For years, we were paid for output, not strategy.
We had a set number of posts to publish, a set number of ads to run, a set number of shoots to fulfill. That’s it. We didn’t have to think beyond delivering output.
Yet, we tried. Something in us bristled at the thought of merely taking orders and fulfilling them—nothing wrong with that kind of business model, it just doesn’t feel right for us.
We weren’t good at it, though. We didn’t know what we were doing, and it’s laughable thinking about it now. Every month, we would conduct these “strategy” sessions for each account, starting over and trying to come up with new things to try based on the most recent marketing trends.
No data analysis, no deep research, no actual insights.
It’s nice to look back on those days and see how much we’ve learned. But now, our practice—our chosen positioning—is based on research, insights, strategy, plans, and our favorite tool: the funnel.
In this article, I’ll try to clarify the reasoning behind our decision to specialize in marketing funnels.
What is a marketing funnel?
First, let’s define what a marketing funnel is.
A funnel is a roadmap designed to guide potential customers from brand awareness to purchase—and potentially, to repeat purchase and advocacy. It’s wide at the top, narrow at the bottom. Hence, a funnel.
At the top of the funnel, we cast a wide net to capture as many leads as possible. Then, by providing value through a series of interactions, we slowly nurture and qualify the people who will benefit most from our offerings until a small percentage of them become paying customers at the bottom of the funnel.
Elias St. Elmo Lewis conceived this concept in 1898 when he developed the AIDA model, which goes like this in its simplest form:
- Awareness: prospective customers learn that you exist
- Interest: a certain percentage become interested
- Desire: an even smaller percentage decides that your product or service is the one they want
- Action: some of them will buy or take whatever action you want them to take
Despite the perceived simplicity of funnels, they can get too complex too quickly once executed. Add to that the different models deployed by many marketers, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds, especially if you study them from the inside. That’s why it’s important for us to start with an overview. To see the forest from the trees.
Marketing Funnel Variants
To minimize confusion, we need to understand there’s no universal model. It all depends on the industry, types of customers, buying cycles, and business goals.
Aside from the original AIDA model, here are the typical versions you’ll see in the wild:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU) > Middle of the funnel (MOFU) > Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)
- Awareness > Consideration > Conversion > Loyalty > Advocacy
- Awareness > Opinion > Consideration > Preference > Purchase
- Awareness > Interest > Evaluation > Commitment > Sale > Repeat
- Awareness > Interest > Consideration > Intent > Evaluation > Purchase
- Awareness > Interest > Consideration > Purchase > Retention
As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all marketing funnel out there. And as you probably noticed, some use different words that essentially mean the same things.
Why we love funnels
Now, on to the reasons why we chose to be known as marketing funnel experts.
- It forces us to know our target audience well. This is elementary. The starting point of a good marketing plan is understanding the needs, wants, and demands of target customers. Yet, with so many marketing tools, channels, and trends out there, it’s easy to lose track of this first principle. Using a funnel forces us to define our target audience because it’s the only way we can figure out which lead magnets are effective in nurturing our prospects.
- It provides structure to an otherwise chaotic practice. Music is my favorite analogy to the importance of structure—absolute freedom is no freedom at all. If we only produce random sounds and beats, we can’t call it music. We can’t follow it. There’s no rhythm, no pattern, no harmony. It’s pure chaos. We create music when sounds follow patterns overlaid on top of patterns. That’s how we produce harmony, melody, and emotion. Marketing can be the same way. There are too many platforms, tactics, trends, algorithm changes, and methodologies out there. If we pick ones at random, results are sporadic. We need the right amount of order and harmony to create “music.” Funnels provide that framework.
- It’s based on an actual exchange of value. Not hype, click-baits, or obnoxious sales tactics. It’s The Law of Reciprocity at work. At every stage of the funnel, we have to give something of value for the potential customer to remain in the journey.
- It allows people to self-select. It acts as a sieve—a match-making tool—qualifying people who are most likely to benefit from our offerings and disqualifying people who don’t have a need we can fill. People decide if the value we’re giving away is for them—they can opt in and out any time they want. Used right, we can ensure only good-fit buyers enter the bottom of the funnel.
- It’s measurable. Once we set up a funnel strategy, we can continuously refine it to get better and better results. If we’re winning lots of people at the top of the funnel but aren’t converting, maybe we need to optimize our offers and sequences at the bottom of the funnel instead of starting from scratch every time we get poor results.
- It helps with consistency. The funnel works as a unified whole, with every marketing activity connecting to it. This means the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing. If we need to experiment on a marketing tactic, say podcast-guesting, we can ask ourselves these questions:
- “How does this connect to our primary funnel?”
- “Which landing pages do we send listeners to? Should we create new ones for this?”
- “At which stage do they come in? Are these people warm leads or hot leads?”
