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5 Stages of a Winning Marketing Funnel in 2021 (with Examples)

The secret to a successful and profitable marketing campaign? Understanding the human on the other end and customising a bullet-proof digital strategy around their goals and pain points. Here we've explained what a marketing funnel is, why you need to optimise your digital marketing funnel, plus real-life marketing funnel templates and examples for every stage.

The secret to a successful and profitable marketing campaign? 

Understanding the human on the other end and creating a bullet-proof digital marketing strategy that gives them what they need at every stage of their journey. 

Right there is the reason you need to optimise your marketing funnel. 

Selling isn’t as simple as sending people to a web page and hoping they will get their credit card out. (Or at least, it isn’t that simple anymore)

You need to  nurture leads as they move through the funnel from the very first awareness of your brand through to purchase and then post-sale evangelism. 

How exactly do you do this?

Read on and we’ll explain what a marketing funnel is, why you need to optimise your digital marketing funnel, plus real-life marketing funnel templates and examples for every stage. 

What is a Marketing Funnel?

Your marketing sales funnel is the process of converting a visitor or browser into a loyal customer. 

The marketing funnel is also referred to as the sales funnel or digital marketing funnel. We’re talking specifically about the marketing activities (like SEO, content marketing, social media engagement, email marketing and marketing automation etc.) that you use as part of your marketing strategy to give customers the answers they need and experience they love to move to the next step of their buyer journey.

Understanding your marketing funnel is essential if you're to find opportunities to generate leads, convert more visitors, and the gaps you need to fill to stop potential customers from dropping out of the funnel.

Why a “funnel”? 

Imagine pouring rice through a funnel. Lots of grains go into the top but only a trickle emerges from the bottom. It’s the same for your leads. You can have lots of leads who have some brand awareness, but only some will come out the other end of the funnel with your product or service. 

How many people reach the bottom of your sales and marketing funnel comes down to your marketing activities. You can use a whole box of marketing tricks to make sure you're giving your customers what they need at the right stage of the funnel. 

Some digital platforms require a somewhat refined approach to make sure your online and social presence is crafted to convert people into buyers, like the Facebook marketing funnel. Whatever channels and social media platforms you use, all this takes TIME. Depending on the product/service, the buyer’s journey can be anywhere from hours to days and even months for high-value purchases. 

You also need to understand your customers. We mean, really know who you are targeting and then mould one highly-targeted marketing funnel around them. At every point of the funnel, add high-value content to move them along to the next step of the marketing funnel. 

Why is the marketing funnel important?

Marketing funnels are the foundation of successful digital marketing for several reasons:

  • You can form a meaningful connection with potential customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey 

  • You can build trust with leads and nurture them towards purchasing

  • They harness the power of digital channels, such as content, SEO, social media, remarketing and email marketing, to convince and convert

  • They increase the customer lifetime value, allowing you to sell again and again

Now you have the ultimate marketing funnel definition, let’s explore the different stages with some best practice marketing funnel examples for each stage you need to know.

What is the purpose of a marketing funnel?

marketing funnel

Source: fiverrbox

Simply put, the goal of any marketing funnel is to ensure that every stage of a customers journey from the moment they find out about your business till the second they make a purchase is accounted for.

As they get to know you, research your products and services, and finally click buy, there will undoubtedly be many different touchpoints. Whether it’s a display ad on a YouTube video, a social media post, or your website itself, the purpose of a marketing funnel is to understand and accommodate the needs of a customer as they go on their purchasing journey. 

 

What is an example of a marketing funnel?

Example of a bad marketing sales funnel

Claire owns an eCommerce website selling fluffy winter socks with a small marketing team of three people.

While Claire boasts an extremely smooth business website, she hasn’t spent time on SEO or search advertising. This means website traffic via Google or Google Ads is limited to none.

What’s more, the product pages for each pair of socks have limited product information besides the price and one image. Frustrated with a lack of information, this leads potential customers to research on other websites and sometimes purchase through competitors instead.

