You’re bound to come across a lot of odd terms in the world of marketing and sales.
Someone might wonder if the sales funnel is healthy, or whether you’ve paid enough attention to the top of the marketing funnel.
Here’s a secret: all these funnels are simply visual tools for understanding how well your marketing and sales efforts are going down with the public.
We promise that by the time you reach the bottom of this article, you’ll not only know what a marketing funnel is, but also how to build one for your own business.
What is a marketing funnel?
To put it simply, your marketing funnel represents the customer journey that potential customers take from first hearing of your brand to buying a product or service.
It’s usually divided into a top part, a middle part, and the bottom of the funnel, representing the different levels of awareness and interest your customer has for your brand and your product.
If you were selling curtains, your marketing funnel could start the moment someone sees your roadside banner advertising your spring sale.
They may not think much about your store or your offer, but they now know it exists.
So, next time that person would see your newspaper ad, and faintly remember about your store. They might realize they walk past your store on their way to work and start paying attention to your window displays.
And one day they would nip into your store after realizing that the drapes in their living room are rather dull, chat with the staff, and walk out with a new pair of curtains.
A marketing funnel is a visualization tool used to understand how and when potential customers become aware of your product and at what stage they end up making a purchase.
What are the different marketing funnel stages?
Each marketing funnel, or customer journey, has most often 3 distinct stages: the top of the funnel (or TOFU), the middle of the funnel (MOFU), and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
Especially if your aim is to build a brand that’s well-known, understanding how the marketing funnel works is paramount.
Usually, the marketing funnel is drawn as an inverse triangle, with the top of the funnel being the widest.
Most marketers divide the different stages of the marketing funnel into 5 categories:
- Awareness (TOFU). At the awareness stage, the aim of the marketing activities is merely to make the brand memorable and make potential customers aware of its existence. A brand giving out freebies is a good example of an awareness-building TOFU campaign.
- Interest (MOFU). Humans are curious creatures. More often than not we’ll look up a company we haven’t heard of, especially if we see an attention-grabbing advert or are given a freebie of a product.
- Desire (MOFU). At this stage of the funnel, the aim of the marketing and sales activities is to make the customer desire the product and push them closer towards purchase.
- Action (BOFU). Getting the consumer to take action at the bottom of the sales funnel is easier if you know your target market well and have successfully created awareness, interest, and desire for your product.
- Loyalty (BOFU). The aim of your marketing funnel is to create customers that are loyal to your brand and return to buy another product or service.
In order to make your marketing funnel work as it should, you need to be able to identify your marketing funnel stages effectively.
That means mapping out and describing your customers’ buying processes in detail.
This is usually easier to do with digital marketing campaigns, since they are easier and faster to track than traditional marketing channels (TV, newspapers, and billboards, to name a few).
Why are marketing funnels important?
In a nutshell, a good marketing funnel simplifies the customer acquisition process.
That’s another way of talking about what it takes for someone to decide to buy your product or service.
A good marketing funnel ensures that your customers are able to quickly navigate through your website and take desired actions: book a consultation, buy a product or download a demo.
This is partly due to well-optimized web design, and partly due to successful top and middle funnel marketing activities.
Web design and your marketing funnel
In online marketing, your website’s web design is crucial to the success of your marketing and sales funnel.
Pay attention to things like:
- The number of clicks. Take it from Neil Patel: if you want your website to play ball with the rest of your marketing funnel, your customers shouldn’t have to take any unnecessary clicks the first time they land on your website.
- The positioning of call-to-action buttons. Use heatmap tools to understand which call-to-action buttons get the most clicks, and why that might be.
- Faulty links. Next to nothing makes customers click away from your website more than faulty links. Keep a close eye on both internal and external links to optimize your marketing funnel.
Marketing channels and your sales funnel
You don’t want to be wasting a lot of time and money on a portion of your marketing funnel that has no audience.
Let’s say you’re selling shoes online, and you mainly promote your store and products by posting shoe facts on your Facebook business page.
But nobody really follows your page, interacts with your posts, or clicks on any links. On the other hand, you’re stocking very niche shoe brands that have a cult following online, and many people find your shop through a simple Google search.
An effective marketing strategy focuses on nurturing and growing those avenues and channels that bring in the most customers, for the cheapest price.
Content ideas for TOFU marketing
When it comes to the different stages of the funnel, TOFU marketing is typically more of a marathon, rather than a sprint.
The main goals of TOFU marketing are:
- Lead generation
- Brand awareness
That’s why running a blog is a great way to add valuable TOFU content to your marketing mix.
In order for your blog content to work well, you need to think strategically about what you’re writing about.
On top of SEO efforts (you want to be found on Google and get that search traffic, right?), your blog should subtly reference your product or service, while also offering valuable content that’s practical and informative.
Potential customers don’t want to read about how amazing your product is – they can do that on your landing page. Chances are that they’re more interested in your niche overall.
So, if you’re selling skateboards, your blog posts should be all about rating various skateboarding tricks, offering insights into the history of skateboarding, as well as tutorials to choosing the right board.
Infographics and video content are also fantastic pieces of TOFU content. Both work great on social platforms and abide by similar rules to blog content.
In fact, in the US alone 85% of consumers watch online video content – that’s nearly 300 million people.
Establishing a YouTube channel and creating TOFU content to share on social platforms, newsletters, and your blog and website is a quick way to get your brand out there and create awareness.
Collecting newsletter subscribers is also a good avenue for sharing TOFU content pieces with existing and potential customers.
The easiest way to start building your email database is by strategically positioning email subscription boxes on your website. Don’t overthink things: usually, all you need is a first name and an email address.
