The Whole Truth: How Dangerously Powerful Sales Funnels Are Built

Intro from Jonathan:

There are few people out there that are blatantly honest about online marketing and the tactics that are regularly employed.

Ryan Holiday illuminated “the game” that is played with gaining media attention in his popular book Trust Me, I’m Lying.

Now, it’s time to reveal the underbelly of how the biggest online marketing events and launches are carefully engineered. They do not happen on accident or by stroke of luck, after all.

They’re carefully plotted, orchestrated and puppeteered.

In this insanely in-depth article (course?), Daniel DiPiazza takes you on a behind the scenes tour of how million dollar sales funnels are crafted. Some of this you may find surprising. Some of it may seem evil, or genius.

Take what you will. It’s your choice whether you use it for evil or good.

Enter Daniel:

Every holiday or family get together, my grandma asks me, “So what are you doing for work now?”

Sigh. Here we go again.

For the past 4 years, I haven’t really had a good response to give her.

Am I working? Of course.

But when someone asks me to explain my job, I start getting that uncomfortable, shifty feeling in my stomach typically reserved for covert operatives, drug smugglers and other members of the “invisible industries.”

I fumble over my words, looking for precisely the right combination of letters and sounds to explain exactly what goes on when I power up my 13” Macbook Pro.

It’s no use.

I usually just end up reducing the explanation to such simple terms that it’s essentially a lie.

“Umm…I’m an online writer, Gram.”


Because I work in the magical online gray zone that you never see, but happens all around you. And not just around you…but to you.

It’s happening every moment of the day. Every single day.

The complex systems I build combine advanced human psychology, cutting edge technology and deep emotional intelligence to penetrate your mind and discover the very core of your deepest desires — then, (benevolently, hopefully) leverage those desires to catch you in my web with a perfectly-timed pitch.

The pièce de résistance: I don’t have to sell you at all. I’ll make you beg for what I’m offering. And only after dangling it in front of you and denying you satisfaction will I finally let you cave in to temptation and buy.

Sounds a lot like something else, doesn’t it?

I create multi-million dollar sales funnels for brands that you know and love.

I use the power of expertly-crafted, perfectly-paced words, along with sophisticated technology to persuade thousands and thousands of people to agree upon a single point — then take out their credit cards.

Swipe, swipe, swipe.

In the process, the companies I work with sometimes make more in an hour than most of us make in 10 years (not a typo).

But you’ll never see my name attached to any of my work. I move in silence, and in my wake, companies make money hand-over-fist.

The cool part is that customers never feel played, connived or taken advantage of. Conversely, they feel like I’m speaking directly to them. They appreciate it. It’s a win-win. I am the puppet master.

The guide you’re about to read is the most comprehensive breakdown of the psychological theories AND the practical implementation of these theories to make people buy things. I know, I’ve read all the other ones.

All totaled, there’s over 5 years of knowledge packed in here. It’s a 30 minute bachelor’s degree in marketing and psychology. So I broke it down into chapters for you.

Here’s what you’ll learn in each section:

  • Chapter 1: How Old School Advertising Morphed Into Digital Marketing (and Why That Matters)
  • Chapter 2: How To Catch Somebody In An Invisible Web (The Narnia Effect)
  • Chapter 3: The Nuts & Bolts of a Successful Funnel
  • Chapter 4: The Emotional Trigger Template (Copy This And Make Millions)
  • Chapter 5: Get all the advanced training I couldn’t cover here, for free.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Chapter 1: How Old School Advertising Morphed Into Digital Marketing (and Why That Matters)

The first step to understanding and mastering these concepts is realizing that this world even exists.

Open up your inbox right now. Seriously. Open up Gmail right now. I’ll wait.

What do you see?

A few daily deals from sites like Groupon or Living Social?

Perhaps a newsletter from your alumni association?

Fresh articles from a handful of blogs that you subscribe to?

All of these can be crafted by smart marketers like me to give you an amazing, personalized experience without you even knowing it — and in turn, greatly increase the chances you’ll buy whatever they have to offer. From a physical product, to a membership, to an experience.

Some of us might think, “I don’t really buy things via email.” But with a list of 100,000 people (or even 100 people, for that matter), the odds that enough people will are extremely high.

As the marketer, it’s my job to communicate two things:

  1. What I’m offering is extremely valuable to you
  2. Your life will be enhanced when you purchase it — and even further, you’ll suffer if you don’t purchase

Communicating that value is the tricky part. But you’re not starting from scratch. There are footsteps to follow.

