What is a Marketing Funnel?

By Lee Collins •  Updated: 09/23/22 •  7 min read
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One out of every 9 people I talk with about online marketing will ask me “What is a Marketing Funnel”?

The follow-up to my explanation is usually a puzzled look and then they ask this question:

“OK, what makes that different from a website?”.

It’s actually a good question.

What is a website?

A website can generally be thought of as an online brochure. There is a menu system and there are many options for the visitor to read, watch, listen, or do. Many companies will have a normal website and multiple funnels either feeding the website or specific offers.

What the person does when they visit the website is largely out of your control, because there are some many options available they can basically “choose their own journey”.

A Marketing Funnel is very different.

So, what is a marketing funnel?

According to HotJar, a marketing funnel is a series of stages to guide prospects through the customer journey. The funnel helps marketing teams plan and measure efforts to attract, engage, and convert prospects through content and other marketing materials, like landing pages and ads.

To me, that’s still only part of the answer.

To me, the key difference to keep in mind when defining “what is a marketing funnel” is this:

A marketing funnel has a singular purpose and a specific desired end result.

Meaning…

With a marketing funnel, you choose the journey FOR the visitor

Unlike a typical website, which will have many options and choices for the visitor to make, with a funnel you have to understand what kind of customer journey you want to take the visitor on.

  • Is the goal sales?
  • Is it to generate leads?
  • Do you want them to re-engage?
  • Do you want them to watch a video?

Most funnels have some type of sales goal but each funnel may just be a quick stop in the overall customer journey. Whether they take the journey is still up to them but your ideal customers will normally take the actions and reach where you want them to go as your desired end result.

To understand the customer journey better, let’s look at the 7 main types of marketing funnels.

Sidenote: These are the only 7 types of funnels you will ever need to succeed online – everything else is just a variation of combination of these 7 kinds of funnels.

Type 1: Squeeze Page Funnels

These Squeeze Page Funnels generate basic email or messenger leads where the goal is simply to capture their email address and build your list.

Usually you’re only asking for their email, but you may or may not also ask for their first name.

The flow typically looks like this:

squeeze-page-funnel

View and download Squeeze Page Funnels.

Type 2: Application Funnels

This is where you take the squeeze page to the next level.

An Application Funnel generates long-form application leads where you are getting a name, phone number, and more detailed information about the leads.

You might also ask them questions about their business, their income, or practically anything else you may need to ask on an application for coaching, consulting, etc.

The flow typically looks like this:

application-funnel

View and download Application Funnels.

Type 3: Live Webinar Funnels

Live Webinar Funnels use a 3rd party software like GoToWebinar or Zoom to customize the registration process to increase sales and conversions. With a Live Webinar Funnel, someone has to be there live to run this webinar. It can also be done in what is called “pseudo-live” mode where someone plays a pre-recorded webinar.

The flow typically looks like this:

live-webinar-funnel

View and download Live Webinar Funnels.

Type 4: Auto-Webinar Funnels

Auto-Webinar Funnels run an automated, on-demand, evergreen webinar that runs on a schedule or on-demand. Take a presentation you have already created and tested, and use a platform like ClickFunnels to run the whole event hands-off. The best Marketers typically test webinars as a Live Webinar then transition the ones that work best into an Auto-Webinar.

The flow typically looks like this:

auto-webinar

View and download Auto-Webinar Funnels.

Type 5: Tripwire Funnels

TripWire Funnels are some of the most common types of marketing funnel and they are used to sell a low-priced product (like a small report) to acquire a customer.

The flow typically looks like this:

tripwire

View and download Tripwire Funnels.

Type 6: Sales Letter Funnels

Sales Letter Funnels sell higher priced products that require a little more selling persuasion using a short or long form sales letter, a Video Sales Letter (VSL), or a combination of both – often called a Hybrid VSL.

The flow typically looks like this:

sales-page

View and download Sales Letter Funnels.

Type 7: Product Launch Funnels

Sales Letter Funnels launch (or re-launch) a product and build excitement throughout the process. These funnels typically roll out a portion of the funnel over the course of several days.

The flow typically looks like this:

product-launch

View and download Product Launch Funnels.

Are marketing funnels really THIS simple?

Short answer – yes.

Now, can they be immensely more complicated?

Also, YES.

But, as I mentioned earlier, these are the only 7 types of funnel you will EVER need. And any other funnel you will ever want to create is really just a combination of these 7 different types of marketing funnel.

The trick is 

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Be sure it works in its SIMPLE form before adding more steps
  3. Test, test, test
  4. Never make it more complicated than it needs to be

When you follow these 5 steps and you can eventually build out the funnel into any kind of complex marketing system you want to create!

And, of course, there are emails and other automations
happening in the back-end of ALL these funnels.

My goal in this article was to keep things as simple as possible.

Is the “what is a marketing funnel” question answered?

If the answer is still not clear, just remember this:

  • Website – visitor chooses their own journey
  • Funnel – YOU choose the journey for the visitor

And hey, if all this still leaves you wondering “what is a marketing funnel” and how is it different than a website and how can I use them to build and grow my business, let’s talk and see if I can help clear things up for you.

Finally, if you need some help building your funnels, I have a team for that!


Frequent Questions:

Q. What do we use to build funnels?

ClickFunnels is all we use to build our funnels.

Q. What about upsells, down-sells and cross-sells?

Without a doubt I’ll get a marketer who disputes this list asking about upsells, down-sells, and cross-sells. Yes, I hear you. But, in reality, any funnel you could ever build – no matter how complex – is just a combination of the 7 types of funnels above. Period.

Q. What does a well-crafted sales funnel look like?

It can look like any of the 7 above, or something vastly more complex. To me, I like to keep things simple and test ONE piece at a time. I have seen people spend weeks, months or years working on their funnel and never have anything that works (like this poor fella). I have seen other people, including us, get a working funnel up in a day. Simplicity always wins. Get one part working and you can always build on it.

Q. Why do I need a sales funnel?

You may or may not. Every business I have ever consulted with had a place where they could benefit from a sales funnel. Basically, anywhere you want to control the journey of the visitor and direct them to a specific outcome is a good place for a sales funnel.

Q. What other types of marketing funnels are there?

You can have appointment funnels, eCommerce funnels, and you can have specialized funnels for real estate, dentistry, attorneys, deck builders. They are all combinations of the 7 types listed above.

Any other questions let us know and we’ll get them added!

 

Lee Collins

Air Force veteran and former corporate VP, Lee Collins is best known as an early pioneer of Direct Response Marketing on the Internet. Since 1999, Lee has parlayed his experience into his Top-Down Consulting Framework to help thousands of clients build and optimize their "Repeat Profit" marketing systems resulting in more sales, more profit and most importantly – more freedom from their business with less stress, and without the typical overwhelm and frustration. When Lee isn't helping clients solve marketing and systems problems, he enjoys time with his wife contemplating by a campfire, exploring a mountain or desert trail in his Jeep Gladiator, or planning their next epic BBQ roadtrip.