Marketing Funnel Guide

Use this guide to better understand what a marketing funnel is, how they work, and how to create your own funnel to grow your business.

What is a Marketing Funnel? 

A marketing funnel is a series of marketing strategies designed to guide a customer toward a purchase. Marketing funnels utilize a variety of tactics from social media marketing to sales techniques in order to entice someone to become a customer from the first moment they discover your brand, to the moment they complete their purchase.
Marketing funnel stages graphic
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Marketing Funnel Stages

Marketing funnels act as a strategic framework for organizing your marketing tactics, and giving each of them a specific goal in terms of the role they play in your brand’s customer journey.

Marketing funnels start by making a potential customer aware of your company, and then go on to educate them about your brand and its products in order to convince them to convert into a customer.

While every funnel is unique because every brand’s customer journey is unique, there are three main marketing funnel stages that are typically used to map customer journeys at a high level
  1. Top of funnel
  2. Middle of funnel
  3. Bottom of Funnel
Learn more in this blog post about marketing funnel stages.

Top of Funnel Marketing

Top of funnel marketing graphic
The first stage is the awareness stage, commonly referred to as top of funnel. This is where companies attempt to make their target audience aware of their brand and its products, and establish a relationship with potential customers.

Top of Funnel marketing tactics like social media marketing, blogging, and PR can be leveraged to make a first impression with your audience. These tactics are designed to serve as an introduction to your company for potential customers, and to entice them to check out your mid funnel marketing tactics that go deeper into education about the company and products. This is why it’s common to see mid funnel marketing content like white papers, videos, and website landing pages promoted on social media and in blog posts, because that brand is trying to use its top of funnel channels to drive leads to the next stage in its marketing funnel.

Check out these top of funnel marketing tips to improve your brand’s strategy at the initial awareness stage of the customer journey.

Mid Funnel Marketing

Mid funnel marketing graphic
Mid funnel marketing is the education stage of the funnel. This is where companies create in-depth content that teaches potential customers about the company’s industry, the company itself, and its product offering. 
This educational content should both position the brand as a trustworthy thought leader in their industry, and provide valuable information for customer leads to engage with. Value is a key phrase for this funnel stage, as mid funnel is where potential leads can either continue on to become a customer in the next funnel stage, or leave your funnel altogether (aka stop engaging with your brand and its content). 

Thought Leadership Content
Ensure the content you create for this stage is high quality, thought provoking, and leaves the lead walking away with value. This value can come in the form of useful information like tips, how-to advice, or insights about your industry. 

Company and Product Information
The other way you can provide value at this stage is helping the customer to learn more about your company and products. They’ve come this far having engaged with your top of funnel channels and reached a new level of content, so their interest has at least peaked. Take advantage of this by providing them with another level of information about what your company does and why they should trust you over your competitors.
Check out these mid funnel marketing tactics to create a stronger bridge between your marketing funnel stages.  

Bottom of Funnel Marketing

Bottom of funnel marketing graphic
Bottom of funnel is the stage where leads convert into customers. This is typically accomplished through a point of sale like an online ecommerce store, or a CRM platform. 

Your goal at the bottom of your marketing funnel should be providing direct product information that will convince someone to make a purchase. Bottom of funnel is the most direct stage, and leads that reach this point have already consumed fluffier top of funnel content marketing and mid funnel thought leadership content. They’ve indicated interest in your brand and products by reaching your point of sale, so don’t waste their time with lighter content that takes them back a funnel stage.

Bottom of funnel content like product listings on an ecommerce store, product catalogs, and competitor product comparisons should present customers who are debating a purchase with information on the value your products deliver. 

Check out these bottom of funnel marketing tactics to strengthen customer conversions.

Marketing Funnel Definitions

Use this list of common phrases and definitions associated with marketing funnels to better understand them.

Marketing Funnel

A phrase used to refer to a set of connected marketing and sales strategies that are designed to work together to make people aware of a product and drive them to make a purchase. 
The strategies that make up a brand’s marketing funnel are set up to serve as a sequence of marketing content pieces or strategies that take a lead from one stage to the next until they purchase something. A simple example of this would be a three part marketing funnel with: 

1. A social media platform where people first learn about a company and its products
2. A blog post where people learn further details about the product, and
3. A product landing page where people get even more detail, and can actually purchase the product. 

In this example, those three connected funnel stages ‘funnel’ a lead from one stage to the next until they make a purchase. 

Lead

When people talk about marketing funnels, you will hear the phrase ‘lead’ thrown around a lot. In this case, lead means a customer lead, or a potential customer. Marketing funnels are designed to target leads (potential customers) and to educate them about the product in an effort to persuade them to become a customer. 

Lead Generation

The act of generating, or attracting potential customers, or leads. Lead generation strategies typically utilize top of funnel and mid funnel marketing strategies to attract brand new leads and to start educating them about a brand and its products, aka entering them into the brands marketing funnel.