Marketing Then Vs. Now

In order to understand how these people like me create millions of dollars in online sales with a few emails, first we have to examine our predecessors.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, ads and marketing weren’t as sophisticated as they are now.

There wasn’t as much noise. it was much easier to sell people based on perceived authority.

For instance, look at this 1956 Lincoln print ad:

Look at this old, corny ad


The headline says: “Unmistakably the finest car in the fine car field!”

Can you imagine any major car manufacturer using that type of obvious, ostentatious language these days in an advertisement?

My first reaction would be to laugh this ad right off my iPad.

What if Mercedes Benz said, “Mercedes: Look at how luxurious our leather is”? Or Walmart said, “Walmart: We’re so much cheaper than everyone else”?

Major brands really can’t get away with this type of blunt, obvious messaging anymore — in any medium, be it print or online.

 Consumers are too skeptical now. We’re too cynical. We’re wise to the act and we know that just because a billion dollar brand says something doesn’t make it true.

So what works these days if false authority and blunt, over-simplified messaging doesn’t?







We know what advertisements look like. We can spot them from a mile away. In our inbox, on in our newsfeed (this term didn’t even exist 7 years ago), in between songs or games in our favorite apps, and of course, everywhere in the physical world that someone can erect a billboard or street sign.

There’s no escaping the marketing hustle. But here’s the cool part: Because we expect to be sold, our brains have adapted. 99% of marketing is invisible to us now. Like programs running in the background. It’s not even annoying because we don’t see it anymore.

As a result, marketers have had to become much more creative to get your attention, keep it, and ultimately, guide you to follow through with their intended action.

In fact, we don’t mind being sold something if we like the message.

Companies like Old Spice have mastered the use of creative messaging to make us love their brand and buy into it over and over again. Practically every piece of content they’ve produced for the last 5 years has been Super Bowl worthy.

The “Mom Song”. If the woman at 0:33 doesn’t make you lose it, nothing will.

Are they proclaiming that Old Spice is the “best smelling body spray in the body spray market”? Not really. Unlike advertisers of the 50’s and 60’s, they’re not trying to convince you of their place in the market.

 While the ad may not look sophisticated at first-glance, this 60 second clip is a Master Class in creative marketing, psychological triggers and subtle cues that reinforce the brand — and end up selling a shit-ton of deodorant.

NOTE: I’m going to address several elements that this ad employs. Stay focused, and I’ll bring it full circle by showing you how these deep strategies are embedded in the million dollar funnels I create — and how you can learn to employ the same strategies.

Here are just a handful of the elements employed:

A.) Benefit-driven positioning

 The entire ad is focused on a single point: Old Spice will make a man out of you. In the commercial, the viewer sees all the things that being a “real man” would entail — primarily, great success with women. The ad doesnt focus on all the features of Old Spice, attempting to pump up the brand (think about the 1950’s car advertisement). Instead, it puts the focus on the viewer by showing them how their life will improve after using Old Spice. Basically, use Old Spice, get girls. I hear you loud and clear.

B.) Laser-focused niche/market

The Old Spice creative team knows who their target is: Young males. It’s pretty obvious by the ages of all the actors, the type of humor, and the clear focus on getting girls, exactly who the brand wants to attract.

C.) Shared experience

One of the most powerful psychological tools you can leverage is the shared experience. In this case, the overly-clingy mom theme leverages three different types of psychological triggers: humor, love, and community.

 As a twenty-something male, every single one of us can relate at some point to having a clingy mom who’s scared to let go. We’ve listened to our moms reminisce about our childhoods and become skeptical of the people we date. We’ve felt pressure to become more private with our social lives because our mom is all up in our business (check out the mom at the beginning of the video hiding behind the door. Wow.) The fact that so many of us can relate to these experiences creates one giant inside joke that makes us scream, “OH MY GOD. MY MOM DOES THAT, TOO!” This not only makes us laugh our assess off (humor trigger), but also makes us think of our mom (love trigger) and then relate all that to Old Spice (community trigger). Talk about a powerful strategy at play.

D.) Sexuality

 Most of the ad revolves around sexuality and the guys getting lucky with hot girls. We project ourselves into the things we read and watch, which is why movies (and porn) are so entertaining. Seeing other guys “conquering” by hooking up with a girl subconsciously makes us think about the same need to conquer in our own lives.

