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If you want your company’s sales process to be as efficient as possible, it is imperative that you get your marketing funnel – the process of converting a visitor to a paying customer – in order.

Many business leaders are stepping away from the term marketing funnel because they feel it is too simplistic to describe the
lead nurturing
– where customers move directly from the awareness phase into the purchase phase – to describe it. In our opinion, it is still a convenient and clear way to visually summarize the complex purchase process from start to finish.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of what a marketing funnel is and how to create a successful one yourself.
If you’re not very well along in the marketing story yet, we recommend you first read
this article
in which we explain what marketing is and how to go about it and our
our ultimate marketing dictionary
which explains every term in detail.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a way to dissect the customer journey, all the way from the awareness stage – where they first encounter your company – to the purchase stage.

The first step is to get traffic to your website. You can do this by creating SEO friendly content, publishing white papers and backlinks collecting. As leads progress through the funnel, your outreach methods will become more and more personalized to the point of purchase.

Marketing funnel

Stages in the sales funnel

No matter what type of purchase you make or how much you want to spend, we all follow more or less the same path when it comes to making choices. The original model of this process was introduced in 1910 by John Dewey, but today, more than 100 years later, it is still the foundation we use to estimate buyer behavior and lay the groundwork for our marketing funnel.

These are the 5 stages of the marketing funnel:

Stage 1: problem/need recognition (TOFU).

It is understandable that if a person does not recognize that they have a need that must be met, that person will not proceed with a purchase. That said, these needs will range from easily solvable problems to issues with no obvious solutions.

Suppose your stove breaks down in the middle of winter. Your problem is clear: you need a new stove. The answer is simple: you look for providers in the area and ask for quotes. But now imagine for a moment that you need a new car. Should you look for an SUV, a compact car or a family car?

For different types of businesses, the needs of buyers at the problem/need stage – Top on the funnel (TOFU) – are different. For example, if you run a consulting business, your clients soon realize that they will have certain problems around your service area – such as high cost per lead (marketing) or disorganized expenses (accounting).

Phase 2: information search (MOFU).

Recognizing a problem or need is the step that triggers the search for more information.

The strategies used to gather information usually vary based on the size and scope of the purchase. For example, if you find that you are hungry, this may lead you to consult Tripadvisor for the best restaurants in your area. To decide which vendor to use to install a new built-in pool, it would be best to call around, read reviews, visit showrooms and talk to salespeople first.

70% of buyers turn to Google 2-3 times during their search for more information about their problems, possible solutions, relevant companies, etc. Many people also often go to social media or forums for recommendations. At this point, they are not looking for promotional content; they want to live more about the potential solution to their need.

It is at this time that you can position yourself as an expert in your field and provide them with content that helps them and has no strings attached yet. For example, let’s say you’re a marketing agency. For example, you could create content around link building, SEO, Facebook advertising or any other strategy your customers are looking for.

Do keyword research to figure out what content you should publish for the middle of your funnel (MOFU). You can look up for your industry what keywords are getting a lot of traffic and then eventually create content that matches those keywords.

Phase 3: evaluation of the alternatives

After the information search – or sometimes simultaneously with this phase – potential customers start looking at the alternatives that appeared in your article. The time spent in this phase will vary from the type of product. Choosing a restaurant, for example, is a simple decision: ‘Tonight I feel like Chinese, not Italian.’

However, suppose a client is considering purchasing a marketing automation program to optimize the sales funnel they created. Because these programs can often be hefty investments, customers will move more carefully through the purchase process. For example, they would consider free trials of different systems, request online demonstrations or training videos to get an idea of how each system will perform.

For example, if you run a marketing agency, you could create content such as: get the most out of your SEO agency relationship,” “know” or “what to look for in an SEO agency. The previous examples are non-promotional but educational content we created for our visitors who are hesitant to hire a marketing/SEO agency.

Phase 4: the purchase decision (BOFU).

The purchase decision is a natural conclusion of the preceding 3 stages. The potential customer has determined they have a problem, researched the options and decided what is best for them. And now comes the moment suprême, they pull out their wallets.

At this stage, BOFU content can help your potential customers feel confident in their decision to buy your service or good.

Case study content showcasing the success of a previous or current clients is very effective. Especially when case studies are relevant. Create case studies with different customer profiles and company sizes.

There is also less news. In fact, there are two main factors that can hinder purchases at this stage: negative feedback from other customers and how the prospect interprets this feedback.

Suppose you love cycling and have decided to buy Trek’s latest line of race bikes. You read a few less positive reviews online, but you put them into perspective, because you know that all Internet reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. When all is said and done, people are only going to leave a review if they are totally in love with something or if they absolutely hate something, while most buyers fall right in between.

But then another bike fanatic, whom you recognize and trust, tells you that he is not such a fan of that bike. Whereas you were less likely to let feedback from anonymous reviewers influence your purchase decision, you are much more convinced by the advice of someone you know (personally).

