When to Avoid Sales Funnels and Marketing Gimmicks

Reading Time: 18 minutes

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • What a sales funnel is.
  • All about Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula.
  • What landing pages are and how to use them.
  • Why a sales funnel CANNOT be your farm website.
  • Why you’ll want to avoid gimmicks and slick sales funnels with your farm marketing efforts.
  • Where you can use sales funnels with marketing farm products.
  • And much more.
  • Don’t forget to check out the Small Farm Nation Academy whenever you’re ready to GET GROWING!

This week I dive into the issue of sales funnels. I’ve heard lots of advice that farmers need to either only use sales funnels (and not have a website) or that they should embrace the Jeff Walker Product Launch Formula model in selling farm products.

I have some opinions about this to share in this episode, so listen in.


Small farm nation is sponsored by Farmers Web software for your farm. Farmers Web helps farms inform buyers of available product handle orders simplify customer interactions and reduce the administrative load so check them out at farmersweb.com.

Forget having a Web site and building a respected Farm brand all you need is a automated sales funnel right? Hey it’s Tim Young a small farm nation dot common today. I’ll walk you through sales funnels product launch formulas and marketing gimmick she may want to use but likely should avoid.

Hey there. Thanks for joining me again this week. So you’ve probably heard the phrase sales funnel right. I mean it’s not a new phrase or concept at all but I mean it’s possible that it’s new to you.

Over 20 years ago we referred to it as marketing funnel as our purchase funnel and it’s and it’s a good visual metaphor to understand the process of taking someone who is unfamiliar with your business—you know a complete stranger—through a process that results with them becoming a paying customer.


So the top of the funnel is wide open, of course. I mean since there’s a lot of potential customers and like a funnel you used to pour gas in your mower the funnel narrows all the way down until just a little gas or customers in this case drip out the bottom.

Now in the old days—you know back in the 90s or whatever—the idea was to use marketing tactics to nurture prospects through that funnel.

It started with qualifying them as they entered to find out if they were a prospective customer at all or a tire kicker and then feeding them marketing materials that would ultimately lead to a purchase.

Now those marketing materials in the B2B world were things like White Papers case studies product demos and so on. And even though as a farm you’re in a B2C world with different marketing tactics at your disposal, the process is pretty much the same it’s unchanged.

The difference today is marketing automation.

Now, today I see lots of folks saying things like you only need a sales funnel.  What they’re most often referring to is based on something called the Product Launch Formula, or PLF for short. It’s a really well-known formula made popular by Jeff Walker.

So before I give you some caution about implementing this approach for your farm or local food business let’s examine the product launch formula in a nutshell.

So, this is Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula. Even if you’ve never heard of it you very likely experienced it if you’ve bought any type of digital or high end product. As I walk you through it you’ll likely recognize it.

And the reason I want to talk about this today is because I’ve seen and heard people increasingly saying to farmers that all they need is a sales funnel. Often they say you need no website, nothing else, just a sales funnel.

And I have some pretty strong opinions about that I’d like to share.

But first let’s just explore what tools like Clickfunnels and Deadline funnels are for, and how Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula approach works. Because most of these marketing automation tools like Clickfunnels and Deadline Funnels are based on Jeff Walker’s tactics. Namely, they rely on the tactics of scarcity or FOMO, the fear of missing out. You’ve heard me discuss those marketing tactics on earlier episodes.

At the heart of Walker’s Product Launch Formula is the need to generate excitement about a “product launch.”

Now, I know you may not be thinking about your farm products as a product launch but they can be, if you think about. For instance, we’re announcing our limited number of heritage turkeys for the season. Or I have a new CSA that I’m launching, or, we have a limited supply of grassfed beef. You can market any type of farm product that you can think of.

And with the PLF, or product launch formula, approach, you learn to think with a product cycle mentality. And the fundamental idea is that you generate excitement about the product launch. And you offer incentives and free stuff to nudge people toward purchases.

In the digital world, those “free” things are usually online training videos. On a farm it can be free recipes or whatever, but you give something for free to show the value of what you’re launching.

Then you use the element of scarcity to trigger purchases. Now that’s really all there is to the Product Launch Formula. You generate excitement and buzz about upcoming product launch. You give away free stuff of value and then you trigger purchases using scarcity. You’re going to miss out. Act now. That’s it.

Now implementing the PLF model normally happens in several stages, and I suspect you’ve experienced these.

