The enigmatic “marketing funnel” began to take shape over a century ago in an ad agency. Today, you undoubtedly have one whether you’re aware or not. You might not know how it works or what it looks like. You may call it a “sales funnel,” a “conversion funnel” or several other names. But then, if your business depends on customers to grow, then you have a funnel.

If you’re in search of additional clarifications on it, you’re not alone. Theoretically, the marketing funnel is a representation of your buyers’ journey from start to finish, it’s the process you use to attract & convert leads. From prospect to customer, to the processes and tools you use to graciously guide them through. But in practice, building a marketing funnel is way more perplexing.

What do the foundational blocks of a successful marketing funnel look like? What processes can be used to ensure that the maximum number of leads are transformed to customers who remain loyal to your brand?

The quest for those answers began in 1898 with a four-letter abbreviation: AIDA. Today, it concludes by flipping the complete funnel on its head.

In this article, we’ll cover what marketing funnels are, the early marketing funnel, and the evolution of the marketing funnel. Then, we’ll deconstruct the marketing funnel. In the end, you’ll know what your marketing funnel should look like and how to utilize each phase of the funnel for the success of your business

What is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is a tool that describes your customer’s journey with you. It’s a way of breaking down the journey from when your customers first learn about your business to the stage when they’re prepared and willing to buy your products and services.

Initially, you want to make your brand/business more noticeable by publishing white papers, ranking high in search engines, etc. As the leads progress down the funnel, your outreach methodology gets more and more tailored until the sales take place.

The importance of a marketing funnel is that it helps to attract and convert customers to your business.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works.

Wondering why it’s funnel-shaped? It’s because some persons tend to drop out at each stage of the funnel.

Let me illustrate with an instance:

Imagine that you own an e-commerce store where you sell “headspin beanie”.

Over 200 hundred people are losing their hair from doing headspins without a beanie. So, they’ll turn to Google to search for a solution to their problem. Since you’re ranking high on Google for “headspin beanie,” 80 out of the 200 people navigate to your site. On your website, you offer a 40% discount in exchange for their email address. 40 people take on the offer. Assuming that only 20 people used the voucher and purchased a headspin beanie from your online store.

Given that people drop off at each phase, the top part is usually more significant than the bottom part. You can see how the numbers decrease: from 100 to 80 to 40 to 20. Well, this results in a funnel shape.


Generally, a marketing funnel simplifies a customer’s purchase journey. It makes it easier for companies to always keep in touch with their “would-be” customers.

A marketing funnel applies to nearly every customer interaction. Whether you want to generate traffic for your brick and mortar store, online sales or collect clicks as an affiliate, you’ll need a marketing funnel. It’s a very potent way to bring visibility to every phase of connection with your customer.

Another unique perk of a marketing funnel is its measurability. Through your funnel, you can pivot your business strategy by quickly knowing where you’re losing most of your clients.

For example, if you lose most of your customers even before they get to the second phase, then you can easily deduce that you need a better brand awareness campaign.


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At the end of the 20th century, Elias St. Elmo Lewis: future advertising Hall-of-Famer and agency owner developed a model (AIDA Model) that mapped the phases of a customer’s association with a business.

AIDA phases are as follows:

1. Awareness:

The prospects become conscious of their problem and possible solutions.

2. Interest:

The prospect expresses their interest in a specific group of products and/or services that solves their problem

3. Desire:

The prospect demonstrates an interest in a particular product and/or brand. They begin to check whether it meets their needs.

4. Action:

The prospect decides whether that product or brand meets their needs. If it does, then they become a customer. If it doesn’t, they continue on the evaluation journey until they find a product or brand that meets their needs.

In 1924, William H. Townsend joined Lewis’s model with the funnel perception, and the first marketing funnel was born:

Further Explanation

The “awareness” stage is a mass of potential customers who have a problem. Some of them will make it to the “interest” stage if they feel that your product can solve their problem. Others will drop at this phase and look out for other brands or products.

