[Sales Funnel Example] How To Sell An Affiliate Product (To A Part of Your Audience Who Don’t Yet Need The Product)

  • April 14, 2019

The dream of many niche website operators (my dream!) is the simplicity of directing website visitors to someone else’s product – and to get paid a commission for being so helpful! This is called “affiliate marketing” and is the basis for how most niche websites can earn a decent income. To make it work you need a sales funnel example that delivers the goods – that is what we are looking at today with a twist: a sales funnel example that sells an affiliate product to a segmented audience. And to be fair, it’s genius!

A key function of a good sales funnel is to create a privileged moment that makes customers more willing to buy from you. What happens in the lead up to the buyer request directly impacts how the buyer experiences the request to buy.

We have written before about the basics of Sales Funnels: and how a sales funnel is a summary of the stages your customer goes through when buying a product from you. Put simply, the stages are psychological stages your sales funnel takes the customer through. Sales funnels are less about what buttons are clicked on your website by the customer, and more about what buttons your website is hitting with your customer.

Normally this sales funnel sequence happens over a short period of time (less than 15 minutes).

But today’s sales funnel example is different – it happens over 2 days. And it is the ingenious work of Mr Pat Flynn. You may be aware of Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income fame. Apart from being a super-nice-guy Pat Flynn is a central figure in the online affiliate marketing space via both his blog and his podcast. When he was a little less successful than he is today, he used to even publish his monthly incomes and break it down by each affiliate product so you can see how he was generating his income (spoiler alert: BlueHost was a big contributor to his monthly income for many years).

Even The Great Ones Like Pat Flynn Had To Learn Sales Funnels

Part of the Pat-Flynn-Phenomenon is that he is genuinely helpful for his audience and shares much of what he has been learning (in the earlier years he really was a fellow traveller for the listeners; his is really an experienced leader these days).

But as recently as his annual review of 2017, Pat acknowledges that he wasn’t making much use of sales funnels, just a few facebook ads and an email list:

Over $1m in earnings were generated last year from these open/close launches, but they are definitely time consuming, and I believe we can generate more by not letting those who are interested in the courses wait until the next opening, but also get smarter about the experience leads have through a proper and valuable sales funnel.

There was no sales funnel before. All sales were generated via email and a few Facebook Ads here and there.

Pat Flynn 2017 Annual Review

Isn’t that pretty amazing? Keep in mind that in that year alone, Pat made over $2m from his blog and yet he wasn’t using sales funnels in any clear manner. Unbelievable!

Fast forward to today and Pat has been learning much about executing sales funnels and much about doing sales funnels very well. Presumably he has worked out how to increase his revenue substantially as a result. It may be a coincidence, but 2017 was actually the last annual report Pat produced and he hasn’t publicly put out any of his monthly revenue figures since then either (there comes a time when monthly revenue figures go from being wow-you-are-doing-great-what-an-inspiration to I-can’t-relate-to-you).

Keep in mind that Pat Flynn had a very large audience by the time he started using sales funnels in a more thorough manner. Traffic was not his problem. Getting an audience was not his problem. Creating content was not his problem. His problem you could say was ‘missed revenue’: without an effective method for converting his audience and traffic into happy customers, Flynn was not making the most of all his hard work.

Pat Flynn Affiliate Sales Funnel Example

Pat Flynn has no trouble making money from affiliate links as shown by his historical monthly income reports. So it is impressive to see how he took it to the next level with this example.

Pat was trying to sell affiliate links to an email list autoresponder ConvertKit. This was the affiliate product Pat himself would earn a commission from if his audience signed up with them (in December 2017 Pat made $36,956.18 in a single month from CovertKit affiliate commissions).

And here is where Pat does something interesting. He segments his audience and has a specific funnel for a specific segment of his audience. The particular audience that Pat focuses on is people without an email list at all.


