What is a Funnel?

What Does a Funnel Mean in Marketing?

The marketing funnel, also known as the sales funnel, is a concept used in marketing to visualise the customer’s journey from initial awareness of a product or service to the eventual purchase decision. It represents the stages that a potential customer goes through, starting from the top of the funnel where they become aware of the brand, moving down through consideration and evaluation stages, and finally reaching the bottom of the funnel where they make a purchase. It effectively follows the AIDA model of marketing. The marketing funnel helps marketers understand and optimise the customer journey by identifying areas for improvement and implementing targeted strategies at each stage to move prospects closer to conversion.

Marketing Funnel Stages.

The marketing funnel typically consists of several stages that represent the customer's progression through the purchasing process. While the exact number and terminology of these stages may vary depending on the source and specific context, a common framework includes the following stages:


At the top of the funnel, prospective customers become aware of your brand, product, or service. They may come across your brand through various channels such as advertisements, social media, search engines, or word-of-mouth. The goal at this stage is to capture their attention and generate interest.


Once aware, target customers move into the interest stage. They start to engage further with your brand by seeking more information, exploring your website or social media profiles, and perhaps subscribing to your newsletters or following your content. The focus here is to provide valuable content and establish credibility to keep them engaged.


In the consideration stage, prospects actively evaluate your offering and compare it with alternatives. They might research product features, read reviews, seek recommendations, or compare prices. It's crucial to demonstrate the unique value and benefits of your product or service and address any concerns or objections they may have.


At this stage, prospects have shown a clear intent to make a purchase. They might add items to a cart, request a quote, sign up for a trial, or take any other action that indicates their readiness to convert. The goal is to facilitate the decision-making process and make it easy for them to proceed with the purchase.


During the evaluation stage, prospects closely assess the available options and weigh the benefits, pricing, terms, and conditions. They might compare your offering with competitors, seek further clarification, or engage in conversations with sales representatives. Personalised and targeted communication can help address their specific needs and overcome any remaining objections.


The bottom stage of the funnel is where the actual purchase takes place. The prospect becomes a customer by completing the transaction, whether it's making an online purchase, signing a contract, or taking any other desired action. Ensuring a smooth and frictionless buying experience is critical at this stage to maximise conversions.

Loyalty and Advocacy

Beyond the purchase, the marketing funnel may extend to include post-purchase stages. This involves nurturing customer relationships, providing excellent customer support, and encouraging repeat purchases and advocacy. Satisfied customers can become brand advocates, referring others and leaving positive reviews, contributing to the growth of your business.

It's important to note that the marketing funnel is not a linear process, and customers may move back and forth between stages or enter the funnel at different points. Understanding the customer journey and applying targeted marketing strategies at each stage can help optimise conversions and drive long-term customer engagement.

Example of a Marketing Funnel.

Let's take the example of an e-commerce business selling fitness apparel to illustrate the stages of a marketing funnel:

  • Awareness: The potential customer becomes aware of the brand through various channels such as social media ads, influencer partnerships, or search engine results. They see an engaging ad showcasing stylish and high-quality fitness apparel.
  • Interest: Intrigued by the ad, the prospect clicks on the link and lands on the brand's website. They explore different product categories, read blog articles about fitness trends, and sign up for the brand's newsletter to receive exclusive offers and fitness tips.
  • Consideration: The prospect continues their research, comparing the brand's offerings with other fitness apparel brands. They read customer reviews, check sizing guides, and browse through the product pages to understand the features, materials, and performance of the apparel.
  • Intent: After narrowing down their options, the prospect decides to make a purchase. They add a few items to their cart, including workout leggings and a sports bra. They proceed to the checkout page, where they enter their shipping and payment details.
  • Evaluation: At the checkout stage, the prospect hesitates momentarily, concerned about the fit of the leggings. They initiate a live chat with a customer service representative who provides personalised assistance, assures them of the brand's return policy, and offers size recommendations based on their measurements. The prospect feels confident and proceeds with the purchase.
  • Purchase: The prospect completes the transaction, and the order is confirmed. They receive a confirmation email with the order details and an estimated delivery date. The customer is excited about their purchase and eagerly awaits the arrival of their new fitness apparel.
  • Loyalty and Advocacy: Once the customer receives their order, they are delighted with the quality and fit of the apparel. They wear it during their workouts and share their positive experience on social media, tagging the brand and recommending it to their followers. The brand engages with the customer's post, expressing gratitude and offering a discount code for their next purchase, encouraging repeat business and fostering brand loyalty.

