline mode at the same time.
Remember, it’s not just the “tech” part that counts. Design is also important. If it looks boring or shady/amateurish, your opt-in form probably won’t convert well.
2. Signing up for the Tell Your Story DIY website kit, which has everything you need to build your own StoryBrand-based website: Beautiful DIVI templates, copywriting prompts, step-by-step instructions, and guidance.
Since time is money, this may be the most cost-effective solution for most.
3. Have someone do it for you. This is arguably the most complex piece of your entire marketing funnel. Instead of spending hours trying to put it together yourself, you may be better off outsourcing it. Click here to see if it makes sense for me to help you with this piece.
These are all valid choices. The only choice I don’t recommend is doing NOTHING, which is what many do because they don’t see the value in it. This is often why they struggle getting new clients and customers with their website alone, even if they have a decent social media following.
Remember: A follower is NOT a lead! (Ok, maybe a COLD lead)
Email is not only a smart idea because its ROI is MUCH higher than social media. (Close to 400%!) It’s a smart move because YOU own and control your email list. Not Facebook, not Instagram, not any other platform that you pay a subscription for. Remember:
3. The Thank You page piece
Have you ever seen the pages you are taken to when you enter your name and email address and subscribe to a newsletter or download a freebie?
Here is a very basic example:
It looks like magic, but there is a little more to it.. not so much the tech, but the content of a Thank You page.
A Thank You page is simply a blank page you create on your website that contain one or more of the following elements:
• A genuine, heartfelt thank you.
• Information on what to do if they have trouble locating the email. (This is necessary because often gmail will assign emails to the promotions folder by default)
• The next steps to take.. Which could be to watch for cool things to come in their inbox, or:
• An opportunity to do something else, (in marketing speak, an upsell) such as purchase a low-cost course (loosely defined as probably not your premium $10,000 coaching package just yet.. This would be like asking someone on a date and then asking them immediately to your apartment for a drink!)
When well done, a Thank You page can be a GREAT tool in your funnel. If you need inspiration, do some online research and yes, opt in to some lists!
4. The content piece
What it does: Written, audio, or video content is the “currency” of content marketing and marketing funnels. It’s what you offer to potential clients, patients, and guests freely. It also is a way of capturing leads, educating and nurturing them, and in many cases, is the actual product you will be offering, such as a course.
Without content, there isn’t going to be much of a marketing funnel.
For example, the thank you page above appears when someone clicks on a button to schedule a website consultation. Would they do that out of the blue? Or because they just read a blog or heard a podcast or have been following me for a while on Instagram?
You guessed it. The reason for someone entering your funnel is because they are curious or have expressed interest in hearing more from you, because of your compelling content.
If you already have some blogs or videos or a podcast in place, or if you already have some momentum going with an email “newsletter,” great! If you don’t, you can still create your map or flowchart with working titles or idea sketches or outlines.
When you map out your funnel on your piece of paper, notecards, Google Docs, Penzu, or whatever medium works best for you to get your creative muse juice flowing, you want to actually write down what strategic pieces of content you will use to attract leads, nurture them, or guide them to the next logical step for THEM.
You may naturally come up with a list of things to write about that will naturally take your client/patient/guest through a journey.
Seriously. Even a notepad to jot down that idea for your next blog or how your entire funnel may fit together may be one of your best tools ever.
Update: I teach a workshop that shows how to “cheat” when it comes to creating content. For example, I can break up or “splinter” this long blog into micro pieces, and expound on them in a live stream or training. I can make each of these pieces beginner friendly, or turn some of it into an advanced free training or workshop. You get the idea.
I also just updated about 3 blogs today. That’s going to help my SEO: this updated blog counts as fresh content. Because it is. I come at this from the perspective of “How can I help someone who is searching for solutions that I can specifically offer, in one place?” ..along with keywords that fit naturally into the flow of my content, and that’s what search engines, and real people, want.