Once purchased, Claire only sends one email - a purchase receipt. Rather than encouraging repeat purchases through further sales-focused emails or a loyalty program, no further investment is made.

Overall, Claire’s little sock website struggles to generate customers and those that do purchase rarely ever return.

Example of a good digital marketing funnel

Jaime owns an eCommerce business that sells fluffy winter gloves with a similarly small marketing team of three people.

While not the prettiest website, his marketing team has taken the time to invest in SEO strategies as well as a powerful content marketing plan such as quality blog posts and videos. Paired with targeted pay-per-click advertising (PPC) on Google Ads, the website has seen a major boost in brand awareness, constantly reaching thousands of new customers every week.

Furthermore, every product page contains plenty of information about the chosen pair of gloves as well as relevant links to other pages on the website that also offer further clarification. This means that users rarely, if ever, leave Jaime’s website for others as they learn more about the product they wish to purchase.

Once bought, Jaime has an extensive welcome journey via email marketing. Not only do customers receive regular updates about their product, they additionally receive discount vouchers as well as a referral program that rewards those who encourage others to make a purchase. 

Overall, Jaime’s little winter glove website has plenty of site traffic with new users every day. Plus, those that do make a purchase encourage others they know to buy a pair themselves!

 

Marketing Funnel Stages

Stage 1: Awareness (Top of the funnel) 

This is the step where you first catch your would-be customer’s attention, through marketing campaigns that resonate with their pain points and problems. 

Your prospect becomes aware of your business and what you offer for the very first time. It might be a social media post shared by someone, a Google search that leads to reading blog posts, a display ad or something else entirely.

This step is about getting in front of your customer when they first start looking to understand their problem. Then, and only then, can you start courting them and woo them into returning to your site and engaging more with your business.

So, what do you need? First, you need to understand your customers and their challenges.

Create buyer personas that delve into who they are and what the problems are they are trying to solve. 
By understanding your client's challenges, you can formulate an awareness-stage marketing strategy that reaches them at the right time. 

This includes creating high-value content that will build their trust and position you as an authority in that niche. 

Strategies for Top of the Funnel Digital Marketing

Once you’ve outlined your target buyer personas, it’s time to go out there and grab the awareness of those potential customers!

But where exactly do you start?

The answer is simple: content.

At the end of the day, the goal of this stage is to capture brand awareness for your company, and through quality content, you can do just that.

That doesn’t mean you can just create any random piece of content and attract customers. You need to create content that appeals to your buyer persona. That way, every lead you generate is of high quality, and with a strong chance of making a conversion.

Here are some marketing strategies for the top of the funnel digital marketing:

Evergreen Posts and Articles:

A regularly used top of the funnel digital marketing strategy, blog posts are a simple way to generate interest and traffic to your site. Tackle topics and areas that customers commonly search for on search engines such as Google.

evergreen content example

While it’s tempting to loop in mentions of your product or service, try to keep it at a minimum. At this stage of the funnel, we’re only seeking brand awareness, and creating informative content does plenty to keep your product or service at the top of mind later in the digital marketing funnel.

Videos:

A fun and exciting way to connect to more people at the top of the funnel, videos are a chance to show your brand personality. Whether you’re quirky and fun or formal and informative, using can help reach your target audience who might not have the energy to read through your articles.

Upload educational videos teaching about your product or service. Build exciting brand-focused films which can then be used as advertising. Craft simple explainers showing users how to use your product. No matter what you decide to do, videos connect you directly to the customer in an entertaining way that can be easily consumed.

Plus, while great for the top of the funnel, videos you make here can be repurposed for other stages of the digital marketing funnel.

Infographics

Super informative and easily shareable, infographics are a fantastic and simple method to build awareness for your target audience at this stage of the customer journey.

Infographics are large, beautifully designed images that display pieces of useful information to the user. From insightful statistics to enriching points of information, the power of infographics comes from its shareability across the internet.

From being shared on social media to other sites taking that image and mentioning your brand on their own blog post, infographics - along with your branding - will be thousands of more your target audience.

Lead Magnets

These are pieces of content you create that are only accessible when the user exchanges some details such as their email, name, and phone number.

