Marketing Funnel Case Study: 9 Lessons in Selling Consulting Services

This article is a case study of a marketing funnel I've used in my own business. I'm going to walk you through the exact content I used, the conversations that were created, and the resulting conversions.

This article is for you if...

  • You are a consultant offering free consultations (formally or informally).
  • Your marketing funnel requires you to be on the phone with the client walking them through the buying process.
  • You want to attract better leads and create higher quality conversations...even faster.
  • You want your free consultations to feel like time well spent for you AND your prospective client.
  • You want a step-by-step blueprint that allowed me to sell even more expensive consulting offerings later

What I'm going to reveal to you now are the results from my first legitimate attempt at trying to create a marketing funnel of my own.  As a marketing consultant, I am VERY clear on how important it is for OTHER businesses to have a clear, well understood marketing funnel for their services...but when I took an honest look at my own business I realized that I did NOT have one of my own!

(Which explained much of the friction I was feeling about my own business, but that's a story for a different day)

So without any further ado, let me show you the exact campaign I created step-by-step.

Watch the video...

Download the Article PDF, Funnel Templates, and Mindmaps Here:
→ Download the Article PDF, Templates, and Mindmap Here

Step 1 - Goals For The Campaign

Any good campaign has set goals to accomplish. Here were mine:

Goal #1 Get clients. Specifically, I wanted to get "product launch" clients. I am formally trained in a specific specific type of marketing campaign invented (and made famous) by a gentleman named Jeff Walker. It's called Product Launch Formula and it is a beautiful blend of content and direct response marketing. If you aren't aware of it, your should study the strategies. It's you to your advantage.

Goal #2 Use free consultations as the main sales tool. For what I wanted to charge I knew that I wasn't gonna be able to charge that simply by sending people emails. I was going to have to get on the phone and engage. I was prepared to do that.

Goal #3 I needed a scalable solution. I had already tried "networking", "blogging", and "asking for referrals", but those don't generate clients at a predictable clip. I needed a certain number consultations to come through at one time so I could schedule them, choose my clients, and get to work.

Goal #4 I wanted to talk to qualified prospects. If I was going to spend such focused time on the phone converting (and working with) clients I wanted it to be worth my time. It doesn't do me (or the prospective client) any good when consecutive phone calls don't lead to a clear decision. The funnel's content needed to prepare clients for a focused conversation with me where they will make a decision about services.

Goal #5 Keep the funnel simple. Any good funnel involves a series of steps with each step "converting" the prospect to the next. I drew a quick map for myself so I knew what the funnel would look like. In it's simplest form it is AD--> Landing Page --> Consultation --> Sale

Almost every campaign (good or not) has embedded assumptions that affect it's success. Here were mine.

(Keep in mind, I didn't realize I made these assumptions until after the campaign was over. That's why it's important to learn from each campaign you run.)

Assumption #1 The prospective clients were "ready" to buy services. In my mind, I thought that people already knew what they wanted and simply needed an opportunity to say "yes" to a relevant offer. Truth is, the service I offered was new (to the market and to them) and more education was necessary before they understood how what I offered solved a problem for them.

Assumption #2 The prospective clients were "ready" to make a decision. I'm totally okay with people not buying from me. I just want the decision to be quick and clear. In my head, it's a simple "yes or no". Once I present the facts the person would (obviously) be prepared to make a decision. I learned that people aren't robots. More importantly, people aren't ready when I think they are ready. Many of the people I spoke to needed more information to prepare themselves for EITHER decision.

Assumption #3 A decision would require two phone calls (free consultations) at the most. What I learned is that prospective clients will take as much free advice, counsel, and help as you allow them to have. This is not because prospective clients are "blood-thirsty, tire-kicking, freebie-seeking" cheapies. Rather, it is becuase they are HUMAN and if they enjoy your advice, they will listen as long as you talk. In my case, my desire to be helpful open the door for additional conversations beyond my intended scope.

Assumption #4 My services would be easy to understand. I was offering a complete done-for-you service that would handle all aspects of a product launch campaign. This included email copywriting, salesletter copywriting, landing page creation, sales video creation, multimedia uploading, sales sequencing, offer creation, bonus creation, etc. I knew it was a lot. It was MY service. Yes, it all made sense to ME because it was MINE. For me it was OBVIOUS that my services should fall in the $5,000 - $10,000 range. What did I miss? I missed the fact that my prospective clients aren't in MY business...they are in THEIR business. They don't automatically know the details that are involved with MY services. Why should they?

