What Is the Marketing Funnel?
Simply put, the marketing funnel is a commerce model that illustrates the different stages a prospect goes through on their journey towards becoming a customer. It provides a structure for businesses to guide prospects through the buying process, build relationships with them, and ultimately generate revenue by converting them into customers. Simultaneously, the funnel helps brands identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions about their marketing strategy.
The marketing funnel is typically divided into three primary stages — top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU) — each representing a different level of prospect engagement. At each stage, prospects have different needs and goals. Based on position in the funnel, a brand then tailors its messaging and tactics accordingly. We’ll look at this more closely later in this article.
Marketing Funnel Key Concepts and Terms
Before we dive in deeper, here are some additional key concepts and terms associated with the marketing funnel that are worth knowing:
- Leads: Prospective customers who have shown interest in your product or service, typically by providing their contact information (e.g., email address, phone number, etc.).
- Conversions: Specific actions that prospects take that move them closer to becoming a customer, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or scheduling a consultation.
- Funnel drop-off: The point at which prospects disengage or lose interest in the marketing funnel, often due to poor messaging, a lack of value, or a failure to meet their needs.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of prospects who complete a desired action (e.g., make a purchase) out of the total number of prospects who were exposed to the marketing campaign.
- Key performance indicators (KPIs): Metrics that businesses use to measure the success of their marketing campaigns, such as website traffic, lead generation, and conversion rates.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV): The amount of revenue that a customer is expected to generate over their lifetime of doing business with a company.
- Retargeting: A technique used in online advertising where businesses show ads to people who have already engaged with their brand or visited their website in order to encourage them to return and complete a desired action.
The Importance of the Marketing Funnel for Small and Medium-size Businesses
Despite its relative simplicity, the marketing funnel can be an incredibly valuable tool for small and medium-sized businesses, providing strategic guidance that is both universally applicable and functionally viable. Here are a few ways that the funnel can help one’s marketing operation:
- Clarifying goals and strategies: By breaking down the customer journey into distinct stages, the marketing funnel can help businesses identify their goals and strategies for each stage. It also helps ensure that marketing efforts are aligned with business objectives, and it can help maximize ROI.
- Better understanding customer needs: The marketing funnel encourages businesses to focus on the needs and interests of their customers at each stage. By tailoring their messaging and tactics to address these needs, brands can build stronger relationships with customers and increase the chances of conversion.
- Improving targeting and segmentation: Identifying different segments of your target audience can be tricky. The marketing funnel comes to the rescue by helping businesses create more targeted and personalized messaging that resonates with each segment and increases the chances of conversion.
- Optimizing conversion rates: By tracking metrics like conversion rates and drop-off rates at each stage of the funnel, brands can identify areas where they may be losing potential customers and take steps to address these issues. That insight can help to improve overall conversion rates and maximize revenue and profitability.
- Increasing customer lifetime value: The marketing funnel emphasizes the importance of building relationships with customers over the long term. By providing valuable content and personalized messaging throughout the funnel, businesses can foster customer loyalty and encourage repeat purchases, ultimately increasing customer lifetime value.
Marketing Funnel Stages and Conversions
The marketing funnel by nature is tightly linked to conversion goals — after all, the intent of the model is to align processes with results. The conversion goals for each stage of the marketing funnel vary depending on the specific business and industry, but here are some commonalities for each stage:
Top of the funnel (TOFU)
- Prospect status: Prospects are just beginning to explore their options and are not yet ready to make a purchase.
- Primary goal: To attract and engage potential customers
- Channels/vehicles: Content marketing, social media, and other channels.
- Business focus: Creating valuable, educational content that addresses prospects' pain points and interests.
- Conversion goals: Typically aimed at building awareness and interest in the brand. Common conversion goals for this stage include::
- Email sign-ups for newsletters or other email marketing campaigns.
- Social media follows and engagement, such as likes, shares, and comments.
- Downloads of free resources like eBooks, whitepapers, or reports.
- Views of blog articles, videos, or other content.
- Key success metric: Website traffic. Businesses want to drive as many potential customers to their site as possible. Other trackable metrics include social media engagement, email signups, and other indicators of interest and engagement.
Middle of the funnel (MOFU)
- Prospect status: Prospects have demonstrated some level of interest in the brand and are starting to consider their options in more detail.
- Primary goal: To nurture leads by providing valuable content and building relationships.
- Channels/vehicles: ebooks, webinars, case studies, or other forms of content that provide in-depth information and insights.
- Business focus: Creating more targeted content that speaks directly to the needs and interests of their prospects.