Typically, you’ll see these come in the form of downloadable resources that offer great deals of information that the user can use in their own time. Lead magnets range from reports, eBooks, whitepapers, video content, and much more.

lead magnet example

Lead magnets are extremely valuable as it allows you to further advertise to these potentially buying customers as the go down the digital marketing funnel.

Whether you’re using their email address to send over some enticing email marketing or plan to use their phone number to make a personal call, this marketing strategy is a marvellous way to level up your lead generation.

Social Media Marketing

A popular marketing strategy used at the awareness stage of the digital marketing funnel is some social media marketing.

Much like videos, this is another way for your business to define your brand personality. Whether you decide to create some highly shareable funny images (memes) or upload insightful videos, this is your opportunity to cater to your target audience as they discover your business and the product or service you offer.

Pro-tip: Remember all those pieces of content we mentioned above like videos and lead magnets? Don’t forget to share them on social media too! Using your social media platforms is a great way to further amplify the content you worked so hard on.

Have a small follower count? Try using Facebook ads! While a paid method, with thorough targeting, you’ll give your company immense reach to the target users you’ve been looking for.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

With millions of people using search engines like Google every day, SEO and SEM are great marketing tactics to capture more users at this stage of the buyer’s journey.

SEO is all about optimising your website in a way that increases your chance to appear at the top of Google search results for keywords that your target audience regularly searches. For example, a sneaker shop based in Sydney might target the keyword “sneaker store Sydney” and optimise their site in a way that’ll ensure that they appear at the top of Google search results for this specific term.

SEM in comparison is a method where a business pays Google to place an ad for a specific keyword. This ad then links back to one of their landing pages that teach the customer about their products and services.

While both are great techniques by themselves at the awareness stage of the digital marketing funnel, using both in tandem maximises your potential reach.

Examples

Say you’re selling family cars, like SUVs. One of your buyer personas would be new parents. What do new parents want to know? What are their top challenges? At the top of the list will be how to prepare and get their home ready for a new baby. So those are the topics you can create content around to build awareness and trust in your brand. 

A brand that gets it right at the Awareness stage is Medibank. The health insurer also has a great content site – Live Better – where it educates and inspires with lots of articles and videos about how to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. 

You can subscribe for Live Better email updates, like this one about cauliflower:

medibank tofu example

That’s right, a whole email dedicated to cauliflower. Now, is an email about cauliflower enticing you to sign up for private health cover? 

Unlikely – but it does provide TOFU high-value awareness of the brand. It positions Medibank as an authority in the healthy living space, so when you come to think about private health cover down the track, Medibank is already ahead of the pack, building your trust and showing they are the experts. 

It’s what the brand does next that will determine whether customers will ultimately move through the marketing funnel and convert. 

Stage 2: Interest (Middle of the funnel) 

When consumers reach the interest step in the marketing funnel, they’re thinking about their options, doing research, and comparing different solutions. Now is the time to wow them with targeted content that helps and educates them, but doesn’t give the hard sell. 

Start selling your product/service now and you’ll simply chase them away. Instead, your mission is to build their trust, show them your expertise, and help the consumer make an informed decision. 

Strategies for Middle of the Funnel Digital Marketing

Now that you’ve gained the recognition of your target audience, it’s time to start gaining their interest in the product or service you provide.

At this stage of the funnel, you’ll need to start highlighting your advantages of the competition and why they should choose you over the rest. This stage can be a little complicated, as you’ll be using similar techniques from the previous stage, but tweaking them for the middle of the funnel.

Let’s break them down!

Blog Posts and Articles:

Unlike earlier in the marketing sales funnel where you can write about almost anything relevant to your industry, at the middle of the funnel, your goal is to create content that centres around various painpoints a customer might face and how your product or service answers those issues.

For example, a food delivery website for the awareness stage might write about healthy food recipes. Then for the middle of the funnel, a blog post could focus on exciting new ways to eat food at home, highlighting their food delivery service as an option.

Video Marketing:

For potential buyer’s who might not have the time or effort to read about your company, video marketing can answer all their questions without them reading a single word.

