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What is a funnel? (Definition and examples)

Learn what a funnel is, how funnels are used in marketing and sales, and examples of how creators use marketing funnels in their businesses.

What is a funnel?

In marketing and sales, a funnel maps the journey a potential customer (or “lead”) takes from their first interaction with your business until they make a purchase.

This is called a funnel because the number of potential customers at the top of the funnel — people who encounter your product or service — is usually larger than the number who make it to the bottom of the funnel and actually make a purchase.

Where a lead is in the funnel depends on how familiar they are with your brand or product and how close they are to buying it. The goal is to move as many people as possible through the stages of the funnel until they become a customer or client.

What are the different stages of a funnel?

The different steps of a marketing funnel can vary, but they usually include at least three stages:

  • Awareness: These leads are just starting to discover your brand or product. They know they have a pain point but don’t know what solutions are available.

  • Consideration: These leads are evaluating different solutions. They’re trying to figure out if your product will solve their problem and if they can trust your brand.

  • Decision: These leads are ready to buy —  they just need an extra push to become customers.

You’ll also often see the stages of the marketing funnel broken down into TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, meaning top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel. The further down the funnel a lead is, the closer they are to becoming a customer.

How creators use marketing funnels

Signature Edits

In the awareness stage, people aren’t ready to even think about making a purchase. They’re still looking to learn more about their pain points and what solutions might be out there for them.

Give these leads valuable content that introduces your brand and establishes you as an expert in your niche — like a lead magnet . A lead magnet is a free resource   that potential customers receive in exchange for subscribing to your email list.

Signature Edits sells presets, templates, and online courses for photographers. Founder Ryan knows that different photographers run into different pain points, so he offers two lead magnets: a candid posing guide and a free sample pack of photo editing presets .

After someone downloads one of the lead magnets, they're on Ryan's email list , so he can send them follow-up emails to tell them more about the brand and products.

Becky Mollenkamp

In the consideration stage, prospective customers are researching and comparing a handful of products or services. Your job is to make them realize that yours is the best option. 

Email marketing is one of the most effective (and affordable!) channels for "lead nurture" — a fancy marketing term for moving people through the marketing funnel until they become customers.

Becky Mollenkamp is a mindset coach who helps people make the shift from “small business owner” to CEO. The kind of coaching Becky does requires vulnerability and honesty from her clients. Consistent communication through her email newsletter helps establish that trust. 

“Before people do one-on-one work with me, they usually are on my email list for six months or a year,” she explains. “I’m emailing them every week for them to get to know me." Becky also sends potential customers emails that highlight the content and products that best match their needs.

( Learn more about Becky's coaching business and creator journey , and check out her strategies for building an audience without burnout .)

Learn more about funnels

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