What’s the difference between an online course with a well-constructed sales funnel and one without?

A lot of money! That’s the difference. 

The course creators who work with us to build the funnel we’ll dissect in this post see their revenue increase by an average of 486%.

That’s a big increase! And it’s the kind of business-changing influx of income that you can’t get from most other marketing efforts.

Not from influencer marketing (unless you really hit the jackpot). Rarely from SEO. And not without investing your life savings in advertising.

Also, the great thing about building the perfect funnel for your online course is you don’t need more traffic or a bigger audience to start making more sales.

When you optimize your funnel, it starts to recover the sales you should be making now. 

Truth be told, most course creators are missing out on about 80% of the revenue they should be making right now due to a faulty funnel.

But that doesn’t have to be you.

Because in this post, we’ll cover seven steps that will help plumb your funnel to perfection and grow your course earnings several times over.

Without further ado or hype, let’s get into…

What is a course sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a marketing concept that represents the journey a potential customer takes from becoming aware of your course to ultimately making a purchase. 

Think of it like a real-life funnel, but instead of pouring liquid, you’re guiding people through different stages of the buying process. 

At the top of the funnel, you have a wide audience of people who view your content and visit your website. These people are aware of or actively looking for the solution your online course offers.

As they move through your funnel, they become more engaged and interested, until finally, at the bottom, they become your loyal customers. 

So, a sales funnel is basically a strategic way to turn curious onlookers into happy customers.

This graphic helps explain what a typical sales funnel looks like for an online course.

Sales Funnel for Online Courses by DDM

The three goals of your course sales funnel 

Have you heard of something called the Course Creator’s Profit Triangle? (If not, subscribe to our email list, and I’ll share a video that tells you all about it.) 

The gist of the Profit Triangle is this…

Course Creator’s Profit Traingle

The fastest way to increase your course sales is to do three things:


  1. Attract more leads. Specifically, you want to get more people onto your email list.
  2. Get more of your leads to buy from you more often.
  3. Increase the size of the order every time you make a sale.

Your course funnel should do all three of these things — increase lead generation, total sales, and average order value. 

If it does, then you can continue to scale your course sales by producing more content, advertising, or partnering with affiliates.

But if your funnel doesn’t accomplish those three objectives, it can stifle your growth and make it hard to scale your marketing investments.

So keep all three goals in mind. Most people only consider one objective, more sales. 

Sure, that’s the outcome you want. 

But to reach that goal repeatedly, you also want to attract more leads and increase order values.

Your Course Value Ladder and Your Funnel

There’s one more strategic concept that is important to understand before you build your funnel.

It’s the concept of a course value ladder.

A value ladder is like a staircase that guides your customers from one level of knowledge to the next. 

It mirrors the journey your target audience takes as they go from brand new to your methods or subject matter to knowledgeable and advanced in the material you teach.

Your value ladder is also a visual tool you can use to help match your offer to your customer’s awareness and pain points.

Value vs Price DDM

The types of offers and the timing of your offers in your funnel should mirror your value ladder.

What Does the Perfect Online Course Funnel Look Like?

Here’s what the Perfect Course Funnel looks like:

Perfect funnel example

If not every piece in this sales funnel makes sense to you, don’t worry.

Because in the rest of this post, we’ll walk through how all seven pieces work together.

And we’ll reveal the conversion rates and sales performance you should expect at each stage of this funnel.

Every Piece in the perfect online course sales funnel

The perfect online course sales funnel includes seven cohesive pieces. Each one of the pieces, on its own, will increase your sales.

Also, each piece is an independent asset that will help your business grow.

But when you stack all seven pieces together, you get a machine that’s greater than the sum of its parts… kind of like Voltron (but not quite as cool).

Step 1 — Attract great lead flow with a killer Lead Magnet 

The first job of your funnel is to increase the lead flow to your email list. 

For course creators, the best way to increase email sign-ups is with a lead magnet.

Your lead magnet is a free piece of content you give away to get people to sign-up for your email list.

Typical lead magnets for course creators include things like:


  • “Behind the scenes” video content
  • A calculator or scorecard
  • A plan or checklist
  • A mini-course
  • Industry reports or guides
  • Templates

The best lead magnets do three things well.

Step 2 — Create a dedicated Landing Page for your Lead magnet

After you’ve created a killer lead magnet, you also want to create a landing page for it.

Yes, of course, you can, and you should, offer your lead magnet throughout your website, on your homepage, in your blog posts, etc.

But the reason to create a landing page is so you have a place to send new people when you promote your course content.

For example, if you are a guest on a podcast, you can ask the host to mention and link out to your lead magnet landing page. 

Or if you create YouTube or social videos, you can link to your lead magnet landing page from those assets.

Having a dedicated landing page for your lead magnet will help you increase email sign-ups and grow the size of your list quickly.

Here’s an example of lead magnet landing pages that attract a high volume of email subscribers: 

BBi Lead Magnet

Depending on how much traffic your landing page gets and how targeted that traffic is, your opt-in rate will likely fluctuate between 3%and 8%. That means somewhere between 3 and 8% of the people who see your lead magnet landing page will opt into your email list.

The best lead magnet landing page conversion rate our team witnessed was close to 12%.

Step 3 — Convert leads into customers with a tripwire offer

The next piece in your perfect funnel is a tripwire offer.

Although the word “tripwire” conjures up images of snaring your customers in a trap, this part of the funnel is far from sinister!

A tripwire is a compelling, low-priced offer that’s designed solely to help new prospects become customers. 

It’s the first rung on your course ladder after your lead magnet.

