How effective is your marketing funnel?
That’s a question 68% of marketers need help answering, as they don’t actively measure their marketing funnels.
In fact, you may not even know that you have a marketing funnel in the first place.
If you have content on your websites, such as blog posts (with CTAs), email lists, and product pages, you have a marketing funnel (also called sales funnel or conversion funnel).
The term ‘funnel’ represents the journey customers take from being introduced to your website to making a purchase, including everything that happens in between.
Why should you bother with optimizing your marketing funnel?
You should because 95% of buyers prefer vendors that provide sufficient content that helps them navigate each stage of the buying process.
Read on to learn more about marketing funnels, including how to create and optimize one for your website.
What’s a Marketing Funnel?
In a nutshell, a marketing funnel is a roadmap laid out by marketers to guide prospects from their initial interaction with the company to ultimately converting into a customer.
Marketing funnels contain a series of stages (top, middle, and bottom) and involve many different marketing channels, including:
- Paid ads
- Social media posts
- Blog articles
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Case studies
- Many other channels
Each stage of the funnel requires different types of content to be successful. For example, customers at the top of the funnel are blind prospects, and they need to learn more information about your brand, products, and services.
In this scenario, paid ads, social media posts, and blog articles are the most effective types of content for TOFU prospects.
You wouldn’t want to start sending nurturing emails or demos to prospects that aren’t even sure if they need to make a purchase yet.
Your prospects will also have varying pain points and reasons to purchase your products and services. For instance, if you sell a software survey tool, a lawyer will have different needs for it than a teacher will.
These complexities are why marketing funnels are necessary in the first place. The fact is that most sales cycles are long and complicated (45% to be exact), and if you don’t have a funnel to guide prospects through the cycle – they’ll likely get bored and go elsewhere.
Not only that, but most businesses have more than one marketing funnel in place that targets multiple channels at once (i.e., drawing in prospects with blog posts, paid ads, and influencer marketing simultaneously).
The 5 Stages of the Marketing Funnel
Now let’s take an in-depth look at the different stages of a marketing funnel, as well as the types of content that go along with each one.
That way, you’ll know whether you need to release an educational blog or a targeted PPC ad.
A marketing funnel works in the same way a paper funnel does that you would use for pouring oil into a car, for example.
In other words, the top of the funnel is the broadest, which is meant to draw in as many people as possible. The middle of the funnel gets a bit narrower and is occupied by interested prospects and qualified leads.
Lastly, the bottom of the funnel is the most narrow, and it’s filled with prospects ready to convert into new customers.
The entire funnel represents the customer journey from discovering your brand to becoming a buyer.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be referring to each stage as TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU to save space.
Pro tip: Your marketing funnel will make the most sense when you look at it from the customer’s perspective. Your customer persona will help determine the type of content you create at each stage, including the proper tone of voice to use for your target audience.
Stage #1: Recognize your audience’s problems and needs (TOFU)
The first stage of the funnel is known as the awareness stage. It’s where your prospects realize that they have a problem, prompting them to search for a solution.
Here, your goal is to attract prospects by not only offering solutions to their problems but also pointing out that they have a problem in the first place.
That’s because some problems and needs aren’t immediately apparent, which is why you need to point them out.
For instance, if you offer financial services that help clients save money, your promotional material could bring up how much money the average person wastes each month. That can prompt someone to realize that they could save more if they follow your advice.
Content-wise, this stage is all about raising brand awareness by releasing the following:
- PPC ads on Google and Facebook
- Guest posts on popular blogs in your industry (with a link to your website)
- Educational blogs with a link to your website as the CTA
- Landing pages featuring free webinars or live demos of your product
- Infographics that introduce your products and services to new customers
- Social media posts that highlight how you solve user pain points
These are all examples of content that will raise awareness and generate leads for you.
Remember that you’re not pushing for conversions at this point. Instead, think of it as your brand introducing itself to new people. You want to avoid going for the hard sale right off the bat, so focus on highlighting what makes your business unique and special.
Stage #2: Searching for information/doing research (TOFU)
The second half of the top of the funnel is when users are actively searching for information. They know they have a problem now, and they’re looking for a solution.
How long it takes to find what they need can vary depending on the sales cycle length.
For instance, if the user is hungry, they can solve that problem with a quick search for the best restaurants in their area.
Yet, if they want to renovate their basement and turn it into a home theater, they’ll need to spend a lot of time reading contractor reviews, comparing prices, and talking to salespeople.
