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How to Create a Marketing Funnel: A Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing

In many companies, marketing and sales are two competing teams and they implement their strategies and activities independently of each other.

Both teams complement each other, and should work together. To make this easier, it’s important to define a marketing funnel: a common marketing and sales funnel showing the path of a user from showing interest to becoming a paying customer.

In marketing, we use different models to define the user's path to the customer:

  • The AIDA model

  • The inbound methodology

  • Customer Journey Touchpoints

  • The Moments of Truth from Google or

  • Their successor, Micro Moments


Figure 1: Moments that every marketer should be aware of (Quelle: ThinkwithGoogle.com)

Depending upon the model you choose to go by, you will have to deal with three to seven different names for each phase:

  • (Passive) – Attention – Interest – Demand – Action

  • (Passive) – Awareness – Interest – Evaluation – Purchase

  • (Passive) – Attract – Convert – Close – Delight

  • Strangers – Visitors – Leads – Prospects – Clients – Promoters – Advocates

  • Know – Go – Do – Buy

  • Target – Engage – Convert

These are a mix of traditional models for advertising effectiveness, and new digital marketing models. These models all have one thing in common: They represent the path of the user from awareness of the product to consideration, the decision to purchase and to becoming a customer, as well as the channels and contact points that contributed to this.

The marketing and sales funnel is a system that defines the optimal process to motivate as many contacts as possible to follow through the individual steps up until completion. The content and interaction of the different channels plays an important role in differentiating the individual phases and targeting users in the funnel.

An example of this kind of funnel can be seen in the screenshot below. In the upper area of the funnel, the user is in the research mode. They are looking for information and a solution to a question or problem that concerns them. In your marketing and sales funnel, you can get this user by utilising both push and pull marketing activities.

The first contact the user makes is with content from a remarketing list for the various advertising platforms, which are at the top of the funnel. You can now try encouraging the user to go one step further using targeted remarketing ads. Things like eBooks, templates and other information that promise the user added value and which they can keep are very helpful. Users are labelled as interested parties when they not only interact with the content, but are also willing to provide personal information.

In the final stage of the marketing and sales funnel, the collected user data is enhanced and segmented according to the various criteria. Based on user behaviour, automated marketing tries to convince this ready-to-buy target group to make the purchase.

You should accompany the user individually through each of the phases by using the relevant channels and delivering appropriate content. Let's apply the funnel shown to a simplified example for SEO, even though the progression for each phase will clearly never be so straightforward across a given channel.


Figure 2: Example of a funnel in the SEO sector. (Quelle: Chimpify.de)

The information-driven search queries are located at the top of the funnel. For example, if a user performs a search for "how do I get more visitors to my website?" and ends up at the "search engine optimisation" entry in the Ryte Wiki.

On the Wiki page, the user is then offered the "Better Websitess" eBook. They can download the eBook once they have entered their data. Through the branding in the eBook, the user recognizes that Ryte is a brand and tool, and it will stay in the mind of the user.

Now that they have read more about the topic, the user understands that what their website needs is to be better optimized, and that there is a tool to help with this. They remember the tool name, but not the domain. So with "Ryte SEO Tool", they start a navigation-driven search query in the middle part of the funnel. They end up on the landing page of the free tools for smart webmasters, then they sign up for a test account.

After using it for some time and have seen the obvious added value for their requirements, they make the decision to purchase. Before that, the user performs the transaction-oriented search query "Ryte Discount Code", indicating their buying interest and with that they are placed in the lower part of the funnel.

Content: Central component of the segmentation

In order to segment users and categorize them into the different levels of the marketing funnel, it is essential to have a CRM system. These segments are also referred to as cold, warm and hot leads.

In order to determine which segment a user in the CRM database belongs in, a lead scoring model is needed. In it, the company awards an appropriate amount of points based on the actions of the user.

For example:

  • +1 point for reading a blog article

  • +1 point for opening the newsletter and clicking on it

  • +4 points for viewing a product page longer than 4 minutes

  • +5 points for participating in the webinar

  • +10 points for viewing sub-pages with prices more than 3x

  • +20 points for registering for a free account

  • +50 points for requesting an individual offer

Depending on how many points a contact collects within a certain period of time, they are assigned to a corresponding segment. Based on this, lead nurturing measures and activities are carried out that should provide interested parties with relevant information at just the right time. This is so that further qualification or categorising of the lead can be done based on the respective phase of the purchase decision process.

In order to be able to set up rule-based processes, you should first create the right content for each of the individual phases. Then you have to record and evaluate this information using a central CRM system. Content and user interactions with the various formats are a necessary part of lead scoring and segmentation. It is therefore recommended that marketing and sales staff work together to set up a scoring model that includes the requirements different audiences have, what information is needed for the sales process, and what the solution they are delivering looks like.