Okay, from a marketer’s perspective, the first stage is a pre-launch and often there’s a pre pre-launch stage.

Now the goal here of this stage is to create buzz or momentum, kind of like starting a snowball. To create anticipation about something that’s upcoming, something that’s new.

Again, this could be farm events. It could be farm classes. It could be a new delivery spot or drop location. Something you only have a certain number of spots for. Because as a farmer, you can only produce so much product, right? So scarcity is actually built into what you’re offering.

So the idea here is that you announce something to create buzz.

And the very first marketing step is to create what’s called a “landing page.” Many marketers use tools such as Lead Pages or Click Funnels for this. Those tools cost money, though, and aren’t necessary if you’re using a modern WordPress theme such as FarmPress. I can quickly create landing pages on my site without those tools, just as members of Small Farm Nation Academy can.

Regardless of how you do it, creating a landing page is the first step. Because when you announce your product, when you try to “create buzz,” you have to give people a place to go. A place to sign up.

And what you’re doing here is trying to build an opt-in email list for this product. That’s why it’s so critical, in the PLF approach, to make two things clear on the landing page.

  1. That you’re offering something of value for free
  2. That the person can’t buy the product now, but should join the waitlist so they’ll be the first to know when they can.

Have you seen this before? Have you ever tried to buy an online product—perhaps an online course or something else—only to see that the course is currently closed. Or the membership site is closed but will reopen soon. And then you have to enter your email address to be notified?

You probably have. If you want to see this in action I absolutely utilize this approach in a couple of places. I’m not gonna tell you that I don’t use this approach, because I do sometimes.

Go to smallfarmnation.com/launchpad. And when you go to that page you’re going to see a landing page.

And, as you’ll see, a landing page can be on your own website. It doesn’t have to be Lead Pages it doesn’t have to be Click Funnels or any of these other tools that you may have heard of. I easily create these all on my own website.

Okay, so what is a landing page?

If you go to smallfarmnation.com/launchpad you’re going to see a form to complete if you want to get that free video training that I’m offering as part of that.

What you won’t see is the typical navigation bar at the bottom or the top that allows you to go to about me, or my blog, or my podcast. I’ve taken away all those navigation links. They’re removed from that page and that’s the essence of what a landing page is.

On a landing page you want to remove any of those options that would be distracting. You have one goal and one goal only on a landing page. And that’s to convert the visitor into an email subscriber. And you do this by offering something of so much value that the person happily shares their email address.

On smallfarmnation.com/launchpad I entice you with three free video trainings on farm marketing. More than that, really. I include videos on creating a one-page farm business plan and include downloadable templates. So, people interested in running a profitable farm sign up and watch the free videos. And those videos relate directly to the product I’d like to offer them, which is my membership community, smallfarmnationacademy.com

Now, if I were selling raw milk and wanted to build an email list of prospective new customers, my three videos could be on making simple cheeses or yogurts. Something of value that related directly to the product I was selling.

If I had a flower farm and wanted to build an email list of prospective wedding customers, it would be videos about planning, selecting and styling floral arrangements to create the perfect day. And I’d market that free training to publications and wedding planners.

So there are lots of ways you can do this. But that doesn’t mean these tactics should be central to your farm marketing. Not at all, and I’ll talk about why not in a bit.

But back to understanding this product launch formula approach.

You’ve defined a product you want to market, but it’s not available “right now.” It can’t be—otherwise you give people no reason to sign up for your email list.

So, to entice them to sign-up, you’ve created something of value to give them. Now they’re on your email list, and the fun begins.

The most fundamental Product Launch Formula model, the one that Jeff Walker started with and still uses, goes like this.

  • A landing page to collect email addresses.
  • The subscriber then goes into an automated email sequence.
  • Email #1 sends a freebie to the subscriber, usually a link to an online video.
  • Email #2 sends the subscriber to the second video in the series.
  • Email #3 sends them to the third video, or whatever the free offer is.

A few days after those emails, the subscriber will receive another email telling them, “hey, good news…we’ll be opening this course/product/site, whatever, again soon.”

Then in a couple of days the subscriber gets an email that the shopping cart is open and they can NOW sign-up for what they’ve been waiting for. And the emails they’ve received before this, the videos or whatever, have all been to create excitement for this opportunity.

But, as these emails now make clear, the subscriber needs to act quickly, because the shopping cart will only be open for a few days. After that the opportunity goes away, and the person can’t sign up if they want to.

