“AAA” Funnels: Acquire More Customers and Profits, Faster

If you sell anything online, you have likely heard the term “Sales Funnel”. 

Even if you’ve had some success in the online space, it can be difficult to keep up with terminology (let alone how to implement these fancy terms). 

Here’s the thing. If you sell online — You’re already using funnels

Probably lots of them.

But how do you make them perform better?

This guide will show you:

  • Give you an Intro into Customer Acquisition Funnels. (This will allow you to see the current funnels you have set up, or to set up new ones consciously.)
  • Look at my  “AAA” model. (How to optimize funnels, using examples, to see more leads and buyers.)
  • Recap. (Actionable advice to take away and improve your online sales funnels.)

Intro to Online Customer Acquisition Funnels

All funnels share the same, few basic components.

1. Something that Attracts: Usually ads of some sort. Either online (Facebook, Adwords, etc.) or physical (print, advertorials, etc.). Meant to get cold traffic to give you a look.

2. Something that Collects: From the ad, there is usually a landing page (with an opt-in) that collects email addresses, or other contact data. You offer something of value in return for their data.

3. Something that Entices: From this point, you are trying to sell. Either via email with resources or offers. Anything to compel them and get them ready for your sales material. 

4. Something that Closes: Sales pages, scarcity discount, anything that puts the product in front of your customer and gets them to make a decision.

The Critical Factors That Affect Funnels

There are a few factors that go into the length of a sales funnel. These elements will change the number of levels and the amount of nurturing you’ll have to do with leads. Some of these things include:

  • Cost: If the products/services you offer are expensive, it’s likely that leads will need more time to evaluate. Less expensive items may be more impulse driven—shortening the cycle.
  • Trust: The look of the ad, your site, or the product itself could cause an increase or decrease in the amount of trust given to your brand(ing).
  • Content: The information given to your leads is important. The right data at the right stage of buying could dramatically shorten the buying time. Knowing when a lead wants what is difficult, but possible.

Again, this is very elementary, but the basic flow would usually be something like the image below.

Optimizing Funnels Using the “AAA” Model

This is where the “Triple A” model comes in to create and optimize funnels to get a higher number of leads and convert more of them into paying customers. The three “A’s” are as follows:

Acquire Perfect Leads. Activate Buying Behavior. Accelerate Purchase. 

Let’s run through each.

A1: Acquire Perfect Leads

Getting the perfect lead to your site (or acquiring them) is all about optimizing your ads. One broad way to do this is really think about one question:

Who’s seeing this?

Considering these things could lead you to vastly improve your ads, but we’ll go over some best practices and examples too :).

Who’s Seeing This (Where will you put the ad)?

First off ads are typically done in one (or more) of three methods.

  • Facebook Ads: The most powerful segmentation available. You can track income, interests and a host of other features. It’s also one of the most crowded and popular places to put ads. But the “who” can be virtually as niche or broad as you’d like.
  • Google Adwords: More based on search habits. Perfect for high-priced, niche products. Especially items with little competition. There’s a lot that goes into the bid/keyword process.
  • Ad Networks (i.e. Taboola): A broader audience, but your ad could be seen on popular sites/blogs that are close to your target market. For instance, if you sell men’s watches, your ad could go on news sites similar to Fox or Forbes.

Depending on your ad spend budget, it would be wise to test a couple of these methods for effectiveness. 

Here’s an example Facebook ad that I’ll break down:

Finance is an incredibly tough niche.

However, Stansberry Research has always managed to stay ahead of the game in more ways than one. Here are a couple reasons the placement and ad are both good. 

  1. The target market. People in their 40’s and 50’s are the most engaged group on FB and quite possibly the most underserved. They’re looking retirement straight in the face and want to be secure.
  2. Using FB instead of Adwords. Most of the big names use Adwords. If you search for “Priceline” in Google, it’s likely that you’ll see at least one major competitor in the paid ads. Facebook is actually less crowded in the travel space. AirBnB uses it extensively, but that’s not really a direct competitor for Honey.

Here’s a screenshot of a search for the word “Investing”. Take a look at the ads.

If you’re searching for a term like “investing”, companies like Prudential and Merrill Lynch have a shot at getting your click. Porter Stansberry, probably not. 

That’s not to say that Facebook is easy. There, your audience is trying to have a good time, keep up with their friends, family, and favorite brands. You (the advertiser) have to disrupt that behavior and get them thinking about their portfolio.

Which brings us to our next point.

Who’s Seeing This? (What You Should Say to Them)

Let’s take a look at that Stansberry Research ad again.

Stansberry really has their ideal clients pegged. They offer investing reports, active-trading assistance and other products ranging from a small monthly fee to some hefty pricing.

The end game would be to convert many to the lower paid products and then really sell the higher priced data/services.

Do you know what you would say to your ideal buyer? Do you even know what that person/brand looks like?

Reverse engineering the copy, you can see who Stansberry is trying to reach.

  • The ad probably skews toward men around the age of Mr. FistBump in the picture.
  • These men have likely played it safe and are ready to try to make some significant gains with at least a portion of their investment dollars.
  • They already has a basic understanding of who Stansberry Research is (could be warm traffic).

