Steve Jobs was a pioneer of the funnel business model in the early days of the internet. His vision was that almost any person or company with an interest in information, interaction, or media was a potential participant in the Apple funnel. The top of the Apple funnel was very broad, with devices from desktop computers to iPods. Apple attracted people into the funnel with products that were so intuitive and elegant that they became status symbols. And inside the funnel, the compatible and interconnected nature of the devices, along with a sizable content library, created multiple opportunities for further transactions.

Think about that the next time you're building out a sales funnel. This complex and intricate concept in business can literally take you from a complete unknown to a global powerhouse quickly through the art of scaling out a highly-converting offer. Don't try to take shortcuts or implement hacks, and put in the time if you're looking to eventually reap the benefits and results.
Once the prospect is in the proverbial funnel, you've peaked their awareness. That's the first stage of the funnel. However, getting a prospect aware of you is no simple feat. Depending upon how they've arrived to your website (organically or through a paid ad), those customers might view your funnel differently and your opt-in rates will vary significantly. 
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
Time in stage – In an ideal world, your marketing content would be so compelling that people move from the top stage to the bottom stage in a single day. But since that’s rarely the case, it’s worthwhile to know if your prospects are getting hung up in one of your stages. If so, you’ll want to add more content to your site that answers the questions that are unique to this stage of the funnel.
One quick word of caution, though. With every piece of content you create for every stage of your funnel, you’re generating data. Though all of it is useful to your sales process in some way, it’s easy to get bogged down in data and metrics tracking instead of focusing on the few key performance indicators (KPIs) that will actually give you the information needed to make meaningful improvements.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.

Use website links that have embedded web analytic codes. You can do this through your website provider or with a free Google Analytics account. Make sure each strategy uses a different link, so you can track your most successful lead gathering strategies. Most web analytics programs will automatically mark down leads that come from major search engines.[3]


Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.
However, the best part about this, and the most powerful route that entrepreneurs take to scale their businesses, is that if you know that sending 100 people to your site costs you $200, for example, but you get two people to convert at $300 each, then you have a $600 return on $200 invested (300 percent). When you know that, that's when the entire game changes and you can infinitely scale your offers.
That said, creating your online course sales funnel is completely doable and absolutely necessary if you have significant income goals for your online course business.  Part of the issue for a lot of instructors may be that the idea of doing all the things that need doing is overwhelming. So we’ve tried to break the process of creating and maintain your sales funnel into 10 broad steps to follow.

As “State of Sales” finds, salespeople believe a combination of human skills and data-driven insights is needed to convert prospects into customers. In fact, the ability to listen is seen by 78% of those surveyed as an important attribute needed for landing deals. But sales reps also have to demonstrate industry knowledge (74%), trustworthiness (74%), and knowledge of prospects’ business needs (73%).
No matter what kind of purchase we’re making or how much we intend to spend, all of us follow a relatively similar path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This buying process, or stages, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than 100 years later — it’s still the foundation of understanding buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.
No matter what kind of purchase customers are making or how much they plan on spending, all of them follow a fairly identical path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This process, or the different stages it is composed of, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than an entire century later — it still is the ultimate basis of comprehending buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.
We’ve all received automated emails (like the one that provided a link to this blog post!), multiple times a day when we forgot to uncheck the box. You’ll need to join the ranks of these knowing marketers by adopting an automated email system to build your list of subscribers and people you wish to market to.  These systems are typically very easy to use and set up and allow you to segment your audience lists and more. Get to know yours intimately.
As with other steps in the sales funnel process, this one can take a while, but it’s a necessary evil, or benefit, depending on how comfortable you are creating and editing videos.  You can easily start out by creating a few simple videos that introduce yourself and your course to help establish your topic authority and create some awareness.  You can create a handful of brief videos that cover a simple topic. Whatever you are comfortable with. 
Content also includes developing your final offer, that is to say your course.  Take some time to write down exactly what your offer is.  What is the price for your course? What are the benefits and outcomes for students? What problem does it solve? Why should they buy a course from you? You will need this in the future when you create your email campaign. More on that later.
This lead capture software ranges from simple to complex. You can have a landing page that captures the data, or you can sign up for a system that tracks your user's accounts once they sign in. You can see what products they looked at, what pages they read and, judging from their account activity, you can see how likely they are to become customers.
Advocacy metrics: Track your advocacy efforts by measuring the percentage of customers who come through your referral program. Also gauge sentiment by what customers are saying on social media. Small businesses that don’t have the time or resources to devote to social media can use software tools, such as Hootsuite, to streamline the monitoring and management of various social media outlets.

For instance, if you’re running an accounting business, at this stage your leads would be comparing plans offered by different service providers. They might need resources like how to evaluate the landscape of accounting services (i.e. whether to hire a solo accountant, an agency, etc.), pricing guides (so they know what ballpark rates are), or how to choose an accountant.

First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”
If you’re running a marketing services business, you might create content about how to choose a marketing agency, pricing guides, whether a company should go contract or hire in-house, etc. The above examples are non-promotional, educational content resources we’ve created for our readers who are considering hiring marketing agencies – i.e. in the middle of the funnel (MOFU).
As you may already know, we offer a Done-For-You Sales Funnel Service for clients who want AutoGrow to custom-craft a funnel that will automate their sales or client lead generation, get them better quality prospects, and let them own a sales pipeline packed full of clients. You know that when it comes to creating funnels and implementing sales funnel strategies, we are the ones!
Why go through the trouble of following these 11 steps?  You want to be able to maximize course sales for the least amount of effort, right? You basically want to put passive income generation from your online courses to be on autopilot.   That means driving potential students to your course landing page – wherever it may be – and convincing them to pay for your course – and hopefully any other course your produce after that. That’s called “conversion” and it’s the goal of creating your sales funnel is to get conversions.
“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”
Make no mistake, creating a sales and marketing funnel using the process described above is no easy feat. This isn’t a project you’re going to complete in one afternoon — it’s a pursuit that you’ll want to actively address as long as your company is in business. It’s not a simple undertaking, but it’s one of the few opportunities you have to drive significant improvements in your efficiency and effectiveness when closing deals.

We’ve written a bit about defining your target audience, but suffice to say that if you still haven’t done this, then don’t bother moving on to the next steps in the sales funnel. You must have some idea of what people are interested in your topic, where they are hanging out online and what motivates them in order to begin creating awareness of your course at the top of the funnel.  If you just start sending out emails and tweets willy nilly with no real plan, your efforts (and you will read later on that it is a lot of effort) will be wasted.  You need to know that you are creating the right content for the right people.

Think about that the next time you're building out a sales funnel. This complex and intricate concept in business can literally take you from a complete unknown to a global powerhouse quickly through the art of scaling out a highly-converting offer. Don't try to take shortcuts or implement hacks, and put in the time if you're looking to eventually reap the benefits and results.

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