The ultimate marketing funnel resource - build your funnel right, first time

The ultimate marketing funnel resource – build your funnel right, first time

A marketing funnel is a symbolic route taken by a lead as he or she moves towards turning into a customer. Every business has, at one point or another, used a marketing funnel to close a sale. The funnel helps brands visualise their sales process. It is also the best tool to measure overall conversion success between every stage of the funnel.

A complete modern marketing funnel example
Source: Medium

The marketing funnel echoes the audience size, with the bottom being the narrowest and the top of the funnel being the widest. A true understanding of the marketing funnel is crucial because, similar to any funnel, a large volume of leads enters at the top and fewer leads remain as they progress down the funnel.

The overarching question when utilising a sales funnel is: How can a brand keep more leads moving into the funnel and turn them into real customers?

This article will answer some questions brands may have about marketing funnels, including:

  • What is a marketing funnel?
  • Why are marketing funnels still relevant?
  • How does a customer convert into a marketing funnel?
  • What are the different funnel types?
  • What should you avoid?
  • How can a brand build their own marketing funnel?
  • How can brands manage and optimise their sales funnel?
  • What are the best tools to use in building a marketing funnel that works?

What is a marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel is a simple way to visualize the journey a customer takes to becoming a paying customer. By tracking leads as they move through the sales stages, companies can better align marketing and sales activities. The funnel can also set targets and measure success.

Thanks to the diverse businesses using the marketing funnel, it has various names, including “sales funnel”, “lead funnels”, “purchase funnels,” and so forth. The names may vary slightly but they all have the same aim: to convert leads into customers. 

The stages of a marketing funnel 

The sales funnel process was a concept started by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. The original funnel that he prepared is still one of the most common models that brands use. In every stage, brands should ask themselves these questions to see if their funnel has been working:

  • Awareness–this stage is all about how a brand can make buyers aware of their products or services? What are the strategies in place that can create brand awareness? 
  • Interest–How can a brand gain the interest of customers? Using which content strategy? 
  • Desire–What makes the product or service desirable? How can brands interact with the leads personally so that emotional connection is sufficient?
  • Action–What are the calls to action (CTAs) used and where are these buttons placed? Can a lead easily connect and where would they expect to find it? Consider what marketing platforms are being currently utilised by the brand to improve engagement like website, landing pages, emails and more.
  • Retention–What does the brand offer to encourage loyalty? 

Why is marketing funnel still relevant?

The modern sales funnel is the version most used today. However, the funnel may take on a different appearance. Brands must still strive to attract leads and generate interest and engagement. They need to create desires in their leads and call them to action, but not necessarily in that order and not using the same strategy.

Because of the information available, leads are now well-informed about different products and services. They usually learn about the product from various sources. After they become customers, they can also become brand advocates or critics.

A brand’s job is to satisfy the customer at every stage, which means the marketing funnel has changed from simple awareness and purchase to providing customers with unique experiences.

How does a marketing funnel work?

To understand the concept of how a funnel works, a brand should understand what motivates a lead to buy. Leads become customers because of several reasons. When brands understand how and why leads convert, they can provide specific solutions. 

  1. Identity–Consumers buy when the product or service fits who they are or at least how they see themselves to be (or both). 
  2. Experience – Consumers buy to enjoy a fresh experience. 
  3. Value–Consumers buy when they see that the product or service has a unique value.
  4. Need–Consumers buy when they see the product or service can provide solutions to their daily needs. 
  5. Identity/Community–Customers buy products or services that help reinforce their feelings of being a part of a community. 
  6. Jobs-to-be-done theory–When brands effectively create a need, even when customers are still not aware of it, they will most likely convert. 
Applying Jobs to be done theory can help your marketing funnel
Jobs to be done
Source: JTBDinfo

What are the types of marketing funnel?

No single funnel is the same. Each type of business should create a marketing funnel that will fit the objectives of their brand. It is important to understand brand goals to pick the right type of funnel.

  1. Lead magnet funnel–This is one of the most common types of funnels used by brands online. The brand exchanges something (free ebook/discount) for data from the customer, such as an email address.
  2. Survey funnel–Utilises surveys to engage customers and reel them into the funnel.
  3. Squeeze page funnel – Designed to “squeeze out” a lead’s email address by giving them a valuable item as an initial point of engagement. The intent of this funnel is to pique the interest of the leads.
This is an example of marketing funnel
Source; Clickfunnels

There are dozens of other marketing funnel types. It can differ from one business to another depending on the type of customer.

What typical sales funnel mistakes should be avoided?

Attracting the wrong leads to the brand

The effectiveness of a sales funnel depends on the input of the brand. The type of audience that the brand targets at the top of the funnel will determine how successful the conversion process is. Targeting the wrong audience can waste time, effort, and money.

Not nurturing the prospects through the funnel 

When leads move into the interest phase, brands must make it their priority to nurture them. According to the report published by HubSpot, “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2019“, “74% of companies around the globe prioritise lead nurturing and conversion.” This means any business should nurture first to encourage a customer to move further down the funnel. 

