If you work in marketing, sales, SEO, website building, or basically any other industry with the aim to convert visitors into customers, you have probably heard of Clickfunnels.
Many of its users love it and sing its praises across the Internet and to anyone else who works in their industry. But why is it so well-loved? A company with this kind of user praise must be an outstanding one, right?
But wait. What if mentioning it and trying to get you to use it is just a way to put more money into the user’s pocket? What if Clickfunnels is nothing more than a cheap pyramid scheme, masquerading as an effective tool and a good product?
Clickfunnels is the brainchild of Russell Brunson, a Utah native and self-described “entrepreneur” who grew up with an obsession with advertisements.
He was described as competitive while growing up and is reported to have made his first million dollars only a year after graduating college.
Russell found his niche in internet marketing and app development early on. His first venture into business was selling potato gun DVD’s online, followed shortly thereafter by a few other different trials. By far, however, his most successful venture has been Clickfunnels. It ballooned its income very quickly after being started in 2013.
Russell has said that there was no venture capitalist involvement, and as such, Clickfunnels was entirely self-funded.
Using his internet marketing connections, Russell sent an email to over one million people requesting they join his venture. Of course, many did.
Without these connections, it is likely Clickfunnels would have never left the ground.
Clickfunnels is essentially an easy way to create sales funnels on a website.
But what exactly is a sales funnel?
Well, a sales funnel is exactly what it sounds like: a way to turn casual browsers into actual customers. It includes things such as personalized emails, consistent product recommendations, and soft pushes to webinars and tutorials.
It is well-known that many people who visit websites, especially those visiting it for the first time, often will not buy right away.
Sales funnels are simply a way to turn the people who are looking at a site skeptically into regular buyers.
As stated before, the whole model behind Clickfunnels is to create large sales volume using attractive and clickable sales funnels.
The program advertises this with three steps: a free low-value item, like an ebook or other gifts, followed by a webinar designed to showcase the value of your product, and, finally, the high-dollar product.
Customers of Clickfunnels can purchase membership packages for Clickfunnels ranging from $97 per month to $297 per month, depending on the desired features.
It features drag and drop editing, an easy way to build multiple landing sites, a number of pre-built templates, and an always-available support team.
One of the benefits of Clickfunnels is the ability to set up membership options on your page, which will keep people coming back.
These can be memberships to the site, to online webinars, classes, or basically anything else where you might want to know the email address and names.
Clickfunnels has a number of integration options, including options to merge with payment processors like Paypal and Stripe. You can also integrate it with Facebook to increase marketing footprint, along with being able to build it into many different website hosts like WordPress.
Clickfunnels also offers a package called Russell Brunson’s inner circle.
This package features a twelve-month course on improving website traffic and sales. It is limited to only one hundred participants at a time and has been endorsed by popular celebrities like Tony Robbins.
The application for the Inner Circle program states at the top that it costs fifty thousand dollars to join, and your business must have at least one million dollars in revenue to be able to join.
So now we get to the million-dollar question. Is Clickfunnels really this miracle marketing solution, or is it just a cheap ponzi scam or pyramid scheme in disguise?
Let’s start with the obvious: In order to use Clickfunnels, you have a monthly payment you have to make. This does not make it a pyramid scheme – almost every software-as-a-service platform does exactly that.
After all, how else are they supposed to make a profit if they don’t charge for it?
Clickfunnels also seems to follow Russell Brunson’s own advice (offer a freebie to entice viewers) in the form of a two-week free trial of Clickfunnels before you are required to start paying for the services.
The site also offers plenty of tutorials and instructional videos for users to get well-acquainted with the software during these two weeks, making it that much easier to sell.
Where Clickfunnels starts to delve into the world of multi-level marketing or pyramid scheming, is when we take a look at their “affiliate marketing.”
This is a tactic that has been used legitimately but has also been used by companies that have been revealed at pyramid schemes.
Affiliate marketing is a slightly complex structure where people involved are paid not just for the products they sell through their business but are also paid based on people they get to fall under the umbrella of their parent company.
One of the best examples of this is the Amway Corporation, where the people who make the most money actually sell relatively small numbers of Amway’s products themselves and more often make their money through getting other people to start selling.
In turn, the individual who convinced the newcomers to start selling earn a cut of the profit made by the newcomers. In this way, these people are making more income off the work of those below them.
Amway offers books and other resources that their distributors can purchase that is marketed with the idea that it can help you “grow your business.”
Most of the material in these books is the same kind of thing you would learn in a freshman-level marketing course but said in a way that makes it seem novel, fresh, or otherwise noteworthy.
It is also well-known that Amway holds distributors’ meetings, yearly conferences (which are usually few or no expenses paid even if they are several hundred miles from your residence), and even offers boot camps that their distributors can pay to attend, which are supposed to be crash courses in making their “business” stand out amongst the crowd of other options.
Additionally, in line with the shape of a pyramid, the people at the “top” of Amway’s market see the most direct gain from this.
