What is a marketing funnel?

7 min read
Leighton Burley

One of the most frustrating things for many small business owners is not being able to make enough sales. You may offer a great product or provide better services than your competition and still find it hard to get more customers or clients. If this sounds familiar, then you might want to look into creating a marketing funnel.

In this article, we will take a closer look at marketing funnels, and the practical ways that you can start using them to make more sales.

Editor’s note: A business website is a key part of any marketing funnel. Launch one today with our 30-day risk-free trial. Includes all you need to promote your product or service widely — social, search, the works.

Tactics for the 4 stages of the sales funnel

Once you understand the process that leads or prospective customers go through to actually buy your product or service, you can get more of them to say yes.

  1. Awareness.
  2. Interest.
  3. Consideration.
  4. Conversion.

First, let’s explain exactly what a marketing funnel is.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a phrase that is often used to describe the process customers go through with your business, from first learning about you to becoming a loyal client.

The funnel starts out wide and gradually narrows to a small pool of really interested buyers.

Marketing Funnel Ahrefs Infographic
Image: Ahrefs

For example, if you think of pouring water through a funnel, the whole concept becomes much more simple. You’ll find that it’s quite easy to pour water into the broad top of the funnel. All of the water will run through the funnel to the target destination.

In the same way, you’ll make your job much easier by using a marketing funnel. Marketing funnels will help limit how many potential customers you “spill,” and this will help you avoid losing business.

The four stages prospects go through to become customers

Every marketing funnel has four stages that can be used by even the smallest businesses to grow:

  1. Awareness. The prospect has become aware that they have a problem and are searching for possible solutions to it.
  2. Interest. The lead has started to do some research and shows interest in particular solutions to their problems.
  3. Consideration. The prospect has begun to consider your product or service as a solution to their problem.
  4. Conversion. The prospect becomes a customer by buying your product or service.

We will be taking a closer look at each of these steps and show various strategies you can use to increase the number of prospects who become customers.

Practical ways to start bringing in more clients

Here we will give you different ideas that you can use to increase success at every stage of the funnel.

Stage 1. Awareness

The first stage of the marketing funnel is called the awareness stage because before you can make a sale, your customers must know about your products or services.

Future customer could become aware of your business in several ways. For example, they might:

  • Read an article you published online
  • Listen to a podcast that mentions your business or products
  • Notice a Facebook ad you paid for
  • Search Google for an answer to their problem and your website comes up
  • Watch a YouTube video that your business is in

There are many different ways that your business can start to raise awareness about the problems that you solve.

Your goal at this stage is to focus on the problem while persuading these people that their problems can be solved. You’ll then educate your potential customers on the best ways to solve their issues and connect the solutions with your products or services.

While these people will likely not buy at this stage, you’ll still have placed a mental note in their minds.

So when they have this problem in the future, they’ll think of your business and remember it can solve this issue.

Stage 2. Interest

The second stage of the marketing funnel is called the interest stage because this is when a potential customers becomes interested. They will continue to research solutions to their problem and dig deeper into the best options for them.

In this stage, you want to pique their curiosity about your business and how your products or services work.

You’ll want to be gentle when you nudge your potential leads, because if you push them too hard they will simply leave. Then the memory they will have of your brand is of a pushy business.

Instead, you’ll want to find ways that you can educate them on the best ways to solve their problems. This is called content marketing and you can learn how to do it here. While you’re educating them, you can show them how much easier/faster/cheaper/more effective it is to resolve their issues with your products.

The goal here is to keep them interested in your business.

Even though they may not be prepared to buy from you yet, you’re slowly building trust and that goes a long way when it comes to the last two stages.

Stage 3. Consideration

At this stage, your prospects know that they have a problem, and they know what the solution is. But they still haven’t decided which business to use to solve the problem.

Marketing Funnel Man Standing Near Arrows
It never hurts to reach out one more time — this could be the moment they choose you.                    Photo: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

There are many other companies out there just like you who are trying to win these same leads. Even though the prospective customer knows who you are and what you are offering, it doesn’t mean they will choose you.

The chances are high that they will be considering multiple options, especially if it’s a big purchase or something that is sensitive to them in some way.

Your job at this stage is to help convince them to choose you.

Here are several ways that you can do this:

  • Give them solid reasons why your solution is the best of all those available
  • Answer all the questions they have so you’re the “expert”
  • Create a lead nurturing system to help nudge them closer to yes
  • Use trust from the last few stages to build a relationship

These are just some of the ways that you can help convince your prospects that your business is the right choice. But overall, a good product or service and trustworthy advice will go the distance with a lot of leads.

Stage 4. Conversion

In the final stage of the marketing funnel, you’ll have to give your leads one last nudge to finally turn them into customers.

Marketing Funnel Man with Wallet Out
Those who are still with you at this stage are likely to buy, so pay attention.

There are many ways that you can remove friction from this last stage so that it’s easy for your prospects to buy after they have decided to choose you:

  • Use urgency to nudge them (for example, with timed offers or limited quantities)
  • Create a checkout process that’s simple and includes a guest checkout option
  • Offer discounts on their first purchase (similar to Spotify’s 3-month plan for $0.99)

These are just some of the ways that you can get the small group of leads who make it to stage 4 to actually sign up or make a purchase.

In time, the funnel feeds itself

As you can probably guess, the customers you have now all went through the marketing funnel on their own. But by being aware of it and using a few tactics at key places, you can make your funnel yield even more sales or signups.

Always remember to begin with little steps and patch any “leaks” in your marketing funnel so that you lose fewer prospects along the way. Try to focus on creating a simple funnel, then fix any issues you find.

In time, your funnel will begin to yield repeat customers who actually draw new leads into the top of the funnel through word of mouth and online ratings. Let the cycle begin!