One of the scariest parts of launching a business of your own is the difficult process of securing a steady stream of loyal customers. For those of us who have grown up working in the corporate world, the clients we worked with were most likely drawn to the name recognition and long-term trajectory that many large businesses and conglomerates can offer. Individual entrepreneurs and small startup businesses, on the other hand, often face the obstacle of attracting clients who have never heard of them or what they have to offer. Here’s how to get the right clients with marketing funnels (even if you are a solopreneur).
Meet Michelle Evans: Marketing Funnel Guru
Michelle L. Evans worked for several years in the corporate world for companies such as Microsoft before launching her own business that focuses on helping coaches, experts, and online business owners attract enormous numbers of clients through implementing automated marketing funnels.
We recently sat down with Michelle to talk a little bit about the challenges she faced in leaving the corporate world and starting her own business venture, along with some recommendations for how marketing funnels can work to help entrepreneurs and new business owners build their client base. Today, Michelle is working with dozens of different clients, helping them take advantage of marketing funnels to grow their business.
Her success, however, didn’t necessarily come easily.
“I wanted my own business,” Michelle tells us, “but I didn’t have a clear vision of what that business would look like…and I felt like I needed to have millions of dollars [to start it up, when] I could barely pay my rent.”
After years of working for Microsoft, she came to understand that performing a bunch of random acts of marketing was not the most efficient strategy to gain clients. Her work with a diversity of clients at her corporate job helped her to understand the importance of having a concrete marketing strategy, and a solid understanding of who she is working with and what the client’s specific problem is.
Once she came to understand her client on a deeper level, she could devise specific strategies to help them solve their marketing problems. “I really wanted to do work that mattered to me,” Michelle relates. The challenge she faced was: “How do I take these skills I have and turn it into a business that actually matters?” After some tense moments at her corporate job, she realized that she had an abundance of relevant experience, skills, and knowledge, but felt trapped in the corporate world. The path towards starting her own business offers some unique insights into what helps and hinders this process of launching out on your own. Instead of spending months or years in planning, she decided to reach out to people who had recently left the corporate world to start a business of their own in order to understand the process of going from a corporate gig to doing your own thing.
This not only offered important insights but also helped her build her confidence. Secondly, she reached out to people in her network to let them know the specific skills she had and what she could offer them. The contacts that she had made through years of working her corporate job at Microsoft essentially allowed her to step right into contracts that more than covered her previous salary. “It made it much easier to make that transition…because I knew that people wanted to hire me,” Michelle mentions.
Once she officially launched her own business and found initial jobs and contracts through her personal network, she started to discover her own niche and passion. “I could do a lot of marketing things, but what I found is that there were certain projects that I loved,” Michelle tells us. She discovered that helping people discover and create a steady client base was not only her passion but also her unique gift.
“Every new business owner struggles at first with having a consistent flow of new sales coming through the door…and I love helping people figure that out because I struggled with that, too.”
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The Advantages of Working with Individuals
At first, Michelle thought that the competition from bigger agencies offering similar services to what she offered would cause her problems. She quickly discovered, however, that her clients were more than willing to hire individuals over bigger agencies because of the expertise that individuals bring to the table. Her clients mentioned that one of the benefits of working with individuals or smaller businesses is the personal connections that allow them to know exactly what they are getting when they sign on the dotted line. “They want you to come in as an expert, understand the landscape, and execute,” Michelle says of some of her bigger clients.
By hiring an individual expert, this allows them to get ahead of their competition. For entrepreneurs and new business owners, not being afraid to sell your unique skills and expertise is a great way to separate yourself from the vague and often standardized world of agencies. While the people in her network allowed her to get her business off the ground, it was also a limiting factor in the long run. Budgets get cut and projects run out, and she found herself on an income roller coaster.
Creating Marketing Funnels that Gets New Clients
She realized at this stage that “I can’t rely on people to throw me a bone [but rather,] need to get a process in place to bring in a steady stream of clients.” After a disappointing (and expensive) course that she took with a supposed mastermind who essentially recommended cold calling as many people as possible, she realized that what was lacking was a process to engage with her clients.
While cold calling might be a great strategy for extremely charismatic personalities, she went back to the logic of marketing funnels. After putting together a one-page PDF that explained what she had to offer and sending it out to several contacts, she was essentially sold out within three weeks. The process of warming up her audience and inviting them to learn more about what she had to offer set the stage for why her offer was a perfect fit for each specific client. Michelle believes that initially,
“one of the problems with my message was that I was way too broad. I was afraid of missing out on opportunities…and needed to funnel down to marketing funnels.”
Through the marketing funnel business approach that she developed, she realized that not all clients want to hear the same thing. As a business owner, you need to own the process of knowing your audience at a deep level. This gives you ownership of your clientele. Her business offers helpful exercises that help small business owners understand their audience and potential clientele. To help her clients dig deep into the minds of their potential clients, Michelle’s favorite question is: “If you had a magic wand and could make everything perfect, describe to me what this looks and feels like.” The answer to this question almost always leads to their absolute marketing goals. “For the business owner, understanding what is going on in your audience’s mind and…how you can solve what your clients´ problem is…that’s where the magic is,” Michelle believes.
The biggest mistakes people make with marketing funnels…
1. Getting bogged down with technology. One of the biggest mistakes that many people make with marketing funnels, according to Michelle, is that people get too bogged down in choosing the most important technology. While she personally uses Click Funnels, she also says that she allows her clients to choose whatever works best for them. “I’ve seen people struggle with tech,” Michelle tells us, “but [the best strategy is to] choose something that gets you out there and engaged with your clients.”
2. Your funnels are way too big. Another major setback that people encounter when they first start using marketing funnels, is that they start way too big. “If you have never done a funnel, a webinar funnel is not a good one to start with,” Michelle advises. “A webinar takes a lot of time to create. It can bury you. If you start small, funnels are like Legos…you can build one layer and then build another layer on top of it.” Instead of shooting for the moon from the get-go, she advises her clients to start small with simple strategies to help them bring people into their business.
When we see the success others have had with elaborate and complex marketing funnels, temptation to mimic those grandiose strategies inevitably arises. “Not only do we get eager wanting to make money,” Michelle says, “but we see people 10 years into the process and they make it look so easy.” When you’re eventually ready for a webinar, having the basic marketing funnel foundation in place will make it easy to simply plug it into something that is already functioning on your website.
How to create marketing funnels that work.
1. Start with the assets you already have. Michelle also advises that it is best to start with whatever assets you have. Finding the fastest way to get what you have in front of the eyes of potential clients to start testing what works best is much more preferable to a massive, six-month campaign that can leave you drained of energy and resources. As you gain experience and success, you can bring other people onto your team to delegate responsibilities for future marketing tunnel strategies.
2. Start small, get small wins first before expanding. Starting small allows companies to lay the foundation and allows potential clients to learn about them and what they have to offer. Simply rolling things out onto a website and waiting for the money to roll in is a surefire failure. “You need to put in the work to see the results on the other side,” Michelle believes. Often times, pre-launch phases and small freebies on your website are other helpful strategies to lay the foundation for future business growth.
Michelle wisely states that “you have to warm people up before you invite them. You have to invite them in and then set the stage…but once you set the stage, then you can make the offer. …Trying to make that offer without the pre-work is like pushing a boulder up a mountain.”
If you want to know more about how to grow your audience, here are some resources you might like:
(This article was originally published in Change Creator magazine, authored by Tobias Roberts.)