The goal of every business is to generate leads and make a profit. You need to attract and retain customers, which can (and should) be done differently depending on who you’re targeting and when. This article will look at every stage of the marketing funnel, how you can create one, and which type of customers fall into each stage.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a structured roadmap that outlines the customer’s unique journey with your business. The marketing tactics used throughout the funnel vary depending on the brand, but digitally-focused marketing funnels typically use a variation of paid ads, social media activity, SEO, and content marketing.

Think of the marketing funnel as the how-to guide for your brand’s marketing success. Each stage defines the customer’s place in the buying journey, from the moment they discover your brand and build interest, to their engagement past the point of purchase. If you understand every stage in the buying process, you have a better idea of what marketing tactics are more likely to succeed at each step.

Why do you need a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is an invaluable resource for marketers that highlights the direction your customers take and, ultimately, what direction your brand should take.

If done correctly, your marketing funnel will break down your customers into unique buying stages. You will then be able to assess what your customers are looking for at every point, enabling you to apply specific marketing strategies to each stage in the buying journey.

Your marketing funnel focuses on where your efforts should be targeted and when. This ultimately improves conversions by giving customers exactly what they need and when they need it, meaning they’re more likely to invest in your offering.

How do B2B and B2C marketing funnels differ?

B2B and B2C marketing funnels follow a similar format but typically apply different marketing techniques at each stage.

While both B2B and B2C industries can market their brand offering similarly in the first stages of the marketing funnel, they will likely provide different informational content at stages two, three, and four.

Because B2B services are typically more complex, companies will need to provide extensive guides and, in some cases, instructional videos to give customers what they need. B2C companies, however, will also benefit from providing educational information at these stages, but it is unlikely to be as complex.

What are the stages of a marketing funnel?

There are various marketing funnel examples, each with a different number of stages. A basic version would have three stages, starting from a customer becoming aware of a brand at the top of the funnel (TOFU). Customers consider their options in the middle of the funnel (MOFU). They then move down to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) by committing to the brand through a purchase.

These three core stages are vital, but they don’t show the complete picture of a customer’s experience with a brand. That’s why we recommend creating a marketing funnel with five distinct stages:

  • Stage 1 – Awareness (TOFU)
  • Stage 2 – Research (MOFU)
  • Stage 3 – Evaluation (MOFU)
  • Stage 4 – Conversion (BOFU)
  • Stage 5 – Loyalty (BOFU)

Stage 1 – Awareness

The first stage in the marketing funnel is for those just becoming aware they need something.

Your TOFU customers will typically have a problem that needs solving. For example, if they want professional work done in their garden, they will become aware of their need for a garden landscaper.

Your potential customers must have a problem that needs a solution you can give for them to enter the top of your marketing funnel. Once they are aware of that problem and your unique offering, they can begin to move further down the funnel.

Stage 2 – Research

When customers realise they have a problem, they search for information to solve it, and this is when they become a MOFU customer.

This stage is crucial for marketers, as they must have enough readily available information to guide customers down the funnel effectively. It’s the part of the buying journey that is less about promotional opportunities and more about providing information. Brands need to make enough of an impression to pique a customer’s interest and be in a good position for the evaluation stage.

Stage 3 – Evaluation

At stage three, the customer is still considered MOFU level but is gradually making their way further down the funnel. They fully understand their problem and have gathered what information they can to gauge the right solution.

If the customer has become aware of your brand, they will hopefully be intrigued by your offer. However, people want to know they are always getting the best deal. Most new customers to your brand will want to see what other options there are on the market before they commit to a purchase.

At this time, you need to provide the customer with things other brands don’t. It could be exclusive discounts for first-time buyers or enhanced information demonstrating your extensive area knowledge.

Fitness retailers targeting new runners might choose to create blogs about running in different weather conditions, or mortgage providers might have extensive guides and resources for first-time buyers. If you can offer them enough valuable information and beneficial perks in addition to what they want to purchase, they are more likely to become conversion customers.