Tripwire offers are usually priced between $5.00 – $30.00. But the majority are less than $20.00.

The price point you choose depends on how your tripwire offer fits in with your higher-priced products.

Typically tripwire offers include products like e-books or mini-courses. 

However, you can offer any product in your tripwire as long as it’s high on value and low on cost.

The important thing to remember is this offer is designed to give your new customer a great first buying experience. 

You want them to feel like they got far more than they paid for or expected out of their first purchase from you.

One of the keys to your tripwire offer is to present it immediately after a new person joins your email list.

Instead of sending your new email subscribers to your success or thank you page, you send them directly to your tripwire sales page.

The reason to present your tripwire offer right after your lead magnet is to expose them to the next rung on your course ladder.

On average, 1 to 3% of your new email subscribers will act on your tripwire offer immediately.

When we help course creators design or optimize their tripwire offers, our target is a 3% conversion rate or better.

Here’s an example of a course sales page for a high converting tripwire offer:

Sales page tripwire example

Step 4 — Add an order bump to increase sales

The next piece to add to your funnel is an order bump.

Order bumps are little add-on offers that you present on your checkout form.

They help increase the value of the customer’s order. 

And they also offer to help your customers get complimentary items at a great price.

For example, if your tripwire offer was for a mini-course, you might offer a template or workbook that goes along with that course.

On average, 20 to 60% of your customers are going to choose to take your order bump. So, for the most part, customers enjoy these offers. 

And your order bump will increase the average order value by 15% or more.

Tripwire offer checkout page with order bump example

Step 5 — Upsell them up your product ladder

After a new customer buys your tripwire offer, the next step is to present them with an upsell.

This might sound like offer overkill at this point, and it can be if you don’t present your upsell well.

Think about your upsell like this…

If you purchased a baseball, would you be annoyed if the retailer also offered you a great deal on a new glove? Probably not, right? As long as the offer wasn’t a hard sell.

It doesn’t matter that you sell online courses instead of baseball equipment. The customers in your target market will not be offended to see a great offer for something they might want.

On average, an effective upsell converts 15 to 20% of customers. That means 1 in every 5 to 6 buyers will say yes to an upsell.

There are a few keys to making your upsell effective.

It needs to build on the original purchase. You want to present your upsell as the next logical choice in your customer’s journey, i.e., the next rung on the course ladder.

Also, it should feature an incredible offer that your customer is not likely to see again anytime soon.

The sense of urgency you create with your limited-time offer is what inspires the customer to take action on it now rather than waiting until later.

The fastest way to create a new upsell is to duplicate your primary course’s sales page. Then adapt the offer on that page so it fits into this part of your funnel.

Here’s an example of an upsell sales page:

Step 6 — Downsell another option

The sixth piece in the Perfect Course Funnel is not part of a typical sales funnel.

This piece is your downsell.

Downsell offers target buyers who said “no” to your upsell by encouraging them to try your course at a low-entry cost.

You can use your downsell to offer a limited-time trial or a payment plan which allows your customer to complete their purchase in several installments. 

This lowers the risk of trying out your course. So, it’s appealing to customers whose primary obstacle is the price. 

These offers work well for membership and subscription-based programs. 

Although a downsell is part of the Perfect Course Funnel, it’s often the hardest component to optimize in this funnel sales process. 

And it tends to yield the lowest return in terms of revenue.

The best downsells acknowledge that the upsell offer wasn’t right for the customer and then present them with a better or less risky one.

Step 7 — Bring them back to your offer with email

Email is the most flexible marketing tool in the course creators’ toolbox.

It’s also, by and large, the best sales channel.

And once you’ve built all the pieces in the Perfect Course Funnel, it becomes three to four times more effective.

Because now you can bring your subscribers and customers back to any offer in your funnel at any time.

You can extend your new subscribers’ opportunity to take advantage of your tripwire using automated emails that bring them back to the offer.

Email offers DDM

You can use a version of your upsell page in regular monthly and bi-monthly promotions.

And downsells often perform best when you promote them via email following a promotion for your primary course.

You can also use email marketing to segment your prospect and your customer based on where they are in your course ladder. Then when the time is right, you can re-introduce the next step up the ladder using the offers in your funnel.

The course creators we work with do bi-monthly email promotions to their lists.

Normally, emailing at that frequency would be exhausting.

But because they have their funnel and offers sequenced well, they can run their promotions with much less effort than it would otherwise take.

On average, these email promotions result in a 50% increase in revenue.

And, even better, these course owners can re-use their email promotions as new subscribers climb their course ladder, which in turn results in another bump in revenue.

Recapping the Perfect Online Course Funnel

The most important thing to understand about the Perfect Course Funnel is it’s NOT an asset that you design to deliver a single sale.

Nor is it about “sales trickery.”

It’s a mechanism that should be designed to expose the right customer to the right offer at the right time.

If you build it with that ethos in mind, it can grow your revenue several times over quickly. Even if this is the first sales funnel you have ever built.

The other closing note about this funnel that’s important to mention is you don’t have to build it all at once or in order.

A profitable sales funnel is built one piece at a time based on thoughtful marketing strategy.

For example, this case study will take you behind the scenes and show you how we design, build, and optimize course funnels.

And if you want help building your perfect course funnel, sign up for our Course Creator’s Profit Increase Report.

When you sign up for this report, the DDM team will personally review your numbers. They’ll show you where to find quick wins in your funnel that will drive immediate revenue growth. And they’ll show you exactly how much your business stands to gain from optimizing your funnel.

You can get this personalized report here:


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