Here is the point. You have assumptions too!

These are some of the major assumptions I made as I put my funnel together.

You have assumptions too!

It is best that you not only lay out those assumptions for yourself, but also include them IN the content of your marketing funnel. Be transparent. Be clear. Be courageous with your communications. Your BEST client will appreciate it.

Coveted Positioning Note: Conventional (normal) consultants don't take the time to write their assumptions out. It's so much easier to just "run the ad" and complain about what clients "don't know". Coveted (exceptional) consultants understand that a more informed prospective client makes a better paying client. Coveted consultants embrace content marketing because it actively prepares clients to do (high-level) business with them.

 

Step 2 - Run the Ad

Running an ad in a relevant newsletter would give my business exposure to thousands of prospects at once (versus networking or referrals that work much slower). So I did some research and found a list that accepted paid advertisements. I chose to run a paid advertisement with the Self-Growth community. Below are the exact steps I took.

Does this list include my target audience? Why Self-Growth? Because they have a list of business owners (specifically experts, coaches, and consultants) who are familiar with the basics of online marketing. Most are already selling digital products, coaching programs, and robust consulting packages. All of these offerings are proven to work well with product launch methodologies. In addition, this audience is already familiar with Jeff Walker's name and his Product Launch Formula.

David Riklan and the Self-Growth team made the advertising process very easy. They interviewed me (to make sure I offered legit services). I wrote an ad. They approved and scheduled it accordingly.

Write the ad as if you are speaking to one person. I made it a point to limit my use of 3rd person. Instead I chose to write like I was sitting across from the table from the reader and looking them in the eye. It's a more direct and personal writing style.

Make ONE clear offer. The product launch strategy involves a lot of moving parts. It would be confusing to try to explain all of those parts in an email. Instead, it is my job to simplify the communication down to one core problem and offer one clearly understood solution. In my case, this boiled down to a complete, done-for-you offer.

Offer ONE clear next step. Once I've made the offer clear, now it's time to make the next step clear. All I want the reader to do in this email is click the link. So, that is exactly what the email said to do.

Below is the beginning of the exact email I used. The attached download has the exact email I used plus a template you can use for yourself.

 

marketing-funnel-case-study-content-conversations-conversion-ad-copy

 

Step 3 - The Landing Page

Once the reader has clicked the link, the person is now a web visitor at my site. The role of the landing page is to convert them to a free consultation lead. Here is the exact process I followed.

Headline needed to match the ad copy. In the email I stated a clear problem, offered a clear solution, and invited the reader to click the link to receive the solution. It's VERY important that the next thing they read is directly connected to what they have previously read.

Remind of the problem/solution. In addition, the headline should restate the problem and solution they have come to receive.

Show proof. I was very aware that I was inviting people to speak with me and they had NO idea who I was. I used a testimonial to provide social proof.

Offer the appropriate next step. I invited people to this page because I wanted them to register for a consultation. I made that call to action easy to understand and execute.

Explain consultation process. I set expectations to give clarity on the process. The consultation would be 30 minutes. My assistant would follow-up. My frequently asked questions (FAQs) would be delivered immediately. I would be sending newsletters as follow-ups over time.

Below is a breakdown of the landing page I used. I took the video down, but I've given you the exact slides I used plus a template in the download.

marketing-funnel-case-study-content-conversations-conversion-landing-page

I am NOT a web designer. It's not my strength. I use a variety of tools to manage my website. All of the webpages used in this campaign were made with the Optimize Press software founded by James Dyson.

 

Step 4 - Thank You Page

Once the web visitor has registered they are now a lead for my free consultation. My next job is get them scheduled and prepared to speak with me. Here is the exact process I followed.

Explainer video. At this point the reader opened my email-->read my email --> clicked the link --> registered at my site for a free consultation. It is safe to say that they have a decent level of interest in my services. This is where the tone shifts a bit. Now is the time to inform them about the benefits of saying "yes" to my services and how the free consultation will help them make the best decision.

When I ran this ad my thank you page included old footage of Jeff Walker describing the value (and process) of Product Launch Formula. I knew the audience would already have some familiarity with him so this content made sense.