With millions of people across the globe watching more and more content, implementing some video marketing is undoubtedly helping you reach an ever-growing portion of your audience as they journey down the digital marketing funnel.

Teach your future customers about how your company solves many of their problems. Give an in-depth walkthrough on how to start using your product or service. No matter how you implement video marketing, you’ll be helping people immensely as they learn more about your company.

Case Studies:

What better way to have your target audience consider your business in a positive light than through case studies.

In essence, case studies are successful examples of your product or service being utilised to its absolute fullest. 

As people continue down the digital marketing funnel, they’ll undoubtedly want to research how others fared using your business. Case studies are a great method to quell any hesitation they might have and push them further down the buyer’s journey.

SEO and SEM:

When you’re stuck on something, there’s really only one place many people turn to:

Google.

As users continue their research about your business, search engine optimisation (SEO) can help ensure they receive the right information they need to make an informed decision.

Remember those blog posts you wrote? Ensure they target a specific keyword a potential customer might use. Doing so gives your business the best chance to answer any questions they might have.

Not only will you have increased website traffic through SEO, but you’ll also ensure any questions are answered by you alone and not other competitors who seek to steal your leads and take them on their own sales funnel.

What’s more, you can also do some on-page SEO on your product and service pages, targeting keywords associated with what you’re selling. Although brand recognition can go a long way, strong SEO here can help you net customers and traffic with a strong interest in the items you’re selling.

When SEO doesn’t work right away, search engine marketing (SEM) can pick up the slack.

SEM example

In the example above, note that while Budget Direct isn’t showing first on organic search results, it appears at the top via paid search.

With a perfectly constructed ad packed with insightful links and advantages of their company, which do you think people will click onto first? (It’s Budget Direct!)

At the end of the day, both of these digital marketing strategies work best when done together. The end goal of SEO and SEM is to boost website traffic, so don’t be afraid to spend time on both!

Social Media Marketing:

Social media is more than just a method to interact with your audience, it’s a powerful platform that when used correctly can maximise your conversion rate.

Whenever you post on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, do you notice people asking questions?

social media marketing research

Answer them! They’re more than likely a potentially paying customer at the consideration stage of the digital marketing funnel conducting some research by directly contacting your business.

What’s more, you’ll likely spot people contacting you via direct messages on those same platforms. Answer those as well.

Pair this with live videos answering any queries they might have or other video content teaching your audience how to use your product, and you’ll be nurturing leads and ushering them down the funnel stages in no time.

Email Marketing:

One of the more affordable marketing strategies to use in this stage of the digital marketing funnel, email marketing is a great way to directly contact your audience and tell them more about your company.

What’s more, as they’ve likely opted-in to your email marketing - whether it be subscribing directly or using a lead magnet in a previous marketing funnel stage - these people are actively seeking more reasons why they should choose you over others.

At this stage of the buyer’s journey, we recommend combining it with other content marketing techniques used at the consideration stage. Send them over positive case studies, highlight blog posts mentioning your brand, link your audience how-to videos. Keep them interested and invested in your company and sure enough, you’ll see them at the conversion stage.

Examples

One way to do this is with stellar content marketing. Let’s go back to the new car scenario. Let’s say the buyer wants a ute, but doesn’t know how different utes compare. So, they search:

compare utes example

Now you have the three big brands using paid ads to make sure they are in your comparison list. But this is too much for the Interest point – you are still only looking for information and aren’t ready to buy. 

Topping the organic search is Carsales with very helpful and relevant content explicitly comparing 4WD utes. Click through and you arrive on an article with a video showing the test of 4WD utes and their verdict. 

ute comparisons

When it comes to getting buyers through the marketing funnel, this definitely hits the mark. It’s educational, informative and bang on with relevance.  

Stage 3: Consideration

By now, the prospect knows what they need. Ideally, you’ve started building a relationship with them too. Maybe you have their email address and some other basic information about them. 

