8 Steps to Build a Sales Funnel for Affiliate Marketing

minute/s reading time

A sales funnel is the digitized version of a sales process. You need to take the customer to the next logical step of the sale with each action. This is easier said than done, especially when the product you’re selling is backed by a product partner and not sold directly by you.

In this article, you will discover what to do specifically at each stage of the funnel design. Some conventional wisdom will be thrown away as you discover multiple new tips and tricks that work in your favor. By the end of this post, you will know the exact steps of setting up your own affiliate funnel for any type of product or service. So, let’s get started with the first step.

1. Write your own Marketing Copy

Many marketers think that building a sales funnel starts by choosing a funnel program or creating a landing page. But let me be clear: All great marketing starts with sales copy.

And affiliate marketing opportunities often come with a pre-written copy. This can be the easier path to building a sales funnel, but as we know, there is no such thing as an easy win in affiliate marketing.

Here are a few reasons not to use copy provided by the seller:

  • It puts the burden of closing on traffic generation and not content quality
  • It incurs duplicate content penalties making it hard for you to rank your page
  • It misses opportunities for optimization

Write marketing copy and use persuasive language to position the product being sold compellingly. Books like Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini can help you make your message more influential.

Pro tip: Get a copy of the Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. Read it, then rewrite the letters by hand. This trains you to become a better copywriter.

2. Assemble the Assets

While you should discard the marketing copy provided by the marketing partner, you should not dismiss the rest of the asset stack.

From videos to images and testimonials, all the content provided by the product partner can be incredibly useful. Don’t throw the asset baby with the copy bathwater. You will soon realize that plenty is irrelevant to the sale, even among the assets. If you think an asset will not direct the customer to the next stage of the sale, feel free to omit it.

Rule of thumb: If you cannot replace an asset with a better one, go ahead and use it. And if the message is just as persuasive without an asset as it is with it, then you may remove it.

3. Create a Landing Page

Once you have the copy and the shortlisted assets, it is time to create a landing page. From WordPress to ClickFunnels, you have plenty of options.

WordPress landing pages are more straightforward and cheaper upfront. However, they are not as good at upsells and downsells. In contrast, ClickFunnels makes it easy to build landing pages with fancy features like upsells, downsells, and cross-sells. Its downside is that it costs money.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, WordPress is a better option for a landing page than ClickFunnels because you cannot predict affiliate revenue. Upsells don’t matter as much because the buyer gets taken to an alternative site for the final close.

4. Include Cross-sells

Speaking of customer flight, we must discuss cross-selling. While upsells are harder for affiliates because more affiliate programs require the closing to happen on the product partner’s page.

In most cases, the affiliate partner cannot make more money off the close. However, landing pages that offer cross-selling can make money if the customer chooses not to buy the primary item.

5. Create Blog posts that Relate to the Product

A great landing page design and alternative cross-sell can maximize conversion on the affiliate end, but it cannot attract traffic. The traffic must come from ads, SEO, or social media exposure. In other words, you need to employ inbound marketing tactics.

Advertising is typically not a good idea for affiliates because if ads were profitable, the product partner would have relied on ads instead of affiliates. Secondly, it introduces a risk usually not worth the affiliate income. Finally, the greatest drawback of advertising as an affiliate is that you miss out on all the recurring income from the customer you pay to acquire.

As online advertising rates go, most companies break even on the first sale. So the chances of making a profit are minimal, and the second sale is where the profit is made. And guess what? The affiliate doesn’t see any of the second sale income.

Social media posting is a “free” way to get traffic to your landing page. “Free,” however, is a rich term in this context. It actually takes a lot of time to build a following and get attention online. And that effort is usually not worth the affiliate income. So what’s the solution? Blogs.

Blog content written to help the audience within a context where the product fits organically is one of the most sustainable ways to generate an affiliate income.

Let’s suppose you’re enrolled in Fiverr’s affiliate program. While tweeting your Fiverr link or advertising the Fiverr signup page can generate traffic for Fiverr, the commission results will fail to break even. But if you create a blog that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners, you can pitch Fiverr multiple times in a handful of posts. Unlike a product sales funnel, the process starts with a valuable piece of content. And the more people find it useful, the longer they will read it. This “dwell time” (an SEO metric) improves the post’s visibility on SERPs.

The best part about building the value of this part of your sales funnel is that you can instantly swap the products. Instead of Fiverr, you could plug Upwork for similar ends. And if you have written your marketing copy, you won’t even have to change the landing page you created.

6. Link to your Landing Page

This step is invaluable because if you don’t link to your landing page, you won’t get the analytics and session-time data.

The fact that people click from your website and go to the product partner’s website means nothing if you have no idea of your close rate. If you own the landing page, you can heatmap the page and see which parts draw the most attention.

You can also see whether your audience is even interested in the products you push. This knowledge can further guide your affiliate selection process and keep you from unknowingly putting effort into a suboptimal venture.

7. Learn from what Works

As you may have noticed, the sole purpose behind creating a landing page for the partner product is to get analytics and data. Capturing this data allows you to learn what works makes money. And what usually works is email marketing.

To make sure you don’t limit yourself to a single sale, you can offer to collect their email on the landing page. A pop-up email opt-in offer can help you remarket to the people who didn’t click “buy now.” More importantly, it allows you to cross-sell products in the future. (Related: ActiveCampaign vs. GetResponse: Which One is Best for Affiliate Marketing?)

8. Never Stop Optimizing (NSO)

The final step of building an affiliate marketing sales funnel is to optimize it. You should NSO (never stop optimizing) a sales funnel because many factors change. The audience demographics might shift. The number of clicks might go down. And when you constantly optimize, you ensure your funnel doesn’t fall off.

Final Thoughts

If you sell your own product, your sales funnel starts with a landing page and includes upsells and downsells post-purchasing. If you’re an affiliate marketer, your funnel starts with valuable content and leads to a landing page that you host, where you collect an opt-in email. Once you have their email, you can redirect them to the partner’s page, where the visitor is not your responsibility.

About the Author

I have been in the 'online business' space since 2009 when I started an eCommerce business selling motorcycle parts (sold in 2012). Since then I have owned and operated several successful online business (and had a fair share of failures), along with owning offline home services businesses. Currently my focus is online businesses that are profitable with paid traffic. As a 'self employed individual' I do not use Linkedin, but you can connect with my on my personal instagram and youtube which largely revolve around my mountain biking passion!