Make sure that your email collection is transparent and that there’s some perk or benefit for the customer.
Nobody wants to receive spam, so think about sharing stories from behind the scenes or offering helpful tips that are relevant to your niche.
Content ideas for MOFU marketing
After the user has been introduced to the company, it’s time to grab their attention and make them want to purchase your product.
As they already know your brand and are showing interest in it, you need to convince them of its greatness.
In the world of marketing, the MOFU stage of the customer journey, or the consideration stage, is all about nurturing your prospects (potential customers).
Your aim is to successfully identify your prospects’ pain points, and address them accordingly – ideally positioning your business as the solution.
The best way to do this is to have content like social proof, testimonials, and case studies readily available across your website and social media.
Running competitions and other user engagement campaigns on Facebook and Instagram are fantastic ways of creating MOFU content that also acts as social proof of your products.
Get people to re- and upcycle your product packaging or share how and where they use your product or service.
Or offer a perk, like 10% off shipping, for all newsletter subscribers who take the time to answer a consumer survey.
You’ll get invaluable feedback and with any luck some great quotes to use on your website and marketing materials.
Introducing white papers or data-heavy downloadable articles is also a great way to sway the undecisive prospects your way.
It’s not a bad idea to use a case study or two as the source material for a blog post or newsletter, either – nothing builds trust better than being able to prove that you know what you’re doing.
Or go one step further: you can offer your prospects access to a demo or test environment of your product so that if they decide to part with their dollars, they know exactly what they’re getting.
Showcase your expertise by creating an eBook or a comprehensive guide to your niche, and cement your thought leadership into the minds of your customers.
Content ideas for BOFU marketing
It’s at the bottom of your marketing and sales funnel that things get busy.
At this stage of the customer journey, the main focus is on getting the prospect to make a purchase.
They’ve heard about your business, they’ve signed up for a newsletter and now you have to get a conversion out of them.
Many marketers offer free trials and consultations at the last stage of the funnel to close the deal. In the world of online marketing, these usually take the form of persuasive landing pages and call-to-action buttons.
Loyalty, VIP, and affiliate programs are also common ways of BOFU marketing from a loyalty perspective. The customers usually save a little bit of money, but the company gets more purchases out of a single customer in the long run.
Most affiliate and loyalty programs can be marketed on social media, through newsletters and blog posts.
The key to converting BOFU content is to know your target audience and offer your products as the solution to their problems, at the right time in the buying process.
Consider offering a 30-day money-back guarantee or a 14-day free trial to your prospects to reassure them, if they have any doubts left.
Strategies for analyzing your marketing funnel
Before you set up tools to measure and analyze your marketing funnel, you need to understand what you intend to measure at each stage of the customer journey.
Otherwise, you’ll be tracking data that will provide you with no real information about your marketing and sales efforts.
For example, you shouldn’t be celebrating just because your YouTube video gets 10 000 views.
If those views actually account for nothing (no traffic to your website or online store, no new newsletter subscribers, or new purchases), you’ve been wasting your time, money, and energy.
The safest bet is to start by specifying which metrics you should and want to use for each of the funnel stages. Tools like Google Analytics come in handy here.
An effective marketing funnel measures things like:
- Website traffic and its sources
- The number of followers on social media
- The number of newsletter subscriptions
- The number of downloads for free digital resources
- The number of clicks on paid adverts and social media posts
It’s important to remember that the essential metrics can differ from one field to another.
That’s why it’s worth sitting down and thinking about your customer journey before deciding what type of data you want to be tracking and analyzing.
The most important metrics for effectively analyzing your TOFU performance could be the total amount of traffic to your website and blog, and the number of clicks on social media posts, for example.
This data will help you understand if your TOFU campaigns are working – which sales funnel stages need optimizing and which are not performing at all.
For example, you might notice that most customers find your website through search engines, looking for a house plant guide for busy people, and landing in your blog.
But hardly anyone clicks on your Facebook ads that cost you hundreds of dollars every month.
In this case, it’d be a better idea to focus your efforts on optimizing your blog content for search engines, rather than trying to attract customers via Facebook.
This section of your marketing funnel is notoriously difficult to measure.
As the middle of the funnel is essentially a consideration stage for the consumer, make sure that you have a clear idea of what kind of content is in the middle of your marketing funnel.
If you’re growing your email database, measuring the number of new newsletter subscribers is a great metric for this stage.
You should also keep an eye on the overall number of potential eBook or white paper downloads, and track how many of those prospects end up making a purchase.
Email marketers should always measure the success of their email campaigns by keeping an eye on the open rate and click-through rate of all newsletters and email communications.
Tracking sales and returning customers is probably the easiest part of the marketing funnel.
A/B-testing and heatmaps are great ways to feel the pulse of your landing pages.
You can test call-to-action button positioning, different layouts, and headline and image positioning until you find an optimal one that brings in the most sales.
It’s also important to analyze how your returning customers behave:
- Which marketing channels are they most receptive to?
- What types of offers do they respond the best to?
- Which pages and products are they most interested in buying?
The better you understand your customers and your overall sales funnel, the easier it will be to scale your company in the long run.
You’ll be able to effectively push marketing and sales channels that bring in the most customers and react quicker to overall market changes.
Make the marketing funnel your best friend
Understanding how your marketing funnel currently looks and how you could improve it can make a huge difference to your monthly bottom line.
At its most effective, a clearly mapped out marketing funnel helps you understand where your customers find your company, and what makes them decide to purchase your product or service.
A strong marketing funnel also helps you with lead generation and carving out a permanent market position for your business.