- Conversion goals: Typically aimed at building trust and further educating potential customers about the brand's value. Common conversion goals include:
- Free trials or demos of products or services.
- Registrations for webinars or other online events.
- Submissions of contact forms for more information or to speak with a representative.
- Downloads of more detailed resources like case studies or product guides.
- Key success metric: Lead generation. Businesses want to capture contact information from prospects who are interested in learning more. Other metrics that may be tracked include email open rates, click-through rates, and other indicators of engagement.
Bottom of the funnel (BOFU):
- Prospect status: Prospects have indicated a strong interest in the brand and are ready to make a purchase.
- Primary goal: To convert leads into customers by providing targeted messaging and offers.
- Channels/vehicles: Special promotions, personalized offers, or other incentives to encourage prospects to take action.
- Business focus: Creating messaging and offers that speak directly to the needs and interests of their most qualified leads.
- Conversion goals: Typically aimed at removing any remaining barriers to conversion and encouraging action. Common conversion goals include:
- Purchases of products or services.
- Requests for quotes or proposals.
- Bookings for consultations or appointments.
- Referrals or recommendations to other potential customers.
- Key success metric: Conversion rate. Businesses want to maximize the percentage of leads who become paying customers. Other metrics that may be tracked include average order value, customer lifetime value, and other indicators of revenue and profitability.
Marketing Funnel Key Metrics
Conversion goals are easily set but not always so easy to reach. Tracking key metrics for each stage of the marketing funnel is essential for understanding how well your marketing efforts are working and where improvements can be made. Some key metrics to track for each stage of the marketing funnel:
- Impressions: The number of times an ad or piece of content is displayed to potential customers.
- Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked on an ad or piece of content after seeing it.
- Website traffic: The number of people who visited the website after clicking on an ad or piece of content.
- Social media engagement: The number of likes, comments, shares, and follows on social media platforms.
- Landing page conversion rate: The percentage of people who complete a desired action, such as filling out a form, after landing on a specific page.
- Email open rate: The percentage of people who opened an email from the business.
- Email click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked on a link in an email from the business.
- Webinar registration rate: The percentage of people who register for a webinar or other online event.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of people who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or booking a consultation.
- Average order value: The average amount of money spent per order.
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC): The total cost of acquiring a new customer, including marketing and advertising expenses.
- Customer lifetime value (LTV): The total amount of money a customer is expected to spend with the business over their lifetime.
Tracking these metrics can help your business identify areas where it may be losing potential customers so you can take steps to address these issues. By optimizing metrics at each stage of the funnel, you can increase the chances of conversion and ultimately drive revenue and growth.
Strategies for Each Stage of the Marketing Funnel
Once you’ve determined your conversion goals and the key metrics you’ll use for analysis, evaluation, and improvement, you’re ready to figure out how to bring it all together. Effective marketing strategies at each stage of the funnel will help you move potential customers through the funnel and ultimately convert them into paying customers. Key strategies for each stage:
- Define your target audience: Understand who your potential customers are, what their pain points are, and what they're looking for in a solution.
- Create valuable content: Produce content that resonates with your target audience, such as blog posts, social media content, and videos.
- Leverage social media: Use social media platforms to engage with your target audience, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website.
- Optimize for search: Use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to increase visibility in search engine results pages and drive more traffic to your website.
- Build trust: Provide valuable information and resources to potential customers to build trust and establish your brand as an authority in your industry.
- Personalize communication: Use marketing automation tools to send targeted emails and messages to potential customers based on their interests and behavior.
- Offer free trials or demos: Allow potential customers to try your products or services before committing to a purchase.
- Create case studies and customer testimonials: Highlight successful customer experiences to further build trust and show the value of your products or services.
- Provide clear calls-to-action (CTAs): Use compelling and clear CTAs to encourage potential customers to take action and convert.
- Simplify the purchasing process: Make it easy for potential customers to make a purchase or book a consultation by streamlining the checkout process.
- Offer discounts or incentives: Use promotions or discounts to incentivize potential customers to convert.
- Follow up with customers: Continue to engage with and nurture customers after conversion to increase customer loyalty and encourage referrals.
Marketing Funnel Versatility
As you can readily see at this point, the flexible framework of the marketing funnel can be adapted to the specific needs and goals of different industries and businesses. When it comes to B2B (business-to-business) vs B2C (business-to-consumer) brands, for example, that versatility plays out in a few key ways:
- Target audience: B2B brands typically target other businesses or professionals, while B2C brands target individual consumers.
- Sales cycle: The sales cycle for B2B brands is often longer and more complex than that of B2C brands. B2B purchases may involve multiple decision-makers, require approval from different departments, and involve more research and consideration.