For example, when a user downloads the eBook "Better Websites", the information entered is sent to the CRM system. If there are additional contact points with this user, these are also added included in their CRM profile. When they attend a webinar, click on the newsletter, are interested in certain product features, etc., the profile of the user is created bit by bit, helping the marketing and sales team to focus on the topics and functions that users are interested in.


Figure 3: Illustration of a lead scoring model. (Quelle: GetCRM.com)

Marketing Automation as the Fuel

In order to guide users through individual stages of the funnel, a marketing automation software can be used. However, for most all-in-one solutions, you cannot expect true marketing automation across all channels. What this buzzword usually means is email marketing automation: the marketing automation tool links CRM data and triggers specific e-mail marketing campaigns based on defined process flows.

Some examples of such processes:

  • A user clicks on a product page and is then tagged and entered in the CRM system as "interested in the product". The process then starts and they receive a defined email one day after the product is viewed. Depending on how he reacts, such as whether or not he opens / clicks the email, there are further steps to be taken in the process.

  • A user who buys a specific product, but not the matching accessories, will be given a product tag in the CRM system, but no accessory tag. They will receive an email with information on accessory products within a specified period of time for the purpose of cross-selling or upselling.

  • A customer who has an average NPS score is then tagged accordingly. This tag triggers an email to the sales / support team that contains all the necessary information in the CRM for contacting the customer.


Abbildung 4: Example of process flow using marketing automation. (Source: Active Campaign)

As you can see in the examples above, these are all email automations. Therefore, the aim is to bring the user to the next level of the marketing funnel through just one channel. If you link your CRM system to a 3rd party tool like LeadsBridge, you then also have the option to use retargeting based on your CRM data. You're also targeting user segments in a particular level of the marketing funnel with Facebook Ads and other ad networks.

How to Plan Your Marketing Funnel

When planning your funnel, you will never be able to perfectly foresee the individual steps in advance. Just as with conversion optimization, you work with ideas and concepts on how to most efficiently motivate your various target groups to go from being the interested user to becoming a buyer.

However, investing the time to develop a well thought out funnel is definitely worth it. This will usually reduce the acquisition costs of a customer as it does not attempt to make a sale right from the outset. My example funnel starts with the first contact being made with a blog article, followed by the application of a webinar and that leads to the downloading an eBook, templates, cheat sheets, a presentation or other resources that have added value for the user.

Only after the third point of contact in the funnel is the user led to a first sale attempt. With a multi-level cross-platform remarketing concept with different messages, the user is led from the order and upsell through to the thank you page after completing the purchase.

With that, you now have a basis set up for your possible funnel. Normally, this will look different for each of the applications.

Some examples of funnel types:

  • Webinar Funnel

  • Auto-Webinar Funnel

  • Opt-In Lead Funnel

  • (Pre-)Launch Funnel

  • Sales Funnel

  • Membership Funnel

  • Event Funnel

  • Activation Funnel


Abbildung 5: Example of a marketing funnel (Source: Florian Hieß, erstellt mit Funnelytics.io)

Optimize the Marketing Funnel

You should test each individual step of the marketing funnel and use the results to derive the basis for your setup, implement new test concepts and once again collect data.

Depending on which test stage you are in, there are different application points. At the beginning, you will notice a clear learning curve in the actions taken and learn a lot about your targeting setup, your messages, budget limits and how each of the target groups respond to them.

After that, the revisions are made based on these first learnings and you can focus on the fine tuning. If your targeting and the first stages of the funnel work well, you should focus on testing different messages, images, landing pages, offers, etc. Depending on how much traffic and conversions you can generate in your funnel, you will get faster results. Therefore, it can take several weeks or even months to gather insights from the optimization variants for complex products with long decision-making phases.


Abbildung 6: 6 phases of conversion funnel optimization (Source: Samselocity.com)

It’s also possible that a previously tested procedure might not work as well from one day to the next, and that the results are not satisfactory. This is quite normal because the target group will become weary of the messages, pictures and ad copy after a while, and these will then perform more poorly. In this case, only one thing helps: Continue testing.

Conclusion: Why marketing funnels are important for your business

After reading this article, you should now see why marketing funnels are important for your business. Setting up such processes and team-wide collaboration between individuals and teams can often lead to company restructuring and resistance, but planning and controlling online marketing channels individually will only lead to mediocre results.

Many synergy effects are left behind, the user is not introduced to a product or service in a standardized way, but instead through each individual channel. This in turn leads to waste and poor marketing budget efficiency, unless a single system and a common business goal is used. A marketing funnel helps you to guide your ideal customers through your sales process by means of a well-thought-out and consistent system that includes all relevant channels.

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Published on May 14, 2018 by Florian Hieß