Now you need to pull out the big guns and nurture the relationship to make sure you’re in the mix for their consideration. This is where B2B brands will provide more in-depth content – such as eBooks, white papers and webinars. The goal is to give more specific answers to their questions and prove you have what they need. 

Examples

For B2C brands, one tactic is remarketing to consumers to make sure you stay in front of them and keep their interest. Say you’ve been browsing wallets on a few ecommerce sites. One of those sites is Bellroy. Then, you’re browsing a whole different website when this ad shows:

real estate blog post example

This is classic remarketing – Bellroy is targeting someone who has already visited the site to remind them of the product they were looking at.  The ad also highlights one of the key benefits of the wallet to ensure it makes the shortlist. 

With consideration underway, it’s time for a decision. 

Stage 4: Decision

Now the prospect is ready to buy. They have done their research and have a shortlist of options, which should include you if you’ve done everything else right. But they’re still not convinced you are the one to buy from. 

So how do get them across the line? Make your BEST offer. 

Strategies for Bottom of the Funnel Digital Marketing

You’ve done the hard yards to get them to the bottom of the funnel, now it’s time to ensure your marketing budget doesn’t all go to waste and have them make a conversion.

Unlike the earlier stages like awareness, consideration and interest, at this point of the digital marketing funnel, users are but one final step away from clicking buy. So, let’s make that final step as smooth and easy as possible!

Free Trials and Live Demonstrations

More costly products might gain some hesitancy from users who might be afraid that they might not get enough value for the money spent. So, why not dispel that with a free trial or live demo?

Having your audience interact directly with your product can help them immensely decide as to whether your company is the best choice for them.

free trial example

For example, many streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video and Spotify offer a one week or month free trial, letting them enjoy all the benefits. More often than not, that free trial is all they’ll need to commit to a purchase.

Customer Reviews, Case Studies and Testimonials

Potential buyers want to seek validation that their future purchase is the right one. As such, they’ll look for reviews from existing customers to see how they felt about your company.

Assuming you’ve done well, these will more than likely be positive! Let’s make accessing these positive reviews as easily as possible.

If users have a hard time finding positive reviews and testimonials, they’ll come to the conclusion that your business isn’t all that it seems. So, place the positive reviews from existing customers upfront and centre to dispel all those worries right away.

Discounts and Coupon Codes

Even though they’re at the bottom of the funnel, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to buy just yet.

Maybe the cost is just a little out of their budget right now. Perhaps they’re just waiting for the right price. Whatever the reason, you might just need to give them a little incentive for users to visit your business and click purchase.

Incorporate a coupon code or discount as you create your marketing campaigns and you could see users line up in droves. From free delivery, 10% off, or the classic buy one get one free, coupon codes give your users further incentive to click ‘buy’ through the inclusion of even more value.

An Intuitive Checkout System

You’ve spent much of your marketing budget constructing a click-crazy marketing strategy and a lead generating digital marketing funnel, but if your checkout system is clunky, wave those sales goodbye.

Nothing is worse than a frustrating purchase experience. Whether it’s a website that runs just a little too slow, a confusing user experience, or contradictory pricing and messaging, that little conversion funnel is all that stands between you and that precious revenue.

Review your business conversion funnel and figure out pain points a consumer could face. Once identified, it’s just a matter of squashing those issues and creating an experience that’s as smooth as butter that users will love.

Examples

Provide something that your customers don’t want to miss out on. Delivery is one of the biggest factors for consumers when they’re thinking about purchasing online – 95% of customers want free delivery

Or you can provide a discount code – just make sure it has an expiry date, like this one:

2xu email reminder

Whatever you choose, make it irresistible so that your prospect doesn’t waste another moment thinking about it. You’re playing on their FOMO, or “Fear Of Missing Out”.  Employ a range of marketing tactics at this point. But if you really want to make your message pack a punch, use remarketing.

Say you were searching for a flight to Adelaide. You got as far as to put some details in the website, but didn’t actually book the flights. The next day, you get this email from Jetstar:

flight reminders from jetstar

While there isn’t an offer, Jetstar does remind us that the prices could change any moment. They know from research that this is usually enough to make would-be customers click through and secure the flight. 

