Spend enough time on the internet, especially in the digital marketing space, and you’ll start hearing about ClickFunnels.
It’s like that phenomenon where you say, “wow, I never see yellow cars! Isn’t that strange?” and all of a sudden, all you see are yellow cars.
“ClickFunnels allowed me to do <<something incredible>>,” said someone in one of the Facebook groups I’m in.
Then, all of a sudden, it was like a conspiracy to get me intrigued. I got emails from plenty of people talking about how sliced bread has nothin’ on this revolutionary software that’s going to change the way I do business.
What finally got me to click was a contest that someone I admire (Julie Stoian) was a part of. There was a contest to see who could help give away more books that the owner of ClickFunnels, Russell Brunson, wrote. (Just pay shipping!) Julie was in the running, and was beating some very big names.
I bought the book.
Then Julie offered something free if I signed up for ClickFunnels using her link.
That was the motivation I needed. They say it takes a lot of touch points to get someone to sign up for a service, and the idea of getting a free something was the thing that put me right over the edge.
Plus, I was curious. When I asked people what ClickFunnels was, their answers were either vague or totally unbelievable. “Wait, so you’re saying that ClickFunnels just makes you a millionaire?”
They give everyone a free 14-day trial, so I decided I would play with it and figure out if it’s right for me.
An Honest Review of ClickFunnels
Before we get into ClickFunnels, we need to reach into the “inbound marketing” jargon and talk about sales or marketing funnels.
Here’s a handy stock image for reference:
Basically, in inbound marketing jargon, a sales funnel or a marketing funnel is a way to turn casual website visitors into enthusiastic customers and raving fans.
A website (or a blog, really) doesn’t do this, because often there’s not an opt-in form that connects a lead to a landing page, capturing their email, then sending a series of follow-up emails, each with more ways to connect with a brand, ending in a purchase.
There are ways to set these up yourself using a combination of WordPress/ConvertPlug/ConvertKit, but they can be confusing, and without something like BeaverBuilder (horrible name for a WordPress plugin, awesome product), designing pretty landing pages can be really frustrating.
That’s the gap ClickFunnels found.
What is ClickFunnels?
ClickFunnels creates an environment where you can create your own funnels, either from scratch, or from some templates. They advertise that using their system, you can cancel your subscriptions to your email service provider, your LeadPages subscription, and even your website registration and hosting.
Here’s a look at the dashboard, once you log in:
Anne and I are in the final stages of editing our book about how to start a professional-looking blog right away, so I thought I’d start with that one for my ClickFunnels test.
How to Create a Funnel in ClickFunnels
There are screenshots below, but here’s a quick video on how to create a funnel from scratch inside ClickFunnels:
Here’s what the steps look like once everything is in:
That’s a pretty neat visualization, with steps you can see.
Here’s a quick video of the whole funnel in action:
As I mentioned in the video, it was really hard for me to figure out where to put my products.
That’s because they have products in a submenu under order form:
Here are the products I added:
I put my products in here in the wrong order, so I think I’d have to edit the products to change their prices here or delete them and start again.
The reason I didn’t do that is because they’re connected to different thank-you pages, and I didn’t want to have to delete them all over and start again.
In the video, my funnel stopped at “order form” because I had three different options.
Here’s the “I bought the book” thank-you page:
The left-hand navigation menu had me stumped. Where were the other thank-you pages?
Here’s the ebook and workbook thank-you page:
Here’s the ebook and workbook and video course thank-you page:
That’s how you set up a page-to-page funnel in ClickFunnels.
Creating three pages, with buttons that link to each other is the easy part. Connecting to a payment processor (in this case, Stripe) is also quite easy.
The “funnel” part — making a connection with an email subscriber to get them warmed up to the idea of shopping with you — is all on email.
You send one email with the download, then a few days later, you send another with some other information, then down the road, you’ve sent them enough emails to either get them to unsubscribe OR buy (no middle ground, it seems like.
The ClickFunnels Marketplace
Now, let’s say you’re either:
- Confused and don’t know where to begin, OR
- Pretty proud of the funnel you created and want to sell it to others
That’s where the ClickFunnels marketplace comes into play. You can buy funnels that do exactly what you want to do and make tweaks. Or, you can sell your awesome, high-converting funnel and make an additional revenue stream.
Here’s a quick video on how to do that:
How Emails are Handled in ClickFunnels: Actionetics
Actionetics is how emails are connected to ClickFunnels, and from what I could tell, there’s a lot of segmentation available within this side.