Other things of note.

  • The image isn’t typical. It’s not something generic like you’d see from an Ameritrade ad. It gives the Viagra vibe. A middle-aged man in control of his surroundings.
  • It leaves the lead hanging. “All to deliver an amazing…” (Be careful with this one, it could work, but may not. Always be testing.)

Further Reading: If you’re interested in developing an Ideal Client Profile (aka Buyer Persona). Here’s a great intro and here’s another that is ecommerce specific. 

Who’s Seeing This? (Don’t Cold Pitch)

Regardless of the platform your ads fall on, it’s important that you are offering something that the lead knows they want.

Sure, they may be a perfect fit for your products.

But many don’t know that when they’re scrolling through and being inundated with ads. 

That’s why I recommend (in many cases) to have an offer that’s not exactly what your company sells. 

One of the best ways to do this is via your banner ads and on ad networks (like Taboola). Since your ads are being seen by a general audience, not everyone is going to be interested. 

Offering a resource, that contains subject matter that allows you to pitch your products is a great way to lure in those who are on sites for a different reason other than to shop sites like yours. 

Here’s an example from The Weather Channel’s site (with Taboola ads).

Notice the first three ads. They aren’t direct sales, but things that a casual scroller may look at and find interesting. Also notice the 4th ad and take note that big box retailers are circling the drain due to poor advertising and even worse customer service.

This is a great way to get more eyes on your site and leads in your pipeline than just a cold pitch. We’ll go over this in detail in the next section.

Let’s Recap Acquiring Perfect Leads

  • Always think about those who are seeing your ads.
  • Think about the typical user behavior on the platform your ad is on.
  • Niche down on your target audience, keywords, and reach to increase potential.
  • Think about why your ideal buyer want to click on the ad (what’s in it for them).
  • Create and offer a mix between a resource for the reader and a pitch for your products.

A2: Activate Buying Behavior

Activating buying behavior in the leads is all about getting the most amount of people to say “yes”. Meaning, after clicking through to your landing page; they to opt-in to your email list, and eventually (hopefully) make the sale on your sales page. 

Every step they move down the funnel, they’re actively being activated.

Much like the ads, this is not going to be a one ad and done scenario. If you want to supercharge your revenue, it’s going to take time and testing. 

Key Takeaway: It’s all about the optimization of your ads, advertorials, and landing pages over time.

Using the Taboola ad from the first “A”, let’s break down the next step in a funnel.

Merge What Leads Want With What You’re Selling

Here’s the ad again:

We’re going to zoom in on the third one from the left (Fisher Investments). The first two offer an example of an enticing advert, but it’s this one that had a decent follow up after I clicked through.

Here’s a description of the landing page I saw.

After a simple menu and a basic image, it went right into a tip (#18 to be precise). If the ad was a glimpse, the landing page was a free sample. 

Here’s a screenshot.

After the header and the “free” tip, there was a decent amount of copy to sell the guide. You may be thinking, “Didn’t they click to get the guide?” 

If so, you’re right. However, the lead didn’t agree to give their contact data (i.e. email address). Nowadays, people are getting sensitive about their email. 

Here’s a snippet of the copy the company is using to entice their fresh clicks to follow through and give their email.

This “A” in the triple A strategy is “Activate Buying Behavior” and this example does it very well.

By taking the time to sell this resource to their new leads, this financial company is getting leads to say yes to something. Instead of a quick, “to get this guide, give us your email”, they really pull out the stops and try to make this guide seem worth downloading. 

The psychology behind this is huge. 

Leads are saying yes to a transaction with the cost being their email. Could less copy have worked? Probably, I mean, they did want the guide to even click away from the Weather Channel’s site. 

But all of the ground work is being laid for our third and final “A”. It all starts with a resource that is chocked full of sales language. The content you provide leads should satisfy the reason they downloaded/clicked/etc..

However, you should still be actively using persuasion to activate the buying behavior. Let’s look at the preview tip from our financial example, with some quick notes.

This one paragraph is full of sales copy that, yes, their leads came for. The red highlights are overt. “Fisher clients tend not to have annuities in their portfolios…” Pretty forward, but they’re here for the tips of experts, right?. 

Then, the writer addresses a potential fear/pain point. “They’re going…” Giving the impression that Fisher takes care of their clients at a value. 

The blue highlight from the image is one (of many) examples of psychological prompts that get stuck in the brain of people close to retirement. No one who’s looking to live off their pension and investments is going to hate hearing “guarantee”. 

Here’s the thing; this is just one of 99 different tips that their ideal buyer is going to love to read. 

That’s so much opportunity to pre-suade leads.

Let’s Recap Activating the Buyer Behavior:

  • The ad that “Acquires the Perfect Lead” is enticing and geared for both the ideal buyers and the platform that the ad was displayed upon.
  • A landing page that “Activates Buying Behavior” sells the resource as if it’s worth money in exchange for the lead’s contact data.
  • The resource should be an incognito sales tool that provides value while priming the buying pump, so to speak.