Using a poor landing page

Landing pages are a vital part of a marketing campaign. However, many businesses do not realise its importance. According to the Landing Page Handbook (2nd edition) by MarketingSherpa, “About 44% of clicks for B2B brands are directed to the company’s homepage–not a special landing page. The B2B companies that are using landing pages, only 62% have six or fewer landing pages.”

To get the most out of the marketing efforts, pitch to the leads who are ready to convert using a landing page. There are plenty of tools that can build a dedicated landing page. Consider the following Landingi, Bitrix24, EngageBay and BigMarker.

Not capitalising on CTA’s

A call to action is part of a story, advertisement, webpage or piece of content that inspires the audience to do something. In marketing, CTAs are the best way for a brand to convert a lead or visitor into a customer. CTAs can trigger different actions depending on the brand’s goal.

The brand must decide what action they want their leads to take, and then place CTAs accordingly. A good example of this is using content upgrades. By offering exclusive content for an email sign-up, brands can entice leads to take action.

Designing the brand’s marketing funnel

Step 1: Research 

Creating buyer personas to get a better understanding of the market

Before a brand can design any ad or even draft the first content, they need to understand who their customers are. This initial step will lead to the success of the marketing funnel because it sets the roadmap for the entire process. 

Marketing funnels involve creating buyer personas
Source: OptinMonster

A buyer’s persona allows brands to know where to look for initial leads. It also gives information on what type of content will be valuable for these potential customers. Finally, buyer personas can help segment the marketing funnel so that brands can prepare tactics for diverse audiences. 

Buyer’s persona should include basic demographics (like gender or age), information preferences (like social media or blogs), goals and more. There are different ways to find information when building a buyer’s persona. A brand needs to have the right tools to collect this data. 

Competitor research 

Competitor research will help brands learn from the successes and failures of similar businesses. By understanding what the competition is doing, brands can develop strategies to outperform them. Information to collect includes:

Some of the items to research when collecting competitive intellegence
Source: aha
  • Where are they are sourcing their traffic?
  • What are their social media, SEO, advertising and content strategy?
  • What are their retention strategies?

Step 2: Generate traffic

Pulling leads to the top of the funnel

According to the 2019 Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics by HubSpot, “65% of brands consider traffic and lead generation as the biggest challenge in their marketing campaign.” Therefore, brands must know their leads and where to source these leads to draw them in. 

Source: HubSpot Academy

There are typically four types of traffic to choose from:

  • Direct traffic–These are site visits that happen when a consumer types the website address into the URL of their web browser. These visitors are those who have heard about the website’s address offline (such as by word of mouth or from a billboard). 
  • Organic search traffic–This type of traffic is visitors who click on the site from within a search engine’s organic search results (unpaid or earned). The best way for a brand to improve this traffic is to work on their SEO, which will help their website rank high in search results. 
  • Referral traffic–These visits come from links found on other websites. Popularly known as backlinks, users can find them in a variety of content from other sites like blogs, social media posts, news and more. 
  • Paid media traffic (PPC)–This traffic includes all visits that result from any form of online advertising. This includes social media ads (such as Facebook ads), search engine ads, display advertising (banner ads), Google search ads and video advertising (YouTube pre-roll ads).

Lead magnets

Using lead magnets is another way to pull traffic into the funnel. A lead magnet is an offer that brands can give in exchange for their email address and, perhaps, other important information. Lead magnets must have high perceived value, provide instant gratification, and show a unique selling point for the brand. Some of the most common examples of lead magnets are:

marketing funnel lead magnets to consider
Source: SEMrush
  • Samples
  • Training Videos
  • Free trials
  • Templates
  • Quizzes
  • Case studies
  • Coupons or discount codes
  • Software
  • Checklist
  • Webinars

Step 3: Engage

Once brands have the traffic, the next move is to prepare the leads towards conversion, with the help of engaging content. The initial engagement happens when the customer consumes the content included in the lead magnet. Therefore, it is crucial to make lead magnets interesting. 

Some leads will be ready to turn into customers once they click on the lead magnets. While others may want more content from the brand. The solution is to create unique content to step up the engagement. 

There are several ways to deliver this additional content to leads. Brands can also use marketing funnel automation tools to make their work easier. 

Email marketing–An email drip campaign should be ready once brands have the list of leads. It can effectively nurture every lead through email marketing. Some of the best tools for email marketing are Segmail, Kingmailer, SendX and Omnisend

Social media–Social media platforms are a crucial part of a marketing funnel. Many brands also create a specific social media marketing funnel within their campaigns. Manage social media effectively through different tools like Bitrix24, NapoleonCat, Hootsuite and Buffer

metrics to check when running a social media engagement for marketing funnel
Source: INC

Media subscription–this tactic is best for brands who have the hardware and enough time to create regular media content. Some examples of great media content customers will love are video series, webinars, and podcasts. Some of the best video hosting sites to look into are YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia and Hippo Video

Content – how it plays an integral role in a marketing funnel 

Researching the competition will give brands insight into what strategies have worked well for similar businesses in the past, as well as what has led to their failures. This knowledge can then develop plans for how to improve upon the competition and come out ahead.

