If you've read any blog posts or books about online marketing, you've probably come across the term "sales funnel". It's a relatively simple concept that explains the journey a customer may take through your business, from interacting with your free content to working with you in a paid capacity.
Although it's a handy concept to keep in mind, the feedback I've received from a lot of wellness entrepreneurs is that it feels kinda sleazy. That it's like casting a net to reach as many people as possible in the hopes that you can push them down the funnel to extract more money from them.
Which is understandable, because that's definitely the vibe some online marketers give off. 😉
But the thing is, a sales funnel is just a tool. A tool to map out how people interact with your business. And it's rarely the tool itself that's tacky or inauthentic, but rather, the intention behind the tool.
Take a knife, for example. You can use the knife as a tool to chop some veggies for a delicious meal for yourself, or you can use it as a tool to harm someone. Just because you can hurt someone with a knife doesn't mean a knife is inherently bad. It just is, and it's the intention of the user wielding the knife that determines what kind of effect it'll have.
The same rings true with sales funnels: it's the intention of the individual creating the funnel that makes it either super sleazy or incredibly transformative.
Within my personal training business, I've taken the concept of a sales funnel and flipped it around—literally—to create a pyramid of sorts. A hierarchy that shows the different levels at which I serve my community.
Let's look at these levels in more depth with some tangible examples and why creating this for your own business is so powerful, both for you and your potential clients.
The base layer of the Hierarchy of Service is made up of your free content. Maybe you regularly write blog posts, host livestreams, or even produce podcast episodes. Maybe Instagram posts and stories are where you publish your best free stuff.
Whatever it is, this is where you serve your community simply because you care about them. The purpose of this layer is to build a relationship with your audience so that when you're ready to make an offer, they'll be more likely to listen.
You probably wouldn't walk into a room full of strangers and say "Hey! I have these essential oils; wanna buy some?", would you? Probably not. You'd take the time to introduce yourself to the people in the room and build relationships with them before even thinking about asking them to buy from you.
Treat your Foundation layer the same. And if you play your cards right, you may even find that people will start asking you how they can buy from you before you even have to ask them if they're interested.
People will always have their opinions on what you should share for your free content. Some say you should give your best stuff away for free, and others say to give the "what" but not the "how". I say do what feels right for you and your community 🙂
In my personal training business, I created all kinds of free content, from workout videos on YouTube to informative blog posts, PDF downloads, free recipe books, and the typical social media posts. All of these things helped me build trust and authority amongst my audience, to the point that I would even randomly get emails from people telling me they loved my blog and were wondering how they could work with me.
You never know who's reading, watching, or listening.
This is the level I see a lot of trainers and nutritionists get stuck at. Things like e-books, DIY workout programs, and nutrition guides are fairly simple to create and easy to sell because they're often sold at a lower price point.
This level usually provides more structure than the Foundation. Rather than posting a random workout one week and a random workout the next, you could create a structured program for someone to follow on their own for a set number of weeks to achieve a specific result.
The DIY level is great because you can reach a lot of people with a relatively accessible offering. The downside is that you'll rarely hear someone say "wow that e-book totally changed my life". 😉
I used to sell 4- and 8-week training programs on my website, and while I knew people were getting great results from them—when they did them, because e-books lack the accountability so many people need—I knew I could be supporting people on a deeper level.
That's where the Group level comes in.
Within the Group level of the Hierarchy of Service, you have your one-to-many offers. These could be group coaching programs, workshops, group classes...essentially any way you want to teach, lead, or support a handful (or more) of people at once.
The Group level is great because it provides more accountability and support for the participants, both from you and the others participating in the program or event.
One of the things I've absolutely loved about running small group personal training sessions is that my girls are more inclined to show up because they know it's not just me waiting for them...they know they have 4-5 other women counting on them to be there!
Because this level often includes more direct access to you and additional layers of support participants wouldn't get from a DIY program, you can often charge a higher price point. These offers tend to be less expensive than working with you one-on-one, making them more accessible for participants. But, because you're working with a group of folks at once, they also tend to be more profitable for you.
For example, the women in my small group personal training sessions pay a third of what it would cost to work with me one-on-one, but because I have up to 6 of them training together, I make more per hour than I would doing one-on-one training.
It's a win-win for everyone involved.
In addition to the DIY level, this is where most wellness professionals spend most of their time: working with clients in a one-on-one format. This could be personal training sessions, nutrition coaching sessions, massages, reiki sessions, acupuncture treatments, and more.
Sometimes, in the case of massage therapy treatments, these services really are done best in a one-on-one format. In other instances, like personal training, the one-on-one level is simply an option, one of many ways to serve.
The benefits of one-on-one services are that the client gets your utmost attention. They get the spotlight during their time with you, and as a result, there's often a higher chance for greater results. I've found that my busier clients who spend much of their days focusing on others also love to have an hour dedicated just to them 🙂
The downside is that you eventually reach a cap with how much you can serve in a one-on-one format. You can only do so many sessions in a week without burning yourself out, which also means that unless you continually increase your prices, your income reaches a ceiling.
I haven't created a name for this level because at this point, you're only limited by your creativity! What kinds of offers allow you to serve people in the deepest, most impactful way? What are the best results you could deliver?
Would this be weekly in-home meal prepping services? Extravagant group retreats or exquisitely indulgent one-on-one retreats? VIP Days where you collaborate with other practitioners to give your client the complete mind-body-soul experience?
I never made it to this level in my personal training business, however I often host VIP Days for my business coaching clients where we spend 8 hours mapping out their next launch or strategy with plenty of giggles and yummy food included 😉
If you were to give yourself permission to dream up your biggest, most impactful service, what would it be?
At this point, you might be wondering "why should I care? Why not just keep doing what I've been doing?"
And at the end of the day, you don't have to care. You don't have to do anything differently.
But ask yourself this: "am I happy with the current results in my business? With the impact I'm creating? The difference I'm making?"
If the answer is "no", then I'd encourage you to consider which levels of your Hierarchy of Service need some more TLC.
Maybe you've got higher-level offers no one's biting. Is it because you aren't building enough trust in your free content? Do you not have any taste-test options for them to decide whether they want to invest with you at a higher level?
Or maybe you're doing great at the DIY level but you're feeling unfulfilled. Is it because you haven't created any other offers to facilitate a transformation at a deeper level?
When you know where the gaps in your Hierarchy of Service are, you know where to focus your attention.
We all know how easy it is to want to start a podcast or to get back in the swing of blogging or to write another e-book. But do these actions align with your goals and where you want to help people? Or are they taking your attention away from the things you really want to be doing?
If you're up for a little challenge, here's what I suggest:
➡️Map out what you want your Hierarchy of Service to look like...not what it currently looks like.
➡️Compare it to your current offers and services. What, if any, gaps can be filled? Which gap will you prioritize?
➡️Chunk down your next steps and get to work!
Here's to sharing your gifts and supporting your people in all the ways you were meant to do! ✨
About the Author:
Ariana Fotinakis is a personal trainer, coach, and breathwork practitioner. She believes we all have a special gift the world needs, and she's made it her mission to support others in tapping into their own magic so, collectively, we can make the world a better place.