In this example, the marketing funnel starts with generating awareness through targeted ads, moves prospects through the stages of interest, consideration, intent, and evaluation, culminating in the purchase stage. The post-purchase stage focuses on nurturing the customer relationship and encouraging loyalty and advocacy. The marketing funnel helps guide the brand's strategies and tactics at each stage to attract, engage, and convert prospects into loyal customers.

Illustration of the AIDA funnel.
"The marketing funnel visualises the customer's journey from awareness to purchase. By understanding and optimising each stage, marketers can move prospects closer to conversion and drive long-term engagement."

Paul Mills
CEO & Founder, VCMO

Different Types of Marketing Funnels.

There are several types of marketing funnels that businesses can employ, depending on their specific goals, target audience, and industry. Here are four common types of marketing funnels:

Traditional Funnel

The traditional marketing funnel follows the linear progression from awareness to purchase. It consists of the stages of awareness, interest, consideration, intent, and purchase. This funnel is widely used and applicable to various industries and businesses.

Inverted Funnel

The inverted funnel, also known as the flywheel model, challenges the traditional linear approach. It focuses on customer satisfaction and advocacy as the primary driver of business growth. The stages in this funnel include attract, engage, delight, and empower. The goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience to turn customers into brand advocates who drive further growth through referrals and positive word-of-mouth.

Multi-Channel Funnel

The multi-channel funnel acknowledges that customers engage with brands through various touchpoints and channels. This funnel takes into account the complexity of the customer journey and includes stages such as online ads, social media engagement, email marketing, content marketing, offline events, and more. The goal is to track and optimise customer interactions across multiple channels to maximise conversions and engagement.

eCommerce Funnel

The eCommerce funnel is specifically tailored for online retail businesses. It focuses on driving website traffic, optimising product pages, and increasing conversions. The stages in this funnel typically include awareness, consideration, purchase, and retention. eCommerce businesses employ strategies such as search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), conversion rate optimisation (CRO), and email marketing to drive traffic, convert leads, and retain customers.

It's important to note that these funnels serve as conceptual frameworks, and the specific stages and terminology can vary based on individual businesses and marketing strategies. The chosen funnel should align with the business objectives, target audience, and industry dynamics to effectively guide marketing efforts and optimise conversions at each stage of the customer journey.

Building Marketing Funnels.

Creating a marketing funnel involves several steps to ensure its effectiveness in attracting and converting prospects into customers. Here is a general guide on how to create a marketing funnel:

  1. Define Your Target Audience: Start by clearly identifying your target audience and understanding their needs, preferences, and behaviours. This will help you tailor your marketing messages and strategies to effectively reach and engage them.
  2. Determine Your Marketing Goals: Define your marketing goals and objectives. These could include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, driving conversions, or fostering customer loyalty. Clearly defined goals will guide your funnel creation process and help measure its success.
  3. Identify the Stages of Your Funnel: Map out the stages that prospects typically go through before making a purchase. Common stages include awareness, interest, consideration, intent, and purchase. Adapt these stages based on your specific business and target audience.
  4. Create Content for Each Stage: Develop relevant and compelling content for each stage of the funnel. This content should align with the needs and interests of your target audience at each specific stage. Examples include blog posts, videos, case studies, whitepapers, webinars, and product demos.
  5. Build Landing Pages: Create landing pages that are optimised for each stage of the funnel. These pages should provide valuable information and encourage prospects to take the desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter, downloading a resource, or making a purchase. Optimise the design and copy to maximise conversions.
  6. Implement Lead Capture Mechanisms: Incorporate lead capture mechanisms throughout your funnel to collect prospect information. This can include email sign-up forms, gated content that requires contact details, or chatbots that engage with visitors and gather data.
  7. Nurture Leads: Develop a lead nurturing strategy to engage and build relationships with prospects. Use email marketing, personalised communications, and targeted content to keep leads interested and guide them through the funnel.
  8. Implement Conversion Optimisation Tactics: Continuously optimise your funnel to improve conversion rates. This may involve A/B testing different elements, analysing data, and making data-driven improvements to your content, landing pages, and user experience.
  9. Measure and Analyse: Track and measure key metrics at each stage of the funnel to evaluate its performance. This can include metrics such as website traffic, click-through rates, conversion rates, and customer acquisition costs. Analyse the data to identify areas of improvement and make informed adjustments to your funnel strategies.
  10. Iteratively Improve: Use the insights gained from analytics to refine and enhance your marketing funnel over time. Adapt your strategies, content, and tactics based on customer feedback and evolving market trends to ensure ongoing effectiveness.

