I love rollercoasters. I’m an admitted risk junkie – pilot, SCUBA diver, hang glider, skydiver – you get the picture. I love it. But there’s nothing quite like a great rollercoaster to get the heart pumping. And it makes a great analogy to building a profitable business.

For me to get to ride my favorite ride, I have to:

  1. Find a day my boys and I can go (they’re my rollercoaster buddies, and if I go without them, it wouldn’t be pretty)
  2. Drive four hours to get to King’s Dominion (or more for Busch Gardens)
  3. Pay for parking and park the car in the expansive lot and try to remember where I parked (we usually get there before it opens, so parking is closer)
  4. Buy the tickets ($50+ bucks each) and enter the park
  5. Walk/run/sprint to the coolest coaster before the line piles up
  6. Stand in line at the ride
  7. FINALLY get to ride the rollercoaster (for about 60 seconds) FUN!

Here it is in a sales funnel form:


It’s totally crazy when I break it down like that. Eight hours of driving, a few hundred bucks once you factor in tickets, food, and gas. All for about 20-30 60-second-or-less rides, depending on the crowd.

But the park was built for me. And millions of others like me. It is a destination because they created the product I want to consume.

Application to Your Business

The same thing goes for our businesses. Some people have a more difficult time explaining WHY someone will want to experience what they offer. But let’s break down the application to our businesses, because I think it’s a great analogy:

  1. Identify the Need/Pent-up Demand. People have to know they need something to start searching for a cure.
  2. Search for Solution. People self-identify their need and start searching for ways to meet that need. They often spend hours searching online, reading posts, analyzing differences, and comparing options. Hopefully they find you. This is like my Rollercoaster Step 2 – driving to find the park.
  3. Buy Tripwire. We’re committed when we first enter the park, because we have to pay for parking. But it’s a little bit – usually $10 or less. In the Internet marketing world, this is called a tripwire. It gets people to spend a little bit, so you know they’ll spend more later. If they buy something, then you have a much higher chance of getting a larger sale than if they just drive by and look. It tells you who to pay attention to.
  4. Buy Core Product. Now we get them to buy our core offering. A course, a webinar, a book, or to book us as a speaker. Whatever your core product is, that’s the ticket (so to speak).
  5. Learning Curve. There’s a learning curve to everything – even your offering. It’s like walking from the gate to the ride. You can’t go straight for the big win, you have to engage and figure out how to use what you just bought.
  6. Join Community. It’s like standing in line – you look at them, they look at you, a short conversation sometimes sparks – it’s a community of like-minded people. Rollercoaster junkies or people interested in your expertise, it doesn’t matter. We’re herd critters. And we like to know that others will experience pain with us… This isn’t a necessary step for every sale, but it provides more engagement and sticking power when you can get clients plugged into your community/network. It makes them feel a part of something, and makes your offering stickier.
  7. Experience Benefit. Finally, after all the hard work, we get to experience the benefits of the offering. It’s a gain created, or a pain relieved. This is what they’ve been waiting for all along. Sometimes this can be immediate gratification, such as eating chocolate, or it may take a while for someone to benefit from taking a course or receiving the value from your consulting.


Enhancing Your Sales Funnel for Greater Profit

Highly profitable businesses add a few more pieces:

  1. Up-Sell. Yes, you can buy the uber-extra pass for $75 that lets you get to the front of the lines. For some people (like me), it’s the perfect option, and I’m willing to pay more because I get more from the experience.
  2. Sell them More. You gotta have cotton candy. And corn dogs. And sodas. And candy. And a sit-down meal. And some sort of stupid little memorabilia toy that you’ll scratch your head over when you get home. Yeah, it adds up.
  3. Keep them Coming Back. You can buy a season pass for more than twice the daily rate (but usually under the three day rate). The season pass reduces the friction of making a return trip. You pay gobs of money up front for the possibility of coming all summer. But you don’t. You may come back once more if you live far out of town. But when you do return, you pay for all the incidentals again – parking, food, gas, etc. One of the most-overlooked parts of any business is the return trip. Getting your customers to come back for more. We give it lip service, but often don’t plan on how we’re going to get them back. It could be additional offers or a different level of service. We want to plan out their journey ahead of time and then act as a tour guide (anyone for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?).

The enhancements:


Here’s the complete sales funnel, with the enhancements:


Repeat as needed to build the business you want. But you need to plan out the journey for each client. You can even think through the sales funnel for each core product, such that you have a different path to the purchase, up-sell, and beyond for each main product.

Recap: What I’d Spend for Rollercoaster Joy

  • $15 for Bojangle’s biscuits and tea on the way up (gotta start with the breakfast of champions)
  • $10 for parking
  • $150 for three basic tickets
  • $75 upgrade for Express Passes
  • $30 for lunch
  • $40 for snacks (yes, funnel cakes are necessary)
  • $60 for dinner (premium locale to rest our feet before finishing off the day)
  • $20 for stupid stuff (glow sticks anyone?)
  • $210 to get season pass upgrades at the end of the day (not sure if they do this, but they should)
  • $40 for gas both ways

Total spend for a magical day of rollercoasterin’? $550 for three of us. Not all that bad considering alternative vacations, but still significant per magical minute (50 rides with Express Pass = $11.00 per ride for all three of us).

  • Total prep time (drive, walk, wait): 17 hours
  • Total “Joy” time: 1 hour.
  • Percentage of Joy time: 5.88%
  • Base ticket cost versus total cost: 30.30%

What this means is that I am willing to spend 17 hours of down time to experience 1 hour of up time. The experience is worth the wait. The anticipation build the excitement. Watching other scream makes me feel superior. Seeing the smile on my boys is priceless (even though they’re 19 and 16).

The parks would be able to extract $495 from me when I planned on spending the basic $150 for tickets going in, or they get 3.3 times what I think I’m going to spend without analysis because they’re crafty and devious (actually because they’re smart, not devious). When the boys are telling me they can’t wait to come back, how can I resist the season pass – even when I know we may only be able to get back once more? When they have us there at the park, offer us all the good stuff that we wouldn’t normally buy because we’re in an elated state and eschew limits on our fun.

Insights for Building Your Sales Funnel

Build it in stages, like this:

  1. Understand what your audience will be willing to “wait” for and buy – what they will jump through hoops to get – what they want
  2. Create your core product
  3. Create your tripwire (something that you can sell for $10 or less to select out non-buyers)
  4. Create or acquire up-selling options – add-ons and upgrades that get them to spend more (for even greater value, of course)
  5. Create the method you will use to get them to come back (engagement and additional buying options for the return trip)
  6. Create advertising, referral generation, and SEO to attract people to see what you have
  7. Give them the rides of their lives

Only Four Ways to Increase Revenue

The venerable marketing genius Jay Abraham says there are only three ways to increase revenue:

  • Increase the number of customers
  • Increase the average amount of an order (transaction size)
  • Increase the frequency of ordering (number of transactions per period of time)

I add one other to the mix, which looks at the business over time:

  • Increase customer longevity (the length of time a customer stays with you) – it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than find a new one, and the longer you keep them, the more they are worth

Given these four maxims for increased revenue, make sure that what you build into your funnel addresses at least one of these four methods.

The Magical Marketing Piece Gets Them in the Door

I create something for many of my clients that I call the “Magical Marketing Piece” (here’s Big Think’s). It’s essentially the map to the park. It shows what you do, how you do it, and how they get engaged with you. It makes it easy for them to figure out if what you offer is a good fit for them. Consider making a Magical Marketing Piece for your business and watch sales happen faster and more frequently.