And the marketer means it…once the door is closed, it’s closed. So this is only going to give you a limited amount of time to purchase that product. It could be 48 hours it could be one week could be 72 hours whatever you decide as the product owner that’s what it’s going to be.

This is usually managed by deadline funnels or a similar tool that tracks your I.P. address to give you a timestamp. The you have X amount of time to buy or you’re going to miss out and you can’t get in.

That’s how the entire process works. To give you another example of how this works go to smallfarmnationacademy.com   Depending on when you’re listening to this podcast, you’ll likely see what’s included in the Academy, but you can’t buy it. You have to click “request invite”. And the reason that’s done is because I want to get you on the email list so I can tell you more about the academy.

When you complete request the invite on smallfarmnationacademy.com you’re going to get a few e-mails that tell you what’s coming. This is the pre launch buzz. It’s designed to get you excited and show you that help is on the way.

So, I  mentioned that there are three emails in the PLF sequence, for videos 1, 2 and 3. But really, in most cases, there are many more emails. In my launchpad sequence there are 8 emails, and that’s before my membership site opens. After that there are another 5 emails in a 3-day period when my membership site is open.

And people either sign-up and become members, or they don’t. If they don’t, they stay on the email list for general newsletters or whatever. But they can’t go back to a shopping cart page and sign up for your product, because, in the PLF model, the cart is closed.

You’ve seen this, right? You go to a site that says you just missed out, we’re not currently open. We’ll be open later or we’ll be open soon. You just missed it.

This of course isn’t quite true. I mean you can’t get the product right now but it’s a lie in the sense that product could be made available, but they want to get your email address first.

It’s a good question to ask why don’t you just make it where they can buy right then. But that’s going to get to the element of scarcity which I’m going to talk about in a bit.

OK, so why do I use a PLF approach on my site. And why would I be leery of using this on a farm. And why do I sometimes use these types of funnels myself?

Well, as it relates to the smallfarmnationacademy.com it’s because I have an online niche product that’s not geographically sensitive. So I do have something online that someone can buy if they’re a prospective customer for it. And one of my goals is to build an email list of people who genuinely want my help. I want to share my podcast with them. I want to share my free training with them. And, if they want more advanced training and personal help, I want to make my paid membership site available to them.

And this approach helps me to do that.

So by putting up that landing page with the invite it allows me to qualify people. Because if you’re not willing to say I want to request an invite and give me your email address, trust me, you’re not interested in anything I have to offer. 

If I haven’t earned that amount of trust with my content then you’re not interested in what I offer and I certainly don’t want you in the Academy, because I’m not gonna be able to help you.

So that’s my goal and it fits with this approach.

I also want to help prospective customers understand what smallfarmnationacademy.com is really about before they join. I can do that by giving them several days to read what I share in emails about the academy.

Now this actually flies in the face of what sales funnels are designed to do, right, because normally you want to accept the sale right away. Hey if someone hits your website and wants to buy then you want to take the order. But I usually steer in the opposite direction from that.

I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but the thing I don’t want is for people to buy something from me and then feel like it was an impulse buy or it’s not what they wanted. So I like the idea of getting them on the list. Then, I honestly share stories and information about what to expect including behind the scenes information and some testimonials and what other people experience. So they can then make an intelligent decision a week later or 10 days later.

So, ironically, I’m not trying to sell in my emails but rather guide them. To show that I understand where they are, what they’re going through and tell them what I offer, so that they can determine if it’s a good fit for them. So in that sense I don’t use the funnels the way they’re intended because I only want members who want to be there. I don’t want just sales.

Now that’s not applicable to you. You may have something where you really need to get people there for a farm event or for CSA sign up or whatever. I totally get it. I’ve been there.

But another goal of mine with this online product I have is to manage the onboarding process because smallfarmnationacademy.com it’s a membership site. It’s not an online course.

If it were an online course, you know I’ve said this before on podcast episodes, I would just record the videos I would put it up I’d give you all the resources, all the cheat sheets, all the email templates, all that stuff you know and then you can go grab it and it doesn’t take much of my time. Once it’s created, it’s created.

But, while smallfarmnationacademy.com has lots of farm marketing courses inside it—well over 100 video lessons—it’s not a “course” per se. It’s an online membership community.

And as every member of smallfarmnationacademy.com knows, I’m there in inside the academy every single day. I’m answering questions for farmers on website troubles they have, whether it’s with another website platform such as Squarespace or Shopify or something other than FarmPress.

