Which is Better in 2020: ClickFunnels or a Self-Hosted Website? (Or Do I Need Both?)
If you’re new to digital marketing and eCommerce, the online sales options can be very confusing. You know you’ve got a great product, and you’re sure people will want to buy it. But what’s the best way to get it in front of your customers?
How do you choose between a digital shopfront, a blog, a newsletter, video promotions, facebook ads, Instagram posts or follow-up emails? How do you generate leads, and what do you do with those leads once you get them? Can you handle everything on a traditional website, or do you need to sign up to a sales platform like ClickFunnels?
And what’s a sales funnel?
We feel your pain. We’re a group of experienced online marketers, and we all faced exactly the same problems as you when we started out. We tried out a lot of software tools – which were a lot harder to use back then – and we tried to understand the results. We spent thousands getting a designer to build us an all-singing, all-dancing website, and we were understandably annoyed when it was delivered to us tone-deaf and with two left feet. We tried hosting our own sales video channel, which was a disaster. But eventually we settled on a solution which worked, and we’re still using it now.
So, over the next few minutes, we’re going to explain to you the differences between running your own website and using a purpose-built sales tool. And to answer the question about which is better, the answer is ‘neither’ – you need both.
What is ClickFunnels? Why Should I be Using a Funnel Builder?
Before you read any further, we want to be upfront and honest with you: we use ClickFunnels. We’re also part of the ClickFunnels Affiliate Program and a few other similar referral programs. It’s not our main revenue stream, but we make a small commission every time someone subscribes to ClickFunnels through one of our articles. (We have a guide that shows you how to do that for yourself, if you’re looking for an extra passive revenue stream.)
ClickFunnels is a web-based sales platform, run by a SaaS (Software as a Service) company called Etison LLC which is headed up by the digital marketing guru Russell Brunson. It uses the concept of ‘Sales Funnels’ to convert visitors to customers, and it’s exceptionally good at what it does.
The easiest way to understand the benefit of a sales funnel is to imagine getting your top salesman (which, at the moment, is probably you) to hold your customer’s hand and guide them through your sales process from start to finish. In sales funnel-speak, this process is broken up into a series of ‘pages’ and usually includes a landing page, a sales page, an order page and an upsell page.
In order to visualise this, let’s imagine you run a car showroom. You greet your potential customer at the entrance (the landing page) and ask them which car they’re interested in. You guide them through the showroom, explaining the benefits of the car and how such-and-such a feature can save them money (the sales page). Convinced of the benefits, the customer sits down with you and signs the finance deal (the order page) and then, as you shake their hand, you tell them that since they’re buying the car brand new you can add a metallic paint finish for only £200 extra (the upsell page).
A Typical Sales Funnel
- Landing Page: (a.k.a. squeeze page). Here’s where you offer something enticing, like a cheat sheet, a how-to video or a free eBook in exchange for an email address.
- Sales Page: This is your main text, or ‘copy’, that builds value into your product or service. This is where you’ll focus most of your efforts – it takes a lot of convincing for a customer to hand over money for your particular product, especially if they’ve never heard of you before.
- Order page: If you’ve done your job well with your sales page copy, this is where your customer will end up.
- Upsell Page: Here’s where you make a one-time offer to your customer to purchase another item that complements their purchase. Think of those Amazon pages that say “Customers who bought this item also bought…”
ClickFunnels – and many other sales funnel builders – allows you to create all of the above with minimum effort. It uses a series of proven drag-and-drop templates to help you create a sales funnel that mirrors the exact process you would take when holding that customer’s hand.
It’s important to understand all of this before we move on, so it might be a good idea to take a look at a sales funnel in greater detail. ClickFunnels has an option called the One Funnel Away Challenge (the ‘OFA Challenge’) which will take you through the exact steps you need to build your first sales funnel. It’s a fascinating process, but it’s extremely easy to follow and shows you how incredibly simple it can be to create a high-performing funnel.
Now before you click the link, bear in mind that what you’re about to see is actually, itself, a sales funnel. It’s not particularly complex, because all it’s there for is to highlight the benefits of using a funnel to increase your sales. But it illustrates our point beautifully. So go ahead and check out the OFA Challenge – it opens in a new tab so you can come back here when you’ve finished.
Good question. So let’s look at the functions of a website in the overall scheme of your sales process.
Funnel builders are useful (if not essential) tools for converting leads to sales, but they can’t generate leads for you. That’s the job of your website. First and foremost, your website is your identity to the outside world. It’s where potential customers will make their first impressions and find out who you are and what you do. It’s your brand.
Your website’s main purpose is to tell your customers as much as possible about your business, including the products and services that you offer. Perhaps it’s the home of a ‘how-to’ blog built on WordPress, some video reviews of your products hosted on YouTube, or a few well-chosen customer testimonials.
The other main function of your website is to promote your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy. Your website is the place where you store content that helps you rank high on search engines, such as Google and Bing. This generates organic traffic (i.e. people who are using a search engine) and drives those people to your website.
Whatever you choose to put on your website, it should be designed to keep the viewer glued to that site. Moving from page to page is fine, but you want to keep them there. To use the car showroom analogy again – it’s fine if they’re looking through the window at all the shiny cars you’ve got inside, but if they decide to cross the road to another showroom then you’ve lost them. Probably for good.
Can I Design a Website Using ClickFunnels?
Well yes, you can. But we’d advise against it. To be completely fair, ClickFunnels was never designed to create websites. The only advantage of hosting your website on ClickFunnel’s server would be….. Nope! We can’t think of any! Not only that, but the process is actually counter-intuitive:
Creating a Home Page with ClickFunnels
- Select a Template: Although there are landing page templates available for every type of business, there are none for designing a home page. So you’ll need to choose the ‘custom funnel’ option and then select a generic sales funnel template.
