If you come to marketing from the creative side, the idea of “sales” probably doesn’t set your heart a-flutter. Heck, even if you’re not a videographer, graphic designer, or copywriter, you still might not love sales.

But you know what we’ve found makes everything a little more palatable? Comparing it to ice cream. 

So while there’s still enough sunshine and summer heat to make the analogy worth drawing, let’s take a look at how we can conceptualize the sales funnel for marketing teams in a deliciously useful way.

Some basic terminology

If you’re a self-taught marketer or you’re learning the ropes as you go, you might not know sales funnels like the back of your hand. No worries – here are a few things to know to get you started.

What is a “sales funnel”?

Your sales funnel is the path your client takes from learning about your business or services all the way through to the point they buy, sign a contract, or otherwise commit to you. Your sales funnel works to identify the types of information and channels of communication for each interaction.

As a client moves further into the sales funnel, the messaging and channels become more targeted, addressing the client in more specific, personal ways. These interactions focus on more precise audiences because the further you move down the funnel, the fewer clients you’re talking to. 

Why do I need one?

Because personalized marketing works! Because it helps you understand your audience better when you plan a sales funnel! Because it just makes your life easier!

In all seriousness, you need a sales funnel because it really does all those things. 

You may have heard chatter about how “the funnel is dead!” or “AI killed the funnel!” 

Maybe. Probably not, though. But as with most concepts, it’s largely helpful to approach the concept of the funnel as a mental model for how you interact with clients. Funnels on paper can depict an idealized interaction, but off paper, they are much more complex. 

The Ice Cream Sales Funnel Examined 

Top of Funnel | Awareness | Lead generation

Goal: Get people to your website, social accounts, wherever you make your primary points of contact

Congratulations, you caught someone’s eye! There were 31+ flavors in the cooler and a prospective client noticed you. Your job now is to entice them with delicious toppings and extras. 

Now, that’s what everyone is trying to do at the same time. According to Hubspot, 74% of companies say that converting mere leads into clients is their top-of-the-list priority. 

Catching your audience’s attention puts you at the top of the sales funnel. It’s your first point of contact with your prospective clients. At this stage, they’re discovering you and your services/products/solutions, but they also might still be in the process of learning about their problems. 

How?

Your content types for the top of your funnel are pretty broad at this point. Think:

  • Website:
    • Blog posts
    • Opt-in forms
    • Landing pages
    • SEO
  • Paid ads
  • Social media platforms
  • Podcasts
  • Video series
  • Infographics

This content is something that anyone could easily come across in their searches. The intent is to reach your maximum audience, which means it’s not as narrowly focused as content further down the funnel. 

However, you’re also trying to establish consistent communication with them: get them to follow your Insta, sign up for your email newsletter, etc. 

Middle of the funnel | Interest | Lead nurturing

Goal: Start building a relationship

You’ve got leads, but this stage is tenuous. Your prospective client IS looking for a way to achieve their goals, but they’re not committed either. (They may be sampling your ice cream cone, but you don’t know how many other ice cream cone competitors they could have lined up!)

By putting effort into this stage, you’re already doing more than most. According to MarketingSherpa statistics, 65% of B2B marketers haven’t established lead nurturing. That’s a lot of people NOT doing the work. Yet it’s effective! In a study by Forrester Research, companies with stellar lead nurturing generated 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost per lead. 

At this point, you want to strengthen your relationship with your leads. In digital marketing land, email marketing is a fantastic tool to use for this. Email marketing can deliver targeted, higher-level content that relates to your services. (Put those email addresses to work!)

Be mindful of tone here, though. While your goal is to move your lead further down the funnel, you don’t want to overwhelm your leads with sales pitches. This content should still be helpful, not pushy. 

How?

Like we said, your middle-of-the-funnel content starts targeting your prospect’s real questions. While your website and social media channels are great for the top of the funnel, at this stage, hone your channels a bit. 

  • Lead magnets
  • Email campaigns

But what are you delivering? Consider:

  • Premium blog posts
  • White papers 
  • eBooks
  • Case studies
  • Comparison or buyer’s guides
  • Webinars 

Bottom of the funnel | Decision | Sales

Goal: Get them to choose you

Okay, if they’ve made it this far, they’re digging the flavor. But nothing is a done deal. Your prospective client hasn’t decided yet if they’re ready to leave all the other ice cream cones behind. 

But they will when they discover the malt ball at the bottom of the cone.

This stage is about cementing your relationship with them. Create a client experience that is memorable and meaningful for them. Provide access and content that makes their job easier, their day better, their world happier.

(Not to oversell things, though.)

But truly, the bottom of the funnel is when pen gets put to paper. Your content and interactions with them should shift towards commitment. That sales-y tone we said to avoid earlier in the funnel? Totally fine to break that out now. (But, you know, within reason.)

How?

What does the bottom of the funnel look like from a content perspective? You’ll be using channels like email marketing and your website at this point. However, expect more direct communication with your prospects here. Some ideas:

  • Live chat for client service
  • Knowledge bases
  • Email marketing for remarketing or retargeting

You should also consider:

  • Free trials
  • Custom assessments
  • Demos
  • Coupons

Repeat clients | Retention

Getting new clients is exciting – you should definitely celebrate with some ice cream yourself. But once they’ve signed on, that’s really just the beginning of your work. You’ve got a whole new relationship to build with them. Not only do you want them to stay your client, but you want them to be an advocate for you. After all, word-of-mouth from a satisfied client is incredibly powerful. 

Keeping clients happy goes beyond providing great products and services. You want to keep them looped into your brand. You want engagement. 

How?

Good engagement comes from your ongoing relationship with your clients. You can do this through:

  • Personalized emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys/outreach
  • Insider knowledge and experiences

But remember, engagement is a two-way street. According to a recent SalesForce study, 64% of clients expect tailored engagement based on past interactions. So personalize, analyze your data, and create consistency across channels. 

Ice cream cone or no, your sales funnel is something that is refined over time. It’s a product of engaging with your clients, understanding what they need, and being responsive in your communications with them. 

Ready to learn more about how you can apply a delicious sales funnel to your marketing? Drop us a line – we’ll scope you up something good.