How can I avoid chasing after patients to fill my practice?
How can I get the kinds of clients I want without being “salesy” or pushy?
What if I don’t want to keep hustling to fill my practice every month? Or even skip the brick-and-mortar and do everything virtually.. or see FEWER, but high-quality patients and clients?
Why do I keep attracting clients that drain me, and where can I find my ideal clients? (or patients, customers, or guests)
How can I keep my cash flow consistent?
Answer: You need a strategy. You need something called a “sales funnel.”
In order to create more consistent and predictable cash flow, you will need something called a sales funnel, so that you no longer need to play “chase and sell.”
A sales funnel is simply the steps that take your ideal client or patient through the stages of awareness, interest, engagement, subscribing, and making a decision to buy. It’s not a magical “blueprint” that some dude can sell you for 3k so that you can make “6 figures.”
It’s a standard thing. Let’s de-mystify it!
The stages, which I’ll show you, are very, very similar to the stages in a relationship.
The whole process is really about building relationships, not about “how to make money online.” It also has NOTHING to do with “closing,” “pitching” or “manipulating” unless you CHOOSE to include a heavy-handed pitch as one of the steps in your own funnel.
A funnel isn’t a template. But it is an individual process that you want to build for yourself.
Without a process, a strategy, and ways to make it all run smoothly for both you and your clients or patients.. you won’t have a successful time and location independent practice.
I still come across some in the wellness industry that think that these processes are the “antithesis” of building relationships, but the opposite is true.
Can you imagine buying a service from someone and having to wait for them to email you the product or service manually? Having to put up with clunky back-and-forth emailing to get to the next step in the journey?
Would you trust a business that didn’t deliver what you bought immediately after you clicked a BUY button, followed by an onboarding process, and an easy, seamless, welcoming expereience?
If you are getting your clients from any other source than in-person contact in a local business, a funnel/strategy and a process is a MUST.
Even after you get a new client, the process continues in a seamless manner.
If you want to spend hours trying to figure out where each client is in the process:
When did they purchase the program? Which lesson did they finish? Did they complete that exercise, or get their lab testing done yet? What materials should I send.. oh shit, let me search for them on my hard drive.. oh.. wait, where IS there email.. damn.. what did she tell me she needed in that last email?? Where is that intake form survey I had her fill out..
Not to mention that you’ll annoy and confuse a client without a clear “next steps” process so that they know how to get blood labs done, what to include in their lifestyle journal, etc.. at their convenience, and when they are excited about diving in immediately.
(Side note: If you build websites.. you’ll absolutely fail.. as in losing money, wasting time, annoying clients, and chasing after them to get the info you need, without a system set up.)
A funnel and a process not only keeps you from chasing new clients constantly, it is essential for working with existing clients and patients.
Call it a Funnel. Call it whatever you want. Know that it’s essential.
So now when you hear the word FUNNEL, it’s not some weird thing that marketing gurus made up to confuse you. It’s there to help you succeed and keep you sane!
To make sure that this is clear.. and it’s THAT important.. today, you need a step-by-step process for delivering your services, and some tools.
I’m going to list the “parts and pieces” you will need to get started in the next blog. I’ve included tools I use myself, are easy-to use, robust, offer good value, and are affordable for those on a shoestring budget.
For now, keep reading to find out more about each stage.
If you have not already done so, I invite you to check out my previous blog about building trust and how to position yourself so that you get the kinds of patients, clients, and guests that energize you, and (yes) REPEL those that drain you and actually hurt your business.
It will help you get a foundational perspective about this whole “funnel” concept.
Funnels take the “slime” out of marketing
In this blog, I’m going to focus on getting NEW clients, rather than onboarding and backend administration for existing clients, (CRM) even though they kind of flow together.
Funnels could be compared to the “back end” of the client/patient/customer journey. The part YOU see and experience.
Tip: At the very bottom of this blog you will find a nifty infographic that will show the same concept as a map of the client/patient experience.
Why is it called a funnel? Why can’t I call it a map? It’s called a funnel, because there are more people at the “top” of the funnel (TOFU) and as people move through the process, there are fewer. (Bottom of the funnel, or BOFU)
This is a natural process, and what is REALLY meant by having 7-9 “touch points”for the client.
So this isn’t about “bothering” people until they “give in.”
