How to Create the Ultimate Virtual Summit Funnel

A virtual summit is the one strategy that can skyrocket your email list, income, visibility, expert status, AND connections - all at once.

It’s an insanely powerful method that can also get complex. 

It’s true, a virtual summit funnel has a lot of moving pieces, but if you’re already running a business I know it’s nothing you can’t handle.

The thing is, a lot of summit hosts don’t even think about their overall funnel. They decide a virtual event is something they want to host and dive in without giving the bigger strategy a passing thought.

You can still be successful that way, but starting with the overall funnel in mind will work wonders in getting you to where you want to be after your virtual summit is over.

So how do you create a profitable virtual summit funnel that converts? Let’s start from the beginning.

What is a virtual summit funnel?

In the simplest terms, a virtual summit funnel is what brings people from being new to you to a part of your summit and then to whatever offer you want to lead them to afterward.

And right there, you can see that there are several funnels involved in the overall virtual summit funnel:

  1. First is the funneling of people to the summit itself. These can be members of your current audience or new to you. Preferably, it’s a mix of both!
  2. Next is the funneling of new summit attendees to participating in the event. After all, if they sign up and never pay attention, you don’t have the opportunity to get them to either of the next steps.
  3. From there, you’ll funnel them to purchase your all-access pass - the first chance to make money!
  4. And finally is the funneling of those same people, especially those who upgrade to the paid all-access pass, to your signature offer at the end - whether that’s a digital product, membership, physical product, or service. (Nothing to offer yet? That’s okay too!)

Here’s a peek at a visual from the Virtual Summit Funnel Roadmap download!

Virtual Summit Funnel Roadmap - Summit in a Box

The Goal of a Virtual Summit Funnel

While the list of steps outlined above suggest that the overall goal of your virtual summit funnel is profit, it can be whatever you’d like. For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Grow your email list
  • Sell your all-access pass
  • Sell your product, membership, or service
  • Increase visibility
  • Serve your audience well

Generally speaking, all of those things will happen together and support one another, but it never hurts to have a primary goal in mind. 

Layers of a Virtual Summit Funnel

Now that you have a basic understanding, let's dive deeper into each layer of the funnel. 

We’ll focus on the 4 primary layers, shown here:

Virtual summit funnel - Summit in a Box

Funnel Step 1: From Strangers or Followers to Virtual Summit Attendees

The first step in your virtual summit funnel is to turn strangers and followers into attendees of your online event. 

The primary areas to focus on when driving traffic include:

  1. Your existing audience
  2. Traffic from speakers
  3. Traffic from affiliates
  4. Traffic from paid ads

Let’s break each of these down.

Your existing audience

Generally speaking, your existing audience will be the easiest to turn into summit attendees. They already know and trust you and will align closely to the goal of your summit, if you’ve kept them in mind while creating it.

Focus on promoting to your existing audience in 1-3 places. More than that can cause you to spread yourself too thin and mean not showing up effectively anywhere.

For me, those three places include:

  • Email list
  • Facebook group
  • Instagram

Identify the 1-3 platforms that you connect with your audience the most and focus on those when it comes to funneling them into your summit. From there, create your promotion plan and see the registrations start to roll in.

Traffic from speakers

Next up is traffic from your speakers. While your audience will convert higher, you can expect to get a larger number of attendees from your speakers than anywhere else.

The biggest actions you can take to get your speakers to promote include:

  • Select the right speakers in the first place.
  • Make it clear from the beginning that at least a little promotion will be expected. (I “require” one email and one social media post)
  • Create promotional resources including email swipe copy, social media swipe copy, promotion graphics for all kinds of platforms, and even a suggested sharing schedule. (All resources available in my signature Summit in a Box program to make your process easy!)
  • Offer up all the reminders and encouragement that you can.

Traffic from affiliates

While your speakers are technically affiliates, you can have additional affiliates who are not speakers as well. 

The overall strategy for encouraging affiliates to share is the same as your speakers so once you’re ready for one, you’ll have everything you need for the other!

When brainstorming additional affiliates, consider people who:

  • Have the same audience as your summit, but weren’t a great fit to speak this time.
  • Wanted to participate, but were unable to.
  • Are past/existing clients and customers of yours.

Traffic from paid ads

Last is traffic from paid advertising. This is optional - in fact, for my first summit I spent about $50 on ads before I realized I had no idea what I was doing and turned them off. In each of my most recent events, I’ve spent about $2000 on Facebook ads.

The great thing about running paid ads for a summit is that if you’ve got them set up correctly, you should see a profit from all-access pass sales. Meaning the ads pay for themselves!

If you’re just getting started with Facebook ads for your summit, I’d suggest starting with a small budget per day (as low as $5) to your warm audience (email list, website traffic, and social media traffic) and some lookalike audiences to your warm audience, if you’re up for it. 

While Facebook ads aren’t the only type of paid traffic to use, it’s the only thing I’ve tested. To decide what’s best for you, consider where your audience hangs out and run ads on that platform. (For example, we’ve got some information on growing your summit through Pinterest and promoted pins here.)

