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7 steps to create a marketing funnel that delivers concrete results

An effective marketing funnel can help your business keep your customer's distinct needs center stage. 

But how do you create a funnel that generates a steady flow of qualified leads and moves them through their unique customer journey?

Last updated

20 Aug 2022
Product-Led Growth Strategy: Model + Framework

Our step-by-step guide explains everything you need to build a strong marketing funnel that helps you engage users with your product or website at each stage of their customer journey

Understand how users flow through your marketing funnel

Hotjar’s tools show you how—and why—users engage so you can improve your funnel

How marketing funnels help you engage customers

Marketing funnels map how your potential customers progress through the various stages of the user journey, and track your efforts to attract, engage, and convert them through marketing materiallike content, ads, and landing pages

While sales funnels generate sales by capturing the customer journey through a series of micro-conversions—like signing up to a list, completing a form, or buying a product, marketing funnels generate leads. That means they track your prospective customers’ full journey, from becoming aware of your product to making a purchasing decision. 

Most marketing funnels use a three-stage model: 

  1. Awareness

  2. Consideration

  3. Decision

#Successful marketing funnels generate leads by moving prospective customers from the awareness stage to the decision stage—and right to conversion
Successful marketing funnels generate leads by moving prospective customers from the awareness stage to the decision stage—and right to conversion

 1. Awareness stage (top of the funnel)  

The awareness stage is where prospects are introduced to your brand and engage with your product offering for the first time. During the awareness stage, prospects know little about your brand or product, so the goal of this stage is to attract new prospects with content and marketing material that encourages brand awareness. Use this ‘top of the funnel’ (TOFU) stage to convey your unique value proposition and show prospects how you can solve their problems. 

2. Consideration stage (middle of the funnel) 

The consideration stage means a prospect has entered the ‘middle of the funnel’ (MOFU) by meaningfully engaging with your brand: maybe they’ve started following you on social media, subscribed to your newsletter, or filled out a form. They’re now looking for solutions to their problem and considering different brands and options. The goal of this stage is to engage your prospects with valuable content, earn their trust, and set yourself apart from your competitors.

3. Decision stage (bottom of the funnel) 

At this stage, you’ve gotten your prospects’ attention, gained their trust, and built a relationship with them, by addressing their needs with targeted content that adds value. The goal of this ‘bottom of the funnel’ (BOFU) stage is to provide prospects with specific reasons and social proof to convince them of your ability to solve their problems and get them to convert

Let’s take a look at the specific steps you can take to create a customer-centric marketing funnel:

7 steps to create a customer-centric marketing funnel

Use these seven steps to create a marketing funnel that helps you better understand key customer journey touchpoints and create content that drives users from one stage of your funnel to the next

Remember: creating a customer-centered funnel isn’t a task for marketing teams alone. Both marketing and sales teams need to contribute their expertise and unique understanding of the user journey to better reach potential customers and drive conversions. 

1. Understand the customer journey 

Users' real-life buying behavior is nonlinear, so every marketing funnel is unique depending on your specific business and user goals. Trace the full customer journey from the moment of awareness to the moment of conversion to create an effective marketing funnel. Since every prospect experiences your marketing funnel differently, you need to understand how different customer personas interact with your brand, product, or website across multiple touchpoints and channels.

For example, not every prospect will engage with stage-specific content at that relevant stage. Even if you publish a blog targeting potential customers at the awareness stage, later-stage MOFU and BOFU leads might return to it as a useful overview before making their final purchase decision. 

To fully understand the customer journey, analyze your users’ buying behavior and nonlinear touchpoints. Here’s how: 

  • Map the customer journey to deeply understand your product experience (PX) and customer profiles, pain points, behavior, and preferred communication channels

  • Combine insights from social media, in-person interactions, website analytics, and different teams, like sales, marketing, customer success, and customer service. Make sure interdepartmental teams can all access the same reporting software to stay aligned. 

  • Use these insights to remove blockers and improve the customer experience (CX). For example, a SaaS company might use CX surveys and social listening tools to understand how customers perceive their new software update. Maybe they discover that product adoption is low for their new software because of a buggy user interface (UI)—so they quickly fix it to minimize negative impact on the SaaS customer journey.

Pro tip: use Hotjar’s Observe tools—Heatmaps and Session Recordings—to map the customer journey on your digital product or website. See where users click, how they scroll, which areas attract their attention, and where they drop off—and use these insights to optimize the user journey and create customer delight. 

Startups or SaaS companies might want to filter their Recordings by user devices, to check they’re providing a responsive, mobile-friendly experience that accurately displays key conversion buttons, product images, and navigation bars.

