Marketing funnels explained

Find out what marketing funnels are and how to use them for your business.

17th February 2021
Marketing funnels explained

Do you have a plan for helping your customers along their buyers’ journey to a sale? Many businesses may not have given this much or any thought at all.

If this is you, then consider looking at marketing funnels. Do not worry if you are unsure of what marketing funnels are. We will explain what marketing funnels are and how you can use them to improve your business’ marketing and sales.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a model of the journey that a prospective customer takes from being made aware of your offering to completing a purchase. Some people will also refer to this as the sales and marketing funnel since we include the sales stage.

What is a marketing funnel used for?

You can use marketing funnels to plan all of the touchpoints prospective customers will make before purchasing. You can plan marketing activities at each stage of the funnel to further move potential customers down the funnel towards a sale.

You can also use marketing funnels to track which stage your customers are at and apply the marketing activities needed to move them closer to a purchase.

Marketing funnel stages

The sales and marketing funnel is split into various stages. The names of these stages and how many there are, differ depending on which version of the marketing funnel you are using. Still, they all generally follow the same steps.

Sales and marketing funnel - Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase

There can be grey areas in the marketing funnel in which a prospect’s actions span multiple stages. Remember that these stages are a guide and customers are not robots, so you will need to enable some flexibility in implementing your sales and marketing funnels.

Awareness

The first stage is awareness of your brand and your offering. Channels to build awareness include organic search/SEO, paid search, content marketing, display advertising, social media, affiliate marketing, direct mail, television, and PR.

Your prospective customers are technically in this stage if you have made them aware of your business. However, ideally, you will generate leads in one form or another. For example, your audience could subscribe to an email newsletter, follow one of your social media profiles, or directly contact you for more information.

Interest

Prospects move into the interest stage after awareness. At this point, you want to be providing prospects with useful information, establishing your business as thought leaders and as experts in your field. You want to gain the trust of your audience.

Events such as webinars, free guides, white papers, articles, newsletters, social posts, FAQs and retargeting can all help boost interest in your offering.

Consideration

Prospects are in the consideration stage once they are thinking about purchasing your products or services. At this stage, you want to provide your prospects with useful information that identifies how your offering solves your customers’ problems. What is your USP, and how is your service better than your competitors? Your prospects will be comparing your offering to others in the market.

You can continue to communicate with your prospects via case studies, email marketing and retargeting.

In this stage, your prospects will also be showing a clear intent to purchase. They will possibly want to evaluate your offering via trials, product demos, and reading reviews and testimonials.

Purchase

At this point, the customer has decided to make the purchase. Your team’s job is to ensure it is as smooth and as easy as possible for the sale to be completed. It is still possible to lose a sale at this point due to a bad checkout process.

Ensure that you have clear calls to action, such as ‘Add to basket’, ‘Checkout’, or ‘Sign up’.

Sales and marketing funnel terminology explained

What is top of funnel/upper-funnel marketing/ToFu?

Top of funnel marketing refers to marketing activities in the first stages of the funnel. Depending on how you define top of funnel, this may include the awareness and interest stages. Personally, I consider the awareness stage to be top of the funnel.

What is middle of funnel marketing/MoFu?

Middle of funnel marketing refers to marketing activities in the mid-stages of the marketing funnel. You may consider this the interest and consideration phases. I like to think of the middle of the funnel as the interest phase.

What is bottom of funnel/lower-funnel marketing/BoFu?

Bottom of funnel marketing refers to marketing activities in the final stages of the marketing funnel. I think of any stages directly related to conversion as being bottom of the funnel, i.e. the consideration and purchase phases.

What is full-funnel marketing?

Full-funnel marketing refers to marketing activities at all stages of the marketing funnel and how they relate to each other.

How to use sales and marketing funnels

So you’re probably wondering “How do I actually use a sales and marketing funnel?” Well, funnels are excellent to plan out your actions at each stage of your customers’ journey from awareness to sale.

Start by writing down each stage of your funnel. For each stage, then write down the challenges faced by your prospects. What are the issues that your customers need addressing before they would move further down the funnel? If you have the funds or tools available, you can carry out your own research into your target audience. If not, you can look online for prior research that has been conducted on your audience.

Once you have identified the problems faced by your prospective customers, you plan which channels and the types of content and communications that you plan to use. Plan this for each stage of the marketing funnel to move your prospects further down towards a sale.

Marketing funnels for online businesses

The marketing funnel stages are the same for businesses, whether they are brick and mortar stores or eCommerce. The difference between physical and online store funnels is simply the actions taken at each stage to move prospects further down the funnel. For example, the awareness stage for a physical store might be having a high footfall location, while the equivalent action for an online store might be to ensure high organic search rankings.

B2B vs B2C sales and marketing funnels

While the marketing funnel stages are the same for B2B and B2C, there are still some differences depending upon whether you are marketing to businesses or consumers.

The main difference that affects the marketing funnel is the length of time it will take to move a prospect through the funnel to a conversion. B2C is often a much quicker time to convert compared to B2B due to:

B2C is often an individual deciding on their own, whereas B2B usually has many stakeholders who need to consult.

B2C purchases are many times impulsive purchases, which by their nature tend to convert quickly, while B2B purchases are mostly rational decisions

B2B purchases tend to be a much higher value than B2C, with higher value sales requiring more research and consideration

Marketing funnel automation

A great way to optimise your marketing funnel is to use automation. You can use marketing automation software to automate various processes, improving efficiency, lowering costs, and improving engagement with your audience.

Marketing automation itself is a vast topic, so we cannot cover it in detail here. However, I wrote a piece covering some of the top marketing automation tools. Please check that article out to see how some of the tools could help you automate your marketing.

Wrapping up

Marketing funnels are excellent for planning out how you will communicate with your prospects at each stage of their buying journey. Hopefully, you now have the tools to plan out your sales and marketing funnels.

If you would like to speak with us about our digital marketing services, please email us hello@strategyst.co.uk.

The Author: Daniel Lee

I am a digital marketing strategist with more than eleven years' experience. I have worked in digital marketing agencies, as well as client-side. My clients include small businesses all the way up to organisations with revenue in the billions. I provide marketing consultancy both in the UK and the US. I hold a Master of Science degree in International Marketing, and I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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