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Purchase Funnel: What It Is and How It Can Revolutionize Your Marketing

When I say the word ‘funnel’ what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

For me, it’s the little toy funnel that we used to take with us to the beach when we were kids. You’d pour sand into the top and watch it come streaming out the bottom (right onto my beach towel, if my brother had it). That and a bucket and shovel could keep us entertained for at least a half hour. Then we’d break for Sunny Ds and Dunkaroos, blissfully unaware of the high fructose corn syrup and trans fats we were consuming. Ah, the good old days.

But as a marketer, the other thing that comes to mind is a purchase funnel. If you don’t come from a marketing background, you might be wondering what a purchase funnel is. The concept is super simple and is most easily demonstrated by an inverted pyramid (or upside-down triangle, if you so prefer). It represents the journey people take to ultimately make a purchase (or convert in some other way) from your business and is a critical component to designing a successful marketing, social media, or content strategy.

The purchase funnel consists of 3 stages.

Awareness Stage

This is where people first become aware of your brand or product. It could happen in any variety of ways. Maybe they come across your business profile on social media. Maybe their friend is raving about your product. Maybe they pass your storefront while they’re on a run. This is when your brand officially finds its way onto their radar. It’s important to note that just because someone sees your brand once doesn’t mean they remember it. They often have to be exposed to it several times in order for it to stick.

Consideration Stage

This is the stage where your brand goes from being on the radar to something that’s actively being considered, perhaps as part of a list of other brands. Maybe they all of a sudden have a need for the type of product you’re offering and your brand comes to mind, so they decide to take action. They might do some research. They might visit your website. They might window shop the next time they pass your store, instead of just running on by. In this stage, they go from being a passive participant to an active participant.

Conversion or Purchase Stage

This is when they ultimately decide to convert or make a purchase. And then the fireworks erupt and the angels sing, like that scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Clark finally gets his 21,000 imported Italian twinkle lights to work. Okay, not really. But we all know this is the end goal, the finish line, the holy grail of all our efforts.

The idea of the purchase funnel that everyone takes this journey when making a decision on what to buy, and when you think about it, you take this journey all the time, sometimes multiple times a day without even knowing it. Let’s think about this in a way that we can all relate to – choosing what to watch on Netflix. Because whether you realize it or not, every time you look for a new show on Netflix, you’re effectively “shopping” for something to watch.

  • AWARENESS – You’re watching Netflix and decide you’re hungry, so you pause your show and get up to make a sandwich. While you’re building the Mona Lisa of sandwiches in your kitchen (pickles, mayo, the works), Netflix decides it’s going to go into sleep mode and ads for shows start scrolling across your screen. When you come back, sandwich in hand, you see an ad for Schitt’s Creek. You notice it, but go back to your show. A few days later on Instagram, someone posts about how great Schitt’s Creek is. This piques your interest and you file it away for later. Then a few days after that, you’re scrolling through Netflix trying to find something to watch because you finished your other show. You see the little box advertising Schitt’s Creek.
  • CONSIDERATION – You decide you’re going to watch the trailer. It looks pretty funny (because it is, by the way), but you’re still not sure, so you watch some trailers for other shows. Self Made looks pretty good too. And you know there are some shows on HBO that you were interested in, so you go to the HBO app and poke around a bit too. You pull up your phone and Google lists of shows to binge-watch. Schitt’s Creek is on multiple lists.
  • CONVERSION OR PURCHASE – So you ultimately decide that Schitt’s Creek sounds like a winner. You go back to Netflix and you start the show. And your life improves dramatically, because the show is just that awesome.



So why is this such an important concept for marketers to understand?

It gives us clear cut steps to follow

In order for a brand launch, product launch, content promotion, etc. to be successful, people need to be aware of it first. They need to know it exists. How many of us create content on our blog or an awesome freebie and then just expect people to be able to find it? You need to tell them it’s there, friend. Then you need to give them a reason to lean in and consider it. Then you need to provide them easy access to it.

This can be applied to everything from your social posts to freebie promotions, email list signups to actual purchases.

It reminds you that first and foremost, awareness is key

This is true for anyone, but especially for small businesses. Awareness should be your main objective for any new initiative. You want to fill the top of your funnel so you have more people primed to funnel through it. Not everyone who’s aware of your freebie is going to consider it and not everyone who considers your freebie is going to convert on it. But the more people you make aware of it, the more people you’ll get to consider it and the more people you’ll ultimately get to download it. Make sense?

It helps you plan your marketing more holistically

If you think of everything in terms of the funnel, you can be more strategic about how you move people through it and how you’re leveraging your channels. For instance, you can use social media to get on people’s radar and encourage them to consider you by providing them with opportunities to learn more about you and your business. With the right approach you can then funnel them to your website and get them closer to the point of purchase so it’s easier for them to buy your product, schedule a call, or whatever the case may be.

It highlights the importance of a multi-channel approach

In order to fill the top of that funnel and reach people more often you need to be using multiple channels (social media, mailers, SEO, etc.) and you need to be using them consistently. Since you’re reaching different audiences with each channel, you’re increasing your chances of filling your funnel. Make sure you’re being targeted about it, though. You ideally want to be filling your funnel with qualified people, which are people who are in your target audience and are most likely in the market for what you’re offering. Filling up the top of your funnel with every Joe Schmoe out there isn’t going to do anything if they have no interest in your product.

When you start to approach your marketing with the purchase funnel in mind, you’ll find that it helps clarify your efforts and gives you a framework to follow so you’re executing campaigns that get you the results you’re looking for.

As always, we’re here to help! Email us or comment below with any questions, concerns, or feedback. And if you’re having a bit of a panic and thinking this whole marketing thing is all too much, let us do it for you. If you couldn’t tell, these are things that get us up in the morning. 🙂


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I’m Morgan, the dreamer and designer behind Atlas + Anchor.  I help small businesses and solopreneurs build better brands that help them stand out from the crowd.


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