It gets tricky, though, quickly. You have to sign up for SMTP (through a company like MailGun, which is free up to a certain number of emails sent):
SMTP stands for something something something protocol (not important) and is intended for transactional emails only. “Here’s your receipt, thank you for your purchase,” things like that.
It’s not really intended to send bulk emails.
But, then again, Actionetics isn’t exactly a bulk email sender.
Maybe it’s the bottom of the funnel? At any rate, it has four submenus: contacts, email lists, broadcasts, and action funnels.
The contacts section shows all your subscribers. It pulls in their pictures (through gravatar, I assume) and allows you to see where they signed up:
The email lists section shows you all your different email lists. It wasn’t clear to me how many different email lists my funnel needed, as you’ll see in the picture below:
In the email broadcasts section, you can create new emails and send them to different parts of your list, although the templates are the opposite of the emails that I’m sending now (the mainly plain text, looks really like an email you’d get from someone, easy to respond to, etc):
See the options for templates here:
I think you can save your own templates, but I didn’t really get into this section (with only having two email subscribers and all).
Then, there’s the action funnels section. This is where I got confused. Why emails aren’t part of a click funnel is beyond me. I’ve learned that emails are what help connect people to you and ultimately what get people to buy from you. And that’s a piece that is really lacking in ClickFunnels. There’s not even a sequence I can buy for $97 and modify.
It’s all remarkably blank, and without the inbound marketing best practices (as in, you should send an email that says exactly what your thank-you page says, or how many days you should wait between emails).
This is the one email I created:
The confusing part to me was where to even begin.
Lingering Questions from this Section
- Are action funnels different than broadcasts that get sent when something is triggered?
- Why aren’t emails a part of the funnel itself?
- Can a funnel exist without emails?
- Do most people keep their own email system or ditch it to integrate everything with ClickFunnels?
Do You Have Affiliates? There’s a ClickFunnels Solution for You
The last piece of ClickFunnels is Backpack, their answer to tracking, paying, motivating affiliates. Here’s a screenshot of the dashboard of that:
I didn’t get a chance to play with this at all, so I can’t really review it. I have Affiliate WP, and I’m quite happy with all it does, though I can see the benefit of having an affiliate platform baked into your whole system. If you’re going to spend your day in ClickFunnels, you might as well have everything you need.
Overall Impressions of ClickFunnels
I’m glad that they give you 14 days to try out ClickFunnels. It’s a long enough window to really get in there and get your hands dirty, and it’s short enough to force you to do that, because no matter where you are in your business, you don’t want to start paying $300 a month for something you aren’t using.
I got my hands dirty, and at the end of my trial, I realized that this software isn’t for me or my business. Here are some of my thoughts.
The Price Point is Really High for What ClickFunnels Does
ClickFunnels has two levels of pricing: $97 and $297. Per month. To do what WordPress already does (though with less hand holding). Plus, it’s one of those technologies that has a high level of pain associated with switching out of it. “Do you really want to delete everything you’ve done?” It was hard to say yes to that question even after two weeks, let alone using it for a year.
The Technology Feels Dated
Now I know as well as anyone that there’s a learning curve for new software, and maybe the learning curve for ClickFunnels is a bit longer than 14 days. I’ll give them that. But the sample pages feel like designs from a few years ago, and the sample page layouts still say “Your Company Logo 2014” at the bottom of them, making me feel justified in thinking the look is dated. Three years is a long time in internet dog years.
My Website Was Slow When the ClickFunnels Plugin was Installed, and Sped Up After it Was Removed
I wish I’d done a speedtest, but I have to go with my gut instinct here, which says that the ClickFunnels plugin, even with five or six pages, really slowed my site (to the point where I was getting a “does not load” error). After my trial ended and I disabled the plugin, things seemed like they were back to normal.
Customer Support is Lacking
I’m spoiled by excellent software-as-a-service providers who charge a lot less and answer my emails/chats/requests in a fraction of the time. Hats off to you, BigScoots, ConvertKit, and MissingLettr! Because I have been lucky to work with such awesome customer support, I expected the same level (if not more!) from a program that costs more than those other three combined. But it wasn’t there. They have chat, but it was never a real-time chat. I got responses to my questions in 24-48 hours.
Their tutorials are hard to follow, too, because the version of the platform in their tutorial videos look different than the version of the platform I was using.
The Experience was Clunky
Everything about creating my first funnel was challenging, especially when I decided against integrating with ConvertKit and using their native emails.