- “Which email sequence do we use to further give value and nurture these leads?”
- It’s easier to close deals. When leads do land at our doorstep, there’s no need to go into convince-mode to close the sale. Leads already vetted themselves. They know the business and what it can do for them. They only want to see options and offers.
- It saves time and money. The majority of the heavy-lifting is done at the beginning. Once properly set up, we can automate the entire process, monitor results, and keep making refinements. Say goodbye to spray-and-pray advertising!
- It’s easier to foster loyalty. Because only good-fit buyers get to the bottom of the funnel, they are more likely to become loyal customers and buy repeatedly. They’re also more likely to tell their peers (who might belong to the same demographic and psychographic group as our ideal customer) about their purchases.
- It’s easier to predict cash flow. Knowing how long potential customers go through each stage of the funnel allows us to make more accurate financial projections.
Common strategies, tools, and tactics for each stage of the funnel
To help visualize the stages of a funnel, here are some general marketing activities and tactics and where they fall on the funnel system. To keep it simple, we’ll use a three-stage funnel of Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU), and Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU).
Potential customers have a common pain point but aren’t aware of it. The goal is to draw attention to the specific problem.
Common marketing activities:
- Target market research
- Brand identity design
- Content or inbound marketing
- Blog articles
- Social media marketing
- Search engine marketing
- Influencer or affiliate marketing
- Paid ads strategy
- Engagement strategy
- Dream 100 strategy
- Guesting and speaking engagements
- Trade shows, conferences, and other events
- Direct email
Potential customers are problem-aware and solution-aware. The goal is to provide valuable information that help them understand and solve their problems in exchange for their name and email.
Common marketing activities:
- More content marketing
- Lead magnets
- Value ladder strategy
- Email marketing
- Paid ads retargeting
- Landing pages
- Case studies and testimonials
They know that you can help them solve their problems and they’re waiting for a good deal. The goal is to create enticing offers and close deals.
Common marketing activities:
- Free trials and demonstrations
- Low-ticket item offers
- Paid diagnostics
- Short courses
Although most people enter at the top of the funnel, a small percentage enter the funnel in the middle or even at the bottom because have already been indoctrinated somewhere else (by competitors or through their own research). They’re just waiting for The One—the right-fit company or offer that will help solve their problems.
The process remains the same regardless of which stage they enter the funnel.
Why is the marketing funnel so important? A well-defined marketing (or sales) funnel helps you serve relevant information at the right time, across the right channel. It gives you a better understanding of what your prospects are thinking, what they know, and what levels of interest they have in your brand.
What is the most important part of the marketing funnel? ›
Awareness is a critical aspect of acquiring new customers for your business, forming the top of your marketing funnel. This stage occurs when individuals seeking solutions become aware of your company as a potential provider.
How would you describe your marketing funnel? ›
A marketing funnel is a series of stages to guide prospects through the customer journey. The funnel helps marketing teams plan and measure efforts to attract, engage, and convert prospects through content and other marketing materials, like landing pages and ads.
What is the importance of funnel approach? ›
The purpose of the funnel technique is to avoid influencing user behavior or perceptions as much as possible.
What is marketing funnel in simple words? ›
The marketing funnel is a critical piece of the marketing process. It outlines the most straightforward journey customers might take in their path to purchase. Ultimately, the marketing funnel is a helpful framework for connecting and engaging with customers along their journey.
What is your understanding about funnels? ›
A sales funnel is a marketing term used to capture and describe the journey that potential customers go through, from prospecting to purchase. A sales funnel consists of several steps, the actual number of which varies with each company's sales model.
What are the 2 most important factors in the funnel? ›
Therefore, the key factors at the top of the funnel are quite obvious – exposure and discovery.
What makes a successful sales funnel? ›
How do you create a successful marketing funnel? ›
- Awareness. The first sales funnel stage is when someone becomes aware of your product or service. ...
- Interest. The second stage of the sales funnel is interest. ...
- Decision. Decision is the third sales funnel stage. ...
- Action. ...
- Create a landing page. ...
- Offer something valuable. ...
- Nurture the prospect. ...
- Close the deal.
What is the marketing funnel and examples? ›
7 steps to create a customer-centric marketing funnel
- Understand the customer journey. ...
- Create early awareness. ...
- Develop a content optimization strategy. ...
- Create educational content. ...
- Focus on your product's unique selling point. ...
- Guide users to conversion. ...
- Optimize your customers' post-purchase experience.
Marketing funnels function as their name implies. They start broadly and become more narrow and focused at the end, forming the shape of a funnel. For example, a company may get thousands of views on its website, but only a percentage of those individuals may investigate the products further.
A funnel is a tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.