Or helping them figure out how to price their products or how to display weights on products on their site, or whatever it may be. I’m in there all the time and that’s the the way the academy works. So it takes a lot of my time to be available for members.

And then, of course, I’ve got the online one-to-one coaching section and a lot of members use. This is where they start a private coaching thread with me and ask specific questions about their farm business strategy. Should they open this enterprise. Should they lease this farmland, can I look at their email sequences, what advice do I have on their website design and copywriting or whatever it may be. So there’s a lot of time there.

So I need to manage the onboarding process to make sure that I don’t bring in too many members. And that I also bring in members that are a good fit for the Academy.

So for those reasons this formula works ok for me. Still, I don’t feel great about it because I inherently don’t trust the websites that use this product launch formula approach. I understand what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to use scarcity and they’re trying to manipulate me into buying something, and here I am doing that on my site. So I don’t like it.

And that leads me to why I’d be leery of doing this in most farm situations. That doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where I would do this on a farm, and I’ll walk through those. But it absolutely would not be core to how I would market a farm business.

So my primary marketing objective on the farm would be in building my farm brand.  To build a respected brand.

Now, think of any farms or restaurants or whatever you want to think about out there. Think about the ones that you admire and think about why you admire them. What are the attributes about that?

Is it because they had a slick Product Launch Formula and and sold you through a sales funnel. I doubt it. Is it because you trust them. You’ve heard good things about them because of what they’ve said because of how they’ve said it in their blogs or how they’ve said it in speeches or in articles or things like that.


We want to build respected brands on our farm because we’re selling to people in our community. We’re a local food business in most cases unless you’re shipping nationwide.

And we absolutely do not want to be perceived as corporate marketers. And when you get into things like tricky sales funnels and slick automation and marketing gimmicks, you’ve got to be careful how you come across with it. We don’t want to be perceived as you know these big corporates corporate marketers out there we want to be a part of the community. We are the people that you know. We’re Joe down the street or we’re Sally or I’m Tim, I’m your farmer. Yes I have marketing tools that can help me but I’m not trying to manipulate you into buying so I don’t want to be perceived that way.

And regarding this advice I’ve seen a few times and heard a few times about you don’t need a website—that’s ridiculous. It’s awful advice. You absolutely need a website a website because it’s your marketing hub. That’s where you drive people to. If you want to have a sales funnels, fine.

But the idea of using lead pages or click funnels or something else like that and you don’t need a website is just bizarre to me. Have a website that you drive people to.

This is going to be where you’re going to talk about you. This is gonna be where you’re going to share your story. This is going to be where, hopefully, you do content marketing and some blogging and or podcasting because that’s going to be a great way to come across as real and share your story. And it’s certainly going to help you with search engine optimization which you’ll get none of when you’re doing stand-alone sales funnels on one of these third party platforms.

And SEO is as important as ever. Because, if you don’t think that people still search online for what they’re looking for—you go a week without using Google. Go a week without saying “Alexa or Siri, what is this?” Or whatever. All of this relies on search engines. So you want to be found when you’re people search for grassfed beef or local honey, or whatever you offer.

And 90 percent plus of search engine traffic happens on Google and that’s a constant trend. They’re not using Bing or anything else, it’s Google. So you want to be found and a website is going to help you to show up and be found.

But most important my goal as a farm marketer is to build trust with my community, and with anyone who discovers my farm brand. And in no way do I want to come across as gimmicky or trying to sell something that someone doesn’t want.

So, you’ve got to ask yourself this question here and be honest about this when you see the sites including mine that you go through and it says, Why can’t I sign up now whatever.

Do you feel like you’re being a little bit manipulated. I mean even on my site smallfarmnationacademy.com  all you have to put in your email address to get an invite. But I get e-mails sometimes from people yelling at me. Why can I join right now. You know, why do you have to do this this is make any sense to me.

And I totally get it. I mean it’s frustrating but I explain to them what I just explained to you because I want to share more information about what the academy is before asking them to make a purchasing decision of $400 a year or $120 a quarter. Granted, compared to alternatives those prices are a hell of a deal. I see people selling online classes to farmers for $2,000 and more. But, still, I know how tight finances are in farming. So a farmer deserves the opportunity to make an informed decision, even on $400.

Now, there is one good take away from things like the product launch formula that I haven’t talked  about that I think you can and should implement. But you don’t need to implement this in a sales funnel.

