What is online marketing? And more importantly, how can you use it to take your business to new heights? Here’s everything you need to know, explained as simply as possible.
Decades ago, business cards, snail mail, billboards, and TV commercials were all an entrepreneur could use to grow their business.
In those days, building a big, successful business was reserved for those with deep ambition and even deeper pockets.
But the internet changed all of that.
Now, anyone with a little bit of money (even $100) and a great idea can build a winning business online.
At ClickFunnels, we’ve seen literally hundreds of our members make millions of dollars from businesses built from scratch… without taking investors, without having massive upfront wealth or esteem, and without any prior marketing experience.
(At the end of this article, we’ll tell you three stories, in particular)
But there’s some BIG questions on everyone’s mind when it comes to building an online business…
How do you actually use online marketing to build a thriving business from the ground up?
Or… if your business has plateaued, how do you use online marketing to take that business to new heights?
There’s no question that you can.
It’s just a matter of how.
And that’s what this guide is going to give you: the how.
What is Online Marketing?
Online marketing refers to the practice of promoting one’s business through the internet with social media advertisements, free content, websites, sales funnels, and email, for example.
Here are some stats (courtesy of HubSpot) to show you just how powerful online marketing can be for your business…
- Global B2C ecommerce sales are expected to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021.
- 59% of shoppers surveyed say that being able to shop on mobile is important when deciding which brand or retailer to buy from.
- 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
- Facebook is the primary content distribution channel for marketers today.
- The number of global social media users is expected to reach almost 3.43 billion in 2023.
- During a survey, 25% of responding social media marketers at B2B companies stated they used Pinterest to market their businesses.
I could go on… but you get the point.
But there are a lot of different elements to online marketing.
So as we discuss the different options, don’t get overwhelmed; the important thing is to do what works and to ignore what doesn’t.
What works for your business likely won’t be what works for another person’s business (unless you operate in the same niche).
That’s okay — do what works for you and stick to it.
It’s far better to spend your time perfecting one or two online marketing strategies than it is to half-ass all of them.
To start, we’re going to walk you through the three fundamental elements of a successful online marketing strategy — these are the heartbeat of your online marketing.
The 3 Fundamental Elements of a Successful Online Marketing Strategy
When it comes to online marketing, these are the three elements that every business must have in place.
First, you must have a sales funnel. If you want to generate leads or sell products online, then you must have a proven, systematic, and automated method for taking people from interested visitors to paying customers. This is your sales funnel.
Second, you must drive traffic. What good is a sales funnel without people — your target market — going to that sales funnel and converting into leads or customers? Consistently driving traffic to your sales funnel is a fundamental online marketing skill… one that you must master.
Third, you must follow up. Follow up isn’t just for B2B. Nurturing your leads and staying in touch with your customers is important in every industry. You have a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer, according to HubSpot, but only a 5-20% chance of selling to a new prospect.
Now, let’s talk about each in more detail.
1. Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel is the systematic method by which you’re going to turn visitors into leads and leads into customers.
More specifically, your sales funnel will be a series of pages that are intentionally crafted to guide each visitor toward the specific action that you want them to take.
And there are different sales funnels for different things.
You might have one sales funnel that generates leads, one for hosting live online events, and one for selling products.
Consider the homepage of our own website as an example…
This entire page is dedicated to one goal and one goal only… getting people to sign up for our free 14-day trial (notice the big blue button).
If they click on that, then they’ll first be asked to enter their contact information — that way, they become a lead even if they abandon the cart before checking out.
Next they’ll be prompted to choose a plan…
And after they’ve entered their payment information (with a reminder that they won’t pay a dime until their free trial ends), we upsell on our One Funnel Away challenge (which helps to increase our average value per sign-up).
Then we ask them where we should ship their free T-Shirt.
Oh — and if the prospect goes to abandon during the checkout process, we even have an exit-intent pop-up as a final attempt at capturing their attention…
Pretty cool, huh?
We’ve used this sales funnel and others like to grow ClickFunnels to more than 10,000 paying members!
What’s even cooler, though, is that hundreds of our members have systematically used sales funnels to grow multi-million dollar businesses.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are still suffering from the poor performance of traditional websites.
