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5 Stages of a Winning Marketing Funnel in 2021

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.


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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 


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


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

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.

That’s why 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.

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

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