Part of this tendency to project ourselves into the fantasies of others is probably due to the deeply ingrained cultural effects of the Monomyth, or “The Hero’s Journey” — which is also a shared experience (see above).

E.) Easily digestible format

The entire ad is 60 seconds. Just enough time to grab our attention, and make sure that we see the entire message without getting bored. The short format makes us much more likely to share.

Also, the song itself is very catchy and easy to remember.

F.) Repetitive product placement with subtle Calls To Action (CTAs)

You see the iconic red can a lot. You hear the word Old Spice several times — and you see the men actually spraying it on their bodies. Subtle instructions, or Calls To Action that say, “Spray it like this, then you’ll get this result (girls).” Classic “If This, Then That” programming.

They also use the same whistling outro for every commercial, which helps to further embed the messaging.

In fact, I just heard that whistle come from the apartment next door to me. I know exactly what brand the commercial was advertising. Powerful.

G.) Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a concept in psychology that refers to the effect on an individual when they hold two or more contradictory beliefs/values simultaneously. Often times, the result is bewilderment or agitation that can lead to compulsive thoughts about the contradiction.

 In the ad, take a look at what all the moms are doing.

They’re hiding behind doors, cutting holes in curtains (so creepy), falling from the sky and popping up from the sand. One mom even slides out from inside of a couch cushion backwards and slithers across the room like a snake in slow motion, then proceeds to start… knitting.

These things don’t happen in reality.

They are physically impossible and our brains know this. Yet our eyes are seeing them. So we think to ourselves, “Wait…but how…that’s hilarious…but that would never happen. Right?”

Our knowledge of physics directly contradicts the experience of seeing these atrocities (what else could I possibly call them?) and leads to cognitive dissonance. Then we laugh. And we can’t get the commercial out of our heads. Ever.

H.) Humor

Obviously, the commercial is freaking hilarious. ‘Nough said.

Their strategy is simple, and it’s based in the most basic tenets of human psychology: Make someone laugh and they’ll feel good about you.


Rather than sell you on the product, the goal is simply to make your day better by giving you something funny to laugh at — knowing that next time you’re at the supermarket looking for a body spray, their brand will be top-of-mind.

Remember, the object isn’t to force people to buy anything. In the end, you can’t do that. People make their own decisions, and if your product is shit, most people will return it anyway.

The key is doing this benevolently, with an offer that really will help the user  — all the while, using the advanced psychological triggers to make them realize how much they need what you have.

Do you see how the marketing strategy that Old Spice uses is completely different from the approach that the world’s biggest brands were using just 30-40 years ago?

This distinction is important to remember as we dive into how all these elements translate into a successful 7-figure campaign.

Chapter 2: How To Catch Somebody In An Invisible Web (The Narnia Effect)

Admittedly, I’m a geek for the type of high-level psychological work demonstrated by Old Spice — but I love play-by-play strategic and tactical work even more.

Strategic and tactical is what makes the immediate money.

The coolest part of crafting an online campaign is that at any given time, there are a flurry of elements at play — but if everything goes as planned, all you’ll see are a few, simple emails or calls to action.

It’s all an illusion.

I call this “The Narnia Effect”, because so much more is happening behind the door than you’d ever expect.

I think we all know where this door leads

Let me show you what I mean…

About two months ago, I bought tickets for my girlfriend and I to fly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a Skrillex concert. I used

Now, I don’t have any particular affiliation to different airline ticket brokers. I’m pretty much a free agent, and at the end of the day, I’m looking for the cheapest price. Period.

Expedia knows that price is a big factor in my buying decision — although sometimes they won’t have the cheapest price. But they want my money.

So how did they get me in THEIR funnel instead of one of a dozen or competitors’ (Orbitz, Cheaptickets, Priceline, etc) and get me to book the flights?

First, take a look at what a basic sales funnel looks like:

 A simple sales funnel with 6 levels

The concept here is pretty simple:

  • Run some sort of campaign
  • Get people interested in your cause/service/product
  • Show them the opportunity and benefit they’ll receive by buying
  • Give them the opportunity to buy
  • They become clients
  • Sell to them again and again with different offers

The idea here is to move the prospect as quickly as possible from one end of the funnel to the other and turn them from a prospect, to a lead, to a client as quickly as possible. And it all has to be part of a seamless system that coincides with what the customer wants already.

Expedia’s sophisticated funnel started completely off-site, and hit me right in my soft spot: Spotify.

