As people progress through your funnel, their intent to buy steadily increases. You always lose people with each new commitment you ask for (we refer to these actions “conversions”), but the more people you can get to convert at each step in your funnel, the more sales you will ultimately produce. In marketing, we call this process “widening the funnel.”

For different types of businesses, buyer needs at the problem/need recognition stage – top of  the funnel (TOFU) – are different. If you’re running a consulting business, for example, then your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing) or disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting).

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.

For example, when a customer finds you organically through a Google search for example, that means you have some element of authority. When you have authority, prospects are more likely to enter into your funnel because they know that if they found you relevantly, that whatever it is that you're providing must be of a great value. That's just the nature of SEO and organic search. 


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.
Principle of commitment & consistency -- When people commit to something, they're far more likely to purchase from you. That's why getting them to agree to something like a free + shipping offer or by agreeing with something you've said in some way. This is a powerful principle in sales and if you pay attention to some of the best marketers in the world, you'll notice that they work fervently to get your commitment to something, even if it's very small in the beginning. 
Once the prospect is in the proverbial funnel, you've peaked their awareness. That's the first stage of the funnel. However, getting a prospect aware of you is no simple feat. Depending upon how they've arrived to your website (organically or through a paid ad), those customers might view your funnel differently and your opt-in rates will vary significantly. 
Matt Ackerson founded AutoGrow (Petovera Inc.) in 2010 as a conversion-focused web design agency. The company has since worked one-on-one with over 500 customers and clients to create their sales funnels. Matt is a graduate of Cornell University. He and AutoGrow have been featured in Techcrunch, Forbes, Inc, Venture Beat, Mashable, and Popular Science among others. He and the team write in-depth articles on digital marketing, sales funnel design, and also offer an advanced funnel training course here on AutoGrow.co
An exit pop-up. This is a powerful way of redirecting prospects who seem intent on, well… exiting off of the page. Sometimes that pop-up may contain a special deal and other times it may re-communicate the benefits of what’s on the page. We’ve found that using lead magnet exit pop-ups (as on the template above) is one of the best ways to keep traffic flowing into your funnel.
If you’re running a consulting business, for instance, your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting) or a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing). On the other hand, if you’re running a software development business, your client could be having problems with absolutely anything right from the hours being consumed to other factors that affect deliveries.
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.
For example, let’s say your business has a blog and social media accounts it uses to get on a potential customer’s radar. From there, you encourage people to download an eBook in exchange for their email and drop them into an email drip that promotes an upcoming webinar. At the webinar, you sell people on your product or service, which convinces them to submit a lead form, work with your sales team and ultimately make a purchase.
For different types of businesses, buyer needs at the problem/need recognition stage – top of  the funnel (TOFU) – are different. If you’re running a consulting business, for example, then your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing) or disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting).
For United/Optum, hospital services are not seen as something that adds much breadth to the top of the funnel or that draws people into the funnel—certainly not enough to justify Optum taking on the high fixed costs and poor pricing of inpatient care. Rather, hospitals are an additional interaction within the funnel that can be accomplished through partnerships rather than ownership, according to Wichmann. Those partnerships, he says, “will occur in markets where there is maybe fewer assets for us to accumulate and build from."
As people progress through your funnel, their intent to buy steadily increases. You always lose people with each new commitment you ask for (we refer to these actions “conversions”), but the more people you can get to convert at each step in your funnel, the more sales you will ultimately produce. In marketing, we call this process “widening the funnel.”
Close rate – Your close rate (or “win rate”) refers to the number of these opportunities that turn into eventual sales. If your close rate is lower than you expect, look at some of the other metrics you’re tracking for ideas on improving the success rate of your marketing funnel. You may be sending sales unqualified leads because your content is for a far more technically savvy audience while your ideal customer is a novice.

The best part of the traditional sales funnel was that salespeople could move prospects through at their own pace based on their needs to close a deal. Today, customers are in control of the sales process. A modern buyer spends more time upfront researching a purchase before they engage with a salesperson, reducing the value of sharing information.
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
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.
Newsletters: Another effective engagement tactic is a regular newsletter. It’s typically delivered via email and focuses on delivering helpful information with a mix of incentives to encourage additional purchases. The newsletter conveys less of a salesy feel than email marketing content, so it can be a more inviting way to stay connected to your customers. Email marketing software, such as Mailchimp, can be used to execute both email marketing and newsletters.

There are a number of different tools on the market today to help you track these and other metrics, though for most businesses Google Analytics represents the most comprehensive, easy-to-implement solution. Since it’s free, use the service’s funnel-tracking tools until you determine that you need something more advanced and then move on to another sales analytics program or a complete marketing automation program.


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Of course, if you're going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you've ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there's a particular reason for that. Especially if they've already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.
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