#Use Hotjar Session Recordings to determine where your users are getting stuck

Hotjar Recordings show you how users really experience the customer journey on different devices

2. Create early awareness 

The key to effectively spreading brand awareness is to promote your service or product using outbound marketing techniques. During the awareness stage, your prospect might be vaguely aware they have an issue or problem but they’re likely not actively searching for a solution. By recognizing user pain points and using a variety of channels to show your potential customers that a solution exists, you can help guide them to their ‘aha’ moment. 

Get your name out there using paid ads on YouTube, Instagram, Google, Facebook, influencer marketing, radio ads, live events, billboards, or TV—and align your product positioning to directly address your audience’s biggest needs. 

To create early awareness based on recognizing user pains, actively listen to your audience and use their feedback to creatively position your brand. Here's how:

  • First, use Hotjar Surveys to ask customers about their initial user experience (UX) on your website or with your digital product to get insights into key moments of the customer journey. Ask users what they’d like to see more of or what they’re missing to get a qualitative understanding of their needs.

#Hotjar Surveys lets you easily communicate with customers and better understand their experience.

Source: Hotjar
Hotjar Surveys lets you easily communicate with customers and better understand their experience. Source: Hotjar
  • Then, use social listening tools like HootSuite to gauge user sentiments and needs on social media channels—and stay up to date with competitors, as well as new user trends and desires. 

  • Set up a chatbot on your website to collect user queries, instantly respond to user questions, and analyze trends in users’ concerns. 

  • Use all of these insights to create compelling marketing campaigns that address user pain points, including paid advertising to promote your campaigns across a variety of channels. For example, you could share posts or go live on social media and feature your unique selling point or create an infographic or landing page that introduces your brand, service, or product to new users and prospects. 

3.  Develop a content optimization strategy 

To create and publish content your ideal customer profile (ICP) actually wants to read, you need a content optimization strategy. This helps keep your content fresh, findable, and valuable—and brings you inbound traffic by improving your ranking on search engines. 

A great content optimization strategy helps users find what they need and promotes your content that’s relevant to their search. For most businesses, this means blogging or creating strong landing pages and other written website content. But you can also create other searchable content—like a YouTube channel that focuses on product how-tos, or social media content that answers user questions or pains with quick live streams or videos. 

To develop a content optimization strategy:

  • Do keyword research: find content keywords for the three main stages of your marketing funnel. For the awareness stage, look for informational and navigational keywords that accurately describe your users’ problems or jobs to be done (JTBD). For the consideration stage, target commercial keywords centered around users exploring different products in your niche. For the decision stage, look for more transactional keywords that attract users interested in purchasing your product. 

  • Create topic clusters: group keywords into closed topic clusters that describe the same topic from a variety of angles, or ‘pillars’ to build authority in your industry and rank higher for target keywords. For example, if an ecommerce company wants to create pillar content around the topic of tennis shoes, their hub page could be ‘The ultimate guide to buying tennis shoes’, and the keyword pages for this hub could be ‘tennis shoe types’, ‘tennis mistakes’, ‘tennis tips’, ‘tennis exercises’, and ‘tennis shoe problems’. 

  • Select your content benchmarks: check out the top ranking results on search engines like Google for your target keywords and use them to determine your content type, length, quality, search intent, and nature—then, use these benchmarks to guide your content creation process. 

  • Optimize URL, images, meta description, page title, and headlines: on-page optimizations help search engines understand what your content is about—so make sure you run through an optimization checklist for each piece of content so search engines can make sense of it—and ensure it’s findable to users. 

  • Include internal and external linking: link to approximately four other pages on your website in each piece of content to get more users to click through to key conversion pages, and externally link to information sources that boost your content’s credibility

  • Add strategic calls to action: place compelling CTAs throughout your content to drive more users to act on the value your content brings them by completing a conversion action

4. Create educational content 

Part of optimizing your marketing funnel is creating educational content that informs users about your product, gives them valuable information and actionable tips, and encourages them to keep interacting with your brand at every stage. 

Offering educational content at each stage helps your audience dive deeper into their pain points and recognize your brand’s ability to solve it

For the awareness stage, try these types of education content: 

  • Explanatory blog posts that cover the ‘what, ‘why’, and ‘how’

  • Educational YouTube videos (i.e. how-tos, what is, etc.) 