I was coming back from a wedding, already in a great mood, and decided that some Skrillex would be the perfect accompaniment to this already-glorious day. So I pulled up his artist page on the app. Here’s what I found:

A seemingly innocuous notification that the Skrillex concert was coming up

I’d just entered the funnel for several different companies, including Expedia, without even knowing it. “Skrillex, on tour?!” I thought. Excellent.  Of course I clicked through to find out more.

Check out that juicy, green button for me to press.


IMPORTANT: Notice that it says “tickets” and not “buy now.”

Why? Because now wouldn’t be the right moment to present me with a sales offer. I have to qualify myself by clicking “tickets” and essentially saying, “Yes, tell me more about these tickets you’re offering.” I have to feel in control of the process for it to work.

Next, two important things to happen:

  1. I’m transported off-site for the offer to begin
  2. I’m presented with a direct Call to Action, and I have a decision to make

The direct CTA to buy

I saw tickets were only $20-$50 and decided to buy. Awesome price, and I only ended up spending $70 for two tickets. I felt good about the purchase.

Remember, I was only presented with this information because I asked for it — so I didn’t feel sold-to, I didn’t feel marketed or schemed. I legitimately wanted to learn more about the Skrillex concert, I clicked through and the offer progressed in line with the natural order of my desires. 

Then, the second part of the funnel commenced. An inline popup appeared and asked, “Need a flight to Las Vegas?”

Well, actually, I did. So I clicked. What the hell. I can always click away in two seconds if I don’t like what I see, right?

The link transported me to the mobile version of and guess what I found?

The perfectly-timed offer from Expedia

Awww hell no!

Nope, you’re not hallucinating. That’s a perfectly curated selection for the exact flight I need to Las Vegas. Already sorted for best price and travel time based on when the concert was. Holy shit.

I clicked through to learn more info, and I found the price was only $150 round trip per flight.

In the shopping cart field, Google Wallet had already filled in all my information, including my credit card info…(no idea how this happened). All I had to do was click “BUY.”

Literally, that’s it.

I just went ahead and bought the flights. It was a little impulsive, but since they had removed absolutely all barriers to me making the choice, I felt like I barely had a chance to reconsider.

This entire funnel happened in about 7 minutes or less, and I ended up spending about $400. But I didn’t felt “marketed” to, and I got exactly what I wanted.

You may take this type of transaction for granted, but that’s only because you’re so USED to these things happening, you don’t even realize how advanced the psychology, technology and strategy is anymore.

What you’re saying in your head:

“So what, I was listening to Skrillex and decided to buy some concert/plane tix.”

The reality of what actually happened is far more complex.

Here’s how you fall into the funnel without even knowing it (refer to funnel diagram):

  1. You begin on Spotify, innocently listening to music you like. Little do you know, companies are strategically placing offers in all the places you’re most likely to pay attention (Level #1: Campaign)
  2. You find a particular artist you like, and see they have a concert coming up (Level #2: Leads)
  3. You demonstrate interest by clicking “Tickets” to learn more about possible dates (Level: #3 Opportunities)
  4. You’re presented with an intelligent offer to buy the tickets you’ve already said you were interested in a second ago (Level #4: Sales)
  5. You purchase and become a client — and are primed to buy more things. It’s psychologically easier to make more purchases after you’ve already made one. Even if the first purchase is just $1
  6. You see an ad for the exact plane tickets you need. Since you’ve already been qualified, you skip steps 1-3 and head straight to Level #4 (Sales), but this time in Expedia’s funnel
  7. You buy from Expedia because they present you exactly what you want with as little friction as possible. They even fill out all your information for you
  8. You’re now in the retention (Level #5) phase of 3 companies: Spotify, Flavorus (the concert ticket broker) and Expedia. They will continue to send you highly relevant opportunities to buy, like this:

The inevitable upsell

Will I end up getting a concierge service? Probably not this time. But somebody will. It doesn’t need to work every time for Expedia to make a ton of money.

Finally, all of this goes even one level DEEPER: Look at all the companies/people that got a piece of my money:

A.) I paid Spotify…

Spotify was getting my membership money and money from the concert ticket vendors for permission to advertise on their platform. They will continue to get money from me monthly, which will continually expose me to these offers.

B.) I paid the ticket vendor (Flavorus)

Flavorus (the ticket vendor) was getting money from me for the concert ticket sales.