Consider using a content marketing funnel pyramid
Source: Curata

At the top of the funnel, the primary aim of the content should be to educate the leads. The type of content used during this stage are:

  • Blog posts
  • Webinars
  • Comprehensive guides
  • Videos
  • Email newsletters
  • Big content (games, long-form-content, tools)
Questions to check when creating your marketing funnel
Source: LucidChart

Once customers are “aware” and move further down the funnel, the brand should supply them with content that helps them learn more about the product. This is the perfect time for brands to “show-off” and make sure customers remember them. Here are a few ways to execute this:

  • Case studies
  • Product descriptions and data sheets
  • How-to content that showcases your products
  • Demo videos

At the bottom of the funnel, the brand just needs a final “trigger” to convince customers to buy the product. They need no further convincing at this stage. Some of the best content to use are:

  • Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • A streamlined, comprehensible, and trustworthy sales process

Step 4: Conversion 

Turn leads to customers 

Finding the right conversion transition is crucial at this stage of the funnel. Throughout the other stages of the funnel, the brand should have provided enough high-value content, engaged, entertained and educated the audiences. Once the brand has built enough trust and relationship, this is the perfect time to pitch the offer. 

Marketing funnel examples to emulate

Even some of the most popular brands around the world are using a marketing funnel that works. Here are some of the best working funnels that have consistently earned customers for brands. 

Netflix

Content leader Netflix uses a 2-step marketing funnel to pull leads into the sales funnel. Netflix uses a one-month free trial offer to encourage customers to submit their email addresses and credit card information. By giving a very high-value offer, leads give out their information and will have no way out of it except to cancel the subscription before the trial period ends. 

MailChimp

MailChimp uses a unique funnel by allowing brands to use its services for free. They watermark every email sent by adding the words “Powered by MailChimp”. This way, every customer who receives the content through MailChimp can help create a viral loop. 

Crazyegg

Crazyegg is a powerful website optimisation tool that can help brands understand more about customer behaviour. The major force which makes CrazyEgg’s marketing funnel is the excellent content that it produces. Aside from content, they also give out a 30-day trial offer for customers to use the CrazyEgg tool. This combination of high-value content and service compels leads to turn into customers. 

Best practices when building a marketing funnel 

Nurture leads

According to the report by Demand Gen titled, Lead Nurturing Benchmark Study, “Just 29% of brands invest in nurturing their current customer base.” However, with the changes in customer’s buying behaviour, nurturing leads should be a priority.

According to Forrester, Lead-To-Revenue Management Platform Vendors Report, “Brands see a 20% increase in sales opportunities when leads are nurtured.” The same report revealed that “companies that excel at nurturing their leads can gain 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.”

Lead nurturing is all about prioritising engaging a target group. We achieve it by giving leads relevant information at every stage of the buyer’s journey. 

Consistent monitoring

It is important to monitor the health of your brand’s marketing funnel. By monitoring key metrics, you can identify potential threats or difficulties that may clog the funnel and prevent customers from moving through the sales process. By taking proactive steps to improve the flow of your funnel, you can ensure that your brand’s marketing efforts are as effective as possible.

Aside from the typical KPIs that brands should be consistently monitoring, these key metrics will also help push brand marketing further. 

  • Social Selling Index – If any stage of the sales funnel includes social selling on LinkedIn, this metric is crucial. SSI measures specific elements that will help brands understand their progress. This includes branding, connecting, relationship building and social selling engagement. 
  • Customer Lifetime Value – For brands that worry about high acquisition costs, CLV is an important metric. It shows brands how effective each marketing method is from the first stage to the last. It is also a great way to alert brands about any problems with offers or value propositions.
  • Sales funnel flow – This metric will show how long it takes for every lead to convert into a customer. It helps show the number of leads, the number of qualified leads, average response time, closing rates, and the average time it takes for a lead to move down the funnel and convert into a customer.
When marketing funnel is optimised you can expect improved customer lifetime value
Source: Crealytics

Some of the best tools for funnel management and monitoring are Pipedrive, Freshsales, and amoCRM

Apply customer loyalty

Brands need to continue to add value and provide quality service to customers, even well after they have completed a purchase. No sales funnel is complete without implementing a working customer retention strategy. 

According to the Loyalty Report 2019 by Bond, “the most successful brands like Waze, Airbnb, Lyft, Netflix, and Nike all use a customer loyalty program”. Smaller and even start-up brands should not miss out on this opportunity. 

Applying customer loyalty and retention strategies into the marketing funnel creates a loop in which drastically improves the buying journey of customers. 

Optimise every stage

When brands are optimising the sales funnel, it is important to understand what stage each user is in. If there’s a mismatch between what leads are expecting and what the brand is optimizing for, the marketing efforts won’t be successful. 

Brands should give customer several chances to make a purchase and should appear as often as possible. Brands should consistently and offer the product and services for purchase.

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About James

James is the founder of Customer Devoted and was previously the managing director of customer engagement agency Ogilvy One and the strategy director for customer loyalty consultancy The Collinson Group.

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