After all, ConvertKit is a very good email marketing software package. But if you don’t have any people on your email list, you don’t need an email marketing software package, no matter how good it is right?


This is what makes Pat Flynn’s sales funnel so clever. He works with the very part of his audience who would never click on a ConvertKit affiliate link (they have no need for it) and helps them build an email list. At that point they will be receptive to needing ConvertKit. But I am getting ahead of myself.

So how does Flynn do this? With a funnel that includes a challenge.

Or to put it another way: Flynn built a sales funnel to motivate a segment of his audience to take action and at the heart of taking action was a challenge that involved getting their first 100 emails.

Lets get into what he did.

How Pat Flynn Built A Challenge Based Sales Funnel

Here is what Pat Flynn did:

  1. He segmented his audience and just targeted that part of his audience who didn’t have any email subscribers;
  2. He offered to help his segmented audience by offering the a 72 hour challenge with a plan for them to get them to get their first 100 emails;
  3. As a part of the challenge he let people know that he would be recommending ConvertKit;
  4. At the end of the challenge he recommended ConvertKit as a way for those who participated who got 100 emails (who now probably needed some software to make use of their new-found email list).

So the funnel had three main steps:

  1. Pre-challenge sign ups: getting people to understand the purpose of the challenge and sign up for it;
  2. Running the 72 hour challenge itself;
  3. The post-challenge call to sign up for ConvertKit using Pat’s affiliate link.

Pat did this 72 hour challenge live (at least once) and now it is automated with a landing page so that now anyone can sign up for it now too.

How did we hear about this? Pat has an “Ask Pat” podcast and in episode 1061 Pat discusses this very challenge. Is that by accident? We don’t think so! In fact, at least for us, and probably for many others, now that the funnel is no longer live, this podcast is likely to be the first step into the funnel. The clever thing about this podcast is that Pat is helping a listener in (Chef Chris Hill) a very different niche and only mentions his own challenge as an example in passing. So what the funnel really consists of now that it is not live:

  1. A podcast episode that mentions the challenge as a teaching example;
  2. A landing page describing the challenge;
  3. A 72 hour challenge; and
  4. A post challenge call to action

So lets take a look at some of the details.

Step 1. The Podcast Episode

Ok, not everyone has their own podcast episode to use of you own sales funnel! But Pat Flynn does and he uses it really well.

In his podcast “Ask Pat” he interviews a listener and seeks to help them with an issue they are facing. This proves a clever way for Pat to pre-frame the first step of the sales funnel for his 0-100 email subscribers landing page. Now, it is very possible that Pat was just using his own challenge example to help Chef Chris Hill engage with his audience better and they used the challenge example as a way for his audience to take action.

But whether Pat was doing it on purpose or not – in effect, Pat pre-framed his own offer via the podcast. Basically, Pat could pre-frame the listener to his own affiliate offer funnel for ConvertKit, at least for that segment of his audience who don’t yet have an email list. They hear a story of success. They hear Pat helping someone else and they may wish to check it out for themselves.

Pet helps Chef Chris Hill sharing his example. And in so doing Chris helps Pat.

This step in the sales funnel is often overlooked, but the pre-frame is often the most important. Now the audience who lands on the landing page (Step 2) are coming with a trusting mindset, knowing it is a challenge they can take on if they wish.

Step 2 The Landing Page

The landing page is pretty basic as shown below. It’s built in LeadPages and does the job. The landing page has a clear call to action to sign up and a clear description of what the goal is: to go from 0 to 100 email subscribers in 3 days. No testimonies, no stories of success, just a description and call to action. The main addition is a video from Pat which is worth watching: folksy, informative, and obviously done for the actual live challenge (“starting November 10th you are going to get one email a day” …). The video mentions that ConvertKit will offer a 30 day free trial as a part of the challenge – you don’t have to use them – but the offer is there.

When you add your email address, there is a simple page to collect your email address followed by a success page.