Please don’t think of this journey as something slimy, as a way to “capture” a lead in the negative sense. That isn’t what this is all about. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. A good sales funnel is a way to naturally attract the RIGHT potential buyers. The ones who are a perfect match based on your conscious choices about positioning, and from there, establishing trust.
For each stage, your audience, lead, prospect, or client should have a smooth and pleasant experience that helps them in some way.
It takes some work to set this up, especially at the beginning, but to me, is the most automated, natural, and stress-free way to generate leads and sell products or services.
You can read about funnels from many sources, but here I’m focusing on the types of businesses I typically work with: Alternative health practices, wellness coaching, and the tourism industry.
Keep in mind that this is an overview. To create a funnel, you will need time to map it all out so that you can see the big picture, the “pieces and parts” of your unique funnel, and how each piece flows into the next.
I’m going to give you a lot of visual information to break it all up, along with some tips.
The 6 LEVELS of a Sales Funnel
Level One: Creating General Awareness In Your Niche
The top end of the funnel is all about letting your ideal customer avatar know you exist.
It’s about creating awareness for whatever it is you are offering. It’s about casting a wide net. The “net” will most likely be your blog, which can be found via organic search (SEO), social media, or direct channels. Others may prefer Youtube or hosting a weekly podcast to create awareness. There are many ways to cast this wide net.. too many to list here.
In order to do this most effectively, you DO need to start with really nailing down your niche and target audience.
First, let’s brainstorm and the “drill down” into what makes you unique. Sure, you can START with talking about broader topics, particularly when it comes to things the general public may know very little about:
• CBD Oil
• Life coaching
• Travel to Croatia
• An online booking app
This is a good start, but these topics can get pretty competitive, especially when it comes to people finding you via a search, because they are so broad.
Let’s “niche it down” a bit more:
• CBD Oil for fibromyalgia
• Acupuncture for autoimmune disorders
• A coaching program for female digital nomads over 50
• Travel to your guest house on a lesser known island in Croatia
• An easy way to have patients book and pay online and automatically receive email reminders
The top of the funnel would be all about raising awareness to as many people as possible. Not just about broad topics like acupuncture, but about specific problems and how to solve them. Then we can start to address, in the next level about how our business may be the best choice for those who have “resonated” with our message and have made some sort of decision on their own to take things to the next level.
We are not trying to “get them to buy” at this stage. Instead, we may blog about our offerings, create a podcast, or a Youtube channel to help spread the word.
Level 2: KLT and Engagement
Great.. now you are beginning to attract an audience. Before, they may have had no idea that there were:
• Effective and non-invasive ways to deal with pain
• More effective, less mainstream ways to earn money after 50
• The perfect island getaway that isn’t yet on anyone’s radar
• A way to avoid the stress of late cancellations and no-shows.
Your audience at this level starting to get a sense of who you are. Your brand, your vibe, cool things that are unique to you and your business. They are starting to know, like, and trust you.
They are also engaging in the conversation you are starting.. which could be anything from a podcast about your fitness training to a blog about wine to checking out GoPro videos from snowboarders at your ski resort.
If you wanted to compare this to relationships or dating, this is the stage where people are “checking you out.” They aren’t necessarily researching (like they would on a dating site) but you’ve captured their attention, and they are engaged, perhaps liking, commenting, sharing, or downloading your content.
So now you can repeat your message, while also creating more awareness about your brand and about what unique things you can offer that nobody else can. You will also be establishing yourself as an expert by being generous with information and guidance.
Level 3: Subscribe
This is the level at which people give you permission to follow up and continue to hear from you. The equivalent in relationships would be getting contact info.. a phone number, email, or business card with the mutual intention that it’s cool to reach out.
At this stage, your “followers” become actual leads.
In digital marketing, this would include:
• Creating an email opt-in to get people on your list, (more on this a bit later in this blog) and sending valuable and RELEVANT information to them on a regular basis. No more monthly newsletters about happenings in your office.. those are outdated and ineffective. It has to be about THEM. We’re talking at LEAST 2x per month, preferably weekly. (And I know I’ve slacked on this.. !)
• Getting more subscribers to your YouTube channel or podcast or members in your Facebook group.
• And of course, continuing to create more awesome content.
At this stage, you can also get valuable feedback from your audience which will help you to keep your products, services, and funnel relevant, engaging, and profitable. Ask questions! Create polls! Involve your audience, have a conversation, buy them coffee. It’s not a one way street anymore.