  • Social media posts showcasing your product, Instagram reels of people discovering your product or service, introductory live streams, and DIYs  

For the consideration stage, focus on: 

  • Promotional emails  

  • Newsletters 

  • Daily live streams 

  • Gated content like informative white papers, ebooks, and webinars  

  • Podcasts 

Use these content examples for the decision stage:   

  • Product demos

  • Case studies of your most successful product users

  • Social proof like product reviews and testimonials

  • Product landing pages 

  • FAQs

💡Pro tip: at each stage of your marketing funnel, continually optimize and update your content, and measure how effective it is at reaching your users. Use tools like Hotjar (👋 hi there) Heatmaps to determine if users are clicking on, highlighting, or reading your content, how deeply they scroll, and where they linger. Once you know how users engage with your content, you can improve it.

#Hotjar Heatmaps show you key engagement areas on your website and CTAs, so you know what to improve.

Source: Hotjar

Hotjar Heatmaps show you how users engage with your content, CTAs, videos, and more

5.  Focus on your product's unique selling point

You’ve educated your audience—but how can you convince them your product solution is right for them? Focus on what makes your product and brand unique by emphasizing your unique selling point (USP). 

Here are some tips for highlighting your USP: 

  • Show in-depth case studies of your product’s most successful users on your website or publish them in a newsletter drip series. This might be particularly useful for startups and new businesses looking to establish credibility and reach more users. 

  • Use an attractive pricing model that outperforms the competition—and display it prominently on your site

  • Create simple yet visually appealing product landing pages to dive into your product’s features and set up, and provide professional demos of your product in action 

  • Optimize your key product, pricing, and conversion pages to make sure there aren’t any broken links, glitches, or bugs, and watch session recordings to see how users navigate your website

  • Retarget ads to users who visited your website but didn’t make a purchase or abandoned their cart

  • Write competitor alternatives or competitor vs competitor blog posts to showcase how your product stacks up against industry favorites

  • Campaign for more product reviews and display them as social proof. For example, an ecommerce site using Hotjar Exit Surveys might notice users aren’t converting because they wanted to see reviews of their product and how it works for real people before making a decision. In this case, placing a reviews bar on a product page, or testimonials beneath a call to action could help users gain more confidence in your product. 

#Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience
Hotjar's exit Surveys give you user-backed insights into the user experience

6. Guide users to conversion 

Customer-centric conversion rate optimization (CRO) is all about understanding your users and giving them exactly what they need to convert. Forget quick fixes to boosting conversions: you need to understand what drives, persuades, and deters your users to give them the best user experience possible

Here’s how you can guide users to conversion at the consideration and decision stages of your marketing funnel:

  • First, understand your users and customers with Hotjar Feedback tools that let users tell you about their product experience on your site, and highlight specific elements they like or don’t like.

#Hotjar Feedback widgets let you gather valuable user feedback throughout the onboarding process.

Source: Hotjar
Hotjar Feedback widgets let you gather valuable user feedback throughout the onboarding process. Source: Hotjar
  • Then, use Hotjar Recordings to watch users as they navigate your site, and identify specific drivers, barriers, or hooks in their customer journey. Use these user insights to guide decisions on what to optimize, rework, or remove. For example, while watching Recordings, an ecommerce team might notice users rage-clicking on their CTAs or checkout buttons, which lets them know the buttons are likely broken on at least some devices, so they can quickly fix any issues. 

  • Implement CRO tactics that compel users to act, such as: 

    • A 30-day money-back guarantee

    • A free trial 

    • Customer support chatbots for last-minute questions or objections 

    • A pay-by-performance pricing model

    • FAQs centered around easing objections or concerns 

7. Optimize your customers' post-purchase experience 

Even after customers pass through the decision stage and convert, it’s crucial to keep prioritizing their needs and offer a great post-purchase experience. Your post-purchase service determines a user’s likelihood of buying again, resubscribing, or upgrading, as well as recommending your product and writing raving reviews.

To delight your customers post-purchase: 

  • Offer a great follow-up experience with personalized messaging, and emails based on customer interests that promote similar products or services.

  • Provide users with resources like tooltips and knowledge bases to make the most of their new product or purchase and encourage product adoption

  • Use Hotjar Surveys and Feedback tools to ask your customers about their experience and how you can support them in their product onboarding process

  • Provide excellent customer service with chatbots or live chat services and answer any user questions or help guide them through setup

  • Reactivate users by offering special promotions and discounts, or inviting them to participate in customer loyalty programs

Fuel your marketing funnel with user-backed insights

A successful marketing funnel can help businesses ensure their marketing efforts target the right customers, track their progress, and better plan and execute their marketing campaigns.

Supercharge your marketing funnel that drives leads to your business and propels them to convert by keeping your focus on your potential customers, and analyzing their behavior and feedback.

Understand how users flow through your marketing funnel

Hotjar’s product experience insights tools show you how—and why—users engage so you can improve your funnel.

FAQs about creating a marketing funnel