How to Build an Advertising Sales Funnel: The $200K Case Study

If you’re a longtime reader, you know the power of a good email nurture sequence and you even know how to create one using the hero’s journey to build a highly effective marketing funnel.

Those articles have lots of detail about how you can take a cold lead, who hasn’t heard of you before, and turn them into a paying customer.

But there’s one thing those articles don’t talk about. They don’t tell you how to get those emails in the first place.

Those strategies require you to have the user’s email address in order to market them. But what if you could create a nurture sequence BEFORE people gave you their email address.

So, how do you do that?

Today I want to talk about how you can use the latest digital advertising strategies to build a pre-nurture sales funnel — using the same nurture strategies from a Direct Mailing while completely skipping the inbox.

And how one company used the strategy I’m going to share to make $212,400 from a $4,133 investment (that’s a 51x ROI, if you’re counting).

Your Ad Options For Building an Advertising Sales Funnel: A Quick Refresher

In this post we talked about the state of digital advertising — but what you need to know for our conversation today is that there are three types of ads.

  • “Traditional” ads — you provide Google or Facebook with demographic data or keywords and they show your ad to people who match that information.
  • Lookalike Audiences / Customer Match ads — you provide Google or Facebook with a list of existing customers and they market either to that list of customers or to other customers that they identify that are just like those customers using the data they have that you do not.
  • Retargeting ads — you add code to allow Google and/or Facebook to track user behavior on your website and then the platforms show those users ads based on those behaviors.

Now we’re going to talk about pulling those pieces (plus one more missing piece) together to build an advertising sales funnel.

The 7 Step Digital Advertising Sales Funnel

I’m going to show you how to create a 7-step nurture sequence that you can use to market to people before you ever get their email address.

This combines the effectiveness of direct-marketing nurture sequences, with the pervasiveness of standard digital advertising.

This strategy has been pioneered by companies like SingleGrain, Neil Patel, Vantage, CartHook and more. I’ll walk you through the overall strategy, as well as a specific (NDA’d) case study.

RealSuccess (not their real name) built a 7-step ad funnel, and was able to turn $4,133.71 on Facebook ads into an extra $212,400 in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

The secret? Pairing Facebook ads with content marketing.

Let me explain.

RealSuccess created a series of blog posts, an ebook, and a webinar, which they promoted using Facebook ads. This created a 7-step sales funnel that pushed users to buy their product.

By using Retargeting ads they were able to move people through the funnel depending on what ads they clicked (or didn’t click), and if they engaged with the content. The fact that they were only using Retargeting ads also lowered their ad-spend significantly, since Retargeting ads are a fraction of the price of standard ads.

Here’s what the 7-step ad funnel looked like:

1. The Attention Post

The advertising sales funnel began with an “attention post.” This post’s sole job was to capture a Facebook user’s attention as they scrolled through their news feed and make them click.

They paid to promote it on facebook using “traditional” ads.

2. The Trends Post

Next they created a post with trends those users would be interested in. This post was meant to build credibility with those users who had seen the previous post. This time they used a mix of traditional advertising and retargeting.

Users who clicked on the first ad but did not sign up for a free trial were then excluded from seeing that ad, and began to see this one instead. Users who fit into the “traditional” ad audience but hadn’t clicked on the first ad began to see this ad after a week of seeing but not clicking on the first ad.

3. The Help Post

Again, the focus of this third post was to build credibility — and RealSuccess used a mix of traditional advertising and retargeting to promote it. This post focused on future trends.

Again, users who had clicked on the previous post immediately began to see this one instead; all other users were moved along to this ad after a week of seeing the previous one.

4. The Product Focus Post

This time, the RealSuccess team choose to focus on their product itself, writing a post about optimizing the checkout experience of a Shopify website.

They continued their mix of traditional and retargeted ads. That means at this point people seeing this ad had either been seeing the company’s ads for 3 weeks (and therefore the brand name would no longer be a complete unknown) or they had clicked on one of the previous three ads.

5. The Killer Feature Post

Their fifth post focused on one killer product feature — in their case, the art of upsells, which their product would help shopify users with. They again continued their strategy of traditional and retargeting ads.

6. The Ebook

Now that they had 5 posts on a related topic, they repurposed that content into an ebook, The Advanced Guide to eCommerce Funnels: How ecommerce is set to change and what you need to do to stay ahead. Then they used additional traditional and retargeted ads to promote this new piece of content.

At this point, the company had already seen a significant return on investment.

This process, of writing and promoting these 5 posts on Facebook, had net them:

  • 1000+ new email contacts
  • 127 free trial sign ups
  • 38 new customers
  • $11,400 in new recurring monthly revenue (that’s $136,800 in annual recurring revenue)

But since they had those 1,000 new email addresses they decided to take it one step further… with a webinar.

7. The Webinar

They choose to do a webinar with one of their clients, sharing how that client had built million dollar sales funnels using their product. This they also advertised on Facebook — both via retargeting and based on lookalike audiences, further boosting its reach.

The webinar had 360 people register and brought in an additional 68 free trial signups. Those led to 21 new customers, for an additional $6,300 in monthly recurring revenue ($75,600 in ARR).

The Final Results

The final results of this digital advertising sales funnel were pretty impressive.

  • $4,133.71 spent in ad dollars
  • $17,700 in new monthly recurring revenue
  • $212,400 in new annual recurring revenue

How to Create Your Own Digital Advertising Sales Funnel

To summarize that all for you, here are the steps again:

  1. How can you get attention in your market?
    Write a blog post on it. Then promote on Facebook using traditional ads.
  2. How can you help your customers succeed in the market?
    Talk about trends you’re seeing to build credibility. Then promote it on Facebook with retargeting and traditional ads.
  3. How can you help your target market succeed?
    Write a post on that — again, we want to build credibility. You want to be positioned as a trusted resource! And, again, promote it using retargeting and traditional ads via Facebook.
  4. What does your product do in the context of what’s happening in the market?
    This post should focus more on your product — sharing how it helps your target customers succeed. What part of their process does it make better? Continue using your mixed Facebook advertising strategy.
  5. What is your differentiating factor? 
    Share a killer feature of your product, and how it helps your target audience. Again, promote it using our ongoing Facebook advertising strategy.
  6. Repurpose to an Ebook
    Combine the posts you’ve created to write an ebook on the same general topic, and promote that too, using our ongoing ad strategy.
  7. Show real results from someone using your product in a webinar.
    Finally, use retargeting to capture some of the folks who have shown interest but have yet to take the plunge with a free trial or product purchase by advertising a free webinar. You can further boost your numbers here by using lookalike audiences to find new potential leads that might also be interested in attending.

Beyond An Advertising Sales Funnel: How to Integrate Advertising Into Your Email Nurtures

This is really just one strategy – and just the tip of the iceberg with what you can do with custom audiences.

What if instead of stopping the ads at that point, you continued to integrate them into your email nurture sequence?

This would allow you to create an automated email marketing sequence, with a “live environment” feel. Your customers would be receiving highly tailored content in an automated series specific to where they were in your nurture sequence… but to them, it would all feel like a product launch — a big event, they were participating in!

We’ll talk more about how we can use custom audiences and retargeting in nurture sequences next time!