Remember, creating a marketing funnel is an iterative process that requires continuous monitoring, optimisation, and adaptation. Regularly review and refine your funnel to align with changing customer needs and market dynamics, keeping your marketing efforts aligned with your business goals.

What is Top of the Funnel Marketing?

Top of the funnel marketing refers to the activities and strategies aimed at attracting and engaging a wide audience who are in the early stages of the buying journey and may not be familiar with your brand or products. It focuses on generating awareness and capturing the attention of potential customers who have a problem or need that your business can address.

The top of the funnel is often the widest part, representing a larger pool of potential customers. The goal is to create brand awareness, generate leads, and establish your business as a trusted authority in your industry. By targeting a broad audience, you can expand your reach and introduce your brand to new prospects.

Top of the Funnel Marketing Activities:

  • Content Marketing: Creating informative, educational, and engaging content that addresses the pain points and interests of your target audience. This can include blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and social media content. The focus is on providing value and building credibility rather than directly promoting products or services.
  • Social Media Marketing: Utilising social media platforms to reach and engage a wide audience. Sharing relevant content, participating in industry discussions, and running targeted ad campaigns can help increase brand visibility and attract potential customers.
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Optimising your website and content to rank higher in search engine results for relevant keywords. This helps increase organic visibility and drive traffic to your website from users actively searching for information related to your industry or products.
  • Paid Advertising: Running targeted online ads on platforms such as Google Ads, social media platforms, or display networks. This allows you to reach a larger audience and increase brand exposure. Common ad formats include display ads, search ads, video ads, and social media ads.
  • Events and Webinars: Hosting or participating in industry events, conferences, or webinars to showcase your expertise, connect with potential customers, and establish relationships. These activities can generate leads and create opportunities for further engagement.
  • Influencer Marketing: Collaborating with influencers or industry experts who have a large following and influence over your target audience. Their endorsement or promotion of your brand can help create awareness and credibility among their followers.
  • Public Relations: Engaging in public relations activities, such as press releases, media coverage, or guest blogging, to generate positive publicity and increase brand visibility.

The goal of top of the funnel marketing is to capture the attention and interest of potential customers, making them aware of your brand and initiating their journey through the marketing funnel. By focusing on building awareness and establishing your brand's presence, you can attract a broader audience and nurture them into leads for further engagement and conversion as they progress through the funnel.

What is Middle of the Funnel Marketing?

Middle of the funnel marketing, also known as the consideration stage, is the phase in the marketing funnel where potential customers have moved past the initial awareness stage and are actively considering their options. At this stage, prospects are evaluating different solutions, comparing brands, and determining which product or service best meets their needs.

The middle of the funnel is a critical stage where marketers aim to nurture leads and provide them with relevant information to guide their decision-making process. The primary goal is to build trust, demonstrate value, and position your brand as the preferred choice among competitors. Middle of the funnel marketing strategies focus on engaging prospects and moving them closer to making a purchase.

Middle of the Funnel Marketing Activities:

  • Email Marketing: Use targeted email campaigns to provide more in-depth content, such as case studies, product comparisons, or customer testimonials. This helps educate prospects about the benefits and features of your offerings and keeps your brand top of mind.
  • Lead Nurturing: Develop personalised lead nurturing campaigns that deliver tailored content based on the specific interests and needs of each prospect. This can involve sending relevant blog posts, educational videos, or exclusive offers to nurture relationships and maintain engagement.
  • Webinars and Demos: Conduct webinars or offer product demos to showcase the value and functionality of your offerings. This interactive approach allows prospects to learn more about your products or services and experience them first-hand.
  • Remarketing and Retargeting: Implement remarketing strategies to reach out to prospects who have shown interest in your brand or visited your website but haven't made a purchase yet. Display targeted ads or personalised content to remind them of your brand and encourage them to re-engage.
  • Case Studies and Testimonials: Share success stories, case studies, and testimonials from satisfied customers. This social proof helps prospects gain confidence in your brand, showcasing real-world examples of how your offerings have benefited others.
  • Interactive Content: Create interactive content such as quizzes, assessments, or calculators that provide personalised insights or solutions related to your industry. This engagement can help prospects better understand their needs and position your brand as a knowledgeable resource.
  • Relationship Building: Foster relationships with prospects through direct engagement, such as personalised communication via email or social media. Respond promptly to inquiries, address concerns, and provide helpful guidance to establish trust and rapport.

