Where Funnels Fall Short

by | Sep 23, 2019 | Uncategorized

The musician community seems positively sanguine about funnels.

In case you’re unaware, today, a funnel essentially describes a multi-step sales process. The buyer journey begins on Facebook where they are shown a relevant ad. If they click through, they are taken to a series of squeeze pages where they are sold increasingly higher priced offers.

You will never hear me say this “strategy” (which I consider a tactic, for reasons you’re about to discover) doesn’t work. It does.

There are many entrepreneurs and musicians that have found success with funnels, although it depends entirely on what one considers “success”.

If it means having to launch new products all the time to sustain your revenue stream, then there’s a definite downside. Launches are stressful. Ask anyone who’s done them.

Not only have I talked to others who’ve endured that stress, I’ve also had to do a launch for a client (for a one-off project like hers, it was the perfect fit, but it’s inefficient if you intend to establish a business with longevity).

As far as I’m concerned, launching is just another tactic masquerading as a strategy, but that’s another rabbit hole for another time. Again, you will never hear me say launching doesn’t work. It does. People have made a king’s ransom launching.

But are you setting up a business that’s profitable and sustainable long-term? Are you creating an infrastructure that truly serves your audience?

There’s more to these questions than meets the eye. So, let’s examine where funnels fall short.

If Your Copywriting Skills Suck

Ask the top copywriters in the world – like John Carlton – and you’ll discover it takes time to become a skilled copywriter.

I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of great examples and templates you can follow. There are.

But anyone who’s spent any time developing their craft knows that copy needs to be written with an audience in mind. Only then can you expect to sell anything.

So, while templated copy might prove helpful in getting started, it’s not going to be ultra-targeted.

Now, I’m sure there are marketers who can show me instances where generic copy resulted in 3 to 5% conversion. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. But I can’t imagine this would work all the time.

The point is that funnels suck if you can’t write copy. Why? Because your ads and your landing pages must contain compelling copy. The text you write must cause readers to act. And, if you don’t have that skill set, you’re hooped.

Copy, by the way, refers to any text you write with the intent of selling. If you’d like to learn more about the basics of copywriting, I recommend reading the chapter about copywriting in my book, The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age.

The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age

If You Don’t Know How to Build a Landing Page That Converts

This goes hand in hand with my last point.

Landing page development is a skill, much like copywriting. The two are complementary, though not always mutually inclusive.

Again, you can go and grab a landing page template and install it on your website. This typically isn’t a difficult or painful process. Some purveyors of funnels even sell templates.

And, these templates generally have a proven track record. I can’t take that away from them.

But if you want to get this right, you’d better know a thing or two about landing pages. You’ll need to educate yourself. And, like I already said, you’d better know how to write copy that converts.

This isn’t to suggest that there isn’t always an element of ongoing self-education in achieving your own version of success. I believe there is. And, as a musician, building websites is something you should probably learn a thing or two about.

But if you’re going to build funnels, right out the gate you’ve got a problem to solve. You’ve got to be able to build landing pages that convert. And, you need to build several of them if you’re going to leverage the preestablished ascension structure funnel businesses are built on.

Some marketers struggle to build landing pages, let alone landing pages that convert the standard but coveted 3 to 5%.

So, you’d better steep yourself in digital marketing articles, podcasts and courses if you expect to do well at this.

If Your Written Communication is Godawful

One of my mentors once said to me good communicators grow fast in business.

Now, he was referring to me when he said “good communicators” but if he was right, surely, I would have a more profitable business by now.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Business isn’t just about communication. It’s also about being well-versed in your business model, industry and target audience.

With that in mind, we can’t ignore the importance of communication. At every stage of the game, funnels are about strong, compelling communication.

At every stage of the game, funnels are about strong, compelling communication. Share on X

Whether it’s Facebook ad copy, landing pages, follow-up sequences or email campaigns, every word you write counts. And, if you can’t make it count, you’re not going to do terribly well at this.

I believe everyone can become a better writer than they are. This doesn’t mean they will one day become an excellent writer, but they can learn to express themselves well.

Of course, you can always hire a writer. But that puts your breakeven point even higher than it originally was with your free/free plus shipping offer. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, but it drives up your expenses.

Fundamentally, your communication better be good if you intend to compel your target audience to action with your words.

If Your Facebook Advertising Chops Blow

I’ve shared before that I’ve wasted plenty of money on Facebook ads, and not because I wanted to. Compared to all the money I’ve spent on “learning experiences” (totaling mid five-figures), however, it wouldn’t amount to much.

And, if you’re using funnels to sell your music, you should expect to have many learning experiences of your own. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The point, rather, is that if you don’t know how to create an effective ad, or how to look at the numbers once they’re in, or how to tweak your ad to improve your conversion rate, you’re effectively poop out of luck.

I could go on again about the importance of self-education, which does apply here too, but I’ve said enough about that already.

With funnels, you’ve got more to contend with than just copywriting and landing pages. You’ve got to hone your Facebook ad chops too.

I’m tempted to say something about digital sharecropping as well, though I’m sure advertising will always be available in some form.

Just don’t expect that it will always be Facebook, because it may not be. And, when it’s not, you’ll be forced to learn a new ad platform.

If Your Customer Wants to Buy Something Else

Likely, the ascension model predates the internet (e.g. do you want fries with that?).

And, it stuck because it works. If it hasn’t been abundantly clear to this point, funnels do work. I want to reiterate that in case anyone thinks I’m just taking a cheap shot at their music business.

