“You should build your course and do a big launch!”
This is common advice for e-course creators…
But what happens AFTER you launch?
Your revenue flat-lines again and then what… You sit and wait until you can launch again without annoying your audience?
If you’re sick of the ups-and-downs of launching and you’d rather have a constant stream of revenue for your business, you need to build an evergreen marketing funnel.
What is an evergreen marketing funnel?
It’s an automated system that runs in the background and automatically generates sales of your courses.
Each and every day, people sign up, enter your marketing funnel, and begin the journey to becoming a customer.
The system runs constantly, with people at all different stages at any given point in time.
The result is a consistent flow of revenue and sales rather than the short bursts you get using product launches.
I’m about to walk you through the core elements of an evergreen marketing funnel. You’ll learn about each step in the funnel and the tools & services used to power 5 & 6 figure / month evergreen marketing systems.
Before we jump in to the content, I feel it’s important to let you know that there are some affiliate links in this post for the products and services that I use and recommend. If you buy them I get a small commission at no extra cost to you at all. Basically if I use it, love it, and would recommend it to a friend, I’ll include an affiliate link.
Now to the first step in your evergreen marketing funnel…
*Before we get started I want to mention that this post does contain affiliate links. This means that if you click one of the links and end up buying the product I get a small commission in return (at absolutely no extra cost to you!). That said, I recommend these products because I use them and really like them, not because of the commission.
Capture The Email Address With an Irresistible Landing Page
At the top of your evergreen marketing funnel, you need a way to collect email addresses from your new leads.
This is where someone goes from being a visitor on your website to a lead that you can market your products and services to.
You collect these email addresses using an opt-in page or opt-in popups/boxes on your website.
There are 2 easy ways to do this that don’t require you to hire a developer or do any custom coding:
Option 1: Use a Software as a Service (SAAS) product like Leadpages, Instapage or ClickFunnels.
These services allow you to quickly build landing pages and have them up and running without even needing your own hosting or standalone website.
They all have a range of templates available and drag-and-drop editors that allow you to build your page visually without ever having to look at code.
You simply select a template, customize it to suit your needs, and you’re all set.
The downside is these services all have a monthly fee. That makes them quite expensive over time, and as soon as you stop paying, your pages stop working.
Option 2: Use a Wordpress plugin that allows you to build landing pages quickly & easily.
Wordpress plugins like Thrive Architect (TA) also provide a drag-and-drop editor that allow you to build pages visually.
Thrive Content Builder is my preferred page builder.
It comes with pre-built templates, an easy to use editor, and it’s very affordable compared to a SAAS solution because it has no ongoing monthly fees.
The only real disadvantage is that you need to have a Wordpress website to be able to use it.
But considering most businesses have a Wordpress website or can easily create a new Wordpress install on a subdomain, it’s really not a problem.
Whichever option you choose, you need to build your landing page and provide a way for leads to enter their email address in exchange for something of value.
This is often referred to as a ‘lead magnet’.
Your lead magnet could be a cheat sheet, workbook, e-book, webinar, or anything else that appeals to your target audience.
Here are some great landing page examples in case you need some inspiration:
Once you have your landing page set up and people start entering their email addresses, what do you do next?
You’ll need a way to store their details and send a series of follow-up emails.
That leads me to the next system you’ll need in your evergreen marketing funnel.
Follow Up Using Automated Emails
An Email Service Provider (ESP) is responsible for storing email addresses, tagging and segmenting contacts, and sending automated email sequences.
This is a crucial piece of the evergreen funnel puzzle. After all, there’s no point collecting leads if you don’t follow up with them!
My ESP of choice is ActiveCampaign.
It’s extremely powerful but still quite affordable, particularly if you’re just getting started. Their base plan starts at just $9 / month and it’s miles ahead of the free services I’ve used in the past.
At a minimum, you need to make sure your ESP integrates with your landing page builder and can send sophisticated automated email sequences.
Here’s a quick look at a basic automated email sequence I use in my business:
The first automated email you’ll need to send is one that delivers your lead magnet to your new lead.
You should then continue to deliver a series of emails that gradually leads to your sales pitch.
If you’re running an automated webinar, your first email will contain the details required to attend the webinar.
At a minimum I then also like to follow up with 2-3 reminders to get them to actually attend at the scheduled time.
Those are followed by 1-2 emails with links to the webinar replay, which is available for a limited time.
Finally, your emails will lead to a pitch for your product or service and will link to a sales page.
