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How to Build an Effective Marketing and Sales Funnel  

It’s the infamous marketing “F” word you can’t get away from in marketing—funnel. What does it entail, and how do you build a marketing funnel that increases revenue so you can scale your business?

An effective sales and marketing funnel helps you increase prospects into qualified leads for your sales team.

In this post, we’ll cover how to build a marketing funnel in specific stages and what to consider in each phase.

What’s a Marketing Funnel?

You’ve often seen the infamous shape of the funnel, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. This is a visual depiction of the prospect-to-customer journey. The wide “mouth” at the top of the funnel targets a wide audience, through the narrower section in the middle (Middle of Funnel), and down to the even narrower section at the bottom of the funnel, that targets serious buyers:

A prospect finds your brand, and based on the map you’ve created for them on your website, from educational and thought leadership blogs and guides to product-focused and case studies from happy customers, spark their interest to buy and stay engaged with your brand for the long-term. 

The funnel is segmented into various stages that the prospect experiences with your brand before deciding to purchase. Identifying and properly mapping this part out is the job of the marketing and sales teams to identify these opportunities every step. A well-mapped funnel can help convert leads into loyal, paying customers. 

The way funnels are structured also vary depending on the brand, the types of customers (B2B or B2C), and the industry. Every marketing funnel will be different. 

The funnel contains various methods and approaches to capture a prospect’s attention and can be applied to various campaigns including paid ads, social media, content marketing, email, and other channels. 

It’s common for marketing teams to have multiple funnels based on specific goals. If you have a marketing automation platform or CRM, you can set up your funnels to create automations that trigger specific email campaigns. 

Here are a few examples of various types of marketing funnels:

  • Blog post >> Sign up for newsletter >> Collect emails (conversion)
  • Facebook ad >> Sign up for free trial >> Email campaign to educate trial users on your product

Funnels don’t have to always end with a purchase in mind. You can create additional funnels with cross-sells and upsells. 

Become an Expert in Your Buyer’s Persona

A buyer’s persona describes what your target customer looks like. It documents demographic information, such as where they reside, age, and sex. It may also include specific details like career and reasons why they would want to use your product or service—i.e., do they use it to relax, solve a pain point, or achieve their goals?

A buyer persona helps with things like:

  • Creating a specific target audience for your various products and services so you can tailor messaging that resonates
  • Personalizing the customer experience within every step of the funnel
  • Increasing customer engagement and conversions

Stages of a Marketing Funnel

Now that you know the buyer persona, it’s time to dive into the basics of the marketing funnel and how to design your marketing funnel for your business.

sale and marketing funnel

When creating a marketing and sales funnel and strategy, a helpful approach is to start with the bottom rather than the top. Reaching the people who have already made it to the “decision part” can be a more effective way to drive sales and have these particular leads become repeat customers. 

Here are the five marketing stages that you may consider when building your funnel.

1 – Top of Funnel: Awareness

Every brand’s products, services, and target audiences differ, but the common thread is addressing the problem you’re helping to solve. 

Some would argue this is the toughest part of the funnel because your audience may not even be actively searching for a solution. So, you need to address a pain point in your marketing message that is relatable and relevant. To do that, you must present various types of content and topics to cover the gamut of what you believe the lead is looking for. 

Capturing people at this point will typically involve outbound marketing or paid advertising efforts. These may include advertising on platforms like Google, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram. 

Or you may use the following channels to gain attention:

  • Podcasts, radio, or TV
  • Influencer marketing
  • Live events and conferences

Whether the problem you’re solving is complicated or simpler, it’s important to have educational materials, for people who want to learn more. These include: 

  • Blogs
  • Case studies
  • Reports
  • FAQs

Creating a next step

Regardless of prospects reaching your site via paid or organic efforts, building out the next steps of what you want them to do is important.

  • Is it to read a blog post? 
  • Provide an email address to download a report? 
  • Sign up for your newsletter? 

This is where you create solid blog content and speak to the problem as an authority. You can leverage top of funnel SEO and keywords that focus on broad topics, such as: 

  • “What is…” 
  • “How to…”
  • “X Steps to figure out…”

This is also a great place to audit the content you already have. Suppose you can update and add keywords and keyword variations to existing content. 

If this is your first time considering it, look at the keywords positioned slightly lower and don’t rank as high as the top-volume keywords. These may be in lower positions, such as 15 to 20. High-ranking keywords have a lot of competition, so going further down can help your chances of ranking better. 

Be sure to use an SEO tool such as SEM Rush, Frase, or Ahrefs, which help you aim for keywords and even give you topic ideas. 

If the problem you’re solving for your audience is more nuanced and will get worse over time if it goes unchecked, for example, your blogs and other educational resources need to address this. You could focus on the various stages of it getting worse. You can use this to urge prospects to take action rather than wait. 

2 – Middle of Funnel: Interest and Information

The middle is where the potential customer recognizes the problem and is interested in discovering more. In this part, visitors are further down the funnel but are still evaluating. 

