How Paid Advertising Funnels Can Generate More Sales for Your Business


If you’re reading this than you’ve probably heard about funnel building and are wondering how you can create a marketing funnel that will drive potential customers to make a purchase. On paper, it’s all pretty simple and clear. A marketing funnel takes prospects from your target audience and moves them from “interested,” down to the bottom of the funnel (buying!)

The reason this works so well is because marketers are giving their customer a clear and direct path that isn’t full of distractions. Websites on the other hand are chock full of distractions that your target audience will see and it’s unclear which path they should take (choose-your-own adventure style).

I like to think of funnels more like a traditional book. You start at the beginning and work your way through chapter after chapter. It’s a story and a direct path!

Your customers and clients get to know you and your offer more intimately on their journey and that helps seal the deal when they reach the bottom of funnel and make a purchase.

Building an audience on whiteboard

What’s the difference between paid advertising funnels and regular funnels?

MOST funnels out there have some sort of paid component, whether it’s Facebook ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads, Retargeting ads, or some other type of advertising. The ads could be targeting any stage of the funnel, from lead generation and brand awareness, to the final landing page that leads to conversions. 

That being said, not all funnels are paid. A lot of people just starting out build their audience and leads through free Facebook groups, posting on their profile, LinkedIn, good ol’ word of mouth, or any number of other methods. If you don’t use any paid ads at all, than you are not running a paid advertising funnel. Pretty simple, eh?

When should you run paid advertising campaigns?

This is where I want to share a little story from my past. When I first got into course creating, I was taught by countless online experts that you simply “turn on the faucet,” when it comes to social media advertising. That once you get it setup correctly, simply turn on the facebook and instagram media ads (and I specify media because most experts were saying it HAS to be video, which simply isn’t true…) and you’ll watch the money roll in!

I bought into it. It’s all logical on paper. It’s clear as day that using online advertising is the QUICKEST way to reach out to new clients. And once your sales system is dialed perfectly, you’ll be able to make sales with ease!

But this is where I went wrong. I spent over $30,000 on ads over the following year testing this out. The problem? There are SO many components to test and get dialed, and ad costs were skyrocketing over the year that I did this (all post-covid times). I was stressed out of my mind as I spent $180+ per sale – leading to roughly $40 revenue (loss of $140… ouch) 

I’d tweak and adjust every component, I’d follow all the experts guidelines, and I still wasn’t getting there.

I wanted to share this story because if you don’t have funds to do this, it’s probably best to go with an all organic funnel first and eventually start working in an ad budget at a later date.

Organic leads are generally better. They get to know you and have real conversations with you. And the one area you’ll have to spend: TIME! Which is what most of us have when we are first starting a business. Later on you can switch to spending $$$ on funnel advertising to reclaim time – and you’ll have a much better feel for your audience since you’ll actually know who they are.

Paid advertising leads are typically the coldest audience around. They have never heard of you, met you, or been in your world in any way what-so-ever, you’ll have to do a LOT of work and optimizations to build a funnel that takes an ice-cold lead to a sale!

All that being said, let’s jump into making paid advertising work for you, whether it’s social ads, search engine marketing (PPC), or remarket strategies.

Stages of the marketing funnel

Marketers use just a handful of terms when it comes to sales funnel stages. There’s the “top of the funnel,” the “middle of the funnel,” and the coveted “bottom of funnel.” This of each stage as a level closer to when a buyer is likely to convert. It’s a funnel shape because you always need more going in, than you will have coming through. At any point in time, roughly 3% of the audience will convert. 

Knowing that, you need to think about how you’re going to move people through the stages. So you’re filling the top with new potential customers or “leads.” The job for the middle stages is to bring that lead through content in some form that will convince them to buy once they reach the offer. Or the bottom of the funnel. People that come into your business at the bottom of funnel – ready to buy – are the easiest to sell. At the top of funnel, it takes work to get them there!

Where paid strategies fit into the funnel equation

You can run a paid advertising strategy for just about any type of funnel and offer. Most commonly, new course creators and coaches will run ads to generate leads.  These leads can cost in a wide range depending on the platform they advertise with and how well the campaigns are setup. When you’re getting started, set up a budget that you’re going to spend each month. Not a budget that you “could” spend each month. Instead, budgeting a certain amount each month means that the bill hits and you don’t have to sell your prized possessions to make ends meet. To learn more about setting up lead magnets, check out this course here.

When you look at advertising as a recurring monthly expense, it also takes the pressure off. Most often, I see course creators run ads in spurts and spending their ENTIRE budget for the year in one spurt. Because of this they can’t experiment and get things dialed in.

A more top-of-funnel strategy is the awareness campaign. This could be boosted posts, sharing articles and free content, page likes, etc… These campaigns are aimed at getting people to see your content. The nice thing with these is that if you stick with an on-facebook approach (no clicking to your site) it’s fairly inexpensive. However, this is a very cold strategy that will take time to move people along.

Once you have leads, you can always sell via your email list. However, lead magnets generally don’t drive as engaged a prospect as putting together challenges, bootcamps, or some other LIVE component will.

Which bring me to the next type of digital advertising campaign: Ads to a paid or free LIVE offer.

This is where your goal is to get someone (who may have never heard of you before) to read the ad, click the link, read through your funnel, and ideally buy the offer. Again, your conversion rates will be roughly 3% of people who ever go through the whole process this way. Costs for these can vary widely. FREE offers are very easy to convert and require less of a sales page and less persuasion in general, and they cost a lot less. Paid offers will require that your offer has excellent messaging, an excellent sales page, excellent ad images/videos, and MANY more factors.

Finally, we should mention retargeting. If you already have an audience and you put up a sales funnel to sell a new course or offer, this is a great and far less expensive approach. The right retargeting audience will be very responsive and will be far cheaper than any other type of campaign!

It’s all ultimately based on your end-goal and budget

For just about every online business owner, the end-goal is to get sales.

All of these methods can work, but some will be VERY costly up front and require a steep learning curve. Typically I recommend people start with a lead magnet and organic marketing. Then running ads to the lead magnet or free offers, along with low-cost awareness campaigns.

But you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re trying to do. If you’ve been at this for a while and have an offer that converts extremely well and that your audience clearly resonates with, it’s probably not a bad idea to run ads to that offer. If your offer is LIVE it will convert MUCH better than anything previously recorded that you’re charging for. FREE offers are easier to sell and require less work. Definitely start there with ads if you don’t have a lot of budget, or are testing out a new program, course, or training.

There are so many factors and ultimately your budget and end-goals are where you need to focus. What works best for you might be different than what so many experts are recommending – stay true to your own needs and remember that if you use paid marketing strategies, there’s an up-front money AND time cost to learn and get things dialed.

Hopefully you found this helpful and will now be able to decide if the time is right for paid advertising funnels, or not!

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