How to Build a Digital Marketing Sales Funnel


A digital marketing sales funnel, if used properly, can get those harder to reach customers. Here is a simple version of a sales funnel that converts.

Posted: Nov 17, 2020
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2020

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What does a digital marketing sales funnel look like?

I have a huge sour cherry tree in my backyard. Every spring, this twenty-five-foot tree produces gallons of cherries. When harvest day comes in early June, my excited kids grab buckets and run to the backyard. They love picking cherries each year, but after about 30-minutes of work, all the low-hanging fruit has been picked and the kids run out of steam for the harvest project. When more determination and creativity are needed to reach the fruit towards the top of the tree, they find reasons to leave the project. I’m alone in the backyard for another 2 hours teetering on a ladder trying to reach the cherries at the top of the tree.

This is an analogy for business marketing. It’s very hard to get the customers at the top of the tree. It’s much easier to go after the low-hanging fruit, the “easy pickings.” But are you willing to put in the effort to get the customers that are harder to reach?

A digital marketing sales funnel, if used properly, can accomplish just that. People have written books on the subject of sales funnels. Some have even said the notion of a funnel isn’t effective anymore, and that it should be more of a wheel. These people are just trying to put their own twist on a concept that works very well, so I’m sticking with the funnel and focusing specifically on digital marketing activities.

Simple 3 tier digital marketing sales funnel

The USDP digital marketing sales funnel has three parts with distinct activities in each part. Top of the funnel marketing efforts are used to attract people and build your brand. The middle of the funnel marketing efforts provide value to website visitors and build confidence that people are in the right place. The bottom of the funnel marketing efforts attempt to convert people into customers, clients, and donors.

Our version of a sales funnel can serve as an execution tool for your digital marketing strategy. Let’s walk through this step-by-step guide to creating a digital marketing sales funnel.

p.s. If you’d rather just watch the video, feel free to do so. The presentation is a little over an hour long:

Top of the Funnel: Let people know you exist

At the top of the funnel, people have never heard of your company, so you have to let them know that you exist! In this stage, your goal should be to attract as many website visitors as possible with relevant and informative content. You should be focusing on activities that increase your brand visibility so people know you’re out there.

How do you accomplish this? Generate content. Write website content and blog posts to get picked up by search engines and people who will link back to your site. Claim your Google My Business listing. Additionally, you could promote a contest or giveaway, create educational YouTube videos, advertise on search or social media sites, or use email marketing, news releases, and influencer marketing. If you build it and leave it, they won’t come. With over a billion websites in the world, you can’t afford to wait for people to discover you.

Measure visits to your site

After you get those funnel activities up and running, you need to study the funnel metrics to see what’s working and what you could improve on. Measure raw visits to your website and determine if the number is growing. Is the traffic coming from organic search, direct, referral, or paid advertising? How many new sessions do you have, or in other words, how many new people who have never been on your site before? If that percentage of new visitors is high, great! Those are new opportunities to reach new people. Also, study the bounce rate (people who hit your site and leave after one page) to see if people are staying around, and look at the click activity on your ads, website content, emails, and videos.

top of the digital marketing sales funnel

Middle of the Funnel: Convert visitors into leads

In the middle of the digital marketing sales funnel, focus on converting as many visitors as possible into leads and then nurturing those leads. Even though we may want visitors to buy right away (and yes, there will be some who sail right through the funnel and convert), you must assume that most visitors aren’t ready yet. Write content for people to get to know you and give away your knowledge for free, simply so your visitors can learn. This will build trust. That free knowledge could be a downloadable PDF, a free trial, a demo, or an assessment. You could have a live webinar sign up, offer special access to a group, or invite people to opt-in to emails. Then, start running remarketing ads to people who have visited your site so you can entice them to return.

Measure leads and conversions

How do you measure the middle of the funnel? Track conversion rates for the forms, email opt-in, and downloads you’ve implemented. Measure the number of leads per activity and the number of leads per channel (search, social, email, referral) so you know what’s working and what to put your time and effort into.  And of course, measure your remarketing impressions, click-through rates, and conversions too. Again, you’re not closing deals in the middle of the digital marketing sales funnel. Rather, you’re getting to know your website visitors and forming leads

middle of the digital marketing sales funnel

Bottom of the Funnel: Focus on a transaction

Congrats, you’ve reached the bottom of the digital marketing sales funnel and you can finally focus on getting leads to convert into customers! Now it’s time to get serious and sell. Your goal is a transaction (purchase, donation, new client, etc). This involves having a clear call-to-action such as “Buy Now.” Consider enticing leads with something like a percent discount or a limited-time offer to increase that sense of urgency to make the purchase or conversion right now. Offer deals like “buy one get one free” or product bundles. Make sure to slowly warm people up to the transaction moment. Invite them, don’t pressure them. In this stage of the funnel, email marketing and direct remarketing ads work best in nudging your middle funnel people to take the final step.

Measure sales revenue and customer behavior

At the bottom of the funnel, you want to be measuring sales revenue. Evaluate conversion rates for each activity and promo offers, and track the number of new and repeating customers. What is the average revenue per customer transaction? What is the lifetime value of your customer if there’s an opportunity to sell them more products and services?

Be sure to pay attention here because this is where the business value comes to life. When our clients calculate the actual revenue per new customer and the actual lifetime value of a new customer, everything changes. Those clients finally realize the payback on their digital marketing efforts. When this happens, it’s time to stop wasting money on bad marketing and sales (sponsorships, trade shows, tv ads, print ads) and double down on digital marketing.

bottom of the digital marketing sales funnel

Common Digital Marketing Sales Funnel Mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is that they don’t align their content marketing efforts with their sales funnel stages

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is that they don’t align their content marketing efforts with their sales funnel stages. This means that you shouldn’t just randomly write website pages and blog posts. The content you serve to visitors must be relevant to the stage of the funnel they are in. If a visitor just hit your site, don’t bombard them with 20% off pop-ups in the first 5 seconds. If a customer has already converted, stop sending them emails about a service that they are already using.

Remember this differentiator when it comes to writing sales funnel content: At the top of the funnel, write content for people who need to discover you, at the middle of the funnel, write content for people who are getting to know you, and at the bottom of the funnel, write content for people you want to convert into customers.

Putting a Digital Marketing Sales Funnel Into Action

Remember the cherry tree story? New competition, sales growth pressure, economic headwinds, and other factors might demand that you get more creative and disciplined to reach the fruit at the top of the tree. Is your company just settling for the low-hanging fruit or do you have the drive to put the digital marketing sales funnel into action?

Determine what part of your funnel is lacking or could use improvement and start on it today. If you have nothing and don’t know where to start, start at the top of the funnel by letting people know you exist.

If you could use some more one-on-one guidance, how about a free digital assessment call?

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David Brecount

CEO & Co-Founder

If you want different results, let’s do something different, together.

Reach out today