This is the section of the journey where you showcase more of your brand’s ability to solve their problem through your products or services. Your content can should provide details about your specific features or the buyer’s persona and who it’s made for. 

If your product is simple and requires only a little information upfront, you could send prospects to your sales or pricing page. Remember, you set the rules for how your buyer will experience and engage with your brand.

Present the prospect with what you think they’ll want to know, and if you aren’t sure, you can always create an A/B test to measure what engages them most. 

3 – Middle of Funnel: Consideration 

At this stage, leads know a pain point needs to be addressed. The differentiator between this stage and the one before it is that, now, leads want more than just education. They want to assess what options and solutions they have. 

They may continue their research by testing a free trial, watching training videos, or consuming your content to learn more about your product. 

They may also use this stage in their purchasing journey to compare what your competitors offer and pricing.

Let’s say customers are researching the best marketing agencies for their business. You could share the following types of content:

  • How to choose a marketing agency
  • What are the pros and cons of hiring a marketing professional or an agency?
  • How much do marketing agencies charge? 

You may consider focusing on the following:

  • Case studies of customers and how your solution helped solve various problems
  • Competitor comparisons and posts
  • Retargeting your ads
  • Refine your pricing pages
  • Highlight features and services that make your brand stand out from competitors

4 – Bottom of Funnel: A Decision

Will leads turn into customers? They’ve hit the bottom of the funnel, and it’s your job to present them with everything you’ve got that speaks to value

Also known as the conversion stage, your lead has explored the competition, researched, and knows this problem they have needs to be solved. 

Make the bottom of funnel as seamless as possible for prospects to get familiar with your product or even try it out. You could offer: 

  • Previously recorded webinars highlighting certain features and how they work
  • Give them a free, limited-time trial
  • Present them with a scheduling link for a frictionless way to chat with your sales team

The bottom means you must provide ways to nudge the lead into becoming a paying customer. 

Here are some considerations to improve your conversion rate at this stage:

  • Give a money-back guarantee
  • Create an FAQ with common questions leads might have at this point
  • Provide a chat option with live customer support

5 – After the Purchase

The funnel doesn’t stop after the customer has converted. The actions and steps you take to help the customer after they’ve purchased are just as important. 

This is your chance for your team to showcase how much you care about their experience with your brand. 

Their logical next step could be understanding what the onboarding process is like. You could send them personalized resources and recommendations to get them up to speed on what they can do with your team to help get their problem solved. 

These may include:

  • FAQs related to “What to expect next.”
  • Ways to reach your customer support team.
  • Show testimonials from happy customers and why they like your product or service.

This is where you can start to build a relationship with customers to keep retention high and churn low. Dropping the ball at this point could lead to bad reviews and customers dropping out. 

How to Qualify Leads in Your Sales Funnel

For your marketing funnel to be truly effective, you must determine how leads will qualify throughout the process. Even if your prospects have the best intentions and want to buy, they aren’t the decision-makers in their organization. 

This is where your SQLs (sales qualified leads) and MQLs (marketing qualified leads) come into play. 

MQL is a qualified lead that has engaged with your brand enough to indicate that this person may turn into a sales opportunity. Determining the engagement level is up to you and your team. 

For example, you may use a form that leads fill out to request more information or a desire to connect with your sales team. Once the form is filled, you can use your marketing automation platform like HubSpot to set it so it automatically goes to the proper salesperson, who will follow up with the next steps. 

Once the salesperson follows up and feels the lead will become an opportunity, it becomes an SQL. 

What’s most important is to figure out what marketing campaigns are driving the most leads into qualified prospects. This is why tracking your campaigns with the right metrics is essential. 

Marketing Funnel Metrics to Track

Tracking the following metrics will help you understand how your funnel is performing and what optimizations need to be made.

Sales funnel conversion rate: The number of prospects entering your funnel and how many become customers. 

Entry sources: These are sources (i.e., blog posts, paid ads, direct searches on Google) from which people enter your funnel.

Engagement rate: This gives you an idea of what content is driving a lot of time on your site or if people are getting stuck in certain stages and dropping off.

Content engagement rate: This measures which pieces of content drive conversions, such as buttons on blog posts or emails. 

Exits: If you notice many people falling off at a particular stage, refine that part of the funnel. Maybe the content isn’t valuable, or you’re asking them to take the next step when they’re not quite ready. 

Close rate: The number of these opportunities that turn into eventual sales. A low rate may show that you need to revisit what qualifies as an MQL or SQL. Keeping tabs on SQL and MQL data allows you to make changes and optimizations to your funnel.

Final Thoughts on the “F” Word

Creating a sales and marketing funnel takes a thoughtful approach, time, and analyzing what works and what doesn’t. Creating funnels isn’t something you can knock out in an afternoon. It’s an ongoing process that needs to be tested, refined, and improved upon as you continue expanding your business. 

But a well-designed sales and marketing funnel can help you close more deals faster and more efficiently. 

Reach out and ask how The Automation Company can help you with your funnels, marketing automation platforms, content, SEO, and more. 

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