The middle of the funnel is a critical stage for nurturing leads and guiding them towards a purchasing decision. By providing valuable content, addressing their specific needs, and building trust, you increase the likelihood of converting prospects into customers. Effective middle of the funnel marketing strategies focus on delivering targeted, relevant information that helps prospects make informed decisions and confidently move towards the bottom of the funnel.

What is Lower Funnel Marketing?

Bottom of the funnel marketing, also known as the conversion stage, refers to the phase in the marketing funnel where potential customers are nearing the point of making a purchase decision. At this stage, prospects have already gone through the awareness and consideration stages and are actively evaluating their options and finalising their decision.

The bottom of the funnel is where the primary objective shifts from engagement and education to conversion and closing the sale. The goal is to provide the necessary information, incentives, and reassurances to encourage prospects to take the desired action and become paying customers.

Bottom of the Funnel Marketing Activities:

  • Product Trials and Demos: Offer prospects the opportunity to try out your product or service through free trials, demos, or samples. This allows them to experience the value first-hand and removes any remaining doubts or hesitations.
  • Personalised Offers and Discounts: Provide tailored offers or discounts to incentivise prospects to make a purchase. Personalisation can be based on their specific needs, preferences, or past interactions with your brand.
  • Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Showcase positive customer testimonials and reviews to instill confidence and build trust. Social proof from satisfied customers can help alleviate any last-minute concerns and reinforce the value of your offerings.
  • Limited-Time Promotions: Create a sense of urgency by offering limited-time promotions or exclusive deals. This encourages prospects to take immediate action to avoid missing out on the opportunity.
  • Clear Call-to-Action (CTA): Use clear and compelling CTAs throughout your marketing materials, such as landing pages, emails, and advertisements. Make it easy for prospects to understand what they need to do to complete the purchase.
  • Remarketing and Retargeting: Continue targeting prospects who have shown interest but haven't made a purchase. Use remarketing strategies to deliver personalised ads, reminders, or special offers to keep your brand top of mind and encourage them to convert.
  • Streamlined Checkout Process: Ensure the checkout process is seamless and user-friendly. Minimise the steps required, provide multiple payment options, and address any potential obstacles or concerns that could hinder the final conversion.
  • Customer Support and Assistance: Offer responsive and accessible customer support to address any questions or concerns prospects may have before making a purchase. Quick and helpful assistance can alleviate any final doubts and increase their confidence in your brand.
  • Upselling and Cross-Selling: Once a prospect is ready to make a purchase, consider offering relevant upsell or cross-sell options to increase the average order value. Suggest complementary products or premium versions that enhance the customer's experience.
  • Follow-Up and Retention Strategies: After the conversion, implement follow-up strategies to nurture customer relationships and encourage repeat purchases. This can include personalised post-purchase emails, loyalty programs, or exclusive offers for existing customers.

Bottom of the funnel marketing focuses on converting prospects into paying customers and maximising the value of each conversion. By employing targeted tactics that address specific objections, provide incentives, and simplify the purchasing process, you can guide prospects to the final stage of the marketing funnel and achieve your conversion goals.

What Are the Marketing Funnel Metrics?

Marketing funnel metrics are key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts at different stages of the funnel. These metrics help you assess the performance of your marketing campaigns, identify areas for improvement, and track the progress of prospects as they move through the funnel. Here are some common marketing funnel metrics:

  • Impressions: Impressions are the number of times your marketing content or ads are displayed to potential customers. This metric indicates the reach and visibility of your campaigns.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who click on a specific link or call to action (CTA) out of the total number of impressions. CTR measures the effectiveness of your messaging and the interest generated by your content.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of visitors who complete a desired action, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or subscribing to a newsletter. This metric indicates how well your marketing efforts are converting prospects into leads or customers.
  • Cost Per Lead (CPL): The average cost incurred to generate a single lead. This metric helps assess the efficiency and profitability of your lead generation campaigns.
  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): The average cost incurred to acquire a new customer. This metric factors in the costs associated with converting leads into customers, such as advertising expenses, sales efforts, and marketing resources.
  • Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate: The percentage of leads that ultimately become paying customers. This metric evaluates the effectiveness of your lead nurturing and conversion strategies in moving prospects through the funnel.
  • Average Order Value (AOV): The average GBP/dollar/Euro amount spent by customers in a single transaction. AOV helps measure the revenue generated per customer and can be useful for identifying opportunities to increase sales.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): The predicted net profit generated by a customer over their entire relationship with your business. CLV helps assess the long-term value of your customers and guides decisions related to customer acquisition and retention.
  • Churn Rate: The rate at which customers stop doing business with your company or cancel subscriptions. Churn rate is an important metric for evaluating customer retention and identifying areas for improvement in your products or services.
  • Return On Investment (ROI): The measure of the profitability of your marketing efforts. ROI compares the revenue generated or costs saved through marketing activities against the amount invested in those activities.
  • Attribution Metrics: Attribution metrics help attribute conversions or sales to specific marketing channels or campaigns. Examples include first-touch attribution, last-touch attribution, and multi-touch attribution.