A3: Accelerate Purchase

Unless you contact the lead directly (via phone or chat), you’re going to nurture leads either via email or by sending them to a sales page (probably both). Once they are persuaded to go to your sales page, everything that is on the page needs to be tested until it’s finely tuned for conversion rate optimization.

To help us wrap our minds around this, I’m going to change things up and “review” a well-known brand’s sales page (NutriSystem). 

Before we get started, I’m going to be doing a high-level look at this page, but there are soooo many things that we won’t cover. I’m certain NutriSystem has tested colors, copy, and just about everything else. 

The Key is to test every part of your funnel and every element within each stage. 

Bonus Resource:Here’s a huge list of conversion rate optimization resources I put together. It will help you find and complete all the tests you could ever hope to accomplish.

Onto the sales page.

In order to accelerate the purchase, everything on your sales page has to be geared to getting customers to buy. That may sound elementary, but look at how many ways NutriSystem accounts for different types of leads that come to the page.

1. The Page is Intuitive

They’ll be selling to both women and men with different tastes. Take a look at how, without leaving the page, users can manipulate the elements and figure out the cost. 

This will help catch the “one-click” type folks who are ready to buy, but don’t want to be bothered with cumbersome processes.

2. It Tackles Reservations

The only reason a person would spend over $300 on they can get for a fraction of that cost is for results. 

This promise takes care of those who are apprehensive. Will it work? How about a scientific study to prove it works?

3. It Shows the Value Propositions

NutriSystem shows that the food looks better than just edible, it looks tasty. Then, notice the copy around the nice food pics. Things like “choose your own menu” or “fight boredom with over 100 great tasting foods”.

If you’ve ever dieted or trained for a sport—food gets repetitive.

Chicken breast, plain pasta, spinach salad, boiled carrots, repeat. You don’t get a ton of variety if you’re doing your own meal prep and planning. That’s a clear value proposition for their potential customers. 

Note: Also in this picture is a testimonial to remove apprehensions.

4. People are Hungry (show value continued)

I wouldn’t call this a long-form sales page in the sense that there are thousands of words and readers are scrolling and scrolling. That said, NutriSystem isn’t rushing. There are no legitimate competitors in this niche.

That means, there only competition are 

a.) People who think, “The food can’t be any good.”

b.) People who want to do it themselves.

c.) I’ll still be hungry

This next screenshot speaks to all of them.

There are six “meals” listed for those who don’t think they’ll eat enough. The pictures show some really good looking grub. And that schedule is a genius way to make the most hardened DIY dieter want a done-for-you option. 

5. Obligatory Features List (more value)

Not too many notes on this one. These feature lists work well for a recap and for skimmers. If there is a way to list out your key features and it makes sense, you may want to test it out.

6. The Bottom Readers

If you scroll to the bottom of a page (reading most of it), you’re interested. Now is where you handle the reservations again. At the end, NutriSystem hits you with another testimonial and a (tiny) guarantee at the bottom. 

Also, a “start now” button sandwiched in between.

Let’s Recap Accelerating the Purchase

  • Make your product easy to figure out and buy. Streamlining the purchase can significantly improve conversions for those leads who are ready to buy.
  • Tackle reservations throughout with reassuring elements like guarantees and testimonials.
  • Communicate the unique value of your product. Remember those buyer personas and tell them the things they’ll love about what it is you sell. (You should be doing this throughout the funnel, too.)
  • Reassure and reiterate at the end. More testimonials and that guarantee.

Using the Triple-A Funnel Optimization Strategy

These three strategies are symbiotic in nature. Acquiring better and more numerous leads will need to flow into a well-constructed infrastructure. Once you capture contact data or send those leads to a sales page, your email sequence and pages will need to be optimized to convert.

If one of these steps isn’t working, the funnel is broken. 

Here are all of the recap checklists put together

Acquire the Perfect Leads (Ad Position/Creation)

  • Always think about those who are seeing your ads.
  • Think about the typical user behavior on the platform your ad is on.
  • Niche down on your target audience, keywords, and reach to increase potential.
  • Think about why your ideal buyer want to click on the ad (what’s in it for them).
  • Create and offer a mix between a resource for the reader and a pitch for your products.

Activate Buyer Behavior (Offer Landing Page/Opt-in Page)

  • The ad that “Acquires the Perfect Lead” is enticing and geared for both the ideal buyers and the platform that the ad was displayed upon.
  • A landing page that “Activates Buying Behavior” sells the resource as if it’s worth money in exchange for the lead’s contact data.
  • The resource should be an incognito sales tool that provides value while priming the buying pump, so to speak.

Accelerate the Purchase (Sales Pages and Email Sequences)

  • Make your product easy to figure out and buy. Streamlining purchasing can significantly improve conversions for those leads who are ready to buy.
  • Tackle reservations throughout with reassuring elements like guarantees and testimonials.
  • Communicate the unique value of your product. Remember those buyer personas and tell them the things they’ll love about what it is you sell. (You should be doing this throughout the funnel, too.)
  • Reassure and reiterate (again) at the end. More testimonials and that guarantee.