Subsequently, some people in the “interest” stage will make it to the “desire” stage. Others will drop out just like those in the “awareness” stage. That’s why the customer journey has been compared to a funnel. You’ll begin with many probable customers at the top of the funnel and end with only a few genuine ones at the bottom.

Since 1924, the marketing funnel has gone through drastic changes. Today’s model mirrors a newly empowered customer and emphasis on metrics beyond the “action” stage.

In fact, the present-day funnel looks more or less like a funnel. Many people say it looks like an hourglass that can be completely flipped on its head. While people have different definitions, we’re sure that the modern funnel looks nothing like it used to be.


The marketing funnel is so enigmatic that no single model’s universally accepted by all business experts. The most fundamental can be separated into three distinct phases:

You’ll often hear marketers talk about TOFU (top of the funnel). Some talk about MOFU (middle of the funnel) and BOFU (bottom of the funnel) processes and metrics. This is the model they’re referring to.

HubSpot elaborates on it further:

In this three-stage prototype, the “interest” and “desire” phases have been lumped together to form the “consideration” phase. The “awareness” phase remains the same. The “action” phase is just like the “decision” phase in all ways except the name.

If you carefully study the customer’s journey, you’ll see that the funnel incorporates more components than what Elias St. Elmo initially projected:

In this model from Aweber, you’ll notice the additional “loyalty” and “advocacy” phase.

That’s because present-day businesses have finally recognized the essence of the customer’s lifetime value. Research has proven that even a 5% rise in customer retention can increase a company’s profit by 95%.

A positive customer experience beyond the “action” phase results in not only recurrent purchases but rosy testimonials. Bearing in mind the fact that 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, the two new stages are essential for widening the top of the funnel to entice more potential customers.

That’s why more businesses are attaching an inverse funnel to the bottom of the traditional one. Folks at TrackMaven call it “the customer experience funnel.”

The outcome of combining the traditional funnel with this upside-down customer experience is what Duct Tape Marketing’s John calls “the hourglass.”

Nevertheless, there’s something very crucial to a business’s growth that this model doesn’t consider.


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The success of the marketing funnel depends on each phase’s contribution because the phases are interdependent. When one phase doesn’t contribute to the next, the end goal of transforming customers into advocates becomes unachievable.

Below are some of the things you need to know when guiding your customer through each marketing funnel phase.



According to Jantsch, this phase is also referred to as the “know” phase. It’s here that your prospect becomes aware that they have a problem and begin to look out for solutions.

Your Prospect’s Goal:

To put a name to their problem and start looking for possible solutions. For example, if they’re stumped by taxes, then it’s likely that they’re looking to purchase a do-it-yourself tax software or hire a CPA.

Your Goal:

To prove your authority with educational content and position yourself as a reliable solution. Have a clear and unique selling point. You can start by directing visitors to your website and transforming them into email subscribers.

The Best content to Offer:

Website content, guides, webinars, email newsletters, and blog posts

Key Performance Metrics to Track:

Social reach, inbound links, email subscribers, and website traffic (visits, unique visits).



The “consideration” stage is one that gets altered the most from one model to another. In Lewis’s AIDA model, it’s divided into the “interest” and “desire” stages. But in Jantsch’s hourglass, it’s divided into the “like” and “trust” stages.

This phase always gets morphed because of its space in the marketing funnel.

If all the funnels above were drawn to scale, then this stage would be much larger than the other stages. This is because it sometimes takes weeks and even months for prospects to estimate a business’s expertise and its capability to solve their problem.

During this period, it’s essential that you guide them to that decision with useful content.

Your Prospect’s Goal:

To decide which class of services and/or products can solve their problem and then evaluate businesses within that class. If we’re using the tax as an example, then the goal would be when the prospect decides to use a do-it-yourself tax software solution rather than hiring a CPA. Subsequently, they’d begin to evaluate specific software like QuickBooks or TurboTax, for instance.

Your Goal:

To nurture your leads with blog posts, strategic emails, and lead magnets. It shows that your business is an authority capable of resolving its problem. Since it’s at this stage that the marketing team transfers leads to the sales team, it’s essential that your organization has settled on a sound decision of a sales-qualified lead.