Note: you can just as easily create an explainer video yourself. Since this campaign I have offered other services and used self-made explainer videos to introduce my services. I have included an outline of what to say in your explainer video in the available download.

Provide the promises. I provided a document answering frequently asked questions and gave them the email my VA would use to contact them.

Below is a breakdown of the thank you page I used. In the download you have this template AND my simple recipe for your own consulting explainer video.

marketing-funnel-case-study-content-conversations-conversion-landing-page-thank-you-page-template

 

 

Coveted Positioning Note: Every time you make a promise and keep it you build trust. When someone registers for something give it to them quickly.

Step 5 - Follow Up Sequence

It's really important to move quickly here. Having someone register for a conversation is one thing. Getting someone to commit to a date and time is another. I wanted a personal touch in this process (it being my first). So I asked my VA to own the follow-up process. Here is the exact process I followed.

Gave my VA very clear instructions. This is where she really made me look good. My VA and I discussed how follow-up should work and she was off to the races! Her role in this process was to a) be a human touchpoint b) schedule their free consultation. The process worked like this:

  1. Call first and leave a voicemail message if necessary
  2. Send and email to follow-up voicemail
  3. Handle the appointment when they call back or
  4. Follow-up with a 2nd email and then handle the appointment
  5. Follow-up with a 3rd email , including a quick link for the appointment
  6. Fagedaboutit (they will receive my normal newsletters going forward)

marketing-funnel-case-study-content-conversations-conversion-va-follow-up

Step 6 - Free consultation

This particluar campaign is what gave birth to my famous two-step consultation process. In this step, I'll explain how I do things now. I'll explain the lessons I learned in Step 8.

Part A: How to Handle the First Call

First off, you are not on the phone to explain your business to them. Remember you are on the phone because they responded to a very specific offer about a very specific service.

They are already interested in what you offer, focus on listening. Believe it or not, the hard part is already done. You got them on the phone. Now your job is to listen and be sure what you offer can really help them. Open up with the conversation with “so tell me about your experience with [problem]“. And then let them tell you what their experience is. Ask follow-up questions to be sure you understand their experience. Don't try to sell them anything.

Coveted Positoning Note: Conventional (normal) consultants talk way too much during consultations. Take that pressure off of yourself. Coveted consultants know that the prospective client is on the phone because they have a problem they want solved. Let them tell you what it is.

How do you close? Let them finish their story. Be sure to ask enough questions so that you are clear on their problem. Once you’ve done those two, simply ask, “Do you want help with that”? This is a tip I got from Paul Lemberg during a live presentation. It is SO simple and it works!

And then be quiet. They will tell you exactly what they want to do. If they want to move forward sign them up immediately. If they need more time they will say so (and probably tell you why). If necessary, set a follow-up call in the next 48-72 hours.

Here is an  simple script to end the call: “I heard you and understand where you are. Let me take a few days to put together a proposal for you so you can make your final decision. Does XYZ date work for you? Please be sitting next to a computer so I can walk you through everything. By they way, is there anyone else that needs to be present for our call on XYZ date/time?”

The purpose of this break is less about your need to create a proposal. The truth is you will have the program already outlined and you will just need to tailor it to their situation. Really, the next 48 to 72 hours is for them to make a decision and get comfortable about whether or not they want to work with you. They may have other questions for you on the second call, but by that time they will already be 80% percent sure if they want to work with you or not. The second call is just a confirmation and an opportunity to take payment.

Part B: How to Handle the Second (Final) Call

You don’t want your prospective client feeling like you are pushing them into a decision too quickly. On the first call they are making many micro decisions about your ability to help them. Did they connect with you, did you listen to them, do they feel like they can trust you? These questions along with many others will be asked and answered subconsciously. Don’t try to figure all of this out.

Just stick to the plan and allow them to make whatever decision they believe is in their best interest. The second call confirms their challenges and makes sure all decision makers are on board. When you call the prospect for the second time you will walk them through a very simple proposal. All you have to do is pull up the presentation slides and email them a link to view your screen. Join.me allows you to share your screen quickly and easily.

Here’s your format for the second call:

  • Here’s what I heard you say.
  • Here is how I can help.
  • Are you ready to get started today?

Then be quiet. They will tell you what they want to do.

Be quiet as long as your energy can stand. Do not speak before they do. If they are quiet, you are quiet. Let them think. Let them talk. Let them tell you what they want to do.