C.) I paid Skrillex and his crew…

He’s the artist/service provider for the concert.

D.) I paid Expedia…

Expedia  gets money from me for the airline booking, of course. But remember, they are just middlemen. They don’t fly planes.

E.) I paid Spirit Airlines…

Expedia pays them some of my money, since Spirit is the actual service provider for the flight.

 WOAH! Lots of money changing hands here, but to the consumer, all we see is one or two transactions and it’s over.  And this is the magic of a well-orchestrated, million-dollar funnel: It’s nearly invisible. But it’s extremely powerful.

It’s the Narnia Effect in full swing.

How much money could this system actually make?

Imagine that the exact same process that happened to me from Spotify>>to concert tickets>>to plane tickets, happened to just 0.005% of Spotify’s 24 million active users on a daily basis.

Even a very low conversion rate in a big sales funnel can mean HUGE profits

That’s 12,000 people per day. At $400 per person, that’s $4.8 million dollars per day.

That’s 144,000,000 per month.

That’s $1.72 BILLION PER YEAR spread across Spotify, Flavorus, Expedia and the airline.

I don’t know the exact numbers behind the system — these are estimates. But look at the math. Even if we cut these numbers into tiny fractions, it’s still millions of dollars per month.

I woke up that morning with no intent of buying concert tickets or plane tickets.

But these companies found me in a place where I was already hanging out (Spotify), then worked together to use well placed ads, advanced psychology, compelling design and fluid technology to create an experience that made me WANT to open my wallet and do their bidding… then think that the entire transaction was my idea from the beginning.

Now are you beginning to understand what’s really going on here?

Next, I’ll show you exactly how I set funnels like this up for my clients — and how you can create one yourself that generates revenue while you sleep.

Chapter 3: The Nuts & Bolts of a Successful Funnel

Ok, ok. I’ve built up the hype machine and created some mystery (hopefully). But the question remains — how can you actually apply this knowledge to:

  1. Build a new funnel that will make you lots of money
  2. Enhance a funnel that you already have to make much more money

Step 1: Build an email list

The first thing you’ll need is an email list of people that want to hear from you.


I command you to stop whining!

Building an email list/online brand is not that hard.

30-Second crash course in building an internet brand/email list:

1.) The first thing you’ll want to do is start a blog, podcast, youtube channel or other outlet that has something unique to offer — make sure it stands out (here’s how).

2.) Create honest, original content that people want to read/listen to/watch — so compelling that they must share it. I owe my success (and thousands of subscribers) in large part to my Open Letter To Frustrated 20-Somethings, which went viral and ended up getting featured on Under30CEO, Lifehack, Huffington Post and others.

3.) Don’t just wax philosophical – make step-by-step content that actually helps people — hint: the monster post you’re reading right now is an example. Then, find other, bigger blogs where your content will fit and offer it as a guest post. For instance, check out this guest post I did for Under30CEO. Massively helpful to others (look at the comments – almost 200!), and sends me hundreds of readers/month. It’s truly a gift that keeps giving.

4.) If you’re doing a blog, don’t just wildly pitch blog owners to do guest posts — use a strategic approach. Ramit Sethi breaks it down well here. — Provide real value. My post here on Paid To Exist is a perfect example. I’ve been in touch with Jonathan on and off for over a year now, helped him get one of his posts on HuffPo, and only after writing something epic did I offer to collaborate with him.

There are many ways to build an email list, but the 4 steps above can get you thousands of subscribers without doing anything else.

Step 2: Learn basic copywriting

No matter what medium you prefer to publish in, you need to learn to write! Once you have the email list — even a small-ish list of a few hundred people will do — you can start monetizing it by offering products and services that people want. They can be digital products, physical products, services or experiences. It really doesn’t matter. But how you communicate that offer DOES matter.

We covered the list-building part. Naturally, copy is the next part.

The amount of money you make will be in direct proportion to:

  1. The size/responsiveness of your list — more people = more $$$
  2. The quality of your content/copy — has to be compelling
  3. The quality of your product/service — and how well you communicate that
  4. The construction of your funnel — the more sophisticated/personalized, the better

I don’t have the space to go into the basics of copywriting here. It’s an art form in and of itself. What I can tell you is that it’s not as simple as slapping a few words into an email, pressing send and hoping to make sales.

Will you make sales even if your writing sucks? Honestly, probably. But you’d be astonished how much MORE you can make if you just learn the basics of how to write direct-response copywriting.

