Optimize 3.0 Inbound Marketing Blog

What is Funnel Marketing

Posted by Doug Kirk  Dec 10, 2014 9:50:00 AM

Here’s a question I hear frequently: “what is funnel marketing?” and how does it relate to inbound marketing.

If you’ve been trying to get your head around funnel marketing, I want to help solve this little marketing mystery. In doing so, provide a clear and simple example of the funnel marketing. Moreover, explain that if used properly a sales funnel will unlock the unique powers of inbound marketing automation.

Top, Middle and Bottom

Funnel marketing in the context of inbound online marketing aligns content for each stage of your buyer’s sales lifecycle. Typically, there are three sales stages: Top, midlle and bottom.

Marketing Funnel Lifecycle Stage Content Example
Top of the Funnel Lead Informational Whitepaper
Middle of the Funnel Marketing Qualified Services Guide
Bottom of the Funnel Sales Qualified Free Assessment

Top of the funnel is a “freemium” content that is helpful to your targeted buyer; it’s not about your services in particular. By freemium I mean that you are providing this content in return for some information such as name, email and title. The best middle of the funnel offer is something that you very likely already have: A services guide. Just a plain old services guide. Nothing more, nothing less.   Bottom of the funnel is an offer to connect with the lead via a consultation, assessment or free trial. Middle of the funnel is what connects these offers.

Why is Funnel Marketing Important for Online Marketing?

what_is_funnel_marketingWhen you set up your content using a marketing funnel you can leverage marketing automation software in two important ways:

  1. Build lead nurturing sequences that align to your targeted buyer’s sales cycle: Top (information), middle (awareness) and bottom (consideration).
  2. Tag leads according to where they are in the sales cycle using a contact property called “Lifecycle Stage” (if you happen to be a Hubspot user).

A common mistake when creating lead nurturing sequences only pushes more top of the funnel content to leads with the hope they will respond in some undefined manner - maybe from a “contact us” button placed in the email.   Yet, these leads have been asked to do nothing new that progresses them further down the sales funnel.  

Using Marketing Automation

Using the principles of the inbound marketing funnel, create a new sequence that delivers additional, related content but add a middle of the funnel offer (e.g. services guide) into the lead nurturing sequence. This is the natural step in the sales cycle. If your information qualified lead converts on the middle of the funnel offer, they’ve reached the “Marketing Qualified” lifecycle stage. They’ve raised their hands as showing interest in your company’s solutions. Beyond the general information they've consumed at the top of the funnel.

At this juncture, a subtle, yet critical step for marketing automation is to update your lead’s Lifecycle Stage from “Lead” to “Marketing Qualified Lead.”  Using marketing automation you can trigger a new lead nurturing sequence – one that correctly recognizes where the lead is in the sales cycle. This offer falls under the category of “bottom of the funnel.” This offer can be a free assessment or sales consultation. Should you lead convert on this offer they lifecycle stage gets upgraded to “Sales Qualified Lead.” These are the leads that get passed to sales!

Want to see how the marketing funnel can work for you? Download the Inbound Marketing Blueprint Overview:

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Topics: HubSpot Tips, content marketing, marketing