Important Note #1: If you did not get a yes from their partner(s), you do not have a agreement. If you aren’t sure if they have partners you need to ask. Do not begin work with the client until all decision-making parties have bought in. If this process is going to work smoothly for you and your new clients every one needs to agree and be on the same page.

Important note #2: Resist a third call with all your might. (Remember, I wanted this process to be simple. I assume you do too). If the prospective client wants help, great. If not, great. Be careful of just "chatting" for 6, 7, or 8 free consultations. With that said, this entire strategy makes it clear there are two calls…a discovery call and a follow-up. If done right you just don’t need a third call.

Coveted Positoning Note: Extending the conversations doesn’t build your authority. It ruins it.

Are there exceptions, sure, but do not build your strategy around the exceptions. Build it around the person you expect to say “YES”.

 

 

Step 7 - Results

Here is what happened in the end as a result of my campaign

  • Total cost of advertising: $2,500
  • Time period: 30 days (The majority of the traffic came in the first two days, the remainder of the month was significantly less)
  • Traffic: 717 unique visitors (number of unique people who saw the free consultation landing page)
  • Leads: 86 (12% of the vistors registered on the landing page, therefore becoming a lead.)
  • Consultations: 34 (40% of the leads actually scheduled a consultation)
  • Clients: 4 (11% of the free consultations became clients)
  • Sales: $6,756.40

Wait, no fireworks? No dancing dolphins? No money falling from the sky  Where are all of the BIG sales Alzay?

Let's break it all down. Here is what I learned and how you can be better than me.

 

Step 8 - Lessons Learned and Improvements

Lesson #1 Make your money back. This is the most important part! Every ad you run won't be a home run. At a very minimum, you need to have a plan to break even on your advertising. At that point you can do your analysis, double-check your expectations, and see if the campaign should be tweaked to run again. I made my money back, which means I won.

Lesson #2 "Free consultation fatigue" is REAL. I understood that each person I got on the phone with was meeting me for the very first time. I needed to have great energy, be fully attentive, and make the best first impression possible. This was harder than I thought it would be. Having the same conversation over and over can be draining. And if I can be honest, there was already a part of me that was saying "just BUY already"!

Lesson #3 This kind of campaign creates time constraints. I had other projects going on. I had exisiting clients, other campaigns, (and a life). I had to leave blocks of time open for my VA to schedule consultations. Sometimes the consultations would be back to back. Other times they would be 30 minutes apart (which is just enough time NOT to do anything else).  These aren't complaints. They are the nature of the beast. This is part of what it means to be a consultant and sell services. What this campaign taught me is that I better find a more refined approach or the grind will take away my effectivenes.

Lesson #4 I needed more productized services. My assumption is that people were either "ready" or "not ready" to hire me. I didn't anticipate how many people would fall somewhere in the middle. As a result, I found myself trying to come up with customized offerings while on the phone with people. It's not the best idea. It's too hard to remember what you promised people and it's difficult to deliver a WOW service when each engagement is so different.

What I should have done is created three product launch done-for-you packages at small, medium, and large sizes. Small = setup package to make sure you have all of your core product launch ingredients in place. Medium = run a shorter version of the product launch sequence to establish baseline conversions and revenue. Large = full blown service with all bells and whistles. (I am so much clearer about this now then I was then...)

Lesson #5 Use content to be ruthlessly clear during the funnel. When I look back on the marketing funnel I did a good job using content (explainer video, FAQ, etc) to prime the prospect and prepare them for the phone call. I did NOT do such a good job using the content to qualify (eliminate) prospects. In other words, I should have been extremely clear who this service is good for and who is it not good for. I should have actively encouraged people who do not fit to save the consultation appointments for the people that DO fit.

For example: my product launch service doesn't work well for a consultant trying to sell a $10 ebook with no existing customer list or community. I talked to a few people in this situation. It would have been more fair to me AND them to let them know up front what the minimum criteria is for a product launch to be successful...and provide some resources to help them meet that minimum criteria.

Lesson #6 Too many of my prospects didn't have existing marketing budgets. As it related to these specific launch services, there is a necessary budget that needs to be in place. There are costs of my services and costs of execution. Many of the clients I spoke to had made money in their business, but hadn't matured to the place of having a marketing budget. That put me in a situation of having to explain why they should spend money on something they were more than prepared to do themselves (because they've been doing everything else themselves). There is nothing wrong with this attitude, but it doesn't fit my services. My funnel should have made that clear. My fault.