 My suggestion – don’t scour the internet reading 5,000 articles trying to “figure out” copywriting. Dive in and take a short course — like Neville Medhora’s Kopywriting Kourse.

At the very least, buy his book: This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better. Solid, actionable advice you can use right now to become a better writer. And the book is like $2 on Kindle, dude. There’s no excuse. No, I don’t get any type of commission or props for recommending his products. I just know that they work, and have bought over 40 copies for friends and family.

Ok. Done with that.

Step 3: Construct the funnels

Alright, you’ve made it this far. Yes! We have our list. And we know how to write purty good.

Now it’s time to start building these funnels.

Now, to clarify here: There are  3 funnels that have made clients of mine over $1 Million.

  1. The Emotional Trigger Funnel
  2. The Multi-Variate Funnel
  3. The Live CTA Funnel

Since they take a long time to sketch out and this article is already over 5,000 words (yikes!) – here’s the deal I’ll make you: 


Today, I’ll show you a #1 on the list, a powerful funnel called the “Emotional Trigger.” Although it may look a little complex, it’s actually the simplest of the 3 funnels, and the easiest to implement immediately.

The “Emotional Trigger” funnel is the foundation of every great funnel, and mastering it will teach you 90% of what you need to know about this creating compelling, systematic sales processes.

 The other 2 funnels are even MORE powerful, and I’d be happy to show them to you, so I’ve created the Advanced Funnel and Copywriting Blueprint

. It’s a free “mini-course” on the most powerful material I’ve used to make my clients, quite literally, millions of dollars. The blueprint even includes actual BATTLE-TESTED copy that I’ve written so that you can reference and see how everything fits together — and you’ll get access to me if you have questions. I’ll send the Blueprint right to your inbox — just click here to get it.


In the meantime, take a look at the “Emotional Trigger” funnel.

Something to remember: These are all “launch funnels”  — meaning that they are used to launch products periodically. But with a little tweaking, they could always be turned “evergreen”, which means that they would become automated, and they would be sent to new leads automatically upon signing up.

For the sake of simplicity, I won’t differentiate between the two here. I’ll just call everything a “funnel.”

As I stated above, there are several elements to maximizing your revenue  — but putting the pieces of the funnel in the correct place is one of the most important aspects.

And it’s also the aspect that nobody ever talks about. People who don’t know exactly how everything works speculate.

 And those who DO know how to create these systems tend to play coy and keep the information for themselves.

No more, I say!

Funnel #1: The Emotional Trigger Funnel

Glossary of terms

1.) Pain points are emotional triggers that are universally felt and understood. Things that feel uniquely personal, but at the same time, are shared experiences. Dr. Suess really understood these pain points and used them to create deeply touching works that connect with kids and adults alike.

 My favorite example of a universally shared pain point, The Sneetches. All of them had stars on their bellies, except for one unlucky fella — and he felt like an outcast. What starts as a simple story about fictional creatures in a make-believe land evolves into something personal: “Hey, I’ve felt like an outcast before.” Hit these universal, emotional pain points.

The Sneetches

2.) CTA means “Call To Action.” Basically, just instructing the reader to take an action. In some cases, it may be to click a button, leave a comment or email you back. In a sales situation, a CTA would be “gain instant access.” A green light at an intersection is an example of a universally-understood CTA.

You have to tell people what you want them to do. They’re much more likely to do it when instructed.

Remember the TV psychic Ms. Cleo? She built a multi-million dollar business not by asking, but by telling people, “Call me NOW!”

3.) “Open loop” refers to something that you start in one email, pique the reader’s interest, then intentionally….

….don’t finish the interesting statement until the next email.

It’s great for connecting emails and making people want to read.

Get it?

P.S. – this works well if you put it in a “P.S.” People tend to scan the email and read the last few lines

 4.) Crunchy tactic – Something actionable, that the reader can actually DO.


Chapter 4: The Emotional Trigger Template

The “Emotional Trigger” is the most important funnel because it is the basis of so many effective email campaigns. It’s the bedrock. It’s square one. This isn’t the only way to construct a funnel — but it’s a simple format that’s been tested to work.

Remember, our entire goal is to use psychology to delight our audience and make them identify with us (reference the Old Spice campaign). This funnel leverages emotional triggers, especially pain points, to dig deep into the psyche of our readers. Later, we’ll leverage that emotion and show them a product that we know will help them.