While sales funnels have extremely high conversion rates and are the new, systematic way that entrepreneurs grow their online businesses, websites act like digital business cards that do more to confuse visitors than convert them.
The truth is… for entrepreneurs with a focus on selling products online and actually making money, the traditional website is dead.
And the sales funnel has taken its place.
Check out the below video to see what we mean.
Ultimately, the sales funnel is a far more effective online marketing tool than the traditional website.
So how do you build one?
Here are steps…
- Sign Up For a Free ClickFunnel’s Trial — Click here to get your 14-day free trial of ClickFunnels. We give you everything you need to build a high-converting sales funnel, including fool-proof templates, sales copy recommendations, and tons of other free resources. You can cancel anytime for any reason.
- Choose Your Primary Goal — What is your most important online marketing goal right now? Do you need to grow your email list? Do you need to sell more products? Do you need to increase your average order value? We recommend you start by tackling your biggest goal with an appropriate sales funnel.
If you want to generate leads, then check out our Squeeze Page Funnel or Application Funnel templates. If you want to sell more products or increase the value of each order, then check out our Tripwire Funnel and Product Launch Templates. If you want to host an online event (for the purpose of generating leads and/or making sales, then check out our Webinar Funnel.
Pro Tip: Don’t have a product to sell? Consider becoming a ClickFunnel’s affiliate where we pay up to 40% monthly recurring commission. Also, check out our One Funnel Away Challenge if this is your first time building a sales funnel and you want a ClickFunnel’s expert to walk with you every step of the way.
- Build Your Sales Funnel — Now it’s time to build your sales funnel. You can add images, video, and sales copy. Our drag-and-drop editor allows you to customize any part of any page, and our simple, effective templates will provide format and flow guidance. And if you want to virtually guarantee that your sales copy will drive people forward, then check out our free training over here.
Now that you’ve created a sales funnel, it’s time to drive traffic and get the gears turning.
But you don’t just want to drive any traffic… you want to attract your target market.
Because those are the people who will be most attracted to your sales funnel offer (and most likely of converting).
To give you an example of just how important the quality of your traffic is, let me tell you a quick story.
A friend of mine — Jacob McMillen — who’s an expert at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and a freelance copywriter, got his website ranking on page one for “Copywriting.”
It’s still there, actually.
And while that phrase gets searched 39,000 times every single month in Google… he was getting very few leads and very few clients from it — and he was on the first page!
Sure, he got traffic.
But what good is traffic that doesn’t convert?
The problem was, a searcher’s intent when they type in “copywriting” didn’t fit with Jacob’s goal of coaching copywriters. Most searchers are just looking for a definition and only a few actually want to further their education.
He’s now ranking #1 for the phrase, “How to become a copywriter” — which only gets 4,900 searches per month (about 35,000 less than “copywriter”) — and he’s raking in not just traffic… but leads and students for his business.
The point is… who you’re driving to your sales funnel matters more than how many people you’re driving.
Successful entrepreneurs start with a focus on quality and then try to increase quantity.
So how are you going to drive high-quality traffic to your sales funnel?
Here are the steps.
Who Is Your Target Market?
Before you can drive your dream customers to your sales funnel, you have to have a good idea of who they are.
Try to answer these questions…
- What is your dream customer’s biggest fear?
- What is your dream customer’s biggest ambition?
- How do your dream customer’s like to spend their time?
Those are just a few examples.
If you don’t know who your target market is, then it’s time to have a brainstorming session. Try to imagine the kind of person who would be desperate to buy your product — what are their hopes, dreams, and desires? What do they spend their time thinking about? Why do they want to buy your product?
Ultimately, you should understand your dream customers better than they even understand themselves.
Because once you know who your dream customers are, you can figure out where they hang out online and then drive them to your sales funnel.
Don’t be afraid to dive deep.
It might take a few brainstorming sessions to develop an understanding of your dream customers, but stick with it until you feel you understand their fears, desires, hopes, and dreams.
Where Can You Find Your Target Market?
Once you’ve identified your target market, it’s time to figure out where they congregate online.
- What social media sites do they use?
- What forums do they visit?
- What blogs do they read?
- What YouTube Channels do they watch?
- What magazines do they read?
