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If you’re running a marketing services business, you might create content about how to choose a marketing agency, pricing guides, whether a company should go contract or hire in-house, etc. The above examples are non-promotional, educational content resources we’ve created for our readers who are considering hiring marketing agencies – i.e. in the middle of the funnel (MOFU).
Finally, hospitals will need to think about their relationship with consumers in a new way. In the internet economy, the traditional paternalistic viewpoint of healthcare providers toward patients will only attract people in times of specific need. To make an organization the destination of choice requires a relationship of mutual respect. It requires a deep understanding of consumers’ experiences within and beyond healthcare. It requires a fierce dedication to the highest level of service. And it requires creativity to design the kind of interactions that will delight and even surprise consumers.
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.
In this article, we’ll summarize 10 steps, more or less in order of execution, that you can take to create a sales funnel to drive students to enroll in your course. We’re not going to go into great detail about each one of these steps – we’ll leave it to you to Google the hundreds of resources out there on each of these when you decide you want to execute. But we provide a general overview to guide your thinking about how to execute an online course sales funnel.

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.
This model lets your customers show the value that they have experienced to your prospects. Rather than having your sales team explain your product/service, it provides a credible third party with actual user experience to explain the value. A flywheel allows you to reduce SG&A costs, focus on the customer experience, and find better good fit customers.
As each individual deal moves through each phase, the probability of closing the sale will change. The further along the sales funnel, the more information is exchanged and more apparent it becomes using the product will be advantageous to the customer. At this point, there is a higher potential for that deal to be ultimately successful unless the deal is moved to closed-lost in which case, the probability moves to zero.
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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).
Suppose your furnace goes out in the middle of winter. Your problem is obvious: you need a new furnace. And the solution is easy — you need to call HVAC providers in your area for quotes. But say you need a new car. Should you look for an SUV, a compact car or a mid-size sedan? Even vaguer still, if you’re frustrated with how much your accountant is charging you to do your business’ taxes, you might not even be familiar with all the different solutions, like cloud-based accounting services.
HoneyBook offers business management software for creative entrepreneurs. Their business personality test lead magnet helps business owners identify their strengths, having participants provide their email addresses to receive their results. Based on the results of their quiz, they are then added to an email nurturing campaign that provides tailored business advice for their personality type, with the option to begin a trial using HoneyBook.
If your new customers are greeted by a thoughtful onboarding process, personal attention and all the resources they need to use your product successfully, they’re more likely to confirm to themselves that they made the right choice. And when they’re confident, they’re more likely to pass on their satisfaction to others in the form of recommendations and product endorsements.

Define your end goal. This is the end relationship you want to have with the information you gather, and it differs greatly for online businesses. In some cases, the contact details of a person is your Internet-based goal, because it may funnel leads into a service-based business that calls its customers by phone, and in other cases, it is developing repeat clientele.
Exits from stage – Similarly, seeing an excessively high number of people falling out of a particular stage is an indication that you aren’t doing enough to answer their questions or you’re asking them for too much of a commitment too early. Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or make it easier for people to convert (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number when they’re downloading a certain e-book).
When these would-be buyers become interested enough in her products, they request an online demonstration by filling out the form on her landing pages. These requests are routed directly to her salespeople, who, because they’re dealing with warm leads, close roughly 50% of the customers to whom they demo. Molly’s company closes more sales than Norman’s, with fewer salespeople and no time spent on cold calling.
As a side note, while getting negative feedback rarely feels good, I want to encourage you to view feedback the way I do: as a priceless opportunity to improve and grow your business. Complaints and criticisms give you important signals that you need to make changes or else risk losing business from frustrated customers. Read this article to learn more: What Should You Do When People Complain About Your Product or Service?
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
3. Follow-Up – Not all leads are going to move smoothly from one step of your funnel to the next. And not all leads are going to be ready to make a purchase decision right off the bat. That’s where the follow-up stage comes in. This part of the funnel is meant to redirect leads who have exited your funnel and bring them back into the sales process. Retargeting ads and email campaigns make up the bulk of this stage. 

Your automated sequence of emails needs to reflect the different stages of the sales funnel process as depicted in the diagram above. Automated emails ideally should guide your prospective students somewhere from the “interest phase”, where they have signed up for a newsletter or downloaded a lead magnet, through to purchase of your course. This requires a good bit of thought to create the right messaging, frequency and content offer.

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


For instance, if you’re running an accounting business, at this stage your leads would be comparing plans offered by different service providers. They might need resources like how to evaluate the landscape of accounting services (i.e. whether to hire a solo accountant, an agency, etc.), pricing guides (so they know what ballpark rates are), or how to choose an accountant.

Exits from stage – Similarly, seeing an excessively high number of people falling out of a particular stage is an indication that you aren’t doing enough to answer their questions or you’re asking them for too much of a commitment too early. Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or make it easier for people to convert (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number when they’re downloading a certain e-book).
Audible is an Amazon-owned producer of audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. This platform builds awareness and brings potential subscribers into their sales funnel by partnering with authors of books featured on the platform to promote their audiobook using a free one-month trial for the service. When users sign up for the free trial, they are given 30 days to use the service before being automatically enrolled in a monthly subscription.
The questions have intensified with two recent announcements. UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann said that Optum plans to grow from $16 billion to $100 billion annual revenue by 2028, and will do that without building any hospitals. A few days later, CVS announced that it would expand its three-store HealthHUB pilot into 1,500 locations by 2021. HealthHUB is CVS’s in-store health and primary-care experience.
Say you’re into cycling and you’ve decided to purchase Trek’s latest Emonda line road bike. You read a few less-than-positive reviews online, but brush them off on the understanding that all Internet comments should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, people only review products and services that they absolutely love or absolutely hate – but most customers fall somewhere in between.
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.
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.
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