They Sell the Sizzle, But There’s No Steak
There are so many fast-talking videos that take 45 minutes to complete, and they’re salesy. Really salesy. I had this thought that ClickFunnels would not only make my business a million dollars, but it would also drive itself over to my house, clean it, and bake me a batch of cookies by the time I got home. The sales pitches make it sound like ClickFunnels could do that.
So I was really disappointed to learn that there weren’t going to be any cookies, and if I wanted my house to be cleaned, I was going to have do find some other way to do it.
ClickFunnels Feels Like Multi-Level Marketing
The splashy sales talk. The reward structure for affiliates. “You only have to sign up 200 other people in order for us to get you your dream car!” The promises. The fact that they sell you on the dream… not the technology. “Don’t have an idea? Sell supplements!”
It all felt off and the opposite of the for-profit blogging ethos.
One Weird Email Exchange
A few days before my trial ended, I got this email:
One weird thing about that email is that their Facebook image is broken.
But the thing that made me hit reply?
The link didn’t work.
Here’s my reply:
Usually companies appreciate it when their customers tell them about broken links (I know I do!), so I was surprised when the rest of the exchange went like this:
And this is how he responded:
Wait…what? You know that the “oh hey it’s almost time for us to charge you $300 but here’s the link to make sure that doesn’t happen” link is broken and you don’t care?
That had to be a mistake, right?
He immediately responded with:
Which made me feel a lot better about my earlier incredulity.
But not better about the whole support process in general.
I’m not the only one who thinks ClickFunnels is tough. There are plenty of people out there making their livings by teaching people how to use ClickFunnels.
I did a quick search on Google for “clickfunnels coach” and on the first page, I can find plenty of people willing to help me figure out how to get the software to work for me.
Honest Review of ClickFunnels: It's Not Right for My Business
The price plus the clunkiness is enough to make me realize that this is not the solution my business seeks.
In fact, it made me realize that there’s an easier (and better) way to structure the whole thing.
What we need is a way to visually lay out the sales process, and a couple of pre-built landing pages that are easy to change. Plus an easy way to take payment. Plus emails.
Something like this:
How Do We Build it?
To create easy-to-execute sales paths, we need:
- Facebook ad ideas and templates
- Bundles of page templates: landing page, thank-you page, order form, upgrade page, confirmation page
- Email series to edit
- Stock image bundles
- Email opt-in/content upgrade/lead magnet ideas
- Visuals, like this mind map, so we don’t let things slip through the cracks
- Trucks, to handle all the money that will be coming in after we successfully execute our sales paths
I want to build this. I think it could be a great alternative to an expensive software purchase.
Here’s what I’m thinking: get a small (really intimate) group of people together and create these bundles for US to use in our particular niches. Then, after we had them complete, we’d take a step back and turn them into templates so the next round of people could take a template and modify it from there.
In order to avoid overwhelm, we’ll do one piece each week, and we won’t move on until everyone has their first piece done.
So, here’s how the timeline looks:
- Week one: Create a path based on objectives (email subscribers, new clients, webinar attendees), build an opt in that will make your target audience want to give you their email address, plus find 10-15 premium stock images that connect the theme
- Week two: Build the landing page and thank-you page
- Week three: Create the emails that will allow people to get to know you, your business, and your product, plus build the rest of the pages in the sales path
- Week four: Create the Facebook ad and start testing it
So, after four Mondays, you’ll have a completed path.
What Kind of Paths Can We Create?
Well, that depends on where you are in your business.
- Already have something you want to sell? An ebook, a course, a high-paying affiliate offer? Let’s build a sales path.
- Have an idea for a product but don’t have a draft yet? Let’s build a subscriber path (and an opt-in related to your idea).
- Don’t have an idea? Let’s still build you a subscriber path with a captivating opt in so you can grow your email list while figuring out what you’ll offer.
What Does the “Build My Path” Beta Run Cost?
Great question! We’ve already mentioned that the price of ClickFunnels is #toodamnhigh, but working with me in a small group setting to get your entire first path built is worth at least six months of ClickFunnels.
Plus, you get the benefit of working with a group who can give feedback.
Plus, by the end of the month you’ll have something that most people stall for years on — a way to convert website visitors into subscribers.
But obviously, this won’t cost six months of ClickFunnels.
$297 x 6 = $1782.
The goal instead is to give you a chance to propel your business forward.
So, this small group cost is going to be equal to the cost of a month of ClickFunnels.
We’re going to cap registration so we can work together to build something great.
Are you interested?