- Delete everything: None of the features of a sales funnel are relevant to your home page, so you’ll need to delete everything and start with a blank sheet.
- Drag and Drop: You’ll have to manually search for every item you need, and then use the drag and drop editor to position it on the page.
The whole process is clunky and time-consuming. Our advice would be to use a dedicated website creator, and our favourite is WordPress. Loved by bloggers everywhere, it’s the world’s leading CMS tool (Content Management System). There are over 455 million websites that use it or, to put it another way, 35% of the Internet is powered by WordPress! (we didn’t believe that statistic either, but it’s all here in black and white).
[By the way, here would be a good place to point out that we are not a WordPress affiliate, nor do we get any form of payment by recommending it to you.]
WordPress is renowned for creating blogs, which can either form the basis for your entire website or be used as a way of adding value for your customers. And whereas we’ve cautioned against using ClickFunnels to create a blog, you can utilise the ClickFunnels blogging template as a front end to your blog in order to capture leads.
And because WordPress has greater SEO capabilities than ClickFunnels, if you post articles on your blog through WordPress your site will always rank higher on search engines. (There are quite a few technical reasons for this, but chiefly it’s to do with hosting your blog on your own domain rather than using a ClickFunnels sub-domain).
We’ve one last comment about WordPress vs ClickFunnels for blogging: guess what platform ClickFunnels uses to run their own blog? Yep, WordPress! You can see it running here, and a quick search of the page source reveals that it’s genuinely running on WordPress. Praise indeed! For those of you who understand meta tags, here’s the page source entry:
<meta name=”generator” content=”WordPress 5.4.2” />
So, let’s get back to your potential customers. You’ve built your website, and you’ve generated some good leads. They’ve looked at your products, read your blog and watched your promo videos. You know they’re interested because you can see them looking in through the window of your virtual car showroom. So what happens now?
Simple. You invite them in.
The Landing Page
It’s been proven time and time again that your landing page is the single most important part of your digital marketing strategy. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to design a landing page from scratch, but why bother? That’s exactly what ClickFunnels was designed to do.
Here’s a well-known sales adage: your product will not sell itself. You may have generated some great leads from your website and other forms of advertising, but without a good landing page, your prospect will hardly ever convert to a sale. Luckily, design of your landing page is where software like ClickFunnels excels.
It’s all to do with creating a CTA, or ‘Call To Action’. Once your customer walks through your showroom door, your main aim is to get him sitting in front of your desk with a pen in his hand. You want to reinforce the choice he made when he decided to open your door. So you promise some added value, like upgrading the interior or free membership of a breakdown service. Now you need to get him to the desk. What you want is another voice in his ear, drawing his attention to the empty chair: “It’s a friendly chair. Sit down!”.
This is the purpose of a CTA button – and choosing the right one, set in the right position on your landing page, is key. Here are the landing pages of ClickFunnels and three major competitors. They all have a different style, but they all lead you towards a CTA button (and, of course, they were all built using their own funnel builder tools):
Pages like these, especially the ones with embedded video, are hard to get right using conventional website coding. But they’re easy to design using the drag-and-drop interface in a funnel builder.
By using a funnel builder tool, your entire sales process can be hosted on a server separate from your main business. This allows for an incredible range of monitoring, which is the basis for A/B testing (often called A/B split testing).
A/B testing gives you an efficient way of determining which version of your marketing message is giving you a higher ROI. You can make as many tweaks as you like, and see the results on a day-by-day, or even minute-by-minute report. Knowing how you can make improvements to your sales strategy is a great advantage, but it’s hard to get all this information from a website. With a sales funnel in place – it’s all there at the click of a button.
Benefits of a Using a Sales Funnel
The concept of sales funnels isn’t new – the term was coined way back in 1898, by an American advertising man called E. St. Elmo Lewis. But the technique is as relevant to digital marketing as it was back then. Remember: just because a person has landed on your website, doesn’t mean he wants to become your customer. That’s why every business should create and follow a sales funnel. You help your customer identify any problems, find the solutions, and then lead them towards a sale.
Here’s a quick recap of the advantages:
- Reinforces your customer’s decision to purchase at every step of the sales process. You don’t make their decision for them – they get there themselves.
- Accurate reporting of increase in leads that actually convert to sales. This way you can reverse-calculate how many more leads you need to achieve your targets.
- A greater understanding of your customer’s journey. This allows you to align your marketing content message so that it connects to the reader and leads them towards a sale.
- Upsells, downsells and follow-ups. This includes chasing up ‘abandoned cart’ customers who could still be converted to a sale. Also invitations to join discount membership clubs, or a free subscription to a newsletter or blog.
- A/B Testing. The ability to run two versions of a campaign side-by-side, to see which performs best.
- A large collection of proven funnel templates, plus a wealth of support and training from funnel-building experts and the user community.
So, ClickFunnels or a Self-Hosted Website?
We hope we’ve shown that the correct answer is ‘both’. A good sales funnel will not replace your website, nor was it designed to. Your website is your brand identity, and the best way of generating organic sales leads. A sales funnel is a tool which will give you the greatest chance of converting those leads into sales. Both must work together in order to maximise your sales and increase your revenue.
If you want to try this out for yourself, then we suggest taking a test-run of ClickFunnels to see how it will benefit your business. Or if you prefer to do a bit more research, then we can recommend reading two of Russell Brunson’s books – ‘Dotcom Secrets’ and ‘Traffic Secrets.’ Admittedly they use ClickFunnels as an example, but the techniques could refer to any good sales funnel platform.
Thank you for your time, and we hope you’ve found this guide useful. We make a fairly decent living out of online marketing, and we’re genuinely happy to be able to share our experience. We’re always happy to talk, so please contact us if you have any questions.