Speaking of automated webinars, let’s talk about those in a bit more detail…
Deliver Value With an Automated Webinar
One of the fastest, most effective ways to build a relationship with new audiences is through a webinar. It’s also a great way to pack a lot of value into a single piece of content.
But live webinars are time-consuming and it’s never possible to host them at a time that suits everyone…
An automated webinar fixes both of those problems.
They allow you to give attendees a range of times to choose from, so your prospects will always be able to choose a time that works for them.
They also run 24/7 without you needing to lift a finger.
That means you don’t have carve time out of your calendar to run multiple live webinars each week, and it’s more convenient for attendees.
The easiest way to set up an automated webinar is to use one of the many dedicated platforms available including:
My personal favorite, and also favorite of webinar expert Jon Schumacher is EverWebinar.[su_quote]“I am currently using EverWebinar to host my automated webinars. As was mentioned above in the review, the awesome marketing features coupled with a nice looking design make this one the winner for me.” Jon Schumacher[/su_quote]
Here’s why EverWebinar is the platform I recommend to my 1-on-1 clients for their 5 & 6 figure / month automated webinar funnels:
- It integrates with a wide range of landing page builders & ESP’s
- Allows you to give attendees the option to choose a ‘Just in Time’ webinar or a selection of alternate times
- Clean, professional looking thank you pages and webinar rooms
- Has a built in survey feature so you can collect valuable survey data on your thank you page
- Allows you to easily add the Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, and any other tracking code you want
Regardless of which automated webinar platform you choose, run your webinar live first. Once you know you have a webinar that converts, then you can automate it.
At the end of your automated webinar you’ll pitch your product or service. If you do a good job, people will click to purchase your product.
That leads us to the sales page…
Creating Your High Converting Sales Page
At the bottom of your evergreen marketing funnel you’ll present your leads with a pitch for your course.
To do that you need a high quality sales page. This is where you will present your offer and give people a way to complete the purchase.
There are 2 core ingredients for a high converting sales page:
- Great ad copy. Your sales page has one job – to convince the reader to buy your product. The words you use are the single most important factor in whether or not your sales page will convert.
- Great design. Visual design matters, a lot. First impressions are incredibly important, and if your sales page design stinks, it’s going to affect sales.
Check out this relatively simple sales page by Jeff Goins that's a good example of a page that nails both of these aspects.
A builder that comes with ready-made templates and a simple drag and drop interface will make designing a nice looking sales page much easier.
My advice is to just use the same page builder that you used for your landing page or registration page. There’s really no point using a different page builder for the sales page. If you choose a good one, it will work for any page you need to create.
That said, I recommend Thrive Architect* (TA) for your sales page.
I won’t go through all of the reasons why it’s my preferred tool again. Just scroll back up to the section on landing pages for the details.
The only thing I’ll add here is that there is that TA also offers a range of sales page templates to get you started.
There is one more thing that every evergreen sales page needs, and that’s an element of urgency. Adding urgency is one of the most powerful ways to increase conversions.
In the next section we’ll talk about how you can do that.
Adding Urgency / Scarcity by Creating Real Deadlines
Urgency is one of the most important elements of any evergreen marketing system.
People delay making a decision until they absolutely have to.
Bryan Harris of Videofruit discovered this when he launched his online course.
Although the course was open for a week, the email that produced the most sales of the entire $210,000 launch was the very last one he sent.[su_quote]“Email #3: Went out at 8 p.m. This email was short and sweet. It was the final call “buy it now or never” email. This is the email that produced the single most sales of the entire launch.” – Bryan Harris[/su_quote]
In order for your automated marketing system to be truly evergreen, you need to have an offer that is only available for a limited time.
After the offer expires, you need a reliable way to ensure it is no longer available.
The last thing you want to do is create fake urgency.
Using a fake timer just destroys trust when people discover the deadline wasn’t real (people are smart, they will find out).
For example, you might offer an e-course with a limited time bonus package for $997. Let’s say the bonuses are only available for 48 hours after someone first sees the offer.
During that 48 hour window, if that person visits your sales page they see the details of the offer with the bonus package. On that page is a timer that shows when the bonuses expire.
If that same person attempts to visit the sales page after the bonus expires, they will be re-directed to a different sales page. This second sales page does not offer the bonus package. Your prospect can longer access the sales page with the bonus offer.
This is real urgency. You’re making an offer, specifying a deadline, and removing the offer when that deadline comes. You’re just using automated tools to implement it.
The most effective solution I’ve found to create real, expiring deadlines is Deadline Funnel.
Deadline Funnel is a reliable way to create an expiring offer. It works on multiple levels to ensure that people can’t access your offer after it has expired.