Effective marketing is about accurately predicting your prospects’ next step. For this funnel stage, your content should focus on solutions to problems instead of promoting your business. That will increase the chances of your content showing up during user searches during this phase.
As an example, if you offer home renovation services, a landing page covering basement renovations is a great idea. On it, you should go over all the ways you can renovate a basement, including a home theater, guest room, and playroom for the kids.
That way, with the right SEO in place, your content will show up during search queries related to basement renovation – such as for the person we mentioned previously.
This stage is a crucial one for digital marketing, as 78% of consumers spend more time researching brands and products online than they do in stores.
Stage #3: Evaluating alternatives (MOFU)
We’ve now entered the middle of the funnel, where your potential customers are evaluating all their options. In other words, they’re looking around the internet to see if a better deal than yours exists.
Once again, the length of this stage will depend on the types of products and services you offer.
If a prospect is hungry and wants food, it may take them 10 minutes to decide between Italian and Chinese food.
Yet, if they want to renovate their basement, they’ll likely spend a few hours (or even days) comparing prices, reading reviews, and visiting showrooms.
The content that you release during this stage is the most crucial.
Why is that?
It’s because this is the stage of the funnel where you have to outshine all your competitors. Not only does your offer need to have more appeal than others online, but the customer experience you provide is just as important.
Recall the statistic linked in the intro, where we stated that 95% of buyers prefer brands that guide them through each stage of the buying process.
Well, this stage is where that statistic matters most.
In particular, you need to knock it out of the park with your educational content. That means providing user pricing guides, case studies from satisfied customers, webinars, and white papers.
If you’re able to nurture your leads better than competitors, you’ll likely win their business.
This is the stage of the funnel where prospects are more serious about making a purchase. So if you have limited resources for content creation, you can skip the TOFU and go straight to the MOFU and BOFU.
Stage #4: Making a purchase decision (BOFU)
Now we’re at the very bottom of the funnel, which is the narrowest, but it’s where all your conversions occur.
At this point, the prospect knows they have a problem, and they’ve researched all their options. At the BOFU, they’re reaching for their wallet to purchase a solution.
How do you help seal the deal?
First and foremost, you should optimize all your web pages for conversions to increase the likelihood of landing a sale. Every piece of content should include a convincing call-to-action that lets users know what action they should take next – be it signing up for your email list or making a purchase.
This stage is all about why users should choose your brand over everyone else. Content examples include:
- Risk-free trials so prospects can try out your products for themselves
- Live or recorded demos of your products and services
- Enticing money-back guarantees that show confidence
- Social proof, like testimonials and case studies
- Feature and price comparison charts
- Engage in retargeting marketing campaigns (such as customers that abandon their carts)
These are all great ways to encourage prospects to take the final leap of faith and try out your products and services.
Do whatever you can to make buying from your brand a no-brainer, such as including a price comparison chart showing that you offer the best deal on the market. Testimonials and glowing customer reviews also come in very handy during this stage.
Stage #5: The post-purchase phase (BOFU)
Your marketing funnel continues after a prospect converts into a paying customer. Instead, your marketing efforts can and should continue after the initial purchase.
Why is that?
It’s because you want to ensure their total satisfaction so they’ll potentially write a glowing review or recommend your brand to their friends – essentially becoming brand advocates for your business.
Not only that, but your goal post-purchase is to ensure customer retention. You’ll want to do what you can to heighten the chances they’ll become repeat customers, which are goldmines for your business.
In fact, you have a 60 – 70% chance of landing a sale with a returning customer, and that number drops to 5 – 20% for new customers.
Beyond that, obtaining new customers is 5x more costly than maintaining your current customers.
Also, if a new customer has a bad experience with your brand, they may request refunds, write negative reviews, or recommend your competitors to their friends.
To ensure a stellar customer experience, provide a welcoming onboarding process for new customers, including a welcome email and easy access to your customer support.
You should also do your best to provide all the resources they need to use your products properly. That will increase the chances that they’ll become champions for your brand.
Of course, the best way to ensure a positive post-purchase experience is to provide excellent products and services.
The AIDA Model: Another Marketing Funnel Template
Besides TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, there’s another popular model for marketing funnels known as AIDA – which stands for:
Here’s a brief look at each creation stage.
During this stage, the customer is experiencing a problem, but they still need to be fully aware of what it is and how to solve it.
