How a Marketing Conversion Funnel Works

Why Your Marketing Strategy Needs a Conversion Funnel (and How It Works)

Ever used a funnel while baking? 

That cone-shaped thingamajig may seem excessive when you’re just pouring some liquids from one container to another, but it plays an important role. 

A funnel directs things where you want them to go, and not somewhere else (like all over the counter, or the floor, or your sweater). Funnels guide flow. 

A conversion funnel is the same idea but applied to your marketing strategy.  Conversion funnels help you lead consumers through the buying journey, to make sure they land exactly where you want them to. Of course, the end goal is to convert them. (Or, you know, it should be.)

The conversion funnel isn’t only for purchases or physical products, though. The “transaction” at the end of the funnel could be someone subscribing to your newsletter, signing a petition, joining your Facebook group, scheduling a tour, or making a donation. 

When you implement and optimize your conversion funnel, you’ll experience a boost in lead generation, conversion rates, and profits. So, how do you build a well-defined, optimized funnel to capture leads, nurture them, and get ’em to convert?

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Conversion Funnel?

A conversion funnel (which is sometimes called a “sales funnel” or “marketing funnel”) is a step-by-step process that helps you visualize your prospects’ buying journey, so you can lead them towards making a purchase. 

Image courtesy of Moz

A well-optimized conversion funnel isn’t a one-off attempt to guide a user from one place to another. It’s a holistic approach that strategically ties your marketing and sales activities into one streamlined system for the audience to move through. 

At each stage of the funnel, there’s content serving as guideposts for how the audience can move forward: blog posts, landing pages, videos, emails, infographics, social ads, PPC campaigns, and more. 

With a well-constructed conversion funnel, all of your marketing and sales activities combine to attract prospects, nurture qualified leads, and then convert them into paying customers.

Ideally, some of those customers who convert at the bottom of the funnel become brand evangelists. And since a whopping 90% of prospects trust suggestions from family and friends, those brand evangelists can have a huge impact on filling the top of the funnel. 

Once those new prospects land at the top of the funnel, you repeat the “attract, nurture, and convert” process. It’s the circle of life. (*starts singing Lion King intro*)

Conversion Funnel Stages: Which Content Goes Where? 

Apart from driving traffic and boosting conversions, the sales funnel also creates “aha” moments for your prospects: a point in your prospect’s buying journey when they exclaim, “OMG! This is what I’ve been looking for!”

But getting prospects to notice your brand or engage long enough to experience an “aha” moment is no easy task. Average prospects read 3-5 content pieces before contacting a sales rep. 

They check out multiple content pieces across various websites before moving to the next stage of their journey. 

So your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to create content for each of the three stages of the conversion funnel. You want to guide your audience from awareness, interest, and consideration all the way to intent and purchase.

1. Top of the Funnel (TOFU) 

This is the spot where every buyer starts. Here, buyers just became aware of their problem, and they’re actively seeking a solution. They use informational queries like, “What do I wear to ski?” or “How do you stay warm while skiing?”

If you approach these individuals with a hard sell at this stage, you’ll get an outright rejection. They just aren’t ready to purchase yet. 

To get their attention, you need to offer them value by listening to and answering their questions

Use blog posts, articles, ads, landing pages, social media posts, checklists, and other types of content to answer the questions a potential buyer has at this stage. 

Image courtesy of Campaign Monitor via Unbounce

Your goal for this stage is to build trust and position your brand as an authority. Educate, entertain, and inspire your audience as you answer questions related to the problem your product is designed to solve. That way, when they’re ready to buy, your brand pops up in their minds first before your competitors. 

2. Middle of Funnel (MOFU) 

If you’re lucky, some of that top-of-funnel content will win you ongoing interest; those who have their interests piqued may decide to exchange their contact info for a downloadable resource. This, my friend, is where you turn visitors into leads. 

The goal of this phase is to reinforce trust, nurture leads, and monitor purchase intent

At this stage, your leads are considering whether or not to become paying customers. They’re gathering more information about your solutions. (And you’re trying to gather information about them as well.)

The best way to nurture leads here is to speak directly to them. Focus your efforts on creating personalized content, offers, and email campaigns, based on the leads’ specific needs, challenges, and personalities. This may involve creating multiple variants to speak to different demographic or psychographic segments

Content types in this phase often include email campaigns, webinars, in-person events, case studies, and social proof like testimonials and reviews. 

Since you know your leads are considering options at this stage, you can give them a little push using product reviews and product comparisons. The goal is to provide detailed information to help guide the audience through their consideration process.

3. Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) 

Assuming you made a compelling case for your product with your MOFU content, this final stage is where the lead (hopefully) decides to purchase. 

To help this process along, you’ll want to apply some sense of urgency to your reminder email, promotional offers, and retargeting ads

Image courtesy of Later

As in the middle of the funnel, any tactic you decide to adopt at this stage should be tailored to your prospect’s unique needs and buying behavior. 

This stage can be pretty emotional for your prospect. (Committing to purchase can be a big and stressful decision!) Ensure your sales copy speaks directly to their key pain points. Make a passionate case for your product. 

Optimize Your Funnel and Go With the Flow

A conversion funnel can help keep your audience where you want them to be, throughout each stage of their journey. These types of funnels work best if you implement them mindfully and look for opportunities to optimize them regularly.  

First, look at how traffic flows through the funnel for opportunities hidden in your web traffic patterns. You can use Google’s Goal Flow tool to investigate questions like these:

  • Do users enter my funnel at the first step, or are they jumping in somewhere in the middle?
  • Are there a lot of unexpected exits from a step in the middle of the funnel?
  • Is there a place where traffic loops back?
  • Does one segment of traffic act differently than other segments? Is it converting more or less often?

Next, take a look at the email campaigns that are a part of your audience’s buyer journey: onboarding sequences, promotions, thank you pages, and more. By looking at the open rates, click rates, and unsubscribe rates—and comparing them to email benchmarks—you may identify high-performing emails you can build upon or low-performing emails that could use some TLC. 

You can do the same for other tools you use to drive traffic and attract customers:

  • Look at any available social data to determine which posts and activities tend to generate high engagement, click-through, and conversion. 
  • Examine the performance of any PPC campaigns to optimize for more conversions.  
  • Review any lead magnets or gated content to see which are associated with the highest conversion rates.

You also want to carefully audit your landing pages, since they play a vital role in your conversion funnel’s effectiveness. Not only do your landing pages impact your quality score across any PPC campaigns, but they’re also often your audience’s final stop between consideration and purchase. 

A problematic landing page may not get folks over the finish line to make a purchase, but it also might be an obstacle for someone who was otherwise ready to buy

Look for opportunities to optimize the copy, calls to action, buttons, illustrations, photos, and other elements on your landing pages. (If you’re not sure what a good conversion rate is for a landing page, check out the 2021 Conversion Benchmark Report.)

Get Smart With Your Conversion Funnel

You can optimize each landing page in your conversion funnel with Smart Traffic, which will analyze your visitors’ attributes and lead them to the landing page where they are most likely to convert. Pages that use Smart Traffic see an average conversion lift of 30%. 🙌

You don’t have to wait months for sufficient traffic on your landing page to know what’s working and what’s not, either. Smart Traffic automatically optimizes your landing page even when you add new variants or change traffic sources.  

That way, you never lose a quality lead. And that’s what the conversion funnel is all about. 

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About Melanie Deziel
Melanie is the Director of Content at Foundation Marketing, where she oversees content ideation and creation for B2B brands and Foundation itself. She’s an author, a speaker, and a big-time coffee drinker. All posts are proofread by a very fluffy feline named Luna.
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