But the ascension model is not friendly to your customers.

If you have multiple offers, I would rather be guided to the right one (such as with James Schramko’s selector switch – check it out at SuperFastBusiness) or simply be taken to a page where I can view all of them.

I’ve bought from four businesses or entrepreneurs utilizing funnels. In every case, I only claimed the free plus shipping offer. And, in all instances, I never returned to see what else they had, even if their other offers were awesome.

I can’t recall ever hearing from them again, which is also odd, considering they should have my contact information (including my personal address) on hand.

Sometimes, your customers don’t want your $15 offer but would absolutely die for the $45 one. You’re going to leave money on the table if you force them through a predesigned funnel to get to that point.

If Your Upsells & Cross-Sells Are Too Cheap

What are you doing all this work for if not to make money?

Honestly, I can’t believe people work so hard on ads and landing pages and email sequences just so they can give one free product away and upsell a $5 product. It’s ludicrous!

And, I’m not saying everyone is doing that. But there are certain entities that seem to be teaching this or I wouldn’t see it popping up so frequently.

Stop it.

Now, you’ve got to have a free (or free plus shipping) offer for a funnel to work. That’s a given.

But once your customer has their credit card out, don’t force them to pay for a $5 offer, which they may not even want. Get them to spend at least $17 with you (for instance, a physical album with digital downloads).

From there, you can quickly move up to $37, $67, $97 and beyond. I’m not an advocate of using funnels as a strategy, and even I know that!

It’s okay to have lower priced offers, but seriously $5 is too low. People spend more on their daily coffee for expletive’s sake.

I get that new entrepreneurs generally have trouble pricing themselves and don’t know what they’re worth, but just take it from me – set yourself up to win! You’re the one making the rules.

If You Want to Build a Stronger Connection with Your Target Audience

I already mentioned that I’ve claimed at least four free plus shipping offers, and in every instance, I never heard from them again. And, if I named them, you’d probably know at least one.

I’m not saying I would buy from them if I did hear from them again, but there was a reason I was interested in their offers in the first place, and if they followed up and showed me what they had, maybe I’d reengage.

Honestly, is this the extent of customer service these days?

I recognize this doesn’t apply to every funnelpreneur. But with email delivery rates being what they are, you can’t necessarily rely on your ESP or CRM to do all the work, contrary to what some believers in automagical marketing say.

You’ll reach a percentage of your audience, to be sure, and you’ll convert a smaller percentage of those you reach.

But if you’ve got my mailing address on hand, you might want to follow up with me with a well-timed direct mail piece. Just a thought.

I admit that I need to drink a bit of my own medicine here but building a stronger connection with your audience is going to come from relevant and targeted communication. You can’t forget that no matter what kind of entrepreneur you are.

If You Want to Maintain a Long-Term Relationship with Your Customers

I would repeat the same points about the four free plus shipping offers I’ve claimed, but I feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point.

But I will ask you one question:

How do you intend to maintain a relationship with your customers after they’ve purchased one or more items from you?

If you’ve set up your funnel just to make money, fine. But that’s not a business, friend.

I understand that some companies are teaching musicians how to do this, whether it’s with emails, social media, retargeting or otherwise, which is good. But that doesn’t represent all of them.

As I’ve already alluded to, constantly having to launch sucks. I know people who do this and even do well at it. But what if there was a way to create recurring revenue without all the hassle and stress and all-nighters that launching encourages?

Oh, wait. There is! It’s called memberships, fan clubs, exclusive serial content.

And, that’s not all. There are so many other ways to create stress-free (or less stressful) ongoing revenue that doesn’t depend on you staring at a computer screen for days at a time, constantly putting out fires.

If you want to be smart about this, you’ve got to be thinking about how you’re going to connect with your customers long-term.

If You Genuinely Care About Your Audience

I’m not suggesting that all funnelpreneurs see their prospects and customers as numbers. But it’s almost impossible not to make some assumptions about this based on how the “business model” is supposed to work.

If you truly cared about your audience, what are some things you’d do, besides send them to more landing pages?

Would you create and deliver content they’d find valuable, entertaining or inspiring?

Would you invite them to be a part of an exclusive group or community, online or off?

Would you send them special offers, like free tickets to events, discounts on memberships, beta testing privileges or something else?

I recognize there is a way to create a real connection with your audience, even if your business is based around funnels. Some are doing it well. Others, not so much. So, let’s be mindful.

Don’t forget that your business would not exist if not for your customers. Let’s find ways of engaging them that doesn’t revolve around selling all the time.

Don't forget that your business would not exist if not for your customers. Let's find ways of engaging them that doesn’t revolve around selling all the time. Share on X


A friend once told me you should never talk about a problem without offering a solution.

I believe I’ve shared several possible solutions to navigating the challenges that funnels present, but here’s one more thing I’ll offer up:

The antidote to broken funnels is a strategic content marketing plan.

Anyone can do just as I’ve done and create a site that generates hundreds of visits (or more) every single day. Care to guess what you can do with that kind of traffic? Anything you want!

The Music Entrepreneur HQ traffic

I will gladly admit that content is another skill all its own, and some of the skills you learn with funnels either directly or indirectly complement and augment content marketing.

But all things being equal, I think you have a better chance at creating a robust online presence versus hitting the lottery with your funnels.

Using funnels in conjunction with a properly structured website and content marketing plan, on the other hand, can be powerful.

This is just one man’s opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.

But don’t kid yourself – funnels aren’t perfect and they do fall short at times.