I also want you to know 3 things about your funnel and your content:
1. You can start with a VERY basic funnel. It does not have to be complicated to be successful.
Example: Start/Top of funnel: Live Event (A talk on the effects of sugar on hormones) on Facebook as a guest –> End/Bottom of funnel: Lead signs up for Group Program (Hormone balancing program for perimenopausal women) The steps you may write down may include:
• Post links for the event (sugar) in FB group and Instagram account to promote a week in advance
• Send emails with a quick story that shows why the event will be helpful/transformative.. with link to event to my list(s)
• Offer free gift (10 ways to beat a sugar addiction) at end of live event (URL to a page where there will be an opt-in form)
• Subscribers who opt in get a download gift/welcome email, and a sequence of 4 more emails sent a few days apart, leading them to a link that will take them to a landing page for my new group coaching program
• To nurture these leads, there will be a link to a blog in email 2 that is relevant to the group program, (my blog about Cortisol and insulin resistance?) and a podcast episode in email 4 that is also relevant.. (how sugar ages you?) leading them up to the grand finale in email 5.. the paid offer: A landing page with compelling sales copy for the group hormone balancing program. (Which I hope will have a more compelling title!)
If this is hard to visualize, don’t worry.
I go more into depth, with more visual references and flow charts and ways to map out a funnel in part 3 of this series.
Can you see why content is so important, and integral to your funnel? They go together like coffee and donuts!
2. Your funnel will be fluid. That’s why we like to use sticky notes and erasable white boards!
3. It takes TIME to build the library of content that you will be plugging into your funnel.
Please give yourself time, and just begin. Create a system for yourself that supports creating content, whether that means writing or making videos, posting on Instagram, creating a podcast. or jotting down recipes and taking photos of your healthy dishes you want to share.
Set aside a specific day when you create content, but don’t let it take over your whole day. Challenge yourself to create it in as little time as possible, without sacrificing quality.
Content should also be original. If your content currently consists of sharing other people’s memes, well, let’s change that!
Part of this piece includes the technical side of creating content. If you are creating videos and webinars, you will need additional software.
My favorite content creation tools:
• Camtasia for recording videos. It can work well for all types of recordings, but I use it mainly for trainings as I can record both my voice and what is happening on my screen.
• Google slides, PowerPoint, or similar apps. Slideshows are perfect for creating courses, webinars, and more. Even an industry giant like Amy Porterfield makes extensive use of slides.
• StreamYard, for streaming live to one or multiple social media channels. I use it to broadcast live streams to my Freedom-Based Wellness Entrepreneur Facebook group. It allows me to easily share my screen, invite multiple guests, use branded overlays, and more. I am using the free version for now.
Podcasting is also an advanced form of content, which I really am drawn to, but again, I will save this topic for another blog!
More content creation tools
These are what one might consider the fun part of this whole process.. The “toys,” (apps and gadgets) that you can use to create the types of content you enjoy the most.
• Canva is an app that allows you to easily design everything from book covers to social media graphics. It’s a must-have. There is a free version but the pro version allows you to do things like re-size images and save images with transparent backgrounds. Trust me, these features will come in handy. (currently the plan is $12.95 per month)
• Google Docs This is how I create 90% of my ebooks, lead magnets, and .pdf guides. Then I just create a cover in Canva, add it to the document, and save the file as a .pdf
• Adobe Creative Suite is my choice for creating more advanced content. This is a great choice if you have graphic design skills and are already used to Adobe’s products, which I will list here:
-InDesign, which in my opinion is much more powerful than Canva for creating ebooks, (probably because I’m used to advanced page layout software and find Canva too limited for the purpose of creating books)
-Illustrator for creating vector images
-Adobe Premiere for advanced video editing. If it is worth it to you you can bundle it with other products listed above to save money.
Other great investments:
• A microphone. For little over $100, you can get a very decent entry level microphone. My pick: Blue Yeti, (a very sensitive condenser mic) although I’m considering getting a dynamic microphone with a warmer sound.
• Podcasting software: I’m currently investigating options.
I’ll keep adding to this list!