One of the things that’s at the heart of the way Walker’s PLF model works is the tactic of storytelling. If you go through any of these sequences including some of mine when you get my emails what you’re going to see is that the person is sharing real stories about how they got started.

Jeff Walker is a master of this. I mean if you read his book Product Launch Formula you know he’ll share stories about how he just needed to come up with a solution to sell products to make money and he stumbled across this formula. Or whatever.

And it doesn’t matter what site you go to whether you’re looking at a an online blogging course or a farm marketing course, they’re going to be sharing stories about how they struggled and how they uncovered the solution that helped them to achieve what they wanted. And they’re writing that in such a way that’s going to resonate with you.

So that’s not a bad thing. And that’s an approach you should take in your blog posts or in your email marketing.

I’ve interviewed farmers here on a Small Farm Nation podcast that I think do a great job in their marketing. When I interviewed, for example, Paul from Pasturebird and Primal Pastures and they do a really good job in their emails. Paul does an excellent job of actually sharing their values and the problems with factory farming and inspiring you to act without beating you over the head.

He shares a really good story about what led them to choose their lifestyle. And the nice thing about that is that all of us as farmers have the same story. We all opted out of something or chose this lifestyle which is not the most lucrative lifestyle in the world.

We all chose this because of some values that we have because of some needs we have and the idea of sharing stories in a way that resonates with your community.

Storytelling is a great tactic for any aspect of marketing, so definitely incorporate that into your About page, and to your blog posts, into your email marketing and all that.

And another great takeaway from sales funnels that I’ve covered on other episodes is asking people to buy. Asking them to take action.

And this is a mistake that lots of business owners and farmers make. That is, they’ll just send out an email and it either doesn’t tell a story or ask the reader to buy. It just gives them a farm update or whatever. But you’re not really asking people to do anything.

You must ask your constituents to do something—to take action. And you need to give them a reason to do that. You want inspire them and then ask for their support. Something like:

  • Look, I need your help to continue farming this way.
  • This is really important for the community for these reasons.
  • I need your help. You can help me buy blank blank blank, by going to this restaurant and requesting my products.
  • By going to this retailer and asking them why they don’t carry my products.
  • By coming to the farm, and buying this product.
  • By coming to this farm dinner.
  • By referring your friends to the farm and asking them to buy this product.
  • By hosting a delivery site location for me so I can drop off products there so.
  • By inviting your neighbors to join the delivery club.

There’s a whole bunch of things that you can do. But you achieve those best without sales funnels and with marketing gimmicks.

You achieve that by cultivating relationships through building a strong farm brand. By getting people to support you by being there for them on an ongoing basis.

Sales funnels may work. They do work in many instances. But the are meant to be transitory. They’re meant to be used for a limited product offering.

There are times when you do have a limited number of heritage turkeys, or whatever. But I never needed a sales funnel to sell Ossabaw pigs or heritage turkeys—or cheese. What I did need was a strong farm brand and a robust email list. And that’s what I focused on.

Can you use sales funnels to build an email list? Sure. But it’s a bit gimmicky. There are times when you can use them but you don’t want to use gimmicks and sales funnels as the heart of your marketing strategy for your farm a local food business.

You want to focus on building a brand, earning trust and coming across as the opposite as corporate marketing.

You want to be there for your community.

So take from this episode what you will. Let’s not over complicate marketing. Let’s focus on the fundamentals. Have a great website, make sure it’s optimized for list building, build your brand honestly and credibly, get out there and tell people what you’re all about.

Believe me there’s a ton of customers out there for you. You don’t need gimmicks to build your farm business.

And you need to stop believing that there’s some secret that you don’t know that some of these other farms or other businesses out there have figured out. Some secret that if you could just copy you could replicate success.

That’s not it.

Building your farm from a marketing point of view is very much like building your soil’s organic matter. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time as the result of doing the right thing on an ongoing basis.

And doing the right things from a marketing point of view means sharing your story, building your brand and building a tribe of loyal fans. Giving them a reason to jump on your bandwagon. Telling them what you want them to do and letting them actively be a part of what you’re building with your farm.

Share with people why you’re doing what you’re doing and invite them in to be part of that process. Because that’s what they want. They want to be part of something special.

Sales funnels and marketing gimmicks aren’t special. But you are, and what you’re doing is. Market effectively and prioritize marketing every day, and you’ll build a great farm business.

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