What is a marketing funnel and why is it important?

What is a marketing funnel and why is it important?

Here’s a funnel. Functionally this funnel takes matter in at the top to achieve a desired outcome while minimising wastage. Whether it’s filling up oil in a car, or making sloe gin.

What is a marketing funnel? They work in a very similar way. You construct a process-flow that helps transform the stuff you put into the top into an intended outcome: selling mor

If you have a short attention span, you are excused at this point to go and watch Stranger Things on Netflix.

If you fancy understanding how you go about designing a funnel to sell more stuff, then read on…


Components of a marketing funnel

Marketing funnels are designed to reflect the journey that buyers go on. You can read about the buyer’s journey in this blog post from a couple of months ago. The organisation’s response to this buyer’s journey, if you subscribe to HubSpot’s preachings in this area, is to follow the inbound marketing methodology. The buyer’s journey is the process that they go through, the inbound methodology is the process you go through. It’s a useful framework that helps you structure your thinking to create content that speaks to the buyer in the right way at the right time.

The following table shows you how the marketing funnel stage, buyer’s journey and the inbound methodology correspond with each other.

Funnel stage Buyer’s journey stage Inbound methodology
Top of the funnel Awareness Attract
Middle of the funnel Consideration Convert
Bottom of the funnel Decision Close

You’ll see some funnels segmented by buyer’s journey and some by inbound methodology. Some fancy pants bloggers and ‘social gurus’ may actually integrate both elements into their models. In all honesty, what you call the constituent bits is irrelevant. Much like when it comes to campaign execution – content is king!


Top of the funnel  – attracting visitors

The top of the funnel is all about bringing in visitors to your website. You do this using a pretty formulaic approach that you adapt for your business and the types of people who buy your products and services (personas).

Keyword research – figuring out the search terms that the people who might buy your stuff are putting into Google to get help. At this point, they’re currently experiencing symptoms of a problem – so think about what people may search for when they’re in that position.

Creating content based on that keyword – putting out compelling blogs, social media posts, infographics or videos that are: contentious, provocative, useful, educational, or handy. Make sure that any blogs are based on SEO best practice.

The idea being here that if you’ve done your research correctly, and you create compelling content that speaks to that keyword, then you’ll rank. Massively simplified, but for the purposes of a blog post – let’s go for it.


Middle of the funnel – converting visitors to leads

The middle of the funnel is the first part of the conversion process. You might see this referred to as the process of becoming a marketing qualified lead.

Ultimately, what you’re trying to do here is  leverage the visitors you have on your site. Because of your awesome blog posts you have people coming to your site, and you want to turn them into leads. You use call-to-action (CTA) banners that are well aligned within or at the side of blog posts to entice people to click on them. These CTA banners should link to a landing page, which has a form for people to download some premium content. This should be content which gives them enough value to want to exchange their email for it. Keep front and centre in your mind that people don’t go giving away their email willy nilly these days, so it needs to be something that will deliver significant value.

The reason for getting them to fill a form is two fold. Obviously you want to give them the content that’s going to deliver more value to move them along in their journey – it’s obviously in your interest to generate value for them, as it generates trust and goodwill for your brand and makes them more likely to buy from you. If you’re using some half decent marketing automation software, the other benefit of this approach is that you’ll drop a cookie on their device. This will make their past and future engagements with your website transparent at the contact level. So you’ll be able to see which pages they visit, how often etc.

This is where you look to leverage this cookie tracking by creating some fancy automations that assign scores to each one of these behaviours to figure out who is is a lead and who just wanted some information. We’ll cover lead scoring in another blog post, as it’s really good!


Bottom of the funnel – close

OK this is the nitty gritty – this is where leads become sales qualified and sales accepted. Their behaviour is clear for everyone to see, and sales will probably get involved here.

Marketing doesn’t bow out gracefully though. Sales will still need the right content to help nurture the prospect to close. You can also use specific automations to drive that content to them in a way that runs like clockwork. Think specifically what kind of content people need when making a decision to buy something. Testimonials, reviews, comparisons, technical specs, key feature documents, sales promotions. Loads of stuff you’re probably already doing falls in this category, that’s because many organisation’s marketing has been stuck at the decision stage and not really accommodated any of those all important early funnel activities.


Putting it all together

Here are a few tips to pull it all together.

  • Be holistic – when you design a funnel, make sure it accommodates all the stages we mentioned above. You don’t want to fall over early doors because you haven’t put the keyword research graft in or later doors because you didn’t think about what content people would need to receive to feel comfortable in parting with hard-earned cash.
  • See it through – getting this stuff going takes time. You won’t get results overnight. Allow a minimum of 6-9 months to see progress once you’ve got content published. The prize at the end is definitely worth the effort: a repeatable, scalable lead generation and business development engine. So stick with it!
  • Keep it tight – make sure that your funnel is tight. By that, we mean that the attraction content aligns with the conversion content, which aligns with the closing content. As a result, it’s commonplace for companies doing this well to have a number of different funnels that align with different potential buyers (personas again), vertical markets or products and services.

Confused? Don’t be. If you need help, reach out to us for a chat. Alternatively, fill in our inbound marketing audit and we’ll give you some free tips specific to your individual circumstances.