5. The SEO piece
What it does: Most people think of ranking in Google when they think of SEO. The real purpose of SEO, when you really think about it, is getting more traffic to your site via organic searches. It doesn’t matter if you are on the first page if nobody is inspired to click on the result to get to your site.
Also remember that Google isn’t the only search engine. YouTube, Pinterest, Amazon, and TikTok are also search engines. These tools can help you get FOUND if you take the time to learn how to optimize them, generally with keywords.
And this of course, leads to the goal of capturing leads that will buy from you.
If nobody can find you, getting sales is going to be very difficult.
If you are a beginner or JUST getting started.. don’t get too caught up on SEO just yet. Even experts could devote their whole life to it and not even come close to knowing everything. Not to mention that the big gurus have money to spend to hire other experts and do intensive research.
For the purpose of creating your first marketing funnel (or refining an old one) your goal here is just to put aside an hour or so a week learning about SEO, in particular KEYWORDS, and how they can be woven into your content (blogs.)
This is the ONE area where I want my clients to take in info slowly, and implement action steps one at a time, in order to fully grasp each concept.
Soon, you start to get the hang of it.
Without descending too far into the SEO rabbit hole, this means doing some detective work to discover what your potential clients are actually typing into Google or other search engines to find your stuff. (Keywords)
THIS is why you need to complete the Ideal Client Avatar exercise FIRST!
6. The social media/podcasting piece
What it does: These are great tools for building an audience. This piece will also help promote your blogs and other content, which lead people through your funnel.
Social media can also be a HUGE time suck. Be sure to use social media platforms that make the most sense for YOU.
Video (YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook)
For me, Facebook and Pinterest have been my primary channels, but I also love YouTube. This is because I also have another project/business called The Balkan Nomad, which relies on images and video and highly visual information, which I want to be searchable. For those who want to monetize their video content, YouTube has traditionally been a good choice.
With Tech and Wine Media, I create a lot of technical and training videos, so it simply makes sense to invest my time in video rather than a platform like Pinterest, or even IG, if my time is limited and I don’t have extra help. I chose Facebook because I’m focusing on building a community. Edit: as of this update, I still use Facebook but I’ve moved most of my content over to Mighty Networks, and am building a community/membership there.
Facebook and YouTube are in heavy competition when it comes to video domination. The BIG difference: Facebook in some ways does act as a search engine, but it’s not very robust.
It’s more about “discovery” via it’s algorithms. Facebook is primarily for social purposes or getting distracted by cute dog videos. You can still get distracted on YouTube, but it’s a much more powerful search engine. People often go to YouTube when they are looking for something specific.
Like short videos? It’s an art form to communicate with a 15 second video or message. TikTok might be a good choice for you. I disagree wholeheartedly with the narrative that “women over 50 are bad at tech and don’t hang out on Instagram.” It’s not about a demographic, but about the preferences of your IDEAL CLIENT/PATIENT AVATAR. Does she like to watch short videos? Do you like making them? There you go!
Update: Some of the frustration has to do with constant algorithms and updates. I’m no longer focusing on this area in depth, simply because there are others at this point that have more time to keep up and do a fantastic job at keeping us informed about these rapidly changing platforms.
A word of caution: I think that it is best to master one social media platform before diving into another to avoid overwhelm. Being present on every channel may work for a big company that has a marketing team or is able to hire an agency. For a solepreneur, it can easily turn into unfocused busywork that doesn’t get results (because we are neglecting the later stages.. the middle or the bottom of the funnel.
Streaming live to Facebook is one of my primary tools that I use for the engagement portion of my funnel. It’s powerful, and you can do this for FREE. (Can’t use expense as an excuse!)
Currently I’m using StreamYard’s free version. So far, so good. Facebook is slowly making it easier and more attractive to do live broadcasts, including some of the features that 3rd party apps like BeLive and StreamYard offer.
To be honest, I’m doing well right now with the free version StreamYard, but I’ll keep you updated.
It’s easy to use, even for the “non-techy.” I recommend creating a “test group” in Facebook and playing with the app and creating a few test broadcasts, so that you can feel confident when you broadcast to your actual group.
