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Digital sales funnel, top and middle and bottom of the digital sales and marketing funnel

What is the Digital Sales and Marketing Funnel?

If you’re selling products online, selling a software service subscription or even advertising professional services (insurance, banking, legal, medical, construction, etc.) then you are already using a digital sales funnel and may not even know it. Your business could be selling products, packages, gift baskets, you could be selling subscription based software services (SaaS) or even be operating a local SAB (service area business).

Digital sales and marketing funnels are typically comprised of the following components;

  • Goals – Every campaign starts with a clearly documented list of goals and objectives
  • A Plan – All goals must have an independent plan with a roadmap how to reach and measure against the goals
  • Website – An owned media asset that collects consumer information and serves as starting point for all prospects and leads
  • Email/Newsletter/Auto-Responder Service (i.e. Infusionsoft, MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc.) – A medium to personalize the interaction with the brand and promote offers, products and services. Click here to learn more about AWeber Email Marketing.
  • Social Media Presence (i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) – Branded social media assets (earned media assets) that help support brand visibility and awareness.
  • Digital Artifacts – eBooks, Whitepapers, Videos,  Webinars and any other assets to help attract and retain potential customers.

Goal of this Article – Discuss with and convince business owners/managers that Social Media Marketing is an effective TOP-OF-THE-FUNNEL marketing activity, not to be confused as an intent based advertising tool. By understanding top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel activities, we hope to empower business owners/managers to help optimize their advertising budget and allocate advertising funds to the right place, at the right time to the right people.

Traditional Digital Sales and Marketing Funnel

Definition – Top of the Funnel

The top of the funnel represents the upper most portion of the sales and marketing funnel. Top of the funnel includes inbound marketing efforts; email, social media, blog posts, SEO, traffic, paid advertising, white papers, free trials etc. The top of the funnel helps to attract prospects, leads, contacts into the funnel to then close these people as customers. In the old days, top of funnel would have been the Yellow Pages!

FACT/EXAMPLE: Our blog (the 3V blog) is one of our Top-of-the-Funnel assets, we have ZERO sales expectations with our blog. The goal of our blog is to publish content, circulate clickbait (ads) and build our reputation as digital marketing professionals. We entice our audience to move to the Middle-of-the-3V-Funnel by subscribing to our newsletter, bookmarking our content and offering free resources. If you have read this far, click here to subscribe to the 3V newsletter to become empowered with Middle-of-the-Sales-Funnel strategies that CONVERT !

Common Types of Top-of-the-Funnel Assets:

  • eBooks
  • Tip Sheets
  • Educational Whitepapers
  • How-to Video and Webinars
  • Blog Posts (how to, informational, etc.)
  • Guest Blog Posts
  • Overview Reports
  • Online Articles
  • Infographics
  • FAQ and Resource Pages
  • Social Media Posts

Definition – Middle of the Funnel

The middle of the funnel, or the “evaluation” phase, addresses the issues impacting leads at a deeper level, helps navigate consumers towards a “purchasing solution” and gradually builds relationships with those consumers. Content in this stage makes a connection between top-of-funnel educational resources, information around products and services and how to utilize the suppliers products and services to solve “purchasing problem.”

Prospects at this stage are typically investigating and comparing. They research multiple companies, weigh the pros and cons, and seek out data and information around how a solution will help solve their problem. Content served at this level must detail how to solve particular solutions solves a problem and highlights your value propositions. In the old days this may have been a pamphlet or brochure that was mailed to prospects and leads.

Common Types of Middle-of-the-Funnel Assets:

  • Consultations
  • Personalized Product Demo Videos / Webinars
  • Video or Transcripts of Speaking Engagements
  • Case Studies
  • Data Sheets
  • Product Comparisons and Pricing Guides
  • Personalized Blog Posts / Articles
  • Testimonials
  • Calculators – ROI, Specification, Pricing

Definition – Bottom of the Funnel

At this point, leads and prospects are at or near the “purchase” phase. Marketers look for intent to buy and in many cases professional sales people assume responsibility. These sales people must be well versed and have synergy with the top and middle of the funnel assets (i.e. these are the ‘closers’, they are skilled at closing but also must know what has been presented at the top and middle). Content at this stage should help overcome any objections and empower opportunities to make an educated decision. Up-selling and cross-selling are critical at this phase.

