- Funnel marketing is an approach that markets to consumers from their first interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond.
- Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.
- Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.
What is funnel marketing?
Funnel marketing is an approach that markets to consumers from their first interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond.
At its core, funnel marketing encompasses a customer’s journey with a brand.
The approach, of course, is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. When used correctly, a brand can attract, engage, and convert prospects to drive sales, loyalty, brand awareness, and repeat purchases.
The notion that a customer progressed through various stages with a business was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Lewis’s model mapped a metaphorical journey from the minute a customer interacts with a brand to the point of action or purchase. However, it would be another 26 years before author William W. Townsend would associate Lewis’s interpretation with the notion of a funnel.
While Lewin’s model featured the four steps of awareness, interest, desire, and action (AIDA), many businesses today use a simplified but more relevant three-stage version. We will explain this in more detail in the next section.
Three-stage funnel marketing
In a theoretical sense, the marketing funnel is linear. Prospects start their journey at the top of the funnel and end it at the bottom where a conversion is made. In practice, however, most prospects move in and out of the funnel at will before they convert. Some others will make it to the bottom without converting and drop off the radar completely.
Let’s now look at the three stages of funnel marketing.
1 – Top of the funnel (TOFU)
At the top of the funnel, prospects become aware of a brand and interact with it for the first time. Since most will not know much about a product or service, this initial stage should focus on marketing that increases brand awareness.
Here are some ways a marketing team can attract prospects:
- Share the company’s USP on social media.
- Run targeted, paid ads in podcasts or on social media, and
- Build a landing page that introduces the brand, product, or service.
2 – Middle of the funnel (MOFU)
A prospect reaches the MOFU only after they’ve made a meaningful interaction with a brand. What constitutes a meaningful interaction is open for discussion, but it may be that the consumer has subscribed to an email list or is following the brand on social media.
The second stage must focus on building trust with the prospect via further engagement. In other words:
- Invite the prospect to participate in a survey. This can be a good way to perform conversion rate optimization (CRO) and identify the drivers, barriers, and hooks individual encounters with a brand.
- Explain how a product or service solves a customer problem and adds value. Increasingly, brands are turning to white papers for this purpose.
- Share product comparisons, demonstrations, or relevant case studies.
3 – Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)
The BOFU is the last place a prospect visits before a conversion takes place. At this point, the business has done the hard work of attracting the attention of a prospect, building a relationship with them, and earning their trust.
The focus here is to convert the prospect. This can be done in the following ways:
- Offer a free trial or demonstration of the product or service.
- Write a guide for prospects who hold last-minute doubts, concerns, or any other factor that could hinder a conversion.
- Demonstrate social proof in the form of testimonies and reviews, and
- Segment the email list according to specific actions. For example, a unique email sequence could be sent to a prospect who abandons their cart.
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