And that’s it! The quick start guide is a 4 page which helps readers work out a topic they might start a blog about and to think about who their perfect reader might be – so nothing specific to the challenge.

Step 3. The 72 hour Challenge

Because we aren’t doing it live, the 72 hour challenge to get to 100 email subscribers doesn’t come with the buzz of fellow travellers – instead just the emails from Pat. One email per 24 hour period.

The first email that comes immediately gives an overview of the next 72 hours and what the reader needs to do. It mentions that nearly 10,000 people signed up for the challenge when it was done live – impressive! The email outlines the first 4 steps the reader needs to take the get the challenge started (no mention of ConvertKit explicitly). Instead, just some simple steps to send out 10 emails in first 24 hours.

The second email comes 24 hours later and shares some successes (one guy got 104 emails in first 24 hours!) and shares some fears that people likely have. Day 2 instructions are much the same as Day 1 – to keep reaching out to your network. Near the top of the instructions for day 2 comes this note:

Note: Some of you were wondering when ConvertKit (or any email service provider) gets involved. You CAN put these email addresses you’re collecting into an email service provider by importing them in, but honestly I wouldn’t worry about that right now. I’ll show you how to do that tomorrow, and give you a specific message to send to everyone who expressed interest too.

Flynn has mentioned CovertKit, more as a FAQ and given a short response. So there won’t be any surprises on day 3 when the pitch comes!

The third (and last) email offers some more tips for getting new email subscribers (add a link in your email signature; in person conversations; forums) and then (for the affiliate push!) how to import the captured emails into an email service tool (ConvertKit).

Step 4. Post Challenge Call To Action

Pat now has a warm audience, with a need for email subscriber software and feel positively pre-disposed to helping Pat, even though they know he will make money from their subscription:

I’ve gone through my fair share of ESPs, and the one I currently use is ConvertKit I’m an advisor for the company, and as you probably know already, they’ve helped out a lot with putting this challenge together.

I love ConvertKit, and I’m good friends with the CEO, Nathan Barry (2-time guest on the SPI Podcast!). If you’d prefer a different ESP, or perhaps you already use one, no worries! You don’t need ConvertKit to do what we’re doing in this challenge. I just prefer it for several reasons over the others, but I will not at all be offended if you don’t use it.

Pat Flynn

Clear. Up-front. Honest. The sales pitch for the affiliate link.

And all the user has to do is click on Pat’s affiliate link and get started with emailing their new audience. Job done for affiliate sale!

Why The Challenge Based Affiliate Sales Funnel Really Works

So lets think about why this sales funnel really works.

Stepping back what did Pat Flynn do? He created a 72 hour challenge for a segment of his audience that created the need for his affiliate link. The challenge created the need to click.

And what psychological steps are involved?

  1. Signing up for the 72 hour challenge requires a micro-commitment.
  2. The 72 hour challenge would pre consuming. Perhaps all-consuming for the spare time of those participating. For those 72 hours, all that mattered was getting email list going and all that matters is the challenge (what has your attention you give importance).
  3. Doing the live 72 hour challenge along-side many fellow travellers has an affirming influence – everyone is doing it so it must be good to do!
  4. Pat offers something for free – a process to get your email list to 100 people. The audience then feels some level of reciprocal favour to Pat.
  5. The affiliate link actually solves a new problem the challenge creates (how to manage these emails). Once again, Pat is a trusted voice (“I’ve gone through my fair share of ESPs”) and the challenge participant is willing to listen.

Can you see the power of the affiliate challenge funnel? It uses the psychology of influence to bring people to action; and in Pat’s case it takes a group of his audience who before the challenge would never have signed up for ConvertKit (they didn’t have any emails and so didn’t need it!) – the challenge creates demand for the affiliate link and positions the affiliate link as a solution to a new problem (managing the list) that the challenge created!

Done well it is very powerful (if only we had 100 email subscribers to offer a challenge to!!)

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