Using ClickFunnels - a website and sales funnel builder for entrepreneurs - can be an easy way to start your online business with a few simple clicks, but starting ClickFunnels was no easy feat. Russell Brunson and Todd Dickerson had no roadmap to follow when building this innovative sales funnel builder, which meant creating a solution from scratch, no matter how many attempts it took.
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Finding A
Funnel from
Level 1 to 10

“We built so many products before ClickFunnels,” Brunson said, recalling the early days of his partnership with Dickerson. “Little projects Todd came up with, small software that helped business owners with marketing. Some made money, but they weren’t that ‘Level 10’ idea that we needed.”

Dickerson estimated that they developed over a dozen different software programs over a three-year span. He would fly from his home in Atlanta to Brunson’s in Boise a few times a year to brainstorm the next project.

“We both felt like we were Level 10 marketers working on Level 2 or 3 projects,” he said. “These opportunities inherently didn’t have the scalability that we knew we needed to generate a huge profit. The partnership was right; we just had to keep going back to the drawing board to find that bigger opportunity level.”

The duo were determined to make their brand ‘ClickFusion’ a success, but every project under the moniker failed. When they found out that the company Leadpages received $5-million in funding, Dickerson was confident that could build the same type of dynamic marketing software in a single weekend.

“I really wanted ‘ClickFusion’ to work,” Brunson confessed, “but Todd said it was cursed. So, we settled on ClickFunnels, bought the domain, and Todd flew home to turn this dream into a reality within a matter of months.”

Convincing People to Click Through

Russell Brunson and Todd Dickerson consider themselves cut from the same cloth. Both are introverts and both are much more comfortable behind the keyboard than under the spotlight. Both grew up in relatively normal, middle-class households. They share the same values and worldviews, which they believe has helped strengthen their bond as friends and business partners. If there was one difference between the two, it would be their contrasting, yet complimentary, approaches to software development.

“Todd is a thinker and I’m a feeler,” Brunson said. “I think it’s a great system of checks and balances for us. We respect and trust each other’s judgement, even at times when it’s contrary to our own.”

Another distinguishing difference? Dickerson is very much the tech talent while Brunson has the marketing mastery. When Dickerson would design the software, the goal was to “make it easy enough for Russell to use”. Every test version of the software was sent to Russell for demoing then refined and reworked until Russell was able to build the very first ClickFunnel from scratch directly on the website. The process took a year, but finally, they had their Level 10 idea…

…that hardly anyone wanted.

“Some early adopters loved it, but most people didn’t,” Brunson said. Even though it looked like this wasn’t the groundbreaking software they thought they created, Brunson wasn’t discouraged. He had such confidence in the software that he believed he'd still become a multimillionaire even if he was the only ClickFunnels user, simply by using the software to its fullest potential.

ClickFunnels was signed up to present their product at an event, but their free trial version of the software was rejected by the event’s organizer. The organizers needed ClickFunnels to sell a version of it worth $1,000 which would be split between the two parties. Before the demonstration ended, attendees were pulling out their checkbooks.

“Russell closed 47 percent of the room,” Dickerson said. “We had more users after one afternoon than we did in two months.” They quickly jumped to 10,000 users and over one-million-dollars in profit by the end of the first year.

But with growth comes growing pains. Their infrastructure couldn’t handle the exponential growth and ClickFunnels went offline for eight hours.

“I was on a flight to the UK when the site went down,” Brunson recalled. “My phone blew up when I landed. People were angry, I was getting death threats. Todd and the team were trying to get everything back up and running as quickly as possible.”

“It actually worked out that the site crashed,” Dickerson admitted. “We were trying to figure out the scalability and needed downtime anyway. We decided to race the clock to see if we could either get the original infrastructure back or get the new infrastructure through Amazon up and running. The new platform was faster and we were able to scale up to over 100,000 users by the time we were back online.”

ClickFunnels: More Than Marketing

Brunson and Dickerson don’t take a penny of their success for granted. ClickFunnels may be designed to make launching an online business easy for users, but this duo takes an active role in its continued development. ClickFunnels 2.0 is on the horizon and has challenged them to design a product containing everything a user “needs” yet also offers the features that users want.

“ClickFunnels 2.0 is a ground-up rewrite of ClickFunnels,” Dickerson described. “It vastly expands the features set, scalability, performance, and sets new users up for success without destabilizing current users.”

This development was a huge undertaking for the two husbands and fathers, presenting a challenge that nearly all entrepreneurs face: finding time to run a business and care for a family. Sacrifices are necessary in both realms; sometimes that means staying at work until the wee hours of the night, other times it means turning your phone off to ensure every moment of your night is devoted to family time.

What do aspiring entrepreneurs need to do to find balance and success in their endeavors? First, don’t quit your day job.

“A lot of people quit their jobs and it’s hard to be successful without stability,” Brunson warned. “Get a job, work a 9-5 to stay alive, then work on your passion. If you have bills and deadlines and no security, you’re going to run out of time or money before you reach the finish line.

Dickerson agrees and advises entrepreneurs to cover their expenses and work on small projects first. “Find something that will replace your need for a salary before launching something bigger. If your expenses are $1,000 per month, there are a lot of ways to generate that income passively, then you can focus on bigger projects without worrying about your bills.”

The co-founders of ClickFunnels are also proud to admit that they’ve been using their platform to fund philanthropic organizations since Day One. For every funnel that is created, they donate one dollar to Village Impact which provides community-led education programs for children in Kenya. They also support Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit organization fighting child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“It was important that we integrated philanthropy into our company’s DNA from the beginning,” Dickerson said. “I fundamentally believe that if you’re not generous with a little then you won’t be generous with a lot.” Thus far, ClickFunnels has donated and raised over a million dollars for both organizations combined.

What are the odds that two strangers on the internet would turn a short exchange into a multi-million-dollar company? Brunson insists that anyone who feels the call to serve can use their talents to help others while helping themselves.

“Our mission is to free all entrepreneurs so they can focus on changing the lives of their customers. We serve entrepreneurs and our members have their own groups which they serve,” Brunson said. “Find your calling, identify your group, and use your gifts to help those people. The more people you help, the more money you make.”

Dickerson echoes his partner. “Don’t give up. It takes a lot of dedication and time in the dark learning and working that no one knows about — but ultimately, the person who can create the most value for the most people wins. That’s what we’re working towards.”

And it seems like Brunson and Dickerson aren’t alone: more than 105,000 users have created over 9-million funnels, developed over 1-billion contacts, and processed 12.5-billion dollars.


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