Marketing Funnels Beginner’s Guide: Best Practices & More

19 min

If you’ve run any marketing campaigns before, you’ve likely come across the term marketing funnels – visual representations of the customer journey.

While marketers are becoming more and more interested in them – and for good reasons which I’ll explain in more detail below – we found the informational chaos surrounding this topic discouraging, to say the least.

That’s why in this article, we’ve decided to gather it all:

  • marketing funnel definition & different funnel types
  • use-cases on who it’s most useful for
  • tips and best practices for creating high-converting funnels

Finally, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to help you create a marketing funnel that’ll work for your business.

To show you how easy this process can be, we’ll be using the GetResponse Conversion Funnels, which you can learn more about on this very blog.

With that out of the way, let’s start by defining the marketing funnel.

What is a marketing funnel?

Marketing funnel is a system that helps you attract consumers, turn them into leads or prospects, and finally convert them into paying customers.

Marketing funnels are often called “sales funnels”, “lead funnels”, “purchase funnels”, “conversion funnels”, and other similar terms.

And why is it called a funnel?

Because when you think about the size of your audience at each stage, it kind of looks like one.

Visual representation of a marketing funnel.
Visual representation of a marketing funnel.

Let’s imagine you’re selling a copywriting course, online:

  1. At first, your audience is big. Using Facebook ads and other promotional tactics, you’re trying to reach as many potential students as possible. This is the top of your funnel, which is its widest part.
  2. You’ve managed to show your ads to a lot of people, but only some of them decided to click through the ad and visit your landing page. The size of your audience has shrunk, just like the funnel itself would do.
  3. On your landing page, you’ve given away a free resource, e.g., an ebook on 10 copywriting tactics for social media specialists. Some of your website visitors got interested and decided to download the ebook and provide you with their email address. Again, some of the people dropped off and your funnel became a bit thinner at this stage.
  4. Next, you’ve sent a series of emails to everyone who downloaded your ebook. The last email invited them to join the paid version of your course.
  5. Some of your recipients dropped out and some ended up signing up for the course. And that usually marks the end of the funnel.

What about other scenarios where the conversion doesn’t happen online or requires contact with a sales agent? These are also referred to as funnels.

Whether you’re buying a coffee from a large coffee chain or buying a house from a real estate agent – the way these businesses sell is also through marketing funnels.

Types of funnels

While marketing funnels is the broader term that covers various use-cases, there are several types of funnels you’re like to come across:

As you can see, other than the marketing channel your funnel’s based on, your funnels can also have different goals, e.g.:

  • selling a product or service
  • building a list of contacts
  • promoting an event

Naturally, you might just as well use funnels to collect survey answers or have people sign up for a live demo of your platform.

The benefits of marketing funnels

As you can see from the following Google Trends report, the interest in marketing funnels has been steadily growing over the last five years.

Google Trends search results for the term marketing funnel.

And we can see where that’s coming from.

While nearly all advertising campaigns are aimed at generating sales – in one way or another – not all of them are designed to do so directly.

Using a funnel and the AIDA model helps marketers visualize the stages and tasks advertising campaigns should fulfill first before the consumer makes a decision to buy a given product or service. If you’re not convinced, take this sales funnel template as an example.

In other words, marketing and sales funnels will help you keep your campaigns organized and drive your target audience strategically towards action.

Learn how Alex Terrier, a jazz musician and a music teacher selling online courses, achieved a 19% email signup rate and attracted 253 new contacts in 30 days using GetResponse Conversion Funnel.

Funnel software tools, like GetResponse Conversion Funnel, also help you choose the best steps to include in your funnel. Pre-designed templates and funnel scenarios successfully remove the guesswork.

For each stage of this so-called customer journey, marketers can choose different tools and marketing tactics to help their consumers advance down the funnel and towards the buying decision.

This visual presents some of the most popular tactics used for each stage in the marketing funnel:

AIDA model and different marketing tactics for each marketing funnel stage.
AIDA model with marketing tactics appropriate for each stage.

At the same time, for each of the stages, marketers will be using different metrics and KPIs to report on their campaign progress.

To give you a better overview, here are a few examples of metrics you’d likely report on across the three key areas of your funnel – Top of the funnel (TOFU), Middle of the funnel (MOFU), Bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

Marketing funnel visual model along with the popular metrics used by marketers at each part of the funnel.
Metrics marketers use for different funnel stages

OK, all this explains why using marketing funnels is beneficial for your business, but it doesn’t answer why their popularity has increased in the last five years. After all, AIDA and funnel models have been used by advertisers for over 100 years.

The key reason for this is technology.

In the past, you had to develop all the elements of your marketing funnel separately, and then connect them together.