Utilizing as many of these traffic drivers as you’re able to will ensure that your virtual summit funnel starts strong with as many attendees as possible.

Funnel Step 2: From Attendees to Engaged Attendees

Once someone signs up for your virtual summit, they’re considered an “attendee”. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re engaged with your event. It's possible that they never open an email from you or watch a single presentation after that.

It's your job to make sure they’re engaged and participate in watching the sessions, getting to know each other, and (most importantly) taking action.

The most effective ways to engage your attendees include:

  • Promise and deliver a transformation that they truly want - For example, rather than promising to help them “grow their business”, maybe you’ll help them “book out their client schedule using Instagram”.
  • Have a private community - Create a free, private community where your attendees can go to engage with you, the speakers, and each other. This is a great place to get them talking and taking action together.
  • Give away prizes - There’s no shame in a little good-natured bribery. Encourage your attendees to watch the sessions, interact in the Facebook group, and more by giving away prizes to those who engage! A fun game of summit Bingo is my favorite way to do it. Prizes can come from you, speakers, affiliates, or sponsors - whatever works for you!

Engagement is a piece of the virtual summit funnel that a lot of hosts skip, but it’s the best way to increase the number of people who go from the first step of becoming an attendee to the two steps we have left to cover.

Funnel Step 3: From Engaged Attendees to All-Access Pass Buyers

The next step in the virtual summit funnel is the first chance we have to monetize and that is moving engaged attendees to all-access pass buyers.

Attendees will have the chance to upgrade to your all-access pass anywhere from immediately after registering until your cart closes after the summit. There will be people who take you up on that offer throughout the entire process. That means you have a ton of opportunity to show those engaged attendees just how valuable your offer is. 

A few keys to successfully selling an all-access pass include:

  1. Sell more than just presentation replays - Build a truly valuable offer that helps attendees move closer to the big transformation you’ve promised.
  2. It’s all about the bonuses - Ask your speakers if they’d like to contribute a bonus as a way to add value to the all-access pass as well as an additional chance to collect email addresses from anyone who claims that bonus.
  3. Limited-time offers for the win - Limited time pricing and bonuses will work wonders for increasing your conversion rates.

Funnel Step 4: From Engaged Attendees and All-Access Pass Buyers to Signature Offer Purchasers

First, know that if you don’t have an offer to sell your summit attendees apart from the all-access pass, that’s okay. I didn’t have anything besides the all-access pass in my first 4 summits and it was still 100% worth doing.

But if you have a product or service to sell, it’s another huge chance to monetize the event while giving your engaged attendees the ultimate resource to help them reach their big goal.

While it’s certainly not impossible to see attendees who don’t upgrade to the all-access pass buy your offer, you’ll see a higher percentage of those who do take you up on it being those who grabbed the all-access pass.

That’s because the people who trust you the most and truly want the transformation you’re promising are more likely to purchase the all-access pass and also want the next step when it becomes available.

And like with any offer, if you can get someone to buy from you once and deliver on it, they’re more likely to buy from you again.

Keep in mind that you won’t be selling the all-access pass and your signature offer at the same time throughout the event. Instead, consider a flow that looks something like this:

  1. Before and during the event, attendees are being presented with the all-access pass.
  2. Also during that time frame, you’re organically mentioning the product or service you’ll have available at the end to build awareness. You can even offer a scholarship, do behind the scenes videos, etc.
  3. Either on the last day of the event or within a week of its ending (the sooner the better, really) make your offer to people who have shown any interest in it. For example, in my October 2020 summit, I made my offer to anyone who attended my webinar, watched the replay, or had been on my email list for more than 60 days prior to the summit.
  4. Continue offering the all-access pass to anyone who isn’t being pitched your signature offer.

How to know where each attendee is in the funnel process

As you’ve probably realized, making a virtual summit funnel work effectively means that you need to be able to tell where each attendee is in the funnel process.

Luckily, most email marketing platforms make this nice and easy with tagging or segmenting.

Here are the most important tags to apply:

  1. Attendees: When someone registers for your summit, tag them as an attendee.
  2. All-access pass buyer: When someone purchases your all-access pass, tag them as having done so. From there, you can exclude them from any email strictly pitching the all-access pass and even give them a special offer for your product or service.
  3. Interested in the signature offer: If you decide to host a webinar pitching your offer or anything similar, tag those who attended or view the replay. If you don’t launch with a webinar, you can skip this step.
  4. Purchase the signature offer: Last, you’ll tag anyone who purchases your offer and exclude them from any future pitches of it.

Get started with your virtual summit funnel

Now that you understand the basics, it’s time for you to map out your virtual summit funnel!

Start by deciding where your primary focus will be, whether it’s list-building, all-access pass sales, or signature product sales. Remember, all of those things can happen, but it's helpful to have a primary area of focus identified to refer back to.

From there, outline what your traffic sources will look like, how you’ll keep attendees engaged, what your all-access pass offer will be, and what your signature offer will look like.

To help map it all out, grab the free Virtual Summit Funnel Roadmap download!

 

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