- What influencers do they follow?
- And what other businesses do they love?
Answering these questions is extremelyimportant.
Because each answer is an opportunity to drive your dream customers to your sales funnel.
For example… if you answer, “What magazines do they read?”, then you can pay for advertisements in those magazines.
If you answer, “What influencers do they follow?”, then you can barter with those influencers for a review of your product.
If you answer, “What other businesses do they love?”, you can create a Saved Audience in Facebook full of people who “Like” those businesses and fun advertisements to them.
If you answer, “What blogs do they read?”, then you can pay for advertisements on those blogs.
We recommend creating a spreadsheet and writing down as many of your target market’s online “hangout spots” as possible.
How Can You Drive Them To Your Sales Funnel?
Now that you have a list of some of your target market’s favorite online places to hang out, you can drive them to your sales funnel.
Start with the low-hanging fruit — what’s the easiest way to drive high-quality traffic to your sales funnel?
Is there an influencer who will be particularly easy to work with? Is there a website that doesn’t charge very much for a banner ad? Is there a forum where you can easily capture attention organically?
Here are some practical things you can do to get the ball rolling…
- Send emails to influencers and websites asking about advertising costs and logistics.
My name is [NAME] and I’m the owner of [WEBSITE]. I just released a product that I’m really excited about and I’d be interested in paying for an advertisement on your website. Maybe just something in the header or on the sidebar? How much would you charge for something like that?
I’m open to negotiations!
- Start building authentic online relationships with influencers on social media or through email (these relationships will pay off down the road).
My name is [NAME] and I just stumbled across your [website/social media profile/etc] and I absolutely LOVE what you’re doing.
To be honest, I was particularly impressed by [SPECIFIC PIECE OF CONTENT].
And I had a quick follow-up question about that — [QUESTION]?
I know you’re busy… but I’d love to hop on a quick 30-min call to learn more about how you do what you do.
Would you be open to that?
- Run paid advertisements on social media that target the audiences of influencers and businesses in your niche (make sure to track the performance of each and adjust accordingly!).
As you try different traffic driving strategies, some will work like magic and others won’t.
The two metrics that you want to pay attention to for each “hangout spot” are quality and quantity.
How much traffic is the “hangout spot” actually driving to your sales funnel… and how many of those visitors are converting into leads or customers?
Keep doing what works and ditch anything that’s giving you sub-par results.
Ultimately, keep trying different online “hangout spots” until you’ve found the ones that work for your business.
If you want to learn more about driving traffic to your website, go get yourself a free copy of Russell Brunson’s book, Traffic Secrets.
That book will teach you everything you need to know about driving high-quality traffic to your sales funnel, day-in and day-out.
The third element of a successful online marketing strategy is just as important as the first two.
First, you craft a sales funnel to generate leads and make sales.
Then you drive high-quality traffic to that sales funnel.
And finally, you need to have a strategy for nurturing and staying in touch with all of those leads and customers that you’ll be collecting.
To give you an idea of how important following up is, consider that, in the B2B world, 80% of sales happen on the 5th to 12th sales call… and only 2% are made on the first call.
That’s because it takes time to build trust with your prospects. And because your prospects need time to consider their options.
That’s true in every industry and every niche, no matter what you’re selling.
Some people just aren’t going to buy the first time around.
Sure, you should try to convert as many people as possible with an effective sales funnel, but you shouldn’t stop there — you should also create a follow-up funnel for people who don’t convert.
Ultimately, following up with your customers and leads — usually through email — is important for these two reasons…
- It’s about four times easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new customer. Staying in touch with loyal customers who already trust your brand is important for growing your business and selling more products down the road.
- Some people aren’t going to buy the first time that they are introduced to your business. Staying in touch with these leads builds trust and captures more sales later on.
We recommend creating segments for people who’ve purchased from you before (customers) and people who’ve never purchased (leads).
That doesn’t mean you can’t send those two segments some of the same emails, but having them separated will help you speak to each group of people in a way that makes sense.
So now the question is… how do you follow-up with your customers and leads?
These are the three different email types that you’ll need to master.
The Onboarding Sequence
We recommend starting with an onboarding sequence that all email subscribers receive immediately after they opt-in to your email list.