(Insert evil laugh)

If you look at the diagram above, it’s laid out over 5 days, and each day, the reader gets a new piece of the message that leads them further down the rabbit hole of pain, eventually compelling them to buy something that you can provide.

Think of your campaign as carving out a unique piece of the customers brain, like a puzzle piece, in a shape that can only be completed with the matching puzzle piece — your product offering.

To illustrate how this works, let’s create a sample product. Something simple.

Let’s say we’re selling digital courses on how to play the guitar.

Why did I pick that? Well, I just looked around the room and saw my guitar. But this doesn’t have to be an information or course-based product. It could be a physical device or a service offering. The guitar course is simply an example.

ASSUMPTIONS: We’re going to assume a few things about our demographic/list to guide our copy here. Do your own research for your market and email subscribers:

  • Primarily males
  • 18-35
  • 40k average income
  • Native English speakers
  • No experience playing guitar/ very beginning level

Here’s a day-by-day bulleted breakdown of how the email sequence might play out.

I’m not going to write the entire funnel for you because, damn, that would take a long time and you can’t afford me. But I’ll give you enough to get the idea.

SIDE NOTE: I linked the skill of guitar playing to to attracting women because of the assumptions I’ve made about my fake demographic. This is an arbitrary decision I made because linking things to relationships/sex/social pain can be powerful.

You definitely don’t have to take that type of positioning.


Email #1 — Monday: Emotional Story

 SUBJECT: I watched from the sidelines as he impressed her…

  • Emotional story about your high school experience. Relatable.
  • One guy was so cool, always played guitar and girls swooned over him
  • Looked so rugged playing in the back of his pickup truck. Held “parking lot concerts”
  • He wasn’t smarter or better looking than you — he just had a cool, in-demand skill
  • Pain of having no attention, not even knowing where to begin
  • CTA: Email me back – have you ever been envious of the attention somebody got because of a unique skill they had? Do you find yourself STILL thinking about it years later?
  • PS – Tomorrow, I’ll tell you exactly what I did to snap out of my “mental haze” and actually start learning guitar — and getting more attention

Email #2 — Tuesday: Overcoming Obstacles

SUBJECT: The moment I held my first Fender

  • Narrator makes a decision that he’s going to learn – no matter what
  • Goes into music store – picks up a Fender guitar
  • How it feels in his hands – he’s inspired and a little afraid
  • But then, realizes that he doesn’t have to master this overnight – it’s a process
  • Crunchy tactic – take learning a new skill one day at a time
  • Once I had this realization, a feeling of ease
  • Now I help my students get that same feeling – and it actually makes them see success much faster
  • Tease: If this sounds like something that’d be helpful to you, keep reading, I’m working on something special that I’m going to reveal tomorrow.

Email #3 — Wednesday: Turning Point (soft sales)

SUBJECT: Finally…it all started to “click”

  • Narrator starts playing, slowly, painfully but progress is there
  • Starts to learn one of his favorite songs – and actually gets it!
  • Not 100% confident, but brings the guitar to school where the cool guys are
  • Starts playing and attracts a little crowd
  • Girl he likes says “OMG, I love that song!”
  • He can’t stop smiling – and at that moment, it “clicks”
  • He realizes guitar isn’t about the instrument, it’s about self improvement and expression
  • His confidence is up 1000% and he keeps learning and getting better
  • Why did he wait so long??
  • Now, he wants to other people to have the same amazing feelings- so he developed XYZ course
  • CTA: “I’ll be telling you more this week…but If you’re sick of waiting for this transformation, you can check out the course here.”
  • PS – course will only be open until XYZ – add LINK

Email #4 — Thursday: Sales Open

SUBJECT: XYZ course is now open – learn more here

  • Yesterday I told you about my turning point blah blah blah, and now, I want to tell you about the course I put together to help you get there even faster
  • Here’s a tactic/strategy you didn’t know
  • Lists features of course
  • List BENEFITS of course*
  • What if you had this? How much better would your life be
  • CTA – click here to join the course LINK TO SALES PAGE
  • PS – Tomorrow is the last day LINK TO SALES PAGE

NOTE: What’s The difference between features and benefits? — features tell what the product does/consists of, benefits tell how it will help/change the user’s life.

Quick example:

Feature of a guitar training course: 10 hours of modules in HD video

Benefit of a guitar training course: Learn to play 2X faster than trying to teach yourself

Email #5 — Friday Morning: Sales Close #1

SUBJECT: Is XYZ course right for you (closing tonight!)