A brief Overview of the Mechanics
Great, so how do I capture those leads, you may be wondering?
At this stage, you will need a complete system with all the moving parts. I’m going to list a few of them, but if it all sounds like a foreign language, don’t worry, I’ll be breaking it all down in other blogs, freebies, free trainings, and paid courses. You can also check out the New Glossary.
Please note that this is an overview to introduce you to the “parts,” which I cover in depth in the next blog in this series.
• A landing page. This can be created as a page on your website. what makes it different from a regular page is that it has a CTA, or call to action, and does NOT have a menu or navigation bar. The reason for this is that you want those who land on the page to take some sort of ACTION.
• An email marketing service, like Mailchimp or Active Campaign
• A way to take payment online, starting with payment gateways such as Stripe or Paypal. I personally like WooCommerce and Moonclerk. If you have a brick-and-mortar business Square may be a good option.
• An email opt in form, which can be created on your landing page. You can create one in Divi or use a plugin like Thrive Leads. It is also possible to create forms and landing pages in a 3rd party service like LeadPages, which can be less overwhelming to start.
• A Thank You page. This is the page where people that enter their name and email to subscribe to a list are taken to. Its purpose is to thank them and give further instructions or information. This lets them know that the process is complete and doesn’t leave them hanging. You can also use this page to “upsell” products or services. (The tripwire) but they don’t have to be fancy or complicated:
You can find templates for these also in LeadPages.
• A “freebie” or lead magnet. (This can be introduced as early as Level 1) It can be as simple as a 3 page guide to how to love and care for your body after 50, a few recipes (for health, or for foodies, or both!) .. or a quick guide on navigating boat travel on the Dalmatian coast. I create mine in both Google docs (text) and Canva (the cover) and export them as .pdf files.
• A course building platform, like Teachable, if you want to offer a course
• A way to create and edit videos or audio files, a decent microphone, and other items such as lighting, tripods, etc.
Level 4: The small investment, or CONVERT stage
This is when you introduce your lower cost paid offerings at a pace that makes the most sense and feels the most natural for you. (There is a lot of “overlap” between Level 2 and Level 3 and even Level 4.. funnels can be super simple and a lot more fluid than some marketing gurus let on!)
If at the moment you are reading this you are thinking “How the heck am I going to do that?” Don’t worry. This is a creative process. You start by creating one small offer, then perhaps another.
You can even start out with offering your time (although for the long term, I don’t recommend this, as your time should never be a low -cost or discounted resource)
The truth is, when you get into your content marketing groove, you will have a small library of free offerings that your audience will have access to. At a certain point it will make more sense to introduce low-risk/low cost paid offers. These entry level offers are called “tripwires.” For this, you will need to expand your “infrastructure” a bit.
You can use the above tools to give people an opportunity to take them to the next level in the journey, or funnel.
For example, your Thank You page can also include an offer to purchase a low-cost course, book, video, etc. This isn’t the place to offer a $10,000 coaching plan, but a way to offer something useful, and with low risk.
Of course, because it took your time and expertise to create this product (or time to offer your services) you should charge for it.
Some may call this an “upsell” but when you are offering certain types of unique products or services.
Upselling is NOT inherently slimy. It’s a service. This is often how I learn about new books on Amazon, or how to put together an outfit. I can choose to add more to the cart, or not.
At this stage, people will have read your blogs and listened to your podcast enough to know about how a proper diet can help with inflammation or pain, or that many European destinations are having problems with overtourism and cool alternative destinations and ways to travel DO exist.
Now they have enough of a clue about what you offer to make an educated decision about what to buy, regardless of whether they choose to buy from you or not.
At some point, SOME your leads will desire MORE. Have you ever read someone’s blog or listened to a podcast. wondering if they had a book or workshop or course to offer?
Chances are, if someone keeps reading your stuff, the odds of them buying from you in the future is significantly greater than if they just happened to find you in a Google search on the day they want to make a purchase.
Studies show that people actually DO like to buy high quality information products and services that offer solutions to their specific problems.
This is the goal in this stage: To turn ” warm leads” or subscribers into “hot leads” that have chosen to make a small time or money commitment because they like what they have seen so far.
You can do this via:
• A mini course that you might offer on a membership site or in a course platform like Teachable.
• A book or video series going more into depth about your area of expertise, the product you offer, or how to get the most out of a tourist destination.
You can get pretty creative with this.
