marketing funnelAre you familiar with the marketing funnel?

You may know it as the sales funnel or the lead funnel.

Whatever the name, I think it’s very useful graphic.

For me, it provides a good visual framework for individual marketing activities as they apply to your sales process.

Let me put it another way.

Not that long ago, marketing programs were primarily ad campaigns that appeared in targeted trade journals (for B2B) of local newspapers, radio and TV (for B2C).

The Yellow Pages was a required placement for many companies and some spent a lot of money on it. Some exhibited at trade shows. And some used direct mail.

But for the most part, the focus was always on the advertising campaign.

Today, marketers have many more choices. You could almost say they have too many choices because that’s how it feels sometimes.

One way to keep track of it all is with the marketing funnel.

The marketing funnel identifies different marketing activities that target specific audience groups based on where they are in the sales process. For example:
  • A direct mail campaign or online campaign designed to capture new leads would appear at the top of the funnel (actually above the funnel).
  • An email drip campaign or webinar promotion would be developed for already-captured leads inside the funnel.
  • A cross-sell promotion using both email and direct mail would be developed for existing customers.
These multiple programs are possible today because we now have the tools to quickly and easily segment our audiences.

We no longer have to target everybody with the exact same campaign.

We can slice out a segment of our audience universe and create specific marketing promotions just for them.

Some of these segments can vary by demographics (industry, job title, etc.), but they can also vary by stages in the sales process.

Top of the funnel is for Suspects

All of the activities you see above the funnel are lead generation activities designed to get prospects to raise their hands and show some interest in your product or service.

For the most part, the people you are reaching with these activities are new to you. And you are new to them. They are still just Suspects.

Top of the funnel activities tend to be the most expensive because you are often using third parties to reach these audiences – and that costs money.

Center of the funnel is for Prospects

Inside the funnel is a relatively new playing field for marketing.

In the traditional lead generation model, as soon as a lead was captured, it would get tossed over to sales where it would be qualified and nurtured through the sales process. And marketing was completely out of the picture.

That’s still the case with some companies, but now thanks to email, more and more companies have given marketing a larger role in the lead nurturing process.

Your lead nurturing effort could be a series of emails (drip email) or an email newsletter or an email survey.

The goal for all lead nurturing activities is to move a prospect from initial inquiry to engagement to exploration to presentation and close.

Bottom of the funnel is for Customers

For those prospects who move completely through the funnel to become customers, you can develop very specialized offers and messages to create additional sales.

Repeat sales come in the form of
  • cross-selling additional products
  • up-selling enhancements to an original sale
  • re-selling consumable products or new versions
When you market aggressively to the bottom of your funnel, you increase customer loyalty which then increases the lifetime value of your customer.
As an added benefit, all marketing to your customer base also increases your chances for referrals.
Above all else, the marketing funnel reminds us that marketing and advertising should be viewed not as an isolated activity but as a direct contributor to your sales process.


About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."