Content should reinforce positive sentiments built up from previous top and middle funnel interactions with the company, minimizing any doubts and emphasizing the value-add proposition. High-level content is replaced by niche and/or product-specific assets. This is a stage for advanced topic matter content showcasing expertise and equipping sales to act as thought leaders.

Common Types of Bottom-of-the-Funnel Assets:

  • Free Trials
  • Personalized Deep Dive Product Demos
  • Follow up Consultations
  • Customized Estimates (refining the calculator in Middle of the Funnel)
  • Coupon/Offers
  • More Testimonials (input from existing customers and brand advocates)
  • Personalized Email Newsletters

Why is the Digital Sales and Marketing Funnel Important?

GREAT QUESTION! It’s important to understand the digital sales and marketing funnel because every consumer that your business or organization touches is different and it’s important to understand how and why a consumer is interested in interacting with your brand. The keyword to understand here:


Consumer Intent, Middle and Bottom of the Funnel – This is one of the precise reasons why Google has carved out a niche in search marketing and built a net worth of $47.9 billion. Brands, corporations, business owners, marketers and advertisers have a very sound understanding of the benefit of SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay-per-click). One of those understandings is INTENT, a skilled SEM or PPC professional can decipher keyword searches and focus on INTENT, specifically intent-to-purchase. Intent-to-purchase is middle-to-bottom of the funnel activity and not to be confused with top-of-the-funnel. Some examples of intent-to-purchase keyword searches;

  • Buy [your product]
  • Part Number (i.e. vehicle part numbers)
  • Where to purchase [your product] (online)
  • Best [your product] (online) (price)
  • Good price for [your product]
  • Where to buy [your product] (online)
WordSteam Keyword Intent Illustration

WordSteam Keyword Intent Illustration for Purchaseing iPhone

Q: Think about this for a moment, where do the MAJORITY of consumers look when they are searching for a specific product or a service?

A: Yep, Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing)

Some people, an increasing number of people, will argue that they look to social media and ask for referrals. While that is very true and very real, the social media mode of consumer research is still WAY behind search engines and the fact is when someone asks for a referral on social media, they are still in the “investigation and evaluation” phase.

Consumer Behavior, Brand Building and Top-of-the-Funnel – If you take anything away from this article, I hope that you takeaway that Social Media Marketing (and advertising) is typically top-of-the-funnel activity. SO MANY TIMES, I have been engaged in a conversation where a business owner, or manager, has an expectation of SALES when publishing and displaying an advertisement on social media. The business owner appears to be frustrated and disappointed and in many cases unwilling to try social media advertising again. This is very understandable, business owners are typically in the business of making money, increasing revenue and not throwing money away.

Connect the Dots, Connecting Top-of-the-Funnel with Bottom-of-the-Funnel – Extending the conversation to SEM and PPC, there are many business owners that have tried SEM or PPC advertising with less than desirable results. In many (if not most or all) of these cases, there were results and benefits to be had EXCEPT the business owner failed to have goals and a plan in place to connect the Top-of-the-Funnel activity to the Bottom-of-the-Funnel, in other words they did not have a Middle-of-the-Funnel strategy in place!

Please do subscribe to 3V and checkback frequently for additional articles, information and tips on how to maximize your marketing budget by implementing robust middle-of-the-funnel assets and activities! ~ Thanks, Mike


Michael Lucy
Michael Lucy
Michael Lucy is an avid digital marketer with a deep rooted passion for anything and everything involving technology. From programming to SEO to PPC to remarketing to programmatical advertising, Michael loves to keep current with technology, sharing knowledge and collaborating with other like minded digital marketers.


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