The entrance to the CVS funnel combines a massive physical footprint with a growing digital presence. CVS has about 10,000 retail stores. Eighty percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS store. With the expansion of CVS’s HealthHUBs to 1,500 locations, one analysis suggests that 75 percent of Americans would live within 10 miles of a HealthHUB. In addition, CVS/Aetna has access to about 18 million Aetna medical insurance members in all 50 states. On the digital front, CVS has 62 million loyalty program members whose purchasing patterns can be tracked and who can be the target of tailored promotions.

No matter what kind of purchase we’re making or how much we intend to spend, all of us follow a relatively similar path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This buying process, or stages, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than 100 years later — it’s still the foundation of understanding buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.
Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
However, say the customer is evaluating marketing automation programs to help improve the sales funnel they created. Because these programs can require investments of $1,500 a month, they’re likely to undergo a much more careful and thorough evaluation process. They might request free trials of the different systems they’re considering, have online demonstrations with each company’s representatives or view training videos to get a feel for how each system will perform.

The entrance to the CVS funnel combines a massive physical footprint with a growing digital presence. CVS has about 10,000 retail stores. Eighty percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS store. With the expansion of CVS’s HealthHUBs to 1,500 locations, one analysis suggests that 75 percent of Americans would live within 10 miles of a HealthHUB. In addition, CVS/Aetna has access to about 18 million Aetna medical insurance members in all 50 states. On the digital front, CVS has 62 million loyalty program members whose purchasing patterns can be tracked and who can be the target of tailored promotions.
No matter what kind of purchase customers are making or how much they plan on spending, all of them follow a fairly identical path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This process, or the different stages it is composed of, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than an entire century later — it still is the ultimate basis of comprehending buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.
Traffic sources. As you’ve probably noticed throughout this article, different traffic sources work better for different stages in the marketing funnel. Sometimes, however, a traffic source can surprise you, so it is a good idea to track how many people are entering your marketing funnel from each source and stage so that you can give your top sources more budget and attention.

Well, that all depends on how busy you’ve already been putting together the pieces of your course marketing plan.  If you’re just getting started there’s is work to be done!  However, if you have already started on putting pieces together such as building out a blog, creating a Facebook topic group, educating yourself on Facebook ads, and generally building a contact list and social following, then it’s just a matter of systematizing and optimizing your online course sales funnel.

Make no mistake, creating a sales and marketing funnel using the process described above is no easy feat. This isn’t a project you’re going to complete in one afternoon — it’s a pursuit that you’ll want to actively address as long as your company is in business. It’s not a simple undertaking, but it’s one of the few opportunities you have to drive significant improvements in your efficiency and effectiveness when closing deals.
So ask yourself, is yours an expensive course that needs a lot of credibility to convince people to purchase it? Is it a free course you are launching and so may need less information and more hype and emotion? Is it a course series you are trying to encourage a commitment to? Are you one Udemy course among 100 competing courses on the same topic?   Are there obvious challenges or objections that people will have to taking your course, such as a high price or hard to achieve objectives?  Are you in a niche market and therefore need to really work hard to keep anyone remotely interested in your topic in your sales funnel?
We’ve written a bit about defining your target audience, but suffice to say that if you still haven’t done this, then don’t bother moving on to the next steps in the sales funnel. You must have some idea of what people are interested in your topic, where they are hanging out online and what motivates them in order to begin creating awareness of your course at the top of the funnel.  If you just start sending out emails and tweets willy nilly with no real plan, your efforts (and you will read later on that it is a lot of effort) will be wasted.  You need to know that you are creating the right content for the right people.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
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Why go through the trouble of following these 11 steps?  You want to be able to maximize course sales for the least amount of effort, right? You basically want to put passive income generation from your online courses to be on autopilot.   That means driving potential students to your course landing page – wherever it may be – and convincing them to pay for your course – and hopefully any other course your produce after that. That’s called “conversion” and it’s the goal of creating your sales funnel is to get conversions.
Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain, which has helped companies such as Amazon, Uber and Salesforce acquire more customers, and co-founder of ClickFlow, an SEO experimentation tool that helps you increase your Google ranking. He also hosts two podcasts: Marketing School with Neil Patel and Growth Everywhere, an entrepreneurial podcast where he dissects growth levers that help businesses scale. Follow him on Twitter @ericosiu

One quick word of caution, though. With every piece of content you create for every stage of your funnel, you’re generating data. Though all of it is useful to your sales process in some way, it’s easy to get bogged down in data and metrics tracking instead of focusing on the few key performance indicators (KPIs) that will actually give you the information needed to make meaningful improvements.


Much of this is steeped in buyer psychology. The best marketers in the world know that there is a psychological process that must occur for prospects to whip out those credit cards and turn into buyers or even hyper-active buyers. One such person whose perfected this process is Russell Brunson, an "underground entrepreneur" who founded a company called ClickFunnels, a sales funnel SaaS business that empowers marketers from around the world to build marketing automation without all the hassle. 
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