I’ve built two big lead generation projects in the last couple of months, one at another agency I help with, and one with a University.

Here’s the interesting thing.

They’re both using skills I learned building campaigns that these clients would consider “sleazy”.

And yet both campaigns are they type that you could show your grandma without being ashamed of them.

Here’s what the two funnels look like:

First the agency:

Then we follow up with emails and run occasional new webinars and free guides to stir up interest and spot people who might be in the market

Pretty much the same pattern as every agency you see on any social media channel.

Then the University.

It’s simple because most of the heavy lifting is already done by the brand and by schools.

There’s options for financing that would be considered the hallmark of high-pressure sales in the internet marketing world, and because students can back out even after they’ve started the course, there’s a series of webinars, livestreams and other content to prevent buyers remorse.

I’m not going to share the particular pages we built (partly because they’re aimed at overseas students so they won’t even make sense), but take a look at this “product page” for PPE at Oxford, the typical route for senior politicians in the UK:

See how many of the sales tactics from your typical online campaign you can spot?

Here’s a few:

  1. “High ticket” pricing with financing options
  2. Careers section hinting at specific outcomes (but vague enough to avoid recourse)
  3. Testimonials from “regular guys” to create relatability
  4. Testimonials from celebrity alumni for halo effect
  5. Can’t just buy it, you have to apply
  6. Cohort-based so there’s a deadline
  7. Limited availability
  8. Sells the community as well as the product

So what’s the difference?

First, there’s no breathless hype to either one.
There’s just confidence. That confidence comes from good results which are typical, not outliers.

Second, they both check out through other sources.
Talk to the agency’s clients or the university alumni and you’ll probably get a stronger recommendation than they give themselves.

Third, they don’t lean on “simple” or “easy” in their pitch.
They’re not looking for customers who want a quick fix. Their confidence comes from results, and that comes from their customers putting in a lot of effort themselves. They’re selecting the top tier of customers who know that, expect that and are OK with it.

This is where the huge gulf opens up between the strategy for self paced courses (online video, done on your own), and cohort-based courses (done alongside a group, usually working together, so there’s not infinite capacity).

If your product is genuinely limited in the number of people you can serve, you can’t optimise for volume.

Your goal has to be to maximise customer quality.

You need to pick winners.

You need the best customers, who will do the work, get a result quickly, and start telling others about you.

This is how real brands are built – through reputation.

Next email I’m going to dig deeper into this theme and introduce you to the idea of “TRO” as the best metric for new businesses.