Note: Don’t confuse this with your PAGE. I’m talking GROUPS here. You can broadcast to your page, which has some benefits (like extra editing features and other tools like pre-recording a “live” broadcast) Some like to broadcast to their PAGE first, then share to their GROUP.
You can create as many GROUPS as you want. I recommend creating an “empty room” group for testing purposes, rather than experimenting with your page.
StreamYard will walk you through the whole process of creating your broadcasts.
IG has been evolving over the years. It’s not my favorite platform, but others love it and it can be part of a well-rounded social media presence. Short videos are definitely still worth exploring and tapping into. You can use stickers to ask questions, create polls, and more. This is a great way to get input from your target audience.
It seems like almost every day there are new developments to keep track of, and I’m not going to explore that in this blog.
Pinterest works beautifully for many businesses that focus on visual and inspirational information, such as recipes or design ideas. It’s “partner” is Canva, which allows you to easily create posts for any channel or media, and resize it for other purposes with the click of a button.
What I like about Pinterest is that it’s a search engine, not really a social media platform. This means that you may get more qualified leads, because the people who are actively searching for what you offer and ready to buy will be hanging out there.. as well as other platforms like YouTube.
It’s definitely driving more traffic to my website!
Linked in is great for B2B and focusing on “thought leadership.” Previously it was a place where you could post a resume, but today, it is so much more.
I won’t discuss that in depth here, since most of my clients focus on B2C.
Twitter lends itself well to breaking news and keeping up with celebrities. It’s arguably the best way to gain direct contact to celebs and “influencers.”
What about you? What makes the most sense for you, given the time you have, the nature of your business, your target audience, and how you like to present your ideas to the world?
Pick one to focus on to start. Once you master even one social media channel, choose another. Eventually (honestly) you’ll need to be present on all or most channels in today’s market. Fortunately, there is an easier way to do this so that you aren’t spending a lot of time on social media: Repurposing your content.
Scheduling your posts
I highly recommend scheduling at least some of your posts, or you’ll be living on social media.
I schedule my Facebook group posts right within the group. It’s VERY easy to use this feature, and you don’t need to learn or purchase any 3rd party apps:
You can post to your PAGE as well. I’m no longer including the steps in this blog because by the time I give detailed instructions, Facebook has changed it all yet again.
If you are posting to multiple social media channels, you may want to use a scheduling/social media posting app. My picks:
Buffer: Their plans change frequently, so check to see if there is a still a free version and how many channels you can post to.. and how many posts per month you are allowed in any given plan. You can post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIN, and Pinterest.
Tailwind: Another great app for posting across many social media channels. I use it because it’s my favorite for scheduling Pinterest pins.
Podcasting is something I also would love, as I’m an audio geek and don’t really care much for appearing on video, but I’m practicing what I preach and focusing primarily on just a few channels, so that I don’t spread myself too thin. Later this year, I will take my growing library of blogs and re-purpose the material, at least as a starting point, for podcasts.
Podcasting can involve some work setting up, and requires a commitment. The good news is that these can be “batched.”
7. The online payment piece
When you build your funnel, you will need to create a way for people to sign up and pay for your offering.
• A payment Gateway. This is the most boring piece of all, but it’s an important one.
One word: Stripe. (there may be alternatives but this is the big one that works with just about every online platform used for courses or memberships, such as Kartra or Teachable or Kajabi)
Again, don’t try to think about how this big piece is going to fit into the big machine. Just get it set up. A payment gateway is not the same as the platforms you use for hosting your course or membership or other products, which have ways you can set up online payments. Those platforms will still need for you to have your payment gateway set up. (Generally, in the U.S., this is going to be STRIPE)
“A payment gateway is the service that sends all of your credit card transactions to your credit card processors. It authorizes and processes transactions.
In other words, a payment gateway is simply a software application. It’s basically a conduit between an eCommerce website and the bank that authorizes (or declines) a customer’s credit card payment.
Credit and debit cards, eCheck (ACH), and even cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are all processed through payment gateways.