• A “ultimate” wine guide, “ultimate” travel by boat on the Adriatic Coast guide, “Ultimate” preparation/checklist for a mountain climbing expedition, etc.
• A recipe book for those healing from Hashimotos
• A mini course on how to market CBD products in an acupuncture or chiropractic business
Level 5: Nurturing, Onboarding, and Building Excitement
You don’t want to stop when someone makes a purchase and call it a day.
There are 2 reasons:
1. You want to make sure that the client or customer is properly welcomed and “onboarded,” finds the introductory produce or service useful, and is excited about the results they are getting.
Email, I’ve found, is the best way to do this.
2. You want to involve the client or customer in the process of developing your product, service, program, etc.
I don’t even create courses without the input of my audience or clients. I’m writing this blog based on questions about funnels, and I still need to gather more information about my niche, my target audience, and what they want before a launch a new full blown course.
I also create BETA versions of courses. Early adopters get a discounted rate (the only time I really discount) in exchange for helping me develop the course. It’s a win/win. It’s also FUN to create more interaction and respond to specific needs.
This stage also includes something called an EMAIL AUTOMATION that allows you to send a series of emails to those who have subscribed to a list, bought a product, and agreed to subscribe to get more high quality info and occasional offers.
Again, don’t worry about the mechanics at this point. The important thing is to make sure that the email marketing service provider you choose has this option available. My choice: ActiveCampaign. It’s clearly the best value at $15 per month, is easy to use, (Although to use it at its full potential, there is a learning curve) has great support, and is VERY robust.
Oddly enough, there are low-cost and even free services that offer an easy way to do do this, and some of the services that are limited are actually more expensive. Go figure. I stick with ActiveCampaign and also recommend MailerLite for some who are just starting out.
The key is to do this in the most authentic way, from the heart, which isn’t a challenge for most holistic practitioners and creative business owners who care about the experiences that their customers or clients are having.
You want to provide good onboarding, answer questions and offer support, set them up for success, keep them excited, and open the doors for a dialog and/or making more purchases in the future. They are now co-creators.
This is why polls and challenges and open ended questions are so valuable for both the business owner and the audience.
• Send follow-up emails that help those that made their first commitment succeed. Even if it’s a book or a small course, it’s possible to follow up with an automated email (that you can always respond to) that offers support, suggestions, asks for feedback, offers a next step, or keeps them excited and engaged.
This helps everyone, especially for holistic entrepreneurs who are genuinely interested in creating products and services that help their clients and patients succeed.
This step is also useful for those in the tourism industry who are interested in far more than just renting rooms or booking tours. These days, it’s all about helping guests create an experience.
• Office hours where you are available say, every Wednesday for a few hours to answer questions. It’s easy to assume that your audience knows almost as much as you do about your area of expertise.. but usually they do not! We need to find out what they are not aware of yet, ASK them about what specific problems they need solved, and offer a solution that fills in these gaps.
The HOW part is easy:
1. Just include a link in an email. This is why you want to be able to “segment” your audience so that you can easily and automatically send emails to the right people at the right time. All you need to do is set this up so that those who have made this small purchase are tagged, and that your email only goes to those who made this purchase.
Active Campaign is excellent with their support when it comes to helping us set up these processes.
You get the idea.
The takeaway: Make sure that if people have invested time or money in your low cost products or services, are set up for success, are supported, and are excited about the results they are getting and continuing on their journey, whether this means taking the next step with us or not.
Level 5: Make Your Core Offer
This is the stage where some get a little shy. Myself included. What’s going to be the MAIN big ticket item you are offering?
Notice that I used the word OFFERING here, instead of SELLING. By this stage you don’t need any old-school selling techniques. Those don’t really work anymore anyway.
Even some of the “closing” tactics taught today can feel unnatural and exhausting for people like me.. introverts who communicate effectively via writing and natural interaction, not by memorizing scripts and responses or having to convince people from square one (as I would if I just met someone at a party) that what I do is not only valid, but often the best solution for a lot of people.
To me, this is not only NOT fun, but unnecessary, if I have the right strategy in place to do the work FOR me.
At this stage of the funnel, a certain percentage will be more than ready to buy from you.
• A 51 year old woman who is frustrated by weight gain and changes in her body is excited to work with you not only to figure out the root cause, but help you with confidence and self-love. She knows that YOU are an exact fit for her because she resonates with what you offered in previous stages.