Conversion

A conversion, or lead conversion, occurs when a customer (lead) makes a purchase. Lead conversions are the goal of a marketing funnel, and can be unique for every company. A conversation for a B2C brand might mean that a customer made a purchase on their website, while a lead conversion for a content publishing company like a blog might mean that someone clicked one of their ads, or signed up for a newsletter.
Marketing funnels are designed to guide people toward places where they can convert, or become a customer.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is the act of measuring or estimating how likely a lead is to become a customer. That way, a company’s marketing and sales teams can be strategic about how much time they spend trying to convert each lead. For example, the company’s sales team might spend more time talking to leads with a high score, or high likelihood of becoming a customer.

Lead scoring is typically done with a framework or rubric based on different actions a lead has taken to demonstrate their level of interest in becoming a customer. Examples of these actions include downloading white papers, viewing product pages, interaction with newsletters, etc. There are popular lead scoring frameworks like the BANT model (budget, authority, needs, timeframe) that help companies score their leads, or you can create your own based on your marketing funnel stages and content.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A marketing qualified lead is a lead, or potential customer, that has been entered into a company’s marketing funnel and reached a stage in the funnel that indicates a certain level of purchase intent. What stage this occurs at, or what actions a lead must take to become an MQL differ per company. 

An example would be that any lead that fills out a website contact form and downloads a whitepaper is considered qualified by the company’s marketing funnel stages. Another example could be that the lead has viewed a particular product page and watched a certain video. You can make the criteria for becoming an MQL simple, or complex, depending on how broad you want your sales team’s efforts to be, or how specifically you want them to focus on the highest quality leads.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Sales qualified leads follow the same concept as a marketing qualified lead, but this lead designation is typically assigned further down the marketing funnel. The criteria to become qualified from the sales team’s perspective might mean that a lead has gone through a product demo, or taken an introductory meeting with a member of the sales team. Scoring SQLs helps sales teams decide which leads are the most important for the team to focus their efforts on.

Marketing Funnel FAQs

How many stages should my marketing funnel have? 

Marketing funnels are unique for every company. B2B companies may need complex funnels that go way beyond the three main stages outlined above in order to attract and convert leads. Whereas smaller brands may have just one or two funnel stages. 

An example of this would be a B2C brand that sells its products directly on social platforms like Instagram. In this example, the company’s marketing funnel stages all occur on one platform, as potential customers can go from initial awareness (discovering the company and a product via an Instagram post) to conversion (purchasing a product from the brand’s Instagram store) all in one 

How many tactics should I have per funnel stage?

This is also unique for every company, and should be based on their target audience, typical customer journey, and how effective each of their funnel stages currently is. 

For example, a small B2C company might invest in one social media platform like Twitter, and have that platform serve as their only top of funnel marketing channel. If this company’s target audience is active on Twitter, and they are able to drive leads by focusing on creating quality Twitter content, then this brand might not have a need to expand their efforts beyond Twitter. 

A large B2B brand on the other hand might require several active top of funnel channels and a high-volume content calendar for each channel in order to educate leads about their more complex products, or to stand out in a competitive market.

How do I know what adjustments to make to my marketing funnel? 

Putting in place analytics tools at each funnel stage will help to inform which of your funnel stages is performing well, and also to identify if any are underperforming. For example, social media automation platforms can identify which of your top of funnel channels is strongest and generating the most engagement and leads. Tools like Google Analytics and marketing automation platforms like HubSpot can help to measure mid funnel content performance and bottom of funnel content performance.

Marketing Funnel Articles From Brand Credential

Check out these articles for more tips on building and optimizing our own marketing funnel.
Best Bottom of Funnel Marketing TacticsBest Bottom of Funnel Marketing Tactics
January 6, 2023

Use these bottom of the funnel marketing tips to increase customer conversions.

5 Reasons Website Landing Pages Are a Great Mid Funnel Marketing Tactic5 Reasons Website Landing Pages Are a Great Mid Funnel Marketing Tactic
December 10, 2022

Follow these mid funnel marketing tips to leverage website landing pages as a bridge between funnel stages.

5 Tips for Building a Digital Marketing Funnel That Converts5 Tips for Building a Digital Marketing Funnel That Converts
January 6, 2023

From email marketing at each funnel stage to analytics, these tips will help you to build your own digital marketing funnel for your brand.

Explaining Each of the Marketing Funnel StagesExplaining Each of the Marketing Funnel Stages
January 6, 2023

Marketing funnels are designed to drive customer leads toward a point of conversion. Follow these tips for understanding and defining your own marketing funnel stages.

Top Mid Funnel Marketing TacticsTop Mid Funnel Marketing Tactics
January 6, 2023

Follow these tips and strategies for mid funnel marketing tactics that lead to better conversions for your own brand and business.

5 Top of Funnel Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Brand5 Top of Funnel Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Brand
December 10, 2022

Top of funnel is the stage in a marketing strategy where brands aim to raise awareness for their company and its products. Check out these 5 top of funnel marketing strategies to help grow your brand’s marketing lead funnel.