The Marketing Funnel – What is it and how does it work?

by Maximilian Claessens
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The Marketing Funnel – What is it and how does it work?

The marketing funnel is a visual representation of the steps a customer takes from first finding out about a brand to conversion. In principle, it is a roadmap starting with the first interaction of a potential customer with a brand and ending with a paying customer.

There is quite a lot of disagreement over who owns the marketing funnel, whether it’s marketing or sales, and if it’s still relevant to today’s customer buying process.

Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the marketing funnel and why it is so crucial. We’ll compare B2C and B2B applications of the funnel, show you how to design one, and then offer you some examples.

What Is the Marketing Funnel?

A Marketing Funnel is a graphic representation of the process of converting leads into customers from a marketing (and sales) standpoint. Marketers try to gather as many leads as they possibly can, and then try to properly nurture prospective customers along their purchase decision. The funnel becomes narrower at each stage.

In an ideal world, this marketing funnel would be a marketing cylinder, and all of your leads would convert to customers. Though this is not the case for most of the companies, it is part of a marketer’s duty to convert as many leads as possible into customers, thereby making the funnel more circular.

It is crucial to note that there is no universally accepted version of the funnel. Some have many stages, while others have few, with varying titles and activities done by the firm and customer for each.

Marketing Funnel Stages

Let’s now review the various stages of the marketing funnel. Here, we will be looking at a standard marketing funnel example. As noted earlier, there are many different variations of the marketing funnel fitting the respective situation. Also, a prospect may skip steps of the funnel depending on the specific buyer decision making process. For most funnels, the following stages can be identified:

The Marketing Funnel

Awareness

The first step of the marketing funnel is awareness. Marketing campaigns, as well as consumer research and discovery, bring potential customers into this stage. Events, advertising, trade exhibits, content, direct mail, social media, media mentions, webinars, viral campaigns, search, and other methods are used to build trust and thought leadership. Lead generations occur here, where information is gathered and leads are drawn into a lead management system for nurturing further down the funnel.

Interest

Initial leads then go to the interest stage once awareness turns into interest. Here, they learn more about the firm and the products it offers. Brands may use this chance to build a relationship with the people in their lead database. Marketers may nurture leads through emails, more customized material based on sectors and brands, courses, newsletters, and other means.

Consideration

Leads are then converted into qualified leads and are viewed as possible clients throughout the consideration stage. Marketers may give prospects additional information about goods and offers via automated email campaigns, while also nurturing them with customized content, case studies, free trials, and other resources.

Intent

Prospects must indicate an interest in purchasing a brand’s goods to get to the intent stage. This might happen during a survey, following a product demo, or after a product is added to ecommerce website’s shopping basket. Marketers may use this chance to create a compelling argument for why their product is the best choice for a customer.

Evaluation

Buyers make a final choice on whether or not to purchase a brand’s products or services during the assessment stage. Marketing and sales typically collaborate closely to foster the decision-making process and persuade the customer that their brand’s product is the best choice among them all.

Purchase

You’ve arrived! This is the last stage of the marketing funnel, where a prospect decides to buy and becomes a customer. This is the stage at which sales handles the purchase transaction. A favorable buyer experience may lead to recommendations, which feed the top of the marketing funnel, and the process starts all over again.

Important to consider is that the marketing funnel considers a one-off purchasing process. However, this does not mean that the relationship with the client does not go on afterwards. On the contrary, it is crucial to follow-up after the purchase to nurture the relationship and reap the maximum possible customer lifetime value.

The Importance of the Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel is an important foundation to comprehend. Even if you don’t have dedicated marketing staff, little marketing expertise, and/or a limited marketing budget, creating a marketing funnel can help you prioritize and execute a successful marketing plan. A modest quantity of leads will result in even fewer sales.

The greater the size of the funnel at the top, the better. It goes without saying that the broader the funnel at the top in terms of leads, the more sales will be generated at the other end.

A marketing funnel is one of the best ways to develop your business by getting the most out of your marketing efforts. Finally, using a marketing funnel will allow your company to significantly enhance the number of recurring customers. Customer retention leads to a long-term business growth.

Customers must first be satisfied that they are making a wise investment before they would buy your goods and services. They must have faith in you. They must have the impression that the risk is modest. A content marketing plan will tie everything together and serve as the foundation for your campaign.

Essentially, your marketing funnel would be like follows:

  • Develop an optimal degree of awareness for your target market
  • Assist in converting potential customers into loyal followers
  • Interact with your subscribers and provide value for them, resulting in increased trust
  • Convert them from content consumers to customers
  • Deliver a great customer experience that encourages them to return
  • Upsell your products and maximize customer value

How Do the Marketing Funnels for B2C and B2B Brands Differ?

Most B2C customers walk the funnel alone or with a limited group of trusted advisers (often friends and family), but B2B customers typically have a broader, cross-departmental buying group. The typical B2B purchasing group consists of 5.4 persons.