They make the most money from all of their subordinates and receive a cut of anything the distributors below them sell. In addition, they also earn a cut of anything the distributors below them earn from their down line distributors.
In this way, the top of the Amway pyramid makes most of their profit off the people at the bottom, who are still selling the product.
In this program, you can add a link to direct some of your web traffic to Clickfunnels’ official website or another site they have set up. Through this process, anyone who purchases Clickfunnels or one of their products after being directed from your page adds to your commission.
In the words of Russell Brunson, “every click earns you money!”
Russell Brunson also offers a number of ebooks with internet marketing in mind. While most of his written material is not geared specifically towards Clickfunnels, it is not difficult to draw the line from his publications to his most successful project.
One of his most popular, Expert Secrets, is often praised as being “almost required reading” for anyone getting into internet marketing.
Like much of the writing for Amway, this book seems to state basic marketing tactics, but in a way that makes it appear to be a whole new thought process.
To go along with this, as with most of Amway’s material, this piece seems to be showered with praise from all angles.
There is something important to keep in mind with this, however: many of the published reviews of this book have links back to other Clickfunnel and Clickfunnel affiliate sites. There is a strong possibility that each click on the links to these different sites leads to an extra commission for the reviewer.
Clickfunnels affiliates also have an option to attend what is called the “Affiliate Bootcamp.” It is geared towards affiliates who are not making stellar commission checks.
In the landing page for this site, Russell says he reached out to his top-earning “Super Affiliates” to get their action plans for how they are doing what they are doing, asking for details for each step along the way.
This boot camp Clickfunnels is offering is a series of webinars, where Russell recorded interviews with his top earners, and he made this available for free (albeit with a time window to be able to access them).
His reasoning for this, as he states, is that he owns the software company where all the money funnels too, so he has no reason to charge for it because “we all make more money this way!”
There is also an upsell option, called the “One Funnel Away” challenge, which costs one hundred dollars and gives you access to more interviews, along with individual coaching opportunities from Russell and a couple of his top earners.
*NOTE* It is important to note here that many of the sites giving glowing reviews of both the Affiliate Bootcamp and the One Funnel Away challenge also have links directing you to sign up. This means that, most likely, these reviewers are also earning a commission off people who sign up using their links.
Some Clickfunnels affiliates also offer their own version of this boot camp.
One in particular, the LadyBoss, runs a very similar type of online webinar-based class for free. Her Bootcamp registration site claims that she sells out of product regularly, and features an image of her with Russell Brunson while earning an affiliate award.
Like the Affiliate Bootcamp, it focuses on expanding your business and increasing your income using Clickfunnels. Also in line with the Affiliate Bootcamp practice, this webinar-based class is free but is only available for a limited time after signing up.
There also does not appear to be an upsell for this class, but there are other opportunities for Ladyboss to bring you in on her particular flavor of Clickfunnels.
Ladyboss, like most other Clickfunnels affiliates, offers a way to become her affiliate. In a way, to use traditional pyramid scheme terminology, this is an opportunity to become part of her downline.
To people with knowledge of multi-level marketing tactics, this will look familiar.
It may seem like it is nothing more than the internet marketing version of a pyramid scheme. But is it actually? Or is this just Russell Brunson following more of his own advice, as he has laid out in books, webinars, online videos, and interviews time and time again?
In this part, I will speak from my personal opinion.
Having been roped into an outright pyramid scheme before (and losing a decent bit of money in the process), I am skeptical of anything that looks anything like a pyramid scheme.
In my pessimistic eyes, Clickfunnels looks a lot like a cleverly disguised pyramid scheme. There are a lot of affiliates making money through their affiliates, and it seems to all point directly to Russell Brunson.
However, Clickfunnels also does appear to follow a lot of the standard practices of software-as-a-service platforms.
Many of them have similar types of programs running – advertising options, multiple different packages, and classes that the user pays for and are designed to teach you how to use the software most effectively.
On top of that, many companies have affiliates whose profits are directly affected by how many people buy the product – we just call them “salesmen” instead of “affiliates.”
It also seems that a lot of people have made a lot of money through Clickfunnels, so it does not appear that it is as selective or as “pyramidy” as a pyramid scheme would be either.
These are things that keep this writer thinking long and hard – and keeps me from going out and branding it as a pyramid scheme.
Honestly, I feel almost everything Clickfunnels is doing right. It is something Russell Brunson has written or said at some point, which might just mean that he is doing a really good job at what he does best – marketing.
I would also like to note, however, that it can be hard to tell at this point either way.
There are some aspects of Clickfunnels’ business practice that seem off-putting or questionable, and there appear to be many elements of a traditional pyramid scheme built into it.
However, these practices that are so visible are pretty common in just about any business, but especially in marketing software. It may be legitimate opportunities, or it could be a very clever disguise.
With that said, I would like to pass this off to the reader. What are your thoughts? Is Clickfunnels a pyramid scheme, or is Russell Brunson just an internet marketing mastermind as many of his supporters claim?
If you work in marketing, sales, SEO, website building, or basically any other industry with the aim to convert visitors into customers, you have probably