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.
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:
Here’s a peek at a visual from the Virtual Summit Funnel Roadmap download!
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:
Generally speaking, all of those things will happen together and support one another, but it never hurts to have a primary goal in mind.
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:
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:
Let’s break each of these down.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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!
Learn how much time to set aside for planning and launching your profitable, stress-free online summit and use my calculator to set the due dates for you.