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The Inbound Marketing Funnel: The Dos & Don'ts and How to Become an Expert 

· work online,Skills,online business

What's the difference between sales and marketing?

What the hell is an inbound marketing funnel?

How can I become an inbound marketing funnel specialist?

What's the difference between sales and marketing?

Sales and marketing are very closely linked especially in small businesses. The way I like to think about it is... marketing is about researching your target audience and customising your products and services to fit their needs, while sales is getting customers to buy your pre-existing product or service. Marketing sets the ground work for sales and sales closes the deal for marketing. The two are interconnected and can not exist in isolation.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is the process used to make potential customers go from strangers to buyers of your product or service. There are three main components in a marketing funnel. The names are pretty self explanatory:

  1. Top of the funnel 
  2. Middle of the funnel
  3. Bottom of the funnel

You should have a different but equally compelling offers for everyone who visits your site, regardless of what stage they are at in the marketing funnel.

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

The top of the funnel is the widest part and reaches the largest number of people. This is where you grab the attention of potential customers and get yourself known. The top of the funnel has the largest number of leads but also the least qualified leads.

In the TOFU stage of the funnel, customers generate their first impression of your company. They are influenced by the way you act and react with customers on social media, the content you promote on video and social platforms, as well as on your own website or blog.

The goal in the TOFU stage of the funnel is to make customers aware of a problem which they may have and also to realise that your company exists.

Most important in the TOFU stage is to reach not only a large amount of people, but also the right kind of people. In order to do this you will need to be familiar with search engine optimisation (SEO).

Here are some good SEO practices for the top of the funnel:

1. Keywords

  • Use long tail keywords as they can be less competitive and more specific. For example instead of using the keyword "retreats", you could use "all-inclusive package retreats"
  • Check how effective your keywords will be with a free service such as Moz
  • Check your own keywords regularly on Google and check how your page ranks
  • Include one keyword in the image alt, meta description, title, headline, subheading and at least 2-3 keywords in the content 
  • Create backlinks using keywords instead of just linking with a url or with the word "click here"
  • Make sure your keyword is in your url
  • Think about user intent when creating keywords. How else could they phrase what they are looking for? What stage of the buying process are they at?

2. Get a star rating beside your website address on Google.

  •  Websites with star ratings on Google stand out and get more clicks. Find out how to do it from the SEO expert, Ian Brodie.

3. Building Backlinks

  • Use Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to get high quality backlinks to your site. Learn more about how helping journalists with answers creates backlinks to your site 
  • Do guest posts and written interviews both on your site and on other sites. If you let other people post or interview on your blog, they will link back to your site on social media. If you guest post on other sites, you automatically get backlinks. 
  • Link your content internally through blog posts and on your website landing pages. 

4. Analyse your SEO efforts

  • Use a tool such as the Screaming Frog SEO Spider to organise your keywords, meta descriptions and page titles etc...
  • Check where your page ranks on Google by doing a quick search in an incognito tab. 
If you are completely new to SEO, check out this explanation of what it is and how you can use it to benefit your company.

People at the top of the funnel are not ready to buy. Do not bombard them with sales offers.

The people at the top of the funnel are called learners and it's important not to be too salesy with them. They are nowhere near ready to buy especially as they have just been introduced to your company. Instead answer their questions and show them how they can solve their problems. You can do this with educational blog posts, advice articles and e-books.

A compelling offer for a learner in the TOFU stage could be an incentive to learn more about how they can leave behind their 9-5 lifestyle and start working online:

Inbound marketing funnel: A compelling TOFU offer to become location independent

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

The middle of the funnel is the place where the magic happens. People are more familiar with your company. They know what needs they have and they are looking for the best solutions. They are looking for information and you can provide them with it.

Middle of the funnelers are often called shoppers. There can still be a large number of shoppers visiting your site and they are more qualified than the learners.

It's important to give as much information as possible to the shoppers in the consideration stage. You can do this through case studies, infographics, blog posts, premium content offers, calculators to show how your product is the best one and call to actions (CTAs).

Content in the MOFU stage is often gated, meaning that shoppers must hand over their details in order to receive the valuable content. You can then use these details to segment the audience and target them in different ways. You already know a lot about these people; their name, email address, where they came across you, what needs they are trying to address and what solution of yours they chose.

A compelling offer for someone in the MOFU stage could be:

Inbound marketing funnels: An example of a compelling MOFU offer

You should combine MOFU and TOFU offers. At the end of a free e-book all about how to become location independent, you could offer them a free consultation call. This is how you move people from one stage of the funnel to the next one.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

This could be considered the most important part of the funnel: you can finally start converting leads and generating revenue. People in the bottom of the funnel are considered as low hanging fruit as they are the most qualified leads but there are far less of them. This is usually where a sales team will come in and convince bottom of the funnelers to buy.

In the BOFU stage you can give demos, samples, free trials and money off coupons to convince buyers to buy. Many companies who offer services and products at a high price point will offer a free consultation or session in order to have some personal contact with customers.


A compelling offer for someone in the BOFU stage could be:

Inbound marketing: a compelling BOFU offer could be a consultation call

Too often, companies bombard learners and shoppers with BOFU offers, which scares them away. When someone visits your page for the first time invite them to learn more about your company, solve their problems and answer any questions they may have with educational and informative blog posts, videos or infographics.

Don't offer a 10% discount for your course to someone who is just reading about something for the first time. Instead encourage them to discover more about the topic, find out as much information as possible, slowly realise that your company can provide them with the solution to their problem and gain their trust before taking their money. Marketing is a long game!

What's next?

Even after they have bought from you, the funnel doesn't stop. You should continue to nurture every lead you have and provide them with valuable and useful information. This is where email segmentation and CRM comes into play.

Split up your audience depending on how they found you and what stage of the funnel they are at. Find a CRM software that works for you. We use ConvertKit but you do you. Segment your audience depending on whether they signed up for your newsletter on your website, joined your Facebook group, downloaded your free guide, subscribed to your blog, purchased from you before or any other category you want.

The emails you send can be similar but should vary slightly. Someone who has been on one of your retreats doesn't need to know about why working online and travelling is great. They already know. Someone who is a complete newbie might be a bit overwhelmed if they receive tips about the best CRM software to use for your online business. Don't show the same CTAs to those who have bought as to those who haven't! You can send different target groups to different landing pages with offers that seem unique to their needs.

Plus... It's annoying to get emails telling you to join a Facebook group when you're already a member!

Are your leads converting?

Conversion rates on leads are only between 2.3% and 4% so it's important to reach a lot of learners at the top of the funnel through good content, excellent SEO practices and regular activity on social media. Providing compelling CTAs and valuable content to shoppers in the middle of the funnel will push them through to the bottom of the funnel, where you can further entice them with compelling but equally valuable BOFU offers.

Don’t just think about visitor traffic numbers from the various sources but about the conversion rates from each source. Even if you get way more visitors from social media, these leads are useless unless they convert. You should focus on whichever source generates more sales. Is this social media or email marketing?

Speaking of Email...

Have you read our blog post all about how to not suck at Email Marketing? It's a good one... we promise. Learn how to grow your email list and discover how email can be more effective than social media at converting leads.

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