This sequence is intended to introduce subscribers to your brand, build trust, and promote your cornerstone product.
Your onboarding sequence should be 5-7 emails that people receive over the span of a week (one per day is a good pace).
But if you’re not sure what content to send over those 5-7 days, don’t worry. Russell Brunson has created what he calls the Soap Opera Sequence. It’s a methodology for introducing new people to your brand and driving them toward the main action you want them to take.
He outlines this full sequence with examples in his book, DotCom Secrets (which is free to order!).
Here’s an example of what the first Soap Opera email looks like, taken straight from DotCom Secrets…
Subject: [DCS] Ch. 1 of 5
Hey, this is Russell, and I want to “officially” welcome you to my world.
About ten years ago, I started my first online business while I was in college (selling potato gun DVDs), and this little hobby became my obsession.
I started selling all sorts of things online and have become a student of marketing.
My other businesses are where I test and try stuff out…
DotComSecrets is where I share what I’ve learned.
My goal is always to give away better stuff for FREE than what other people charge for.
In fact, tomorrow I’m gonna do just that. Yes, I’m going to let you go through one of my BEST products for free — and then ONLY pay me if you think it’s worth it… BUT only if you open the email when it comes…
Yes, you heard me right…
I want our relationship to start out great…
So, I’m going to WOW you with SO much value that you’ll feel obligated to buy stuff from me in the future (just kidding… kinda).
Cool, then look for that email tomorrow.
Russell “Your New Marketing Buddy” Brunson
P.S. The subject line is “[DCS] Ch. 2 of 5: The day my education failed me” — so look for it!
To get the full Soap Opera email sequence (plus tons more online marketing info) go get yourself a FREE copy of DotCom Secrets.
These are the first emails that your audience will receive, so don’t worry if you have to spend a little extra time crafting them.
The onboarding sequence introduces new subscribers to your business… but that’s only five or so emails.
Naturally, you want to stay in contact longer than a week.
That’s where the newsletter email comes in.
While there are a lot of different understandings of what a “newsletter” is, we describe it as any email that helps you build a relationship with your audience over the long-term.
This includes sending out free content, asking for feedback, storytelling, and more.
Here are some different newsletter examples and styles as inspiration…
Here’s an email from Rachel Pedersen, an expert at business and entrepreneurship, that’s super personal, basic, and value driven. This sort of email is great at building intimate relationships, even with email lists in the tens of thousands…
Here’s a design-heavy newsletter from Thrive Global — a huge personal development blog — that focuses on promoting free articles.
This is a great style if you’re trying to build a business brand rather than your personal brand.
Here’s one final example from Sam Ovens, the founder of Consulting.com. This is a personal-style email with a case-study story. It’s a great way to provide value for your audience and build authority in your market (by telling the success stories of those who’ve worked with you).
Ideally, you should send newsletter emails at least once per week and maybe even once per day.
How often you send the emails will depend on the type of relationship you’re trying to build with your audience, your content production cadence, and your bandwidth.
But don’t worry too much about how often you send emails… Many businesses succeed with sending one email per week and others succeed with sending several emails per day.
The choice is yours.
Just make sure that you’re consistently working to build a relationship with your leads and customers by sharing free content, telling compelling stories, and being transparent about your own journey.
The Follow-Up Funnel
Not everyone on your email list is going to buy after receiving your onboarding sequence.
And for those who do buy… well you don’t just want to sell to your customers once, but over and over again.
That’s what the follow-up funnel is for (which you can easily create within your ClickFunnels account).
It’s for following up with people who haven’t purchased, converting leads into customers, and even getting customers to purchase more than once.
More specifically, a follow-up funnel is a series of emails that are intentionally crafted to turn leads into customers and customers into repeat buyers.
Just like a sales funnel, you’ll want to build one follow-up funnel for each goal that you’re trying to accomplish.
You might consider building a follow-up funnel for…
- People who abandoned their cart.
- People who’ve been on your email list for 3 months without purchasing.
- People who’ve been on your email list for 3 months but only purchased one product.
And keep in mind that your follow-up email funnel should guide people toward whichever of your sales funnels makes the most sense.
Here’s an example of follow-up funnel from our Traffic Secrets book launch.
