A Marketing Funnel Deep Dive

An efficient sales pipeline creates more sales, at a more rapid pace, with an increase in repeat business. Find out how to blend core concepts from popular marketing and sales strategies with Hubspot’s Flywheel model to move leads along your sales funnel.

by Jean Brown

Content Marketing | Inbound Marketing | Lead Generation

Reading Time | 15 min
A marketing funnel deep dive

Effective marketing techniques are critical for the growth of your business. From brand awareness to generating leads, how you engage with and connect with your target demographic can be the difference between success or failure.

In our digital age, B2C/B2B communication is necessary for the health of your venture — marketing lets you attract, build, and retain leads. But buyer behavior is never static, and marketing strategies must evolve to such fluid demands.

The challenges of B2C and B2B marketing

How consumers shop, the things they want to buy, and what they expect from the businesses they frequent are in constant flux. The shifting nature of marketing can create a lot of confusion for you and your sales teams. Plus, consumers view about 5,000 ads per day — it is all a lot of noise to cut through. 

So how can you and your business locate, connect, and engage with your targeted audience? The answer: with a sales or marketing funnel

Table of Contents

Marketing funnels are a proven visual tool that can help you increase sales conversions.

  • Companies that confirm they’ve never used a marketing funnel report nearly 80% of their leads never turn into sales.
  • Nurtured leads end up making purchases 47% larger than non-nurtured customers. 
  • 96% of shoppers state that they are not ready to buy when they visit a website. However, they are willing to develop a relationship with a business through a newsletter, a sign-up offer, or an email list. 
  • 30-50% of sales are made by the first vendor who responds or communicates with the lead prospect. 

Without a doubt, a marketing funnel that can meet the needs of a potential customer will end up with the sale

What are marketing funnels?

A marketing funnel organizes each step of your marketing strategy so you can improve your sales efficiency, all while creating an ideal customer experience.  

It’s a sequence that converts a prospective customer into a long-term, high-value client. The purpose of your business is to make a sale, and a marketing funnel guides each potential customer along your sales journey, from knowing about a product or service to buying it. 

Every customer who purchases (or signs up for a service) follows this journey, no matter how fast or slow they proceed through the sales cycle. With a proper marketing funnel, you can interact with your customers at each stage of the pipeline. Not only does this speed up your conversion rate, but the communication at each touch-point nurtures the prospect’s experience, resulting in better engagement and user satisfaction.  

How do marketing funnels work?

Customers need to connect with your business multiple times before they make a purchase decision. Each interaction fits within a specific phase of your marketing funnel: 

Top of the funnel:

The funnel’s mouth has the largest reach and scope, and it is designed to get the most attention from the target demographic. This could include media campaigns, social platform outreach, or email lead generation. At this stage, marketers cast a wide net to generate traction from those who might benefit from the product.  

Middle of the funnel:

The middle of the funnel creates a greater connection with a customer who has expressed curiosity about your product or services. Your marketing efforts have touched upon a specific pain point, and the presentation of a possible solution has created attraction. Still, for the purchaser, more research is required. Engagement is critical at this stage and often includes email notifications, links to blogs and webinars, and even in-store interactions such as demos and tutorials. 

Bottom of the funnel:

The final part of your marketing funnel results in the sale. By this stage, the consumer is willing to buy but wants to select the exact right solution for their needs. Marketers should focus on creating a frictionless experience — the fewer barriers there are to purchase, the more enjoyable and efficient the buying process will be for the customer. Here is where return policies, review forums, and satisfaction guarantees are of use.   

Each element of a sales funnel provides a seamless journey for the customer, and your marketing and sales teams organize their campaigns around that movement. A robust and comprehensive marketing funnel will utilize marketing techniques and strategies that work best for your business.

An efficient sales pipeline creates more sales, at a more rapid pace, with an increase in repeat business! 

Why are marketing funnels so effective?

Marketing funnels work because they align, step for step, with the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey explains the three stages of behavior that a prospective client goes through before handing over their cash for a product. The better you understand each customer’s natural purchase process, the better you can market the right solution. The best marketing funnels are the ones that tailor their efforts directly to the buyer’s journey.

The Buyer’s Journey includes the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages.

The Buyer’s Journey

1. Awareness

The potential customer has become aware of a problem and is actively looking for answers to solve it. They are in the midst of an extensive research phase, and anything that can give insight into their current need, whether it’s a blog, resource, review, education, an ad, or a social media post, will be effective. 

At this stage in your marketing funnel, you should deliver content that touches on the pain points they are experiencing (and for a fast sales pipeline, offer an immediate solution), as the prospective customer will interact with those who can solve the issue for them quickly. 

Word of mouth marketing is effective in this first phase. Also, take advantage of several digitals methods, such as website search engine optimization (SEO) for a high ranking for online searches. Cultivating positive reviews on review forums should not be overlooked. 

Brand trust from other customers can help inform your current prospect, and you build that through advertising and media campaigns. Throughout the awareness stage, make sure you provide value to the client through education and information.

A prospective customer becomes a lead at this point, so initial communications through an email address, interactions with a blog, social, or targeted ads are helpful lead generation tools.