On a small note, although getting negative feedback rarely feels good, we want to encourage you to view feedback the way we do: as a priceless opportunity to improve and grow your business. Complaints and criticism give you important signals that you need to make changes or else risk losing business from frustrated customers.

Phase 5: post-purchase behavior

The process was not done because a purchase was made. What comes after is just as important.

If your new customers are greeted by a thoughtful onboarding process, personal attention and all the resources they need to successfully use your product, they are more likely to confirm to themselves that they made the right choice. And when they are confident, they will pass on their satisfaction to others in the form of recommendations.

If your new customers experience disappointment after their purchase, they are more likely to ask for a refund, write negative reviews and recommend others in their social circles to buy from your competitors.

There is not much content you can create to enable a good post-purchase experience other than creating a great product or service. If you have a great product that solves a problem, the behavior after purchase will take care of itself.

There are certain actions you can take better “after-purchase behavior” though. For example, you could create an FAQ section. This section makes it easier to provide good customer support.


There is also another way to remember the stages of the sales funnel and match them to good content creation – AIDA.

Marketing funnel


This is somewhat similar to the problem/need recognition phase. Customers experience pain points but do not recognize the specific problem. You create content that focuses on needs.


Interest and information both start with the letter “i.” This is the stage when customers actively seek, or are interested in, information that will help solve their problem. As they move through the sales funnel looking for a solution to their problem, they suddenly find a solution. They then need information to move on to the next stage.


Customers are now demanding a solution. They are now evaluating alternatives, and your job is to convince them that your solution is the right one for them.


Now it is time for customers to make a decision. Make it easy for them to say “yes” to your solution. Create a strong call-to-action in your copy and then a simple path to complete the sale. The easier you make it for people to take action, the more sales you’re going to generate thanks to your sales funnel.

Whether you favor the traditional sales funnel or AIDA, the results remain the same: customers enter the sales funnel and, through a discernment process, choose to go to another solution or buy from you. The action at the end of the funnel, or purchase, concludes the phases of the sales funnel.

Although most people enter the funnel at the top, not everyone does. Some come at later stages, but the process remains the same no matter at what stage someone enters the sales funnel.

Content for every stage of your marketing funnel

Now that you know how people make choices, it’s time to create a marketing funnel by creating content that will appeal to people at each stage. Take a look at the following sales funnel to see how this translates:

As you can see in the image above, each color-coded section of the funnel corresponds to a stage in the buying process. The widest layer at the top of the funnel represents “awareness,” the point at which potential customers begin searching for information. The2nd level is “interest,” corresponding to the evaluation of alternatives described in the purchase process. Finally, the last 2 levels, “desire” and “action,” are self explanatory.

When you build a marketing funnel ask yourself:

  • How will customers find me at this stage of the buying process?
  • What type of information do I need to transfer customers from one stage to another?
  • How will I know if clients have moved on to another phase?

What marketing funnel metrics should I be tracking?

The final step in the process is to figure out what metrics you track to determine how well your funnel is performing.

Keep in mind, with each piece of content you create for each stage of your funnel, you are generating data. While it’s all somehow helpful to your sales process, it’s easy to get bogged down in tracking data and statistics instead of focusing on the few key KPIs that actually give you the information needed to make meaningful improvements.

For that reason, although you may want to experiment with tracking all the metrics below (or others you think are valuable), it’s best to focus on about 2-5 metrics.

You can always add more later, but make sure you actually make changes based on the data you generate with this data before you expand your data operations:

Sales funnel conversion rate: if you’re only going to focus yourself on a few metrics, be sure to include these. This metric tracks the number of prospects who enter your funnel at any given time and how many convert to customers.

Entry sources: tracking sources from which people enter your funnel can be useful data to track, as it gives you ideas for increasing the reach of your marketing campaigns.

Time in stage: In an ideal world, your marketing content should be so attractive that people go from the top to the bottom level in the funnel in one day. But since that’s even the case, it’s worth knowing if your prospects get stuck in any of the phases.

Exits from stage: seeing too many people drop out of a stage is an indication that you are not doing enough to answer their questions or that you are asking them for a major commitment too soon. Add more content to give them the information they need to move on or make it easier for people to convert.

Content piece engagement rate: If you have call-to-actions for multiple blog posts or other content on your website, you want to know which ones send the most converted customers through your funnel so you can replicate your success by upgrading or updating that piece of content and sending paid traffic to that blog post, promoting it via email and/or creating more such content pieces. Tracking engagement with each CTA will give you this information.

Opportunity arrival rate: this refers to the number of opportunities currently in your funnel.

Close rate: this refers to the number of those opportunities currently in your funnel that are converted to sales.

There are plenty of tools on the market today to help you track those-and other metrics. For most businesses, Google Analytics is the most comprehensive and easy-to-implement solution. Because it’s free, you can experiment enough until you determine you need a slightly more advanced tool to maintain your marketing automation.

Some closing words

Make no mistake, a marketing and sales funnel is not something you create simply in an afternoon, especially if you keep in mind the steps listed. So it is not the easiest undertaking, but it is one of the few opportunities you have to make improvements in deal-making efficiency.