What is an example of funnel? ›
A customer sees a rack of T-shirts on clearance. He or she thumbs through the rack, now they're at the next step of the funnel. Then the customer selects four t-shirts and walks to the check-out. They're at the last step.
Why is it called a marketing funnel? ›
It is called a funnel because as you move along the stages, you lose customers. As such, if you start with 100 customers at the top of the funnel, only a small share of these will finally make it to the last stage and make a purchase.
What are the keys to success in marketing? ›
Successful marketing campaign plans require knowledge of your customer's demographics, needs, and preferences. It'll help you determine customer journeys and critical touchpoints. If possible, go an extra step and create buyer personas. It'll allow your brand to interact with the target audience effectively.
How do funnels work? ›
A funnel tracks the steps that lead up to that conversion. For example, e-commerce companies want people to purchase products on their website. Their funnel may have these steps: visited site > viewed product > placed product in cart > purchased.
What are the 7 phases of a funnel? ›
Other companies go a step further, coming up with additional names for leads in more specific stages of their sales funnel template including: suspect, prospect, qualified prospect, committed prospect and transacted customer or client.
What is the goal of sales funnel? ›
The goal of a sales funnel is to take prospective customers in and nurture them into true customers. Learn six ways to create a customer experience that helps ensure sales success.
What is top of funnel content strategy? ›
Top-of-funnel content is content that doesn't try to sell the audience on a product or service, but instead educates, helps, and answers common questions.
What are the basics of a sales funnel? ›
What is top of funnel success? ›
Four sales funnel stages
- Stage 1 — Awareness. ...
- Stage 2 — Interest. ...
- Stage 3 — Decision. ...
- Stage 4 — Action. ...
- Step 1 — Define your audience's needs. ...
- Step 2 — Create something valuable to offer. ...
- Step 3 — Build a landing page. ...
- Step 4 — Establish lead nurturing strategies.
Top of funnel marketing is the process of marketing to a wide audience to capture as many leads as possible. Since audiences are mainly searching for information at this stage, the primary goals of marketing at the top of the funnel are awareness and lead generation.
The first phase of a marketing funnel is brand awareness. In this phase, we use proven strategies to help make our target prospects aware of our brand. This is done through many different means, all of which work together.
What are the 2 types of the marketing funnel? ›
While marketing funnels is the broader term that covers various use-cases, there are several types of funnels you're like to come across: Lead magnet funnels. List building funnels.
Which is the most critical part of the digital funnel? ›
The awareness stage, which is at the top of the funnel, works to attract a wide audience. The engagement and conversion stage, which makes the middle of the funnel, involves pairing down that audience into qualified customers.
What are the most important stages aspects in a product funnel? ›
What is the most important thing a funnel chart can provide a visualization of? ›
Awareness includes advertising and promotional activities, consideration encompasses information gathering and education, and conversion represents a final decision or sale.
A funnel chart helps you visualize a linear process that has sequential, connected stages.
What is the conclusion of the marketing funnel? ›
The marketing funnel, in conclusion
What is top of funnel awareness? ›
Creating a fluid journey is therefore essential in order to generate qualified leads and transform them into prospects and then into customers. To remember : The marketing funnel consists of 6 stages (awareness, interest, consideration, intention, evaluation, purchase).
Top of the funnel refers to the marketing activities carried out to create awareness about a brand or product. It is part of the theoretical customer journey also called a “purchase journey.” TOFU helps marketers spread awareness, educate prospects, and create a buzz about a product, service or brand.
What is a marketing funnel also called? ›
A sales funnel, also called a purchase funnel, is the visual representation of the customer journey, depicting the sales process from awareness to action.
What stage of the marketing funnel some potential customers will become leads? ›
Awareness: Awareness is the uppermost stage of the marketing funnel. Here, lead generation takes place, as information is collected and leads are pulled into a lead management system for nurturing further down the funnel.
What are the three parts of a funnel? ›
There are 3 parts of the funnel, the top, middle and bottom.
- Top of Funnel: Awareness. The top of the funnel is simple the part of your marketing that tries to reach brand new people. ...
- Middle of Funnel: Trust, Relationship and Authority Building. ...
- Bottom of Funnel: Sales, Repeat Sales, Reviews, Referrals.
A funnel visualization tool shows the drop-off rate and conversion rate of your main pages, helping you understand when and where visitors and potential customers are leaving your website. Knowing where in the journey users drop off will help you focus your optimization efforts on the biggest opportunities.
What is the best way to visualize funnel? ›
Visualizing your funnel with a bar chart is a great way to identify points of friction in your user journey. Each step your customer takes on their way to conversion has a barrier to entry with varying degrees of friction.
What is the best way to show funnel data? ›
While the best way to create a funnel chart is to essentially make a center-aligned bar chart, it is often a better idea overall to just use the bar chart instead.