• A new patient signs up for a package based on VALUE, not a discount, because they saw your cool webinar or read your book.
• A new guest books a one week stay at your villa because they can’t resist the charm of your island, AND ALSO.. now they are now totally on board with sustainable tourism, are interested in the local wine and cusine, (enough to want to prepare some dishes back home!) or want to learn how to sail.
They can totally envision what a day would be like at your destination, and they are genuinely excited about creating a real experience, not just booking another vacation.
Stage 6: Taking Care of Your Buyers/Co-Creators/VIP’s.
This stage is earned. You can’t bring people here by using old school “closing” techniques, in my opinion. If you do your job in the previous steps, the rest more or less falls into place. ( I for one find that to be a HUGE relief!)
The benefits are pretty cool.
I’ll say it again: Statistically, only a small percentage of people that enter the funnel will end up here. But once they do, the likelihood that they will buy from you in the future is MUCH higher.
Those you work with at this stage are likely to advocate and promote your business.
For me, this meant working smarter, not harder. It gave me a bigger ROI for the work I put in than some of the other tactics I have been taught.
I would rather set up a funnel than spend hours hustling, selling, and I’ll be honest: be around too many people for too many hours.
I would also rather spend that time and energy spoiling my existing clients, not only because I enjoy it:
By treating buyers/people in like VIP’s and involving them with the development of new products or services, you are also benefitting your business.
These are members of your “tribe…” the people that will “wear your T-shirt” and provide testimonials, give referrals, and write those positive reviews!
This is also where you get to enjoy doing what it is that you do best.. treating patients in your acupuncture clinic, helping people navigate difficult parts of life via your unique way of coaching, or being a fantastic host and telling people all about the cool place you call your home.
In my opinion, it is also entirely possible to develop friendships from a business relationship. It’s quite a rewarding place to be, even though it still takes work.
How quickly do you “move leads” through the funnel?
I don’t think that it’s about pushing anyone through the process. It should be designed so that it is a natural and almost effortless process (aside from creating content and setting up the mechanics, but most of that work is on the front end)
Sometimes people hang out in certain levels for months or even years. That’s ok!
Those in the awareness stage should have continual access to free info to keep you on their radar. It’s totally fine if they only consume the free offerings. Statistically, this is what most do, and that is why its the wide end of the funnel.
Those in the engage and subscribe stages should be not only kept informed, but in the loop. You want to ask them open-ended questions, create polls, and involve them in beta launches and even no-risk experiments. Some will hang out in these stages for a while, but there is no right or wrong as far as how long people remain.
Those in the later stages, or narrow end of the funnel are there for a reason, and your focus and attention should not stop there.
The narrowest part of the funnel consists of your loyal customers. Treat them like gold.
What’s in in for YOU, and how can this help prevent burnout from overgiving?
This system is set up so that the “top of the funnel” requires a minimum investment of time and energy. Not ZERO energy, but certainly less energy than it takes to chase after clients, patients, and guests, or be at the utter mercy of review sites.
Once the foundation has been laid, by all means, these stages SHOULD be as automated as possible. Save your precious time for those at the bottom of the funnel who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.
It’s not about lack of concern for those in the top of the funnel, it’s about what your TIME is worth once your funnel is in place.
THIS is what it means to create a business on your OWN terms, and attract client, patients, and guest who not only totally get it, but appreciate that you get THEM, and are happy that the perfect “match” was made.
Now that you have a basic idea of how a marketing funnel could work for your business, check out the next blog in this series: Funnel Breakdown: The Pieces to Gather to Set Yourself Up For Success.
It will outline the “parts and pieces” you will need in order to build a simple funnel from scratch.. accounts to set up, and yeah.. some of the “tech stuff.”.. (I promise it’s not that bad!) so that you can get started right away.
Need a visual representation of the client/patient journey?
I hope this blog has helped you in some way.. whether it’s getting a better understanding of what a “funnel” really is, or some ideas and insights about how to build your own.
Be sure to check out the next blog in this series about how to gather the “parts and pieces” for your first funnel.
To be honest though, there IS a lot to it, and much depends on your specific niche or business, your strengths, weaknesses and preferences, and the resources you have available to you. There is no ONE solution.
And yes, I can help you with all of that! I offer BOTH 1:1 coaching and group coaching to help people just like you.
Just click on the burgundy button below for a free 30 minute consultation.