This is NOT a “tech thing.” It’s about filling out an application, since it’s about your bank account and taking credit cards.
It takes about 30 min max, and the approval process is generally less than a few business days.
My picks: Stripe
Stripe. It’s pretty much the industry standard in the US now. DO set this up first. I’m so glad I set up a Stripe account before I moved overseas. SO many systems use Stripe as their main payment gateway.
Payment Gateways are different from Payment Management and Invoicing software. Payment management software typically includes:
• Recurring payments (great for memberships)
• Integration with landing pages
• Integration with your email marketing service (so that when someone checks out, they get a confirmation email, or trigger an automatic email or automation sequence)
• Checkout embedding (code you can embed on your website or landing page to get a fully functional and sometimes custom branded checkout)
• Custom buttons
It can be confusing because some platforms, like PayPal, offer BOTH payment gateways and payment management systems.
Take some time with this. Taking payment online looks like magic, but there is a lot to consider, besides even the moving parts, such as:
• What currencies you accept
• Currency conversion rates
• Transaction fees
• Whether or not you want to set up recurring payments (memberships, payment plans, etc)
• Integration with your email marketing service
And more. My picks:
MoonClerk: This is a simple, VERY intuitive option for those who are just starting out or don’t have a course or membership to sell. Once you understand the basics of taking payment and the terminology, this app really is easy to set up.
Kartra: I’ve had more people sign up for my online offerings because of the streamlined shopping cart experience. This is VERY important.. because the shopping cart abandonment rate is a shocking 70%!
PayPal: It’s been an option for me because it is versatile. However, it does have its downsides, such as transaction fees, clunky looking buttons and checkout, and limitations for accepting recurring payments.
Many other platforms integrate with Stripe, including calendar booking apps, membership platforms like Teachable, and more.
This guide is not a comprehensive guide on taking online payments. I recommend spending some time doing homework to find out what works best for you.
8. The coaching/course platform /CRM/membership piece
What it does: When someone signs up for a course, how will you deliver it to them? Where will your course be “housed” and displayed in an easy-to-navigate and professionally laid out manner?
You will likely have a link in the first email your new customer gets after they check out. (Don’t worry about those moving parts involved with this process till you get there!)
Some of your choices include:
• Sending them a link where they can simply download your entire course material (I don’t recommend this method)
• A teaching platform like Teachable, Thinkific, Podia or Udemy I don’t recommend Udemy, as it gives you so little control over marketing and pricing. It’s like the Groupon of online courses. The others are all decent choices. I don’t have any recommendations because your choice will be based on your own needs and preferences, and you’ll need to take some time to compare plans or even do a free trial period.
• A membership area. You can create these with WordPress plugins. Right now, I’m using Mighty Networks for my Rebel Wellness Entrepreneur membership.
You can also try platforms like Kajabi or Kartra, which are pretty cool, and have a free trial period. They are more expensive, but VERY comprehensive: Meaning that if you add up the costs of what you are paying right now for email marketing, membership or course platforms like Podia, calendar systems like Acuity, Landing page services like LeadPages, payment management services like MoonClerk and monthly subscriptions for platforms like SquareSpace, Kartra will end up costing about the same (or less) while offering a far superior product that will likely result in getting more people to buy your online offerings.
This is something I cover in more depth in the 7 Criteria blog.
• A Private Facebook Group, using Guides (Formerly known as Units) This is a totally FREE option. However, this option isn’t nearly as sophisticated when it comes to managing larger groups of people that each need individualized coaching or assistance. It won’t connect to your email marketing service, and you will still need a way to take payments, track metrics, etc.
Another thing to consider is that Facebook is a noisy place. It’s designed to keep you distracted on FACEBOOK. Meaning that someone watching your video won’t get shown more of YOUR videos.. but more likely cute dog videos.
I like to keep my wares on another platform.
• Other platforms, such as PracticeBetter, give you “rooms” to take your clients to that give you all kinds of great tools to make online coaching easier. This is a great option if you are offering a combo/package of group, 1:1 and digital products and services.