Stage 4 – Conversion

If you have applied effective marketing strategies throughout the first three stages of the marketing funnel, your customer will then reach the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

At this point, the customer has discovered they have a problem, researched the solutions, evaluated their options, and is now ready to purchase from you. For customers at this stage, you need to optimize your website for conversions (CRO) by simplifying the buying process and offering additional benefits. Doing so will hopefully mean the customer is more likely to continue to stage five of the marketing funnel.

Stage 5 – Loyalty

Your marketing funnel doesn’t stop once the purchase is complete. It’s just as essential to retain customers as it is to attract new ones.

If your customers have been effectively introduced to your brand and received additional features and services, they will likely return to you for purchase again. They are also more likely to recommend you to others, whether that be through word-of-mouth or actively sharing links to your brand online.

Don’t forget follow-up marketing tactics, either. If they enjoyed their first purchase, they might like to receive information on new products or services from your brand in the future.

How to build a content marketing funnel

Now we have a better understanding of the five core stages, we can look at how to create a marketing funnel by applying specific tactics.

Let’s take a look at the appropriate channels to use for each stage in your marketing funnel.

Stage 1

We now know that the TOFU stage is when awareness begins to build, but they might not be actively looking for a solution.

Let’s say you sell specialized at-home hair dye mixed to the buyer’s exact colour preference. A person might know they struggle to find a hair dye that achieves the exact hue they’re looking for but aren’t aware a brand like yours exists to help them in the first place.

This is when you need to apply marketing tactics that grab their attention and make them aware of what you do. You can do this with beauty products like hair dye through paid ads across social channels like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook and by collaborating with reputable influencers.

It helps to see how your competitors put themselves before your shared target audience. See what’s working for them and follow a similar kick-off strategy.

Stage 2

Once you’ve attracted customers by hitting their pain points, you need to hit them with the informational part of your content marketing funnel.

If we stick with the specialized hair dye example, the type of informational content you provide would be all about how you do what you do. The content could cover everything from how your brand communicates with customers to create their personalized hair colour and extensive information about the formulation process.

You could also provide testimonials for previous customers that include before and after pictures of their new hair colour, explaining the process of achieving their radiant locks.

This type of content will build out your website in the form of landing pages. However, if your brand offering is more complex than beauty products and needs additional educational information, the content could be educational videos or extensive guides.

Stage 3

The customer knows what you do and how you can help them, so the ball is in their court. But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage them to pick up that ball and keep playing.

You’ve got their attention, and now you need to keep it. Don’t just leave them with the basic information — instead, provide content the customer didn’t even know they needed.

For the hair dye example, write blogs connected to what you do. Things like “how to choose the right hair colour for your skin tone” or “hydrating techniques for damaged hair” might not directly sell your product, but they are relevant enough to your brand for you to talk about with authority. It’s a great way to show your industry knowledge and help the customer in more ways than one.

Stage 4

This is the stage where your content marketing funnel tactics almost come to a head. You’ve put in solid effort higher up the funnel, and the customer is now ready to purchase because of it. Now you need to apply solid conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics.

Appropriate CRO tactics can include refunds within a certain period, discounts on future purchases, an FAQ section that answers typical customer questions, and reviews of your products or services.

Another great feature to add to your website is a live customer support chat. Having this allows the user to contact you directly about any last-minute queries. Your previous content marketing techniques will hopefully have provided them with everything they need, but they will also appreciate having the chance to reach out to a real person.

Stage 5

Once the customer has made their purchase, your content marketing funnel techniques are essentially complete.

However, you can still market to your BOFU customers through paid ads and social media posts to inform them about new products or services. You can also email those subscribed with updated brand information, current sales, and discounted offers for returning customers.

The important thing at this stage is not to leave your paying customers behind. Regularly remind them of who you are, what you do, and how you have previously helped them, so they keep coming back.

The end result

Knowing how to create a marketing funnel can propel your brand conversion rates to new heights. You can build trust and authority by providing your customers with everything they need at every stage of the funnel, making you a reputable brand your customers will return to again. By combining expert SEO strategy and content strategy with other marketing funnel tactics, you’ll be in the best position to create a successful marketing funnel.