  • Identify all objections and prove they are wrong
  • This course is right for you if…
  • This course is NOT right for you if…
  • “Future-casting”: Where will you be 6 months, 1 year, 5 years from now if you don’t take this step?
  • Testimonials from current customers
  • Guarantee
  • PS – Scarcity: Course is closing tonight, get it now! LINK TO SALES


Email #6 — Friday Evening: Sales Close #2*

SUBJECT: XYZ course is closing in 4 hours – last chance!

  • Last chance
  • Hazards of not taking action (doom and gloom!)
  • Examples of people who were skeptical, but it worked!
  • Challenge yourself, nothing to lose
  • This is the last time you’ll hear about this for a while
  • Brief recap of benefits

* Sometimes a personal video works well with this video. Just open up your laptop and speak openly and honestly.


That, in a 6,531 word nutshell, is how you sell anything via email.

Now, you understand the basics. Just to recap, we covered:

  1. The origins of contemporary marketing strategy

  2. How advanced marketing can catch you off guard

  3. The basics of funnel psychology

  4. The exact way to implement the “Emotional Trigger” funnel, including an outline

Properly used, the information in this article (which should be a mini-book, actually) is worth at least $500k in the right hands.

But what about the advanced stuff?

Chapter 5: Get all the advanced tactics I couldn’t cover here, free

I’ve put together an entire advanced course for you called the Advanced Funnel and Copywriting Blueprint, completely free.

The course contains a hours of material that I couldn’t fit here.

It includes:

  • Step-by-step diagrams for building and running multiple high-profit funnels at once
  • Specific formulas for automating your funnels to be “evergreen” so that you make money in your sleep
  • Real copy I’ve used successfully so that you can see exactly how everything works
  • Worksheets and checklists to maximize your copy and make sure that you’re not forgetting anything
  • Access to me for help with your project

Get Daniel’s Advanced Funnel and Copywriting Blueprint — click here.

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Tom Sharp

Great article. Here’s how the funneling worked on me; I already follow the Paid To Exist blog. I read the post by Daniel, loved it, and even though I don’t have a product or service to sell using the methodology, I still bought Neville Medhora’s ‘This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better’ book because it was linked-to and cheap enough to induce an impulse buy. Amazon enabled me to make the purchase in one click (that still freaks me out – click ‘buy’ and it appears on your Kindle within 2 seconds). So I went from idly reading… Read more »

Lyrical Treasure

Jonathan, this is one of the best premium insights you have ever funneled our away for free.

I need to comeback and reread this piece for better digestion.

Daniels’s blueprint is amazing.

Very generous and as always very very empowering. And very DANGEROUS, I must admit. :-)

Anna Nova
Anna Nova

I so dig this! Thanks for sharing. I don’t get how someone can not get turned on by marketing!

Robert Petrie

A fantastic post, you certainly know your trade Daniel, I cannot avoid getting your Blueprint and thanks for providing it free, mind you once I am in your funnel, be gentle :)

Priceless information, thank you Daniel and Jonathan

Silicon round about

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

Angie Dixon

Jonathan and Daniel, this is awesome! Marketing is like a drug for me and I can’t wait to re-read this post and put it all to use. I’m still on step 1, building a list; I’m just starting a new website. But I’m definitely reading this again and again and using everything Daniel is offering.


Wow, thankyou. This is an amazing story and tool with so many helpful links outwards. Thankyou very much. I’ll be taking some time with this article!


When you said this is a degree course, I thought here we go again. This was excellent. I will bookmark and read again and again. You were even kind to explain basic terminology. I haven’t really had a real go at e-mail marketing. I feel it is time and I am able to (after reading this article) craft it. By the way, don’t bother explaining what you do. People don’t get it. I tell my gram that I am an accountant. And she asks me why I didn’t study medicine because she wanted to ask many things that can only… Read more »

Loz James

Thanks Jonathan and Daniel This is one of the best articles on sales funnels I’ve ever seen. I read it twice last night – must have been on the site for nearly an hour – and made a whole page of notes. Daniel, one thing I wanted to ask you is that don’t people find an email everyday in the first week a bit aggressive. Do you get a high unsubscribe rate as a result? What I mean is – let’s say someone downloads my ‘Content Promotion Cheatsheat’ or whatever the offer is – how do you transition from ‘ok,… Read more »

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