You do not need to create traffic. The traffic is already out there. All you have to do is find it, tap into it, and redirect it back to your offer.
I admit that many people are scared off when I first bring up marketing automation or sales funnels because they sounds technical and complicated. However, once I explain that a funnel is simply a business's customer journey or sales path, they quickly realize their importance to every business.
People eventually admit that sales funnels are important, and that they can work for anyone, but the final question they ask me sounds something like this:
"I know they work and that they can benefit me, but how do I bring people into my very own funnel?"
It's a fair question, which is why I've taken the time to list 16 great traffic sources to bring people into your automated marketing funnel. The sections are separated into paid and non-paid options.
If you can't decide where to start, you can use tools such as SimilarWeb, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to find out where your competitors are getting their traffic, and do what you will with that information.
Paid Traffic Options:
Given we're focusing on driving prospects into your online sales funnel, most of these paid and non-paid options involve attracting online eyeballs. Paid options are a great way to do this, but of course, they are definitely not the only way.
For one reason or another, some people gasp when they hear that they might want to or have to PAY to drive traffic. "I might have to invest to grow my business!?" they ask. The short story is that you will have to invest money into advertising, or time into publishing content (or preferably both).
You absolutely do not HAVE TO pay to attract online eyeballs to your content, however, the costs are significantly outweighed by the benefits, if you do it right. Here are some of your best paid options:
Traffic you own is the best kind of traffic...You control traffic when you have the ability to tell it where to go. Any kind of paid traffic is traffic you control.
14) Social Media
Pin it. Tweet it. Post it. _______ it.
While Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter, and the like aren't exactly new companies, you'd be surprised at how many advertisers still consider these to be luxurious fads of little value. They are wrong.
Not only are those opinions wrong, but these types of sites attracts TENS OF MILLIONS of daily eyeballs, many of which are looking for, or would be willing to buy whatever it is you sell.
Social media platforms provide you with varied platforms that can showcase your brand's best side. Does your product look really nice? Advertise with images on Instagram or Pinterest. Does your offer look better in motion? Advertise with video on YouTube or Facebook. The options are endless.
Similar to search engines, the great thing about social media is that people are already there. Social media also gives you the runway to tell stories, use video, hyper-target, and much more.
Unlike website traffic that Google can bring you through SEO and SEM, where the preview of the ad is very text-based, social media and email marketing allow you to be very visual and descriptive about what you sell BEFORE the user clicks.
13) Search Engine Marketing
Google. Bing. DuckDuckGo. Even YouTube and Amazon are all essentially search engines, which means tons of people go there specifically to research or find something to buy. Logic tells you that if you aim to sell something, go to where the buyers are looking, and search engines are where they are.
This is why Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is an extremely useful tool. There is a very strong magic to being in the exact place and time, when and where people are looking to research and/or buy.
While Google ads may be somewhat saturated at this point, there are still plenty of long-tail (unpopular but relevant) keywords and phrases you can target which can and will lead to sales. This applies even more if you're willing to go where most advertisers won't, which includes YouTube ads.
12) Sponsored Content
And now a word from our sponsors
Have you seen Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, or practically any other digital or physical publication recently? If you have, chances are high that you've seen sponsored content, which is when a company buys space to publish (relevant) content that will likely interest its readership.
This is not your standard 1-page ad for cologne or something, which is clearly an ad. Instead, it is relevant content that could (and is intended to) be easily mistaken for actual journalistic content.
Assuming you can provide relevant, useful content, you'd be surprised at how many publications and magazines accept sponsored content. Make a quality effort, and you can get placed anywhere.
For example, I was looking through Travel & Leisure Magazine the other day and saw an article named "Explore the Wonders of China". If it wasn't for the small-print "sponsored content" on the top of the page, I wouldn't have known it was placed there (and paid for) by China's tourism board.
This is similar to another tactic called Native Advertising, which basically means ads that look like they are organic content. In most cases, you only know the difference because of the "ad" label nearby.
70% of what is published as news is actually placed news.
This option is a bit advanced, but it is a great option for many business. Affiliate marketing simply means giving a "cut" to those who refer business to you. There are many ways this can be done, and there are some precautions to take as well, but you can essentially make the world your salesman.
Let's take the popular example of Amazon.com. If you send someone to Amazon through your (affiliate) link, and that person buys something, Amazon will give you a percentage of the total sale. You could do the same by giving a percentage or a flat rate to anyone who refers a buyer to your site.
If your business deals in high-ticket transactions, or if sales are too far down your pipeline, you can also pay affiliates for anyone they send your way who fills out a form, calls to inquire, or performs any other action you want. Again, this is a bit advanced, but it works great for many businesses.