Another element that can make or break this step is your site’s user experience. How easy is it for customers to buy from you? At the very least, you should have the following in place:

  • Smooth checkout process

  • Live chat for customers to ask questions if they get stuck

  • Trust signals for buying online e.g. secure payment

  • Email confirmation

Get this right and you will win the customer and the sale.  

Stage 4: Post-Purchase Delight

Just because the lead is now a customer doesn’t mean your work is done. You want to do your best to turn one purchase into many, many more. In other words, you’re focusing on customer retention (for services) or loyalty (products).

Customer retention is about making sure your customer stays with you and doesn’t go anywhere else. This is mainly for services, such as finance, insurance and anything subscription based. 

Meanwhile...

Customer loyalty is about making sure that when the customer needs more of what you offer, they come back to you – not your competitors. This is more for products. 

Let’s start with what you need to do immediately to spark post-purchase delight:

  • Thank the customer for their purchase

  • Invite your customer to provide feedback 

  • For those who provided positive feedback, send an automated email asking them to leave a review

  • Provide easy ways for the customer to get in touch for support

Examples

Remember that Adelaide flight we were about to book? Here’s the email Jetstar sent to the passenger the day after the return flight landed:

jetstar thanks email

It starts with a personalised thank-you before providing inspiration for the next trip:

destination example

Is there any better time to entice people to book new flights than during their post-holiday blues? For services especially, user onboarding is an essential part of the post-purchase stage. 

Take a look at this on-boarding email from Adobe:

adobe welcome email

Adobe thanks you for joining, then provides links to everything a new user could need, including FAQs and free trials. The same goes when you sign up for Adobe Acrobat – this time you get links to tons of free templates as a thank-you:

get ready to acrobat

Providing helpful content from the outset is the best way to build customer loyalty.

Stage 5: Repeat customer

Buyers who reach this stage of the marketing funnel have already bought from you and love your brand or product enough to buy again. 

This is the funnel stage you want all customers to reach. They should become brand advocates who will drive word of mouth and referral sales. 

So what can you do? Give your loyal customers the best experience possible. 

Things you can do include:

  • Invite them to join a loyalty program

  • Email drip campaigns with helpful content about the product/service

  • Special offers for referrals or repeat purchases

Examples

For example, activewear brand 2XU has a member program, which provides regular offers, competitions, sales alerts and more:

2xu gift voucher

The key is to make it relevant to their needs. 

Research shows a whopping 77% of consumers have held relationships with specific brands for 10 or more years. 

On the flip side: 

Around 50% of loyal customers have left a company for a competitor who was able to stay more relevant and better satisfy their needs. 

So if you’re going to deliver offers, discounts and content to customers, make sure it’s informed by data insights and customer feedback. 

This is where remarketing comes in again. Use remarketing to show relevant offers and high-value content to people you know have bought from you before. But what about those products or services that people only buy once every few years? 

Let’s go back to Carsales. According to CMO magazine, Carsales has placed its members in “pockets” based on their transactions and model of car. So when a new model of their car is released, the customers are sent trigger-based communications, comparing the two makes and models. This encourages the customer to consider trading up. 

What’s more, Carsales has a member benefits program where customers get rewards every day (such as fuel discounts) – not just when they are looking to buy or sell a car. 

Over to you 

Now you know what a marketing funnel is and why it’s essential to your sales growth, plus you’ve got some useful marketing funnel examples to work from.

You cannot afford to ignore any stage of the marketing funnel. You need awareness-driving search marketing, interest-driving content, conversion-focused offers, post-purchase email campaigns, loyalty programs and more. 

We know this can be overwhelming.

So why not get some of the best tips and tricks from a leading digital marketing agency?

We’ve created a free guide to help you create your very own Digital Marketing Game Plan. It’s filled with best practice tips, case studies and templates.

Whether your company is looking to level up their SEO to boost traffic, elevate your sales funnel, or just improve its overall digital marketing strategy, this eBook gives you all your business needs to get started.

To download your FREE ebook, click on the button below.

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