Lesson #7  I really DO want to help people, but I must do it differently. Because of that, I will sometimes over-ride my own rules because I see a client's potential or connect with their personal story. Some of this is good because empathy allows me to offer relevant advice. On the other hand, I have to respect my experiences, advice, and services enough to offer them to those who can make the most of them. In order for us to "work" there are certain things that need to be in place. Period. If I ignore those things just because I want to be "helpful" it is MY mistake (not the client's).

Lesson #8 I found a conflict between my price and my value. I thought I was going to jump on the phone and immediately engage new prospects in the price range of $5,000 - $10,000 marketing services. Once I did a few free consultations and got a feel for the "tone" I realized my expectations were off base and I needed to re-calibrate. I found the $2,500 price point less intimidating, but I didn't have an offering that fit. Since this was my first time with this funnel and I was making adjustments on the fly. I adjusted my offerings with $2,500 as the high end in order to close some sales.

Making the price adjustment was the right thing to do. What I got wrong was the scope of work. Because of my desire to "help people" I shifted my prices down, but didn't make an equal shift to my own scope of work. When it was all said and done, I was doing what I planned to do at $5,000 - $10,000 but was charging $2,500 maximum. This frustrated me a little, but here is what frustrated me most...my clients weren't seeing the results I wanted for them. The reason why points back to me (again).

Lesson #9 I was trying to get $10,000 level results from clients who were only prepared for $2,500 level results. I was using every secret, trick and shortcut I knew to squeeze more results (sales and coversions) but it just wasn't there. I should have told them the truth up front. "You are buying the $2,500 level package which means you are going to get $2,500 level results. You should expect to fall between result A and result B".

My ego (though well intentioned) got in the way and caused unnecessary friction. (Again, something I am much clearer about today than I was when the campaign was live.)

 

Final thoughts...drum roll please...

Could I have charged more? Sure.

Could I have closed more clients? Maybe.

Could I have made more money from this campaign? Looking back, I think so.

BUT

I would not have learned ANY of this if I hadn't run the campaign. (You can't be afraid to test.)

I wasn't going to earn one extra dollar or WOW one extra client until I decided to create even better CONTENT for my marketing funnel. (It's the content, not my skill, that does the converting.)

 

Coveted Positioning Note: It's the content, not your skill, that does the converting.

 

In fact the lessons learned here allowed me to package and sell a $25,000 consulting offer later on.

Now what are YOU going to do about it?

I am giving you everything I used to create this funnel (including all of the improvements mentioned in this article). All you have to do is download the material, fill out the templates, and put it into play. I expect you will do much better than I did.

Click to Download:

  • PDF transcript of this ENTIRE article
  • Full mindmap of this article in multiple formats – MindMeister, Freemind, Mindmanager, and image file
  • Improved templates for EACH step so you can instanly apply them to your client attracting marketing funnel

Get it now. It’s free. It's complete. It's awesome. Download the bonus pack:
→ Download the Article PDF, Templates, and Mindmap Here

9 Comments

  1. Davide Di Prossimo on October 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Alzay, Davide from Follow.net here. Great post indeed. I particularly liked the clarity with which you explained the lessons learned. Hopefully your next campaign will go even better than this one.
    Cheers!

    • Alzay Calhoun on October 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks Davide and I agree. The most valuable part of this campaign wasn’t the marketing/sales/strategy stuff…it was what I learned as a result. The notes I took along the way and the time I spent in reflection allowed me to create much more valuable campaigns soon after.

  2. […] Marketing Funnel Case Study: Content, Conversation, and Conversion […]

  3. Sweeney Daniel on October 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Another awesome piece.

    • Davide Di Prossimo on October 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I agree @SweeneyDaniel:disqus 🙂

      • Sweeney Daniel on October 9, 2014 at 5:38 pm

        I found it from the Follow email, so no huge surprise there 😉

        • Davide Di Prossimo on October 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

          @SweeneyDaniel:disqus ahah yes, you’re correct 😉

  4. […] Marketing Funnel Case Study: Content, Conversation, and Conversion […]

  5. Uldis Zalcmanis on April 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    It is rare to see someone online being so opened and vulnerable about this tests and successes/failures. Hats off. My utmost respect.

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