Back in the 1960s, marketer Ed Mayer developed the 40-40-20 rule for direct marketing campaigns. This rule was designed to help marketers know how to focus their efforts in the following manner:

  • 40% is about your audience/market.
  • 40% is about your offer.
  • 20% is the message you’re conveying.

Fast forward 50-some years, and this rule is just as relevant to your funnels today as it was to direct-marketing back in the 1960s.

effective funnels

Let’s take a closer look at this rule and how you build effective funnels


The first component of the 40-40-20 rule is that 40% of your efforts should be focused on your audience.

You need to start with an audience with these characteristics:

  1. They’ve got a problem they want solved or a goal they want to achieve. For example, they want to lose weight or learn to scuba dive or get into medical school or run an ultra-marathon or stop their dog from knocking the neighbor kids down or… you get the idea.
  1. They’re willing to spend money to solve the problem or reach a goal. Indeed, they should have a proven track record of spending gobs of money on this problem or goal.
  1. They’re reachable. If your audience is only reachable by extra sensory perception or intergalactic communications, you’ve got a problem. What you need is a large, identifiable audience whom you can reach through the usual means, such as SEO, social media marketing, paid ads and so on.

You do some research and you discover that you do indeed have a large, profitable audience who’s wanting to throw some major cash at their problem.

Now what?

Now you need to learn as much as you can about them, including:

  • Basic demographics (age, gender, location, marital status, kids or not, education level, occupation, and so on).
  • Their biggest challenges and pain points in the niche.
  • The types of solutions they’re already purchasing.
  • What they think about these solutions.
  • What they WANT.
  • What motivates them.
  • Their goals.
  • Their values.
  • What they fear.
  • Where they get their information.
  • What are their objections to purchasing your offers?
  • What they ate for breakfast this morning. (Okay, maybe you don’t have to drill down quite this far…)

The goal is to gather as much information as possible. The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be for you to put offers and content in front of them that really resonate.

The key here is that you want to create a customer avatar based on a single ideal customer. In other words, don’t create a profile based on a combination of customers. Focus on your IDEAL customer.

Okay, so how do you figure this all out?

Put away the crystal ball.

You need to do some research. 

This includes:

  • Researching your audience (especially demographics), as reputable third parties collect and share this information in some cases.
  • Collecting information via your own surveys.
  • Talking to your audience directly – online and offline — to learn more about how they think, feel and behave.
  • “Eavesdropping” on social media, blog discussions, Quora discussions and niche groups to learn more about your audience’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Becoming a part of your audience (at least temporarily) so you can experience what they experience firsthand. For example, if you’re going to sell weight loss information, then spend a month following the typical diet and exercise guidelines.

You need to understand your audience almost better than they understand themselves in order to break through the all the noise in your market and get these folks to sit up and pay attention to your offers and messaging.

Which brings us to the next point…


The second component of this rule is that 40% of your efforts (and success) will be based on your offer. This means putting the right offer at the right time in front of the right audience.

Which brings us to the question: what sort of offers should be in your funnel?

Okay, let me tell you the exact products to put in your funnel for maximum profits…

Nah, I’m just kidding.

I can’t tell you that, as I don’t know anything about your audience. But the good news is that YOU can figure it out. 

In the last step, you unearthed as much information as possible about your audience, right?

Now the next step is to take a closer look at what they WANT. And a really good way to do this is to see what they’re ALREADY buying. Specifically:

  • What are the bestsellers in your niche?
  • What types of products have multiple competitors? (This is evidence of a healthy market.)
  • What types of products are your competitors spending a lot of money advertising? (Smart marketers don’t spend weeks or months dumping money into a product ad campaign that’s not working.)

Again, you’ll need to do some market research to figure out the answers to these questions. You can hit up marketplaces such as Amazon, JVZoo, ClickBank, Udemy and similar to figure out what your audience is already buying.

Then you can create products on the same topic (but yours will be better than anything on the market because they’ll be from your fresh viewpoint), or you can start promoting popular offers as an affiliate.

Now let’s look at the third component for building your funnel…


At this point, you know who your audience is and what sort of solutions they want. That’s 80% of the battle when it comes to building your sales funnel. Now for the last 20% you need to create messaging that resonates with the audience.

The first thing you need to do is figure out which of your product’s benefits most align with your audience’s wants, needs and values. You also need to consider how the product will make the audience feel when they use it.

Let me give you an example…

Imagine for a moment if you were selling something like Ferrari sportscars to wealthy, middle-age men. Would you hype up the features and benefits of how it has multiple cupholders or what sort of gas mileage it gets?

Heck no. The people who are buying Ferraris are looking for raw power and speed. They’re also looking for feelings related to luxury, power, wealth.

Now consider if you’re selling mini-vans to moms. Think about how your messaging would differ. The van’s 0-60 time would never come up, nor would you ever talk about the van’s top speed. Instead, you’d focus on the family-friendly aspects of the vehicle, including its safety features. You’d help paint a picture of laughing on family vacations, the peace of mind that comes with security, and similar warm, loving feelings.

The same goes for your audience and offers. You need to understand what benefits (and feelings) your particular audience is looking for so that you can position the products in your sales funnel in a way that will capture their attention. Go back to your audience research to figure out what the audience values, and then speak this language in your ads and content.

Need content ideas? Check out this link for generating an unlimited number of content topics and other ideas.

Conclusion on Building Effective Funnels

Here’s a quick recap of the 40-40-20 rule as it applies to your sales funnel:

  • 40% is about your audience/market.
  • 40% is about your offer.
  • 20% is the message you’re conveying.

If you focus your efforts as listed above, that’s the closest you’ll come to a “sure thing” when it comes to stocking your sales funnel!

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