Your job is to provide content that draws attention to the problem and introduces them to your brand.
The customer is intrigued now and eager to learn more about how they can solve their problem.
This is where you sweep in with informational content that educates them while guiding them to the next phase.
By now, the customer is invested and wants to find a solution – but they’re not quite ready to commit to yours. First, they need to evaluate all their alternatives.
To salvage their business, your content during this stage needs to decisively convince them that your solution is the absolute best.
You’ve swayed the customer in your favor, and now they’re ready to convert. Yet, you still need to provide helpful content during this stage, too.
The winning formula to emulate is to provide a concise call-to-action that lays out how to complete the sale. Ideally, you want to make this step as simple as possible for prospective customers. If your conversion forms are too lengthy or complicated, you might cost yourself the sale.
Constructing a Marketing Funnel from Scratch
A funnel should definitely be a part of your marketing strategy, so you must know how to build one intentionally.
One of the most significant components of creating a marketing funnel is selecting the proper marketing channels to use at the appropriate funnel stage. Not only that, but you also need to consider your budget when planning your content.
Only some companies will have the resources to create podcasts, whitepapers, eBooks, and webinars, so it’s crucial to use your money on hard-hitting content in the right places.
If you have limited resources, it’s best to ignore the top of the funnel and focus only on the middle and the bottom. That’s because prospects at those stages are closer to making a purchase and will be easier to convert without as much content.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll provide the ideal types of content for each funnel stage to give you an idea of a picture-perfect marketing funnel – just know that you don’t have to copy it to the T for your funnel to be successful.
TOFU marketing channels that get results
TOFU prospects have yet to realize that a solution exists to their problem, so the content here is all about getting the word out.
You also want to introduce everyone to your brand, and you want to make an excellent first impression. For this reason, TOFU content tends to be outbound, as your prospects don’t yet know about you or your solutions.
For instance, say that you invent a device that improves the fuel efficiency of any vehicle. Without lots of outbound content to get the word out, your prospects won’t even realize that they could be spending less on gasoline.
The ideal marketing channels for TOFU prospects are:
- Paid ads
- Podcast advertisements (sponsors)
- Influencer advertising (Instagram, TikTok)
- TV and radio advertisements
- Promotional emails
Before spending money on any of these, do a bit of research to see which channel your competitors advertise through the most.
Why do that?
You should because it’s a clear sign that it’s the channel that leads to the most conversions. Also, TOFU is the farthest away from purchase intent, so you should optimize your funnel for it last (go in reverse order).
Effective MOFU marketing channels
Moving down to the middle of the funnel, you can make the switch to inbound marketing tactics. This stage is particularly important for longer sales cycles, such as for B2B companies.
Your TOFU content should include a CTA that directs users toward this stage or toward the BOFU if they’re ready to make a purchase – such as prospects that want to buy from seeing your products used by influencers.
This content should establish your brand as a thought leader and guide customers further down your funnel.
It’s time to put your marketing team to work here, especially if you have in-house content writers. Effective channels here include:
- YouTube videos
Remember, your customers are in the consideration stage, so your content needs to educate them and convince them that they need to take action.
This is also when they’re considering all their available options, so you should include content that makes your brand outshine others, such as:
- Positive user reviews
- Case studies of how your brand changed a customer’s life for the better
- Price comparison charts
Also, don’t forget to make it as easy as possible for prospects to make a purchase.
BOFU marketing channels
At this point, the majority of the leg work is already done. All that’s left is to seal the deal by guiding the customer through the last steps.
More than anything, your goal during this stage should be to optimize your conversion rate, and there are a few ways you can do so, such as:
- A 30-day money-back guarantee
- Free trial offers
- Live customer chat to answer questions/move toward converting
- An FAQ section dispelling any misconceptions to sway those on the fence
- Provide a free demo
These are all great ways to encourage prospects to take the final leap of faith, so they’re worth the time if you have the resources.
Concluding Thoughts: Marketing Funnels
Marketing funnels are essential to any digital marketing strategy, whether the marketer realizes it or not.
After all, only 32% of companies have measured and optimized their sales funnels, which is why doing so will provide you with a competitive edge.
If you can refine every stage of your marketing funnel, you’ll enjoy increased lead generation, more organic traffic, and a much higher conversion rate.
While it’s not necessary to focus on every stage of the funnel, especially if you’re light on resources, the middle and bottom stages are crucial for any business.
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