Articles

What’s a Digital Marketing Funnel?

By Courtney Thompson

Table of Contents

The Digital Marketing Funnel Defined
Marketing Funnels in the 21st Century
Building a Digital Marketing Funnel


When you want to grow your business, it’s tempting to throw every marketing tactic at your audience and hope that some mixture of them both grows your audience and encourages conversion. Don’t succumb to this temptation. I have. It’s exhausting, and it doesn’t work.

Developing a marketing funnel suited to your business and audience is one element of several that strategizes your marketing so you work smarter not harder. As I was learning about digital marketing through hard-knocks, I wish someone had early-on explained marketing funnels to me. So in this article, I’m going to do for you what I wish someone had done for me.

The Digital Marketing Funnel Defined

First, what is a marketing funnel? A marketing funnel charts a lead’s journey from awareness to conversion. Though marketers name the different stages in the funnel differently, we generally label them as “awareness,” “interest,” “consideration,” and “conversion” with awareness at the top and conversion at the bottom of the funnel.

Funnels are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom because a company generally sees more leads in the awareness stage than the conversion stage. Leads rarely make a predictable journey from top to bottom. Some skip funnel steps; some may enter at “interest” or “consideration” rather than “awareness.”

Regardless, a marketing funnel is an invaluable internal tool for strategizing which tools you will use based on what you know about your audience’s demographics and their current level of need for your product or service.

If you’re new to strategic marketing and audience analysis, check out this article we wrote on developing a digital marketing strategy.

Marketing Funnels in the 21st Century

Marketers have used the funnel concept for more than 100 years. Though it’s always evolved based on available tactics, the funnel concept has especially changed with the advent of the internet, social media, and the subsequent changes in audience behavior.

Traditional marketing tactics like billboards, radio, and newspaper ads can still have a place in marketing funnels, but they work by having a huge “awareness” audience.  The problem is that many of the people seeing or hearing about your business won’t ever need your product or service. By and large, digital marketing tactics have become the go-to tools for developing all stages of the marketing funnel. Tools like website chat bots, automated email campaigns, and Google My Business profiles didn’t exist until recently, and now find their place in many marketing funnels.

Not only have the tactics used in marketing funnels changed, but customer behaviors have changed also. Thanks to the internet, customers can now enter a marketing funnel at any stage rather than predictably starting at awareness then working with a salesperson through the other steps. Customers are also far more educated about a product or service they’re considering – which means the role of the salesperson in encouraging conversions has changed.

And probably most significantly, customers are now very interested in what other customers have thought about a product or service. So they spend time reading reviews to get a feel for how many prior customers are happy with the product or service.

Because prior happy customers play a vital role in 21st century customer conversions, many marketing experts like those at Hubspot posit that marketing funnels now look more like a flywheel, cycling customers through stages of “attract,” “engage,” and “delight.”

This shift in thinking from funnel to flywheel is meant to prevent dropping customers after they buy from you. This model helps businesses to continue delighting customers even past conversion so they not only become customers again but also draw other leads toward conversion. However, marketing funnels are not irrelevant: they still effectively chart a lead’s journey from awareness to conversion, and fit within the marketing flywheel concept.

To learn more, read this Hubspot article on the marketing flywheel.

Building a Digital Marketing Funnel

There are four stages of your marketing funnel: “awareness,” “interest,” “consideration,” and “conversion.” It is important to understand these phases so you can use the best medium to provide an appealing offer to the right person.

Awareness: “We will be here when you need us.”

This is where people learn that you exist and what solutions or opportunities you offer. At this stage, few of the people being targeted will need your service immediately, but they or someone they know will want your service at some point in the future. The goal is that your business comes to mind when someone encounters the problem your business can solve.

Your awareness tools:

  • Guest blogging and podcast interviews
  • Google Ads (Display and YouTube campaigns)
  • Social media

Metrics for success

  • Increasing website visits from new users
  • Increasing social media followers, shares, and comments

Interest: “This is why we exist, what we do, and how we do it better than the alternatives.”

Congratulations!  Your awareness-building has paid off.  Someone has seen your ads or heard about you from a friend, and they decided to check out your website.

Your interest tools:

  • Website
  • Podcasts
  • Local SEO
  • Google Ads
  • Social media (organic posts and ads)
  • Vlogs/Blogs

Metrics for success:

  • Traffic volume is coming from organic, paid, and referral sources (in that order)
  • Home page has a bounce rate below 80%
  • Visitors are looking at least two pages on the website (such as the Home page and an About, Pricing, or Services page)

Consideration: “This is why you want to be a customer/client”

Leads at this stage are ready to make a purchase and are aware of your product/service. They are weighing the pros and cons of choosing to purchase from your business over another business.  At this point your goals are to clarify that the value you will bring is worth the cost as well as to demonstrate why people can trust you and your product/service.

Your consideration tools:

  • Website (validation, such as customer reviews, awards, certifications, logos of current clients.)
  • Lead magnets
  • A variety of real-time communication methods in addition to phone and email (texting, Facebook messenger, web chat, etc.)

Metrics for success:

  • At least 1-4% of website visitors are contacting the business to ask a question or are taking advantage of free resources
  • Website visitors are looking at your pricing page, browsing your portfolio, and/or are spending at least 30 seconds on service pages

Sidebar: What’s a Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is a free product or tool available to a lead in exchange for their contact information (like phone number and/or email address). The goal of a lead magnet is to grow your contact list and to start (often automated) conversations with your contacts via the contact info given. This conversation keeps a lead engaged with your business until they’re ready to convert.

A lead magnet could be a white paper, e-book, product sample, guide, case study, webinar, and more. You can be creative! The key is to know your audience and create something that entices them to allow you to contact them in exchange for it.

Here’s a great article with more examples of possible lead magnets.

Conversion: “This is how you become a customer/client”

Now you have a potential customer with buying intent – be careful!  It’s possible to have this person abandon their decision to buy from you because the buying process is confusing, takes too long, or requires too much effort.

Make the purchasing process seamless and straightforward.  No one wants to navigate through a host of offers for add-on products, click through multiple screens, fill out lengthy forms, create an account upfront, be redirected to a third-party website, enter a confirmation code…you get the idea.

Your conversion tools:

  • Online order checkout process
  • Instore purchase with an available, kind, and knowledgeable employee
  • Calendar scheduling tools (Calendly, Keap, Hubspot, etc)

If you’re not sure which tactics you should use for your business, read our article on choosing the right digital marketing tactics for your business.

Check out our next blog post to see an example of the digital marketing funnel in action.

Strategize Your Marketing with a Digital Marketing Funnel

Funnels are an invaluable tool for strategizing your marketing tactics. Need help organizing your tactics into a strategic funnel? We’re here to help!

Let’s chat!