2. Consideration

In the second stage, the buyer has defined the scope of their problem and has narrowed their search down to a select few businesses that have provided value. The customer knows what to buy and now begins to consider the range of available options.

Marketers can again meet the buyer in this phase by moving away from education outreach to lead nurturing. Since the client is deliberating, continued engagement with your brand is ideal. Offer details about the particular benefits your products have that can stimulate further interest from the customer. It’s the marketing and sales team’s job to show why your product is worth buying, which they can accomplish with free trials, try-it-before-you-buy-it offers, discounts, sales, coupons, etc.

Be sure to demonstrate the time, expense, and hassle the client will save during this period of the sales cycle. Customer service may need to field questions or present video ‘how-tos’ to further connect with the customer.  

3 . Decision

Known as the “last mile” of the journey, this is the final stage of the buyer’s journey before a sales conversion. The choice to buy and the type of product they desire is already complete — now they decide which business to select.

Often, the company that offered the best experience with the most brand trust earns the sale. Those who have built an enjoyable experience from the beginning of the sales pipeline have the most potential to convert.

It’s important in the decision stage to make purchasing easy: lengthy contracts, confusing online interfaces, long shipping times, and hidden fees can be difference makers. Marketers want to pay attention to reviews or client support tickets to learn where the sales pipeline bottlenecks in this critical area. 

As you can see, the buyer’s journey gives you in-depth details about what your prospect or customer feels as they make a purchase. You can now use that information to build a marketing funnel strategy that better engages your customers. 

Next up: the Customer Journey

Knowing the buyer’s journey helps you create effective marketing strategies that attract high-priority clients, but we cannot stop there. A successful marketing funnel should do more than result in a single, one-time purchase — it has to turn that buyer into a lifelong, repeat customer.

Did you know:

  • Your probability of selling is 40% more likely from a repeat customer than a new prospect?
  • 65% of profitable business sales come from return buyers?
  • Engaged clients buy more often, and they deliver 23% more revenue?

The lifetime value of an existing customer is a key success metric, so sales teams adjust their marketing funnels to include additional two steps from the customer’s journey.

These additional steps are the Retention and Advocacy stages.

The Customer Journey adds the Retention and Advocacy stages

1. Retention

By this stage of the customer journey, the customer has successfully converted into a sale and has now entered into post-fulfillment. Just because money has exchanged hands (or bank accounts) doesn’t mean that your marketing efforts subside. Loyal customers still want a continued positive experience, not only with the product but also with your brand. 

Examples of customer retention activities include sending simple “Thank You” emails or notices of warranty expiration. In the best of scenarios, the client develops a deeper connection with your business philosophy – customers who align with your mission and objective statements will hold a stronger sense of loyalty. To build this alignment, you can send them free service updates or news about your social outreach or charitable giving activities. 

Marketing companies can also take advantage of rewards cards, company membership programs, and exclusive newsletters. Don’t sleep on tech support and customer service responses for lost, broken, stolen, damaged, or returned products, as these elements of post-fulfillment are crucial in turning a lost sale into a lifelong customer. 

Be sure to personalize each marketing tool, as customer retention stems from continued engagement and communication between the business and the user. Social media is a good retention tool because it creates a unique online community that can foster pride towards your business from previous clients. Each marketing strategy that creates customer loyalty will lead to better satisfaction, and ultimately, advocacy. 

2. Advocacy

With a well-run marketing funnel, your ideal customer should be ready and willing to share their positive experience with others. In this final stage, you can ask your high-value customers to offer recommendations, reviews, and social proof. Client advocacy is a powerful marketing tool — 71% of buyers are more likely to buy after reading a recommendation on social media.

With the right promotion techniques, your customers will create user-generated content on their own, and that type of marketing reach is better than any branded campaign. Prospects at the beginning of their own buyer’s journey start by researching previous customer interactions, and positive confirmations from others can help make new prospects. 

You can create advocacy in a variety of ways. Building review forums for each of your products is a well-known marketing option, and asking for referrals on third-party review sites can boost public perception. Celebrity cameos are also an excellent form of advocacy. Sometimes it is as simple as creating an impactful unboxing experience for customers, who will then post on their own social media platforms. Exclusive events and content for priority members can work as well. 

What about Marketing Flywheels?

In the world of internal combustion engines, flywheels are used to prevent an engine’s crankshaft from speeding up and slowing down so that whatever is propelled forward can maintain a smooth and steady speed. Hubspot has adapted this concept to explain how businesses can adjust their strategies to encourage repeat sales.

When a customer fully engages with your brand values, the repeat business created from your marketing funnel can turn into a self-sustaining loop. Each successful sales conversion by a valued client — i.e., each positive trip through your marketing funnel — builds in impact (much like the firing of engine pistons).

Steady business referrals, positive reviews, and continued growth of user-generated content all contribute to business momentum. In many respects, marketing and sales activities keeping this momentum going act more like a flywheel than a funnel. 

The three stages of the marketing and sales flywheel are: Attract, Engage, Delight.