It's important to select and track metrics that align with your marketing goals and objectives. By regularly analysing these metrics, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your marketing funnel, identify areas for optimisation, and make data-driven decisions to improve your overall marketing performance.

Disadvantages of the Marketing Funnel.

While the marketing funnel is a widely used framework that helps businesses understand and guide their customers' journey, it is not without its disadvantages. Here are some potential drawbacks of the marketing funnel:

Simplified Representation

The marketing funnel presents a simplified and linear view of the customer journey, implying that every customer follows a linear progression from awareness to purchase. In reality, customer behaviour is more complex and can involve multiple touchpoints and non-linear paths. The funnel may overlook the influence of repeat purchases, referrals, or advocacy that occur beyond the purchase stage.

Limited Focus on Customer Retention

The traditional marketing funnel primarily focuses on acquiring new customers and converting leads into sales. However, it may not adequately address the importance of customer retention and building long-term customer relationships. Retaining existing customers and encouraging repeat business is crucial for sustainable growth and profitability.

Ignores Influences from External Factors

The marketing funnel typically concentrates on internal marketing efforts and overlooks external factors that can impact a customer's decision-making process. Factors such as market trends, economic conditions, competitor actions, or customer reviews and opinions may significantly influence the customer's journey but are not explicitly considered within the funnel framework.

Oversimplification of Customer Behaviour

The marketing funnel assumes that all customers follow a similar path and behave in a predictable manner. However, customer behaviour can vary widely based on factors such as demographics, psychographics, and individual preferences. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach may not fully capture the nuances of customer behaviour and may result in ineffective marketing strategies.

Lack of Real-Time Insights

The marketing funnel is often based on historical data and insights, which may not reflect the current dynamics of the market or customer behaviour. In today's fast-paced and dynamic business environment, relying solely on past data may lead to missed opportunities or outdated strategies.

Incomplete Attribution

The marketing funnel may not provide a comprehensive understanding of the contribution of various marketing touchpoints or channels in driving conversions. It can be challenging to accurately attribute sales or conversions to specific marketing efforts, especially in a multi-channel and multi-device environment. This can make it difficult to optimise marketing budgets or allocate resources effectively.

Neglects Emotional and Experiential Factors

The marketing funnel primarily focuses on the rational aspects of the customer journey, such as information-seeking and decision-making. It may not adequately address the emotional and experiential factors that influence customer perceptions and purchase decisions. Customer emotions, brand experiences, and customer satisfaction can play a crucial role in shaping long-term loyalty and advocacy.

Static and Linear Approach

The marketing funnel assumes a linear progression from one stage to another, with customers moving smoothly from awareness to purchase. However, customer journeys can be dynamic and non-linear, with customers jumping between stages or re-entering the funnel at different points. Focusing solely on the linear approach may miss opportunities for engagement or fail to address customers who are already aware of the brand but haven't converted yet.

While recognising the limitations of the marketing funnel, it is essential to adapt and complement it with other frameworks, such as customer journey mapping, customer-centric strategies, and data-driven insights. This holistic approach can provide a more comprehensive understanding of customer behaviour and enable businesses to develop more effective marketing strategies.

Recap on Marketing Funnel.

The marketing funnel is a useful model for understanding the customer journey and optimising marketing efforts. By identifying the stages of the funnel and optimising each stage, marketers can improve conversion rates and drive sales. However, it's important to keep in mind that the funnel is not a one-size-fits-all approach and may need to be adapted to fit the unique needs of the brand and its customers.

About VCMO

VCMO helps SMEs and investor-backed portfolio companies with a £2 million or higher turnover that operate without a full-time Chief Marketing Officer. Our Fractional CMOs and tailored services transform marketing potential into a competitive advantage that delivers scalable and predictable growth, increased profits, and enhanced enterprise value.

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