You don’t need a lot of affiliate partners; you only need a few good ones.
10) Radio, TV, and Print
Damn kids and their music
I'm guessing this one caught you by surprise. "But isn't traditional media dead?" you might ask.
While traditional media's business models are scrambling to adapt to today's landscape, the truth is that media is changing more than dying. The fact that there are millions of stations and channels instead of only three, means that their ad pricing (especially locally) is increasingly advertiser-friendly.
While it's true that viewership is down, it is definitely not gone, especially with certain age groups and other demographics. This option may not work for every business, but depending on what you sell, how locally you are focused, the media's distribution numbers, and more, there are still people starting and growing businesses, including online, by relying on traditional media advertising options.
Magazines today offer inexpensive regional editions, offering you first rate credibility at cut rate prices ... TV time has dropped in price to a point that almost any small business can and should consider it.
Local cable allows you to run 40 spots a week for only $200.
9) Placement Ads
Similar to sponsored content, placement ads are what they sound like, and are ads where you choose exactly where they show up, and for how long. While Google and Facebook advertising offer great targeting options, they stop when your budget runs out, and you aren't sure where they'll show.
On the other hand, you know exactly where placement ads will be and have a great idea of who will see them. For example, if you sell motorcycle gear, you can reach out to bloggers and publications about motorcycles and such, and offer to pay for a specific space on their site for a period of time.
Similar to standard print ads, you know exactly where the ad will be, and for how long.
8) Influencer Marketing
Many traffic tactics overlap, and this option can be a mix of placement ads, sponsored content, and sometimes affiliate marketing. Influencer marketing involves working with specific individuals or influencers (I hate that word) and getting them to post, appear with, or associate with your brand.
A popular modern example of this is how hotels and tourism boards offer free stays or even pay those with large followings in the travel niche, in exchange for content. This includes travel bloggers who mainly write, as well as "Instagrammers" who primarily post great travel images.
Your payment and placement options vary widely, as you can provide a free stay, or pay a straight fee for them to mention or be seen with your product, or offer a percentage of sales they generate. They will likely care deeply about their "brand" so have a great offer or great content to present.
This can be very cost-effective since influencers only grow in popularity, but their content with your brand will be visible on their profile somewhat "forever", and for only a one-time cost.
In trying to get influencers to help you spread the word, write about them, about what they write about, but if you do not have A+ content for them to share, you’re dreaming if you think they’ll share average.
Non-Paid Traffic Options:
Now we'll focus on non-paid options, which generally don't involve money, but understandably require some time and effort instead. While paid traffic works great to get results NOW, it's a smart idea to invest in non-paid options as they are longer-lasting and work better to build crucial trust.
Remember that the goal is to bring new prospects into your funnel and world.
7) SEO + Content Marketing
Get found where people are looking
The standard (and effective) slow-and-steady option to drive traffic is SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which relates to ranking high on organic search results on Google and other search engines (which also include/overlap with Amazon, YouTube, Instagram and more).
The algorithm for all these search engines essentially work the same. They see what people search for, engage with, and when they stop searching. If most searchers engaged with or stopped searching after visiting your content, or buying your product, then the engine points future searchers of that topic, toward your content, or wherever most searchers engaged and stopped searching.
Google and other search engines have hundreds of factors that affect your search ranking including page load speed, mobile friendliness, and amount of external links pointing your way. While it's good to be aware of these, the best strategy is to target relevant keywords and produce content.
SEO success boils down to your being able to produce significant amounts of quality content...it comes down to 2 things: content and links.
Focusing on Google SEO, entire businesses have been built and continue to thrive simply by publishing valuable, relevant content on a focused topic. If someone searches "what to look for in a good mountain bike" on Google, the top results will likely come from mountain bike company blogs.
As you'd expect, this timely, valuable content can and often does lead to direct and indirect sales. Content takes a bit of time to produce, but it's probably your best "free" option to drive traffic.
While blog (written) content is important to maintain, choose any platform or two and commit to publishing. Publishing consistent valuable content not only allows you to be found, but it also builds trust, humanizes your brand, and more, which is crucial since people buy from who they like and trust.
This option works better when you have some traction, and is a great option for many reasons. Partnerships and joint ventures can involve anything you team up with someone else on.
For example, if you are a business consultant, you can exchange content or co-create a product with someone in the same or a similar field. By co-creating a product or exchanging interviews on your podcasts, you are each exposed to a new (to you) audience, where "everyone wins."
In most cases, you'd want to partner with someone on a similar "level" as you, but successful partnerships have worked in all types of ways, so consider your options.
Partnering has to be mutual benefit. It should be a win win for all involved.
5) Networking + Live Events
Shake some hands. Kiss some babies.