The Hubspot Flywheel Model can be used to turn strangers into prospects,
prospects into customers, and customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

1. Attract

Attracting priority clients and prospects gives the initial traction to your flywheel. Social media and other digital marketing channels are great tools at your disposal to offer content and resources useful to prospective clients. 

  • 54% of customers use social media to research products, and recent studies show that social channels gave a 91% increase in exposure and a 75% increase in web traffic. 
  • Ecommerce and online advocacy have made direct communication between B2B and B2C sales that much easier, and so a Flywheel model can lead to enhanced business growth. 

The purpose of these activities is to begin a conversation without focusing on making a sale. Whether through expert advice or a robust social media campaign, presenting value attracts potential customers and creates engagement. 

2. Engage

Engagement allows you to present solutions to the potential pain points of your customers. Discovering their goals and giving insights into how they can achieve those goals creates curiosity and brand awareness. When you foster a relationship with each lead, especially in a personalized way, you can extend the communication and scope of interaction. The more positive interactions a client has with your business, the more likely they will promote and represent your mission, adding even more momentum to the flywheel. 

3. Delight

If you provide an enjoyable experience for the customer as they locate the ideal product solution to their current problem, that feeling of delight will most likely turn into a sale.

Empowering customers to make purchases that align with your business vision will result in long-term clients. More importantly, this can inspire additional acts of advocacy for high-value clients, as they will take part in the overall promotion of your brand. Their positive experience and social outreach will help connect you with yet more potential prospects. Continued expansion of customer ambassadors through review, referrals, and recommendations, both in person or online, leads to massive sales growth. 

The idea is to move each customer from the initial prospect stage into an active sponsor of your company in an ever-expanding cycle. The better the flywheel operates, the faster it can go and the more reach it will have.

When possible, look for ways to reduce any friction within your applied Flywheel model for sustained momentum. For example, even if the initial social media campaign does an excellent job or attracts new customers, the flywheel can slow dramatically if customer service fails to maintain delight after purchase. With an optimized flywheel, sales teams can operate efficiently while keeping the customer’s experience front and center.

Combining inbound flywheels with the customer and buyer journey funnels

Marketing funnels and inbound flywheels are not separate marketing strategies. Rather, when used together, they generate active and well-defined client movement through your pipeline.

For example, the awareness stage of the customer’s journey aligns perfectly with the ‘attract’ function of the Flywheel model. Both methods inform what tools and marketing plan you can use to keep your campaigns customer-centric.

The table below demonstrates how to use the flywheel and marketing funnels together to plan out high-converting content marketing strategies, with your end-user in mind.

Customer & Buyer JourneyFlywheelWhoContent types
AwarenessAttractProspectsHow-to infographics, checklists,
videos, white papers, product guides
testimonials, Promotions, discounts
ConsiderationEngageLeadsProduct webinars, case studies,
free samples, demo videos
Decision DelightLeadsCustomer reviews, case studies,
free trials, live demos, consultations,
RetentionEngage & DelightNew customerSurveys, Testimonials, product how-to’s,
discounts, promotions
AdvocacyDelightExisting customersNews updates, new releases, promotions, discounts

Even if your efforts result in a purchase at the decision stage, if the customer does not experience some level of delight, the odds of them becoming active promoters for your business are low. The best part about combining a flywheel with a marketing funnel is that it always keeps the customer and their needs first and foremost, which we all know is critical for long-term success. 

Key takeaways

Marketing funnels are essential because they help you match your sales efforts to the exact position of each buyer as they move down your sales pipeline. This results in several key benefits for you: 

  • Organize and streamline marketing teams: With a clear understanding of your target demographic and a well-functioning system that can attract and convert buyers, marketing teams are capable of handling any issue that may appear within your business flywheel. Reduce friction, and create campaigns that are effective for each prospect. Sales teams can stay organized and create a better ROI. 
  • Improve the speed and volume of your each customer journey: With personalized and planned marketing strategies in place to attract and build awareness for potential prospects, both the number of customers you locate and the speed at which they move through your sales pipeline will increase. You can make tweaks and small changes to your marketing funnels that result in better value for both you and your customers. 
  • Create engagement that results in conversions: With the right tools used at the right time as outlined in your marketing funnel, you can meet each client at every stage of their buying journey. Build strong brand trust through such high levels of engagement. Extended communication with all customers will result in a purchase experience that delights, helping make more sales. 
  • Turn prospects into active promoters: After a client makes a purchase, your marketing funnel can now build a community of active promoters. Retain a customer as a repeat buyer, all while improving total customer satisfaction. Any lead that converts into a return customer will aid your marketing teams through word-of-mouth, referrals, and positive reviews, which in turn will attract new prospects. Acts of advocacy from happy clients build business momentum and rapid sales growth. 

All that is left is for you to build your own marketing funnel! Sign up to connect with SiteCare about our lead generation and content marketing services to help you amplify your reach to your desired audience.

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Jean Brown | Associate Content Manager

Jean Brown is an Associate Content Manager at SiteCare. She has worked in digital content production and management for over 9 years. She joined SiteCare's Content Marketing/SEO team in January 2021, and is now having a blast rolling out content and SEO strategies for SiteCare clients.

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