- Lead generation: B2B brands often rely on lead generation tactics such as email marketing, webinars, and whitepapers to attract potential customers, while B2C brands may use social media advertising and influencer marketing.
- Content: The content that B2B and B2C brands produce may differ in tone, style, and level of complexity. B2B brands may produce more technical or specialized content, while B2C brands may focus on more visually appealing and emotionally resonant content.
- Conversion goals: B2B brands often prioritize lead generation, nurturing, and qualification over immediate sales, while B2C brands may focus more heavily on driving immediate purchases.
Along those lines, here are some examples of marketing funnels for different industries:
- E-commerce: A marketing funnel for an e-commerce business might include attracting potential customers through social media advertising or influencer partnerships, guiding them to a landing page or product page, and incentivizing them to make a purchase through discounts or promotions.
- SaaS: A marketing funnel for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business might include attracting potential customers through content marketing or search engine advertising, capturing their contact information through a landing page or free trial sign-up, nurturing them through targeted emails or personalized demos, and encouraging them to upgrade to a paid subscription.
- Real Estate: A marketing funnel for a real estate business might include attracting potential buyers or sellers through search engine advertising or social media ads, capturing their contact information through a landing page or contact form, nurturing them through personalized emails or follow-up calls, and guiding them to a successful sale or purchase.
- Consulting: A marketing funnel for a consulting business could include attracting potential clients through thought leadership content or referral programs, capturing their contact information through a consultation sign-up or contact form, nurturing them through personalized emails or follow-up calls, and converting them to a paid engagement through a proposal or contract.
One company that has successfully used a marketing funnel is HubSpot, a leading provider of inbound marketing and sales software. HubSpot's marketing funnel focuses on attracting potential customers through educational content, nurturing them through personalized email campaigns, and converting them to paid subscribers through targeted sales outreach. Here's a breakdown of how HubSpot's marketing funnel works:
- Attract: HubSpot uses a variety of tactics to attract potential customers to its website, including blogging, social media, and search engine optimization. Once on the website, visitors are encouraged to download free educational content such as e-books and whitepapers in exchange for their contact information.
- Nurture: Once HubSpot has captured a visitor's contact information, it uses personalized email campaigns to nurture them over time. These campaigns are tailored to the individual's interests and behavior, and provide educational content on topics related to inbound marketing and sales.
- Convert: When a prospect is ready to buy, HubSpot's sales team reaches out with a targeted sales pitch. The sales team uses the prospect's behavior and engagement data to personalize the sales pitch and guide them through the sales process.
This approach has been highly successful for HubSpot, driving significant revenue growth and establishing the company as a leader in the inbound marketing space. In the spirit of emulation, some key takeaways from HubSpot's marketing funnel include:
- Content is key: HubSpot's success is largely driven by its high-quality educational content. By providing value to potential customers through free educational resources, HubSpot is able to attract and engage prospects in a meaningful way.
- Personalization is crucial: HubSpot's use of personalized email campaigns and sales outreach is a key factor in its success. By tailoring communications to each individual's interests and behavior, HubSpot is able to build stronger relationships and drive conversions.
- Data-driven insights are essential: HubSpot's use of data to guide its marketing and sales efforts is a critical factor in its success. By tracking visitor behavior and engagement data, HubSpot is able to tailor its approach and provide a more personalized experience for prospects and customers.
The Marketing Funnel and Snapchat
Snapchat’s advertiser experience relies heavily on the Snapchat marketing funnel, which informs the process of defining the objective a business builds its campaign upon. Here’s what our marketing funnel looks like, each correlating to the classic TOFU/MOFU/BOFU model:
- Awareness: The first stage of the funnel is creating awareness among Snapchat users. This can be done by using Snapchat ads such as Story Ads or Filter Ads. These ads should be visually appealing and designed to grab the attention of the target audience.
- Consideration: Once users are aware of the product or service, the next stage is to encourage consideration. This can be achieved through sponsored lenses or filters, which allow users to interact with the brand in a playful and engaging way. Brands can also use targeted messaging to send personalized messages to users who have interacted with their ads, inviting them to learn more about the product or service.
- Conversion: The final stage of the funnel is conversion, where users are encouraged to take a specific action such as making a purchase or signing up for a service. This can be achieved through the use of direct response ads, which prompt users to take a specific action such as downloading an app or visiting a website.
Snapchat Ads give you everything your business needs to create visually appealing and engaging ads that help you resonate with your target audience, encourage consideration and conversion, and drive real results.