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Feb

14

2013

The Digital Marketing Sales Funnel Explained

Inbound Marketing

If article writers know one thing for certain, it’s that a catchy title is more powerful than a thousand word essay when it comes to driving traffic. As a result you see blogs often greatly exaggerate their topics, or take controversial stances just for the sake of gathering interest and views. Even we’re guilty – it works, after all.)

But one claim that keeps popping up is that “the sales funnel is dead”—specifically, the digital marketing sales funnel. It’s becoming a pet peeve of mine. Here’s my geeky analogy of the week, and feel free to take it or leave it:

The sales funnel is like The Doctor, of Doctor Who. It doesn’t really die, it just…. changes. Wibbly-wobbly, markety-warkety.

The Current Digital Marketing Sales Funnel

Technology changes, and our buying process changes with it. That’s why many people think the funnel dies every so often, when really it’s just shifting to fit new needs. We can’t take credit for devising this digital model—HubSpot has that honor—but this is the sales funnel you want to learn. Unlike so many marketing methodologies, this one is effective, easy, and intuitive.

The current sales funnel is a three step system:

  • TOP of FUNNEL (ToFu) - Educate
  • MIDDLE of FUNNEL (MoFu) – Persuade
  • BOTTOM of FUNNEL (BoFu) – Sell

Depending on where prospects are in this funnel determines what kind of offers they should be exposed to, and so offers should be designed with one of these three tiers in mind. An ebook, a case study, and a discount are all three very different kinds of offers. The trick is to use them strategically so that prospects naturally progress down the funnel.

The Sales Funnel Broken Down

TOP of FUNNEL:

The vast majority of visitors to your website are not ready to buy. They’re kicking the tire, educating themselves about their problem and possible solutions. Think about it – when you need to find information, you probably immediately take to Google and start researching. Your customers do the same thing, no matter what market you’re in. This presents an opportunity: If your prospects are trying to research, give them something to help.

Top of funnel content can be in the form of blogs (hello!), ebooks, webinars, videos—really, any way you can disseminate information to help prospects learn. You can do this either openly (as blogs should be) or behind form gates where you can collect information for email marketing purposes.

The key is that you actually commit to being an educator and supporting a community. If you get salesy too early, you’re going to scare people off. Think of your prospects like cats. One sudden move from you and they’re on top of the refrigerator.

MIDDLE of FUNNEL:

What happens when prospects know their problem and have an idea of what they’re looking for? They’re going to shop around to find the best deal / service they can. If you educated these prospects in the Top of Funnel, you’re already a step ahead of your competitors – if prospects view you as a resource and learn about how to fix their problems from you, chances are you’ll be at the front of their minds when they’re settling on a solution.

Here’s where the middle of funnel kicks in – your goal is to persuade prospects that you are the best business for the job. Are you starting to see the natural progression?

This comes with a different set of offers. It can be a little more salesy, but your job is not to tout clever branding or slogans or use your own words, your job is to show. Case studies, white papers, product guides, testimonials– these are all great middle of funnel offers that will help convince prospects that they need to do business with you.

BOTTOM of FUNNEL:

Now you can unleash your inner sales person. Top of funnel educated your prospect, middle of funnel convinced them you’re the best business for the job, and now that they’re at the bottom your job is to give them a reason to act now and commit to the deal before they wander off and get taken by a competitor. Your offers at this stage should be incentives to take action. Discounts, special deals, consultations, bundles, and free trials are all great ways to tap into the bottom of funnel. If you have a dedicated sales team, this is where you can hand off qualified leads to start working their magic.

Why This Model is Effective

The digital marketing sales funnel, as defined here, works because it’s in line with modern shopping and research habits for B2C and B2B. We rely increasingly on search engines to find the information we need, and we like to shop around and look at reviews before we commit. I’m an extreme case maybe, but many – especially in younger generations – do not commit to purchases without looking for reviews and information. If I go to buy a blender at WalMart, chances are either before hand or in the store I’ll have my phone out looking at model reviews on Amazon.

As prospects move down the funnel, the more exposure to your website they have the stronger their relationship will be with your brand. You give them that exposure by providing remarkable content that people want to read and share. It keeps prospects coming back, it keeps your social media growing, and it leads to more (and more qualified) conversions.

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