B2C customers may never engage directly with a company person, particularly on ecommerce platforms, but B2B customers often interact with a sales professional at the bottom of the funnel.

How Does the Marketing Funnel Work?

If you’ve ever used a paper funnel at the gas station to assist you pour oil straight into your car’s oil reservoir rather than all over the engine, you have a rudimentary understanding of how a funnel works.

A marketing funnel operates in phases, from the broad part at the top (Top of Funnel or TOFU) that draws in many people, to the smaller portion in the center (Middle of Funnel or MOFU), and finally to the even narrower section at the bottom (Bottom of Funnel or BOFU) that is occupied by serious buyers.

That is why, while creating a marketing or buying funnel, the most important thing to remember is to think about it from the customer’s point of view. This will save you a lot of time and problems.

As previously said, one of the most important considerations is deciding which marketing channels to include in your marketing strategy. Ideally, you should use all of the marketing channels listed below.

Stage 1: TOFU Channels (Recognition of the problem and need):

Your consumer may be dimly aware that they have a problem, but they are not actively seeking a solution.

Assume you offer cooling vests to keep outdoor employees cool throughout the summer. Your target audience may find being hot bothersome, but they may be unaware that there is a solution, therefore they are unlikely to consider seeking for one.

If they see or hear an advertising for a cooling vest, they may have an “aha!” reaction, and do a more studies on this particular issue.

As a result, acquiring consumers at this stage will often consist of outbound marketing or advertising. Here are a few of the channels that frequently draw individuals at this point in the process: Billboards, TV ads, live events, influencers, Facebook ads, YouTube ads, Instagram ads, Google ads, etc.

As can be seen, the majority of these channels also serve as “brand awareness” channels. Some of them (such as sponsored advertisements and influencer marketing) are likely to yield direct conversions, but the vast majority will not.

Stage 2: MOFU Channels (The search for Information):

Now that your consumers are eager to discover a solution to their problem, the following step is to produce the information they require.

At the end of Stage 1, you should have already added a CTA (call-to-action) that directs them to this step or a stage further down the funnel.

You may send prospects for basic goods that require little information to sell right to the sales page. However, in order to demonstrate each step that might be included in the funnel, we’ll suppose the product is difficult and requires some instruction. If you can speak authoritatively about the pain point in a blog article, it will help you create trust with the readers.

Stage 3: Evaluating the Alternatives

At this point in the marketing funnel, your clients are aware that a solution to their problem exists. As a result, the following stage (assuming they continue down the funnel; most will merely bounce until the pain becomes severe enough that they act) is to analyze various options.

People’s buying intent grows considerably from the previous step of just educating themselves on the pain to actively exploring remedies.

You try these different marketing channels: Retargeting ads, pricing pages optimization, campaigns for getting more reviews, having some case studies for the best users of the product, etc.

At this point, your messaging should focus less on educating the audience on the pain point and more on teaching them on why your solution is the greatest answer for their pain issue.

Show off any unique features or pricing models that make your solution superior than the competitors.

Stage 4: BOFU Channels (Making the Purchase Decision)

By this point, you’ve completed around 99 percent of the task. All that remains is to make purchase a no-brainer in order to convert the prospect into a paying client. Various CRO strategies (conversion rate optimization) can be used to achieve this. Here are some strategies you may use for conversion rate optimization:

  • Include a money-back guarantee of 30 days
  • Provide a free trial (or a $1 trial to demonstrate intent)
  • Provide a pricing scheme based on performance
  • Include a customer support chat option for last-minute objections
  • Provide a FAQ section comprised of last-minute complaints
  • Add reviews to the area around your purchase page

Marketing Funnel Examples

Let’s now have a look at some simple marketing funnel examples to illustrate how it may work. A marketing funnel or purchasing funnel might describe someone who goes through the buying process as follows: 

  • Starting from a blog post to an email list which leads to a conversion
  • Seeing a Facebook ad and clicking to see the landing page leads to a conversion
  • Checking a podcast ad, then going to the blog post resulting in a conversion

Essentially, when your clients buy goods or services from you online, you already have a marketing funnel, even if differing from these marketing funnel examples.

Bear in mind that, while your marketing plan and strategy may appear to be extremely obvious and easy on paper, it is not usually so linear in real life. As customers go through your marketing funnel, they frequently experience regressions and leaps.

In the marketing funnel below, for example, despite the fact that both Customer A and Customer B came in through content marketing, they had quite distinct customer journeys and experienced the purchasing funnel in very different ways:

Marketing Funnel Examples

Conclusion

Make no mistake: Building a sales and marketing funnel following the process outlined above is a difficult task. This isn’t a job you’ll do in one day; it’s something you’ll want to work on as long as your firm is in operation.

Developing a marketing funnel is not an easy task, but it is one of the few possibilities you have to significantly enhance your efficiency and effectiveness and optimize conversion.

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