If you are already familiar with patient or client management software which allows you to track where each client or patient is at in your process, you probably understand how important this is. (Jane, Acusimple, etc)
Bottom line: If you have more than a handful of clients, or if you are building a time and location independent wellness practice that can be run from anywhere in the world, you do NOT want to be managing the entire process, from the time a lead subscribes to when they become a client and and beyond.. manually.
This is something that can be hard to conceptualize for those who have local practices and interact only via phone or email. If you are planning on scaling your business so that you don’t have to be physically present to manage every single aspect of your business, I highly recommend reading my blog: 7 Criteria: Setting Up Your Online Course or Membership.
The cost to get the full potential for any CRM is going to run around at least $50 per month, but it’s always been worth it for me.. I’ve made back this amount several times over each month in avoiding cancellations and no-shows with the email and text reminders alone.
You get a LOT more with these platforms.
Set aside an entire day to explore these options.
My pick for those who are ready to scale their practice (one-to-many courses and memberships) is Kartra.
9. The calendar and online booking piece
Part of your funnel may include a way for people to book a call with you to find out more about your offerings or to book their first appointment.
Update: Since I’m focusing on working more with clients who are setting up on-demand, self-paced digital products, I’ve moved away from Practice Better, which is ok. It’s geared more towards health coaching, but can work for any kind of service. Use it if you want to grow more into telehealth or add coaching and group coaching to your existing practice.
However, I do NOT recommend the free plan, which is lacking almost all of the 7 Criteria. It’s just pretty much useless. I also think that today, if you ARE offering a digital product, you can get so much more for $49.
My current pick: Kartra.
Kartra also has a calendar/booking system. It’s recently been greatly improved. As I mentioned before, when one starts adding up the costs of all the other services they are paying for that don’t integrate or don’t focus on marketing, Kartra may start to make more sense.
Acuity: A favorite for many coaches and healers for good reason. It’s powerful, easy to use, and does what it says. I’ve tried using it for non local, remote services and investigated it for growth potential (programs, packages, bundles, etc) and it falls short.
Use it if you have a local practice and don’t plan on scaling.
Calendly is an entry-level option. I used to use it, but the free option doesn’t cover what I need, and the next price tier puts Practice Better in a position of better value.. you get a lot more for that $7 extra per month ($19)
At the moment, I do not have a booking system I can recommend for those in the hospitality and tourism industry, but I’m researching this.
A final note:
Setting up this infrastructure does take time, so don’t compare yourself to someone who has been in business for 5 years and has had time to create a beautiful website with multiple products and landing pages, a library of content, a membership site, and has 10,000 email subscribers. This process is BOTH about acting quickly and getting your “stuff” out there, and taking the time to build something you can be proud of.
Be sure to check out the next blog in this series, which is all about mapping out a funnel and the moving parts involved in creating a powerful marketing funnel for a holistic or coaching practice, or for any solo entrepreneur!
More resources for you
I hope this blog has helped you in some way.. If even taking some of the first steps involved in creating a marketing funnel.
This blog is pretty intense: It’s all about facing the “tech stuff” that many wellness professionals are intimidated by.
I intentionally put it all in one place so that you could see everything at once. Often getting a “big picture” of the “scary stuff” can be very helpful.
Start with learning about and building each of the pieces and parts of your funnel infrastructure so you can get a clearer idea about how they may all fit together before focusing on the moving parts.
There’s still a LOT more to this, though. Every business and every marketing journey is different, and you may very well find that you need some help setting up the “tech.”
Here’s some resources for you:
The Future Proof Your Business Toolkit: The complete strategy for building and promoting your first online offering, so that you can create a sustainable, thriving wellness practice without selling your TIME.
..and without the overwhelm.
The Tell Your Story DIY Website Kit: Everything you need to build your own StoryBrand-based website: Beautiful DIVI templates, copywriting prompts, step-by-step instructions, and guidance
If you need assistance with any (or all of) the 8 pillars, I’m here to help.
Apply to work with me. No discovery calls, no pitch.