After launch day, leads who didn’t purchase the book received this email…
And then the next day…
And there were more emails to follow.
In fact, these emails kept coming in for almost a week after the Traffic Secrets launch.
Because remember: 80% of the time, the sale happens when you follow up.
Quick Note: The Importance of Testing
In a minute, we’re going to give you 8 resources to further your online marketing education and then 3 case studies of people just like you who have become 7-figure entrepreneurs.
But first, we want to touch on the importance of testing.
The online marketing world is big and it’s constantly changing.
New social media platforms pop up, advertising policies change, and tactics that used to work become ineffective.
Online marketing is fluid.
Ultimately, to keep up, you’ve got to run your own tests and consistently work to determine what works best for your business — that is, what is actually getting you results.
And the only way to figure out what works is to test, test, test.
In fact, the Obama campaign raised an extra $75 million because of marketing decisions resulting from A/B tests. And Microsoft Bing’s revenue per search has increased 10%-25% every year because of A/B testing.
Unfortunately, only 17% of marketers use landing page A/B tests to improve conversion rates.
That’s why, at ClickFunnels, we give all of our members the ability to A/B test their sales funnels.
You can test your images, your sales copy, your design, your CTA… anything.
More importantly, you can learn from the results.
And remember… the only online marketing tactics that really matter for your business… are the ones that work.
8 Online Marketing Resources To Further Your Growth
Here are eight resources that will teach you ClickFunnels marketing methodology and instruct you on how to grow any business in any industry… online.
This free book will teach you how to build an online business based on your own knowledge and expertise. Everyone’s an expert at something, and this book is all about teaching you how to share and monetize that knowledge.
This free book will teach you how to use sales funnels to grow your business. This is a deep dive into how ClickFunnels grew from a small startup to a multi-million-dollar business and how any entrepreneur can use the same strategies we used.
This free book will teach you how to drive high-quality traffic to your website without depending on the approval of advertising platforms like Google and Facebook. This is an evergreen book with traffic-driving strategies that will be effective for many years.
This free book will teach you how to systematically write sales copy that actually sells. You don’t have to be a great writer or wordsmith to master the highly effective copywriting strategies outlined in this book.
This free book will teach you how to grow your network marketing business using online marketing and sales funnels.
In this free webclass, you’ll learn how to get all of your sales letters, scripts and webinar slides, emails and ads written (in as little as 10 minutes) without hiring an expensive copywriter. Go check it out!
Do you want an expert to walk side-by-side with you as you build a high-converting sales funnel in just one month? Our 30-day One Funnel Away Challenge will teach you, step by step, how to build a sales funnel that actually converts.
Why not binge on your online marketing education rather than Netflix? With FunnelFlix, you have access to expert videos about funnel building, copywriting and sales, traffic, and personal development. Plus, you can test drive FunnelFlix for free (no credit card required).
BONUS: 3 Online Marketing Video Case Studies
What if we told you that there were people, just like you, who’ve built 7-figure businesses from scratch with the power of online marketing?
Wouldn’t that prove that you can build the business of your dreams?
Well, our Two Comma Club is absolutely flooded with ClickFunnels members who’ve made over one million dollars in revenue.
How did they do it?
Here are just three stories from three different industries.
1. Ecommerce Case Study
Find out how Jaime used ClickFunnels to build a 7-figure ecommerce store selling skincare products!
2. Coaching and Consulting Case Study
Find out how Garrett used ClickFunnels to build his coaching and consulting business to support thousands of families in 27 different countries.
3. Blogging Case Study
Check out the video below to find out how Natalie — a “single mom who just had a blog,” as she describes herself — used ClickFunnels to sell $20,000 worth of eBooks in a week, and then $20,000 in a day, and then over a million dollars worth of eBooks in just four months!
You’re Now an Online Marketing Expert!
Online marketing is a massive discipline.
There is a lot to learn, a lot to master, and even more to get distracted by.
Which is why we recommend that you focus on only the most important elements.
Remember, the three fundamentals of becoming a master online marketer include driving traffic, building sales funnels, and following up.
If you master those three things, you’ll be able to sell anything to anyone.
And you can use the information and resources in this guide to get where you want to go… even faster.