It also integrates with your ESP to add timers to your emails that are perfectly synced with the timer on your sales page.
Here’s an example of a checkout page used by MarketDoc with a Deadline Funnel timer at the bottom:
When a customer makes the decision to buy your product, service or program, you need a checkout system that allows them to complete the payment.
You need a checkout that looks good and is easy for your customers to use.
Like every other part of your website, your checkout will affect your conversion rates.
Have an ugly, shady looking checkout and you’ll lose sales. But if you have an intuitive, professional looking, reliable checkout system, your conversion rates will increase.
There are TONS of different checkout services out there.
I prefer ThriveCart. It works well, has built in templates, upsells, payment plans, etc. plus it’s cost effective.
AND ThriveCart now has what I believe is the best affiliate management platform on the planet.
For a limited time you can still get lifetime access to ThriveCart for a single payment. That means no monthly fees for your shopping cart. Ever.
Along with your checkout, you’ll also need a payment processor to link to it.
We won’t spend too much time on this because it’s fairly straight forward.
The most common payment processors out there at the moment are Paypal & Stripe. Though there are others out there like Authorize.net as well.
Your payment processor will link up with your checkout so you can accept Paypal / credit card payments.
Creating Your Membership Area
Finally, if you’re selling an e-course or membership product, you’ll need a way to restrict your content and give access to your customers.
This is where a membership platform or Learning Management System (LMS) comes in.
Your LMS lets you select who is allowed to access the different pages within your members only area. Most will also allow you to set up different membership levels so you can give different levels access to different content.
A good LMS will integrate with your checkout and ESP, and automatically grant access to new customers.
The last thing you want is to have to manually add every new customer to your members’ area. Not only is it time-consuming for you to do, but more importantly it’s not a good experience for your customers if they have to wait to get access after purchasing.
The types of membership platforms can basically be broken down into 2 separate groups.
Self-Hosted Wordpress Plugins
If you use Wordpress, these plugins will give you the power to create your own membership site.
Essentially they allow you to restrict content on your site based on membership levels. The content still lives on your Wordpress website, meaning you need to set up all of the posts & pages that form your membership site.
You’ll also need to have your own video hosting if you’re creating a video course.
The benefit of using a Wordpress plugin is you have full control over your site. You can create completely custom designs, and completely customize the experience for your customers.
You can also add on extra plugins and tools to improve the user experience and add features as you see fit.
The biggest downside is that you need to design the site, create the pages, and host it all yourself. This does takes time and some technical knowledge.
That said, this is still my preferred method for managing course memberships.
These are some of the more popular membership plugins available:
At the moment I’m using Wishlist Member, but I’m about to switch over to a combination of Learndash and Memberium.
Without going into too much detail, the reason is basically because will allow me to create a better learning experience for students.
Learndash allows you to create quizzes, add certificates and points based on progress, and do things like only allow students to move on after completing a particular module etc.
Memberium is there to integrate with your ESP. It will tag students based on lessons they’ve completed, achievements they’ve unlocked etc. The only thing to note here is that Memberium only works with Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign at the moment, so if you’re using another ESP it’s not an option.
‘All-In One’ Course Hosting Platforms
These are also a number of Software as a Service (SAAS) products that provide a complete solution for your membership site.
They host your course content for you, provide membership features, payment features, and even host your sales pages.
That means you don’t need a website at all if you don’t want one. You also don’t need a separate video hosting solution.
The downside is the cost. Most of these platforms charge a monthly fee + they take a percentage of each sale you make.
Two of the most popular all-in-one course hosting sites are:
Both of these are great options and I’ve taken courses on both and found it to be a good experience.
I’m not going to dig into how to best choose a membership platform because that’s outside the scope of this post.
I suggest doing your research and choosing the membership platform that suits you best based on your individual needs, budget and technical skill.
We’ve just covered the 6 essential elements you need to create an evergreen marketing funnel for your online course:
- A landing page to capture leads
- An Email Service Provider (ESP) to automate your email follow-up and sales sequences.
- An automated webinar
- A sales page
- A countdown timer to create real urgency / scarcity
- A shopping cart to collect payments, add customers into your automated email sequences and add them to your course
- And a membership area to host your course restrict your content to members only
These are the building blocks that are responsible for evergreen marketing funnels that are making thousands of dollars each and every day.
Of course you can add more them and make them more complex, but this is your foundation if one of your goals for this year is to escape the feast and famine that comes with product launches.
Are you using evergreen marketing funnels in your business, or is it on your roadmap for this year? Let me know in the comments!