While this is arguably a paid option, that isn't always the case, and the new traffic itself comes mainly from your own personality and networking skills. Whether it's a professional conference or a meeting at your local Chamber of Commerce, networking works great to bring people into your world.
Of course, I'm not advocating being "that guy" who runs around giving his business card to everyone, ignores everything they say, and is constantly "eye-darting" past you during conversations.
For example, I attended the marketing conference Funnel Hacking Live last year (and will again this year), and saw many valuable connections being made. People who needed websites found site-builders, those who needed content writers found them as well, and the list goes on.
No event is perfect, and meeting new people can be intimidating, but "live" networking and events provide you a great opportunity to be found, and to find those you may need as well.
Conferences; There may be no better place to extend your professional network and get deals done ... You can't get there alone. In fact , you can't get very far at all.
4) Guest Posts
I will mention this fact multiple times, so listen up: given 1) the modern 24-hour news cycle, and 2) the endless mountain of content produced every day, every publisher is starved for content.
While the world as a whole certainly isn't starved of content, almost every individual publisher is. Which is why guest posts work great for everyone. For example, if you are a online business lawyer, and you want exposure to my audience, I'll probably let you guest post on my blog about something that would be useful to my audience like "10 Steps to Set Up Your Online Business Corporation".
It takes a load of the publisher's back for content that day/week, and the guest contributor gets exposure, and the chance to display their expert position. The most important thing is that the content be useful to the audience.
So write a few valuable articles in your area of expertise (that you don't publish elsewhere), and offer them to relevant publishers and blogs that will likely value them. Everyone wins.
When you do a guest post, make sure you have a strong author byline attached with links back to your best stuff, in addition to related topics on YOUR site. Make sure you make this a requirement in exchange for giving them your killer free content.
3) Public Speaking
They aren't judges, they are interested students
I know, I might as well ask you to make out with your grandma, but hear me out. While public speaking strikes fear into the heart of some of the best of us, it is a great way to promote your brand.
While this may not work for someone selling widgets (who knows, maybe it will), public speaking not only increases your visibility, but it's a highly valuable skill to learn in itself. On top of that, the recordings of your talks can serve as valuable marketing assets for your website and more.
The fact that many people would never even consider speaking publicly only increases it's already-high value. If you're willing to do such a thing, you are perceived as a credible expert with the confidence and experience to speak on a professional topic and spread your message.
No one expects you to know everything or to be an expert in all areas, but public speaking is hands-down one of the fastest and most leveraged ways to reach a large audience, and with authority.
As a side note, there is also no shortage of speaking opportunities since most smaller conferences and events (there are a lot every day) are also starved for content and speakers.
On any given day there are thousands of forums and events going on. All these forums need a warm body to say something the slightest bit inspiring or insightful to their guests.
2) Response Marketing
Not to be confused with "direct response marketing", response marketing is the word I'll assign to the strategy of making yourself extra useful in public forums, which are basically anywhere people gather and ask questions, such as Quora, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, niche forum websites, and more.
Some businesses and freelancers have built their entire businesses simply by joining relevant Facebook groups and being as useful and answering as many people's questions as they can.
Some people feel uneasy about inserting their business link into their responses on Quora or forums (although many still do), but the fact that you have an attached personal profile on LinkedIn and Facebook groups allow you to seem more personable.
If you do go this social media route, you may want to commit to "professionalizing" your personal profile and making it (somewhat) strictly business, and not so much friends & family.
Another similar option, which probably deserves its own section (or even blog post), is to make yourself available to journalists and content creators who are looking for quotes and interviews from experts in your (and every) field. You can find them on HARO, SourceBottle, JustReachOut, and more.
Whichever direction you go with response marketing, be sure to be useful and provide value, so that you are not the virtual version of the guy shoving his business card down everyone's throat.
1) Cold Outreach
I hope they answer
With all the outreach options available to us nowadays, it's easy to forget about old fashioned cold outreach. It's also easy to forget because many people don't like to do it, and fear/dislike rejection.
Cold outreach is basically researching who might be or is likely interested in what you sell, finding their contact information, and straight up getting in touch by e-mail, phone, or even in person.
Some people don't like the sales or "pitchy" intensiveness of this approach, but that's simply too bad. Aren't ads pitchy? With any tactic mentioned here, you're literally pitching and aiming to sell.
Plus the first rule of sales is that you must be sold yourself, and if you truly believe that what you sell can help your prospect, then it is literally your DUTY to get them to buy. It'd be mean NOT to.
A cold traffic bridge is the holy grail of online marketing. If you really want to scale your business, you have to learn how to convert cold traffic. Most people can’t do this.
This post contains affiliate links.