The Best Content to Offer:

Case studies, eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, and free tools.

Key Performance Metrics to Track:

Landing page conversion rates, lead quality, lead source, email open rates and cost per lead.



It’s at this phase that a lead chooses a specific product and/or service that’ll solve their problem. In most cases, the leads arrive here only after a harmonized effort between a business’s marketing and sales teams to nurture and educate the leads.

According to Lewis’s early model, this is the concluding stage of the marketing funnel. But for present-day businesses, the “action” and “purchase” stage is a novel beginning. – one that has the propensity to grow the funnel exponentially by extending to the “loyalty” and “advocacy” stages.

Your Lead’s Goal:

To select the specific solution and business that can solve their problem. For someone who’s looking for DIY tax software, this is when they’ll choose the brand to purchase from and the specific product that they need. Do they want the deluxe version or the basic one? All these are determined here.

Your Goal:

To show how you can solve the exact problem of your leads and help them select the best product. While the “consideration” phase of the funnel focuses on proving your ability and authority. This phase focuses on solving their problem in detail.

For a software product, leads can take free trials before they decide if your solution is practicable or not. On the other hand, if you’re a service-based business, this is the point where you can prove that you’re capable of solving a client’s unique problem through a one-on-one discussion. If you have a physical product, then social proofs like case studies and detailed testimonials will motivate leads to click the “purchase” button.

The Best Content to Offer:

Detailed case studies, free trials, demos, consultations, product comparison whitepapers, and testimonials.

Key Performance Metrics to Track:

Cost of customer acquisition, revenue, customers, lead-to-sale conversion rate.



If this point in the customer journey is compared to a real-life human relationship, it’ll be the honeymoon stage. Your new customers are excited have gotten a tool that can solve the problems they’ve been struggling with. But after the exhilaration dies down, they want to know how they can depend on you to help them get the most out of their purchase. If you don’t offer the necessary support, then they’ll leave you for another business that can provide the support.

Of all the phases in the marketing funnel, the loyalty stage varies the most in size from one business to another. If you can offer ongoing support and product education, then your customers will remain loyal, and they’ll value you. Conversely, this stage can be the shortest in your entire marketing funnel if you don’t educate and support your leads.

Your Customer’s Goal:

To become content with your product. Recurrently learn its new uses and decide whether your other products are worth the claim based on their satisfaction with your support and their purchase.

Your Goal:

To boost loyalty and customer lifetime value by offering ongoing customer support.

The Best Content to Offer:

FAQs, blog posts, tutorials, customer service content (chat, social media posts) and forum threads.

Key Performance Metrics to Track:

Customer lifetime value, churn rate, active customers and recurring revenue.



This is the phase that has the highest potential to grow your marketing funnel. it’s the phase with the least workload. The advocacy stage is your reward for all the efforts you put into other stages of the marketing funnel.

When your customers are happy, they’ll remain loyal to your business and recommend you to friends and industries. They will market your brand!

This results in a more significant marketing funnel and gives you a chance to get a head-start on your competitors.

Recommendations will keep your products at the top of mind when people need solutions to their problems. It’s in this phase that your customer becomes your marketer by accompanying their friends right from the “awareness” stage to the “consideration” stage in your funnel.

Your Customer’s Goal:

To help their friends or relatives overcome challenges similar to their’s

Your Goal:

To grow your funnel by transforming your customers to marketers.

The Best Content to Offer:

Loyalty discounts, referral incentives, and surveys.

Key Performance Metrics to Track:

Reviews, referrals, and net promoter scores.

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If you correctly follow the steps outlined in this article, your marketing funnel results will ‘wow’ you in no time. it’s not an hourglass or a static funnel. When you draw it out, it’ll appear like an ever-glowing, upside-down funnel.

The diagram below depicts what your marketing funnel should look like.

Always please your advocates, and they’ll contribute to the growth of your product by referring it to other prospects.  As your products grow, your customer base and business will grow along.

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Did we miss any stage? Which model do you love the most? Have anything to tell us or any questions in mind? We’d be eager to hear from you; leave us a comment below.



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