To make myself clearer, this is what you’d normally had to do, individually:

  • run social media ads,
  • create landing pages,
  • set up autoresponder email sequences,
  • set up exit intent forms,
  • come up with upsell or cart abandonment offers,
  • and so on.

Nowadays, you can connect each of these elements via API or ready-made integrations and plugins.

Or better yet, you can use GetResponse Conversion Funnel, which offers all of the said elements inside one single platform.

What are the benefits of this approach?

  1. You don’t have to spend time integrating all the different tools to create your own marketing funnel – it’s done for you, automatically.
  2. Plus, you don’t need to pay for separate tools like the landing page builder, email marketing, email autoresponder, social media ads creator, webinar platform, and so on – it’s all built into your GetResponse account.
  3. Last but not least, thanks to built-in payment processing and tracking functionalities you can both sell and measure your sales results right from one dashboard.

What types of businesses can benefit the most?

All types of businesses obviously! Marketing funnels help you turn prospects into customers, and that’s what every business is about, right? Now take a look at a few examples of businesses that could benefit from using marketing funnels and how they’d do it.

1. Local business

Let’s say you’re managing a local business that offers a wedding planning service:

  1. At the top of your marketing funnel, you’d likely want to focus on generating traffic to a specific landing page, for example through Facebook ads.
  2. There you’ll want to turn these visitors into leads by, let’s say, offering them a chance to sign up for your wedding prep tips newsletter.
  3. Once they sign up, they immediately enter an email sequence that consists of several messages with tips for a stress-free wedding. That’s your middle of the funnel.
  4. After reading your tips, your subscribers might realize that organizing a spectacular wedding takes a significant amount of time and effort (and stress!), and they might not want to do all that on their own.
  5. That’s why sometime in the sequence (when you know they’re approaching the bottom of the funnel) you can present your upsell offer – your services that’ll make your customers feel like a guest at their own wedding.
  6. Whoever is interested can either reach out to you directly or buy one of your wedding planning packages right off the site.

And there you have it.

Want to use this funnel idea? Go ahead. It’s done for you with a complete set of landing pages and autoresponder templates in GetResponse Conversion Funnel (fka Autofunnel).

Wedding planning local service marketing funnel from GetResponse Autofunnel.
Example of a funnel template for local service available in GetResponse

2. Coaching business

Running a coaching business?

As an expert in the field, you’d like to sell an online course or a membership program to new audiences.

  1. To do that, at the top of your funnel you can set up a landing page with a lead magnet, for example, an ebook on how to land your first customer.

    To drive traffic, you’d set up a social media ad campaign to reach an audience that looks similar to your existing clients.
  2. After a user fills out the form, they receive an ebook along with a series of autoresponder emails with additional tips on how they can win more customers and improve their business.
  3. After several emails, it’s time to present your upsell offer, the membership program, or a paid course.

    That’s when you drive traffic from your emails to your sales page.
  4. To increase your conversion rate, you’d typically include an exit intent form and also track which users filled out the form and completed the order.
  5. Then, you could retarget those who haven’t committed – maybe they abandoned the page or haven’t clicked through to the sales page.

And that’s it.

Of course, you could expand this process, and, for example, A/B test your landing pages to optimize them for conversion.

Coaching business marketing funnel template.
Example of a funnel template for coaching business available in GetResponse

In this video below, Sean Smith walks you through how you can sell your online coaching course using a sales funnel.

3. Ecommerce business

Let’s say you have a store that sells sweets, chocolates, and candy.

How can you drive more sales using funnels?

Here’s one way to do it.

  1. You set up a funnel that starts with a landing page and a lead magnet.

    The lead magnet? A cookbook or a collection of recipes for healthy snacks.
  2. After driving traffic to the page from social media ads and emails, you can nurture those who filled out the form.
  3. Just set up an autoresponder sequence with a series of cooking tips and recipes.
  4. After several such emails, you’re ready to present your actual products.
  5. Drive your email subscribers to the sales page where they’ll happily convert into paying customers.
  6. And for those who haven’t converted right away, give it another go, send them another offer several days later, and amplify your campaign reach with social media ads.
Ecommerce marketing funnel template available in the GetResponse Autofunnel tool.
Example of a funnel template for online store available in GetResponse

And what if you’re an ecommerce business that sells digital products? That’ll work just as great.

In this video below, Leslie Samuel explains how you can sell online courses with conversion funnels.

Marketing funnel strategies

I’m sure you already know this:

Not one single email could possibly answer all your subscribers’ needs.

Which takes us to one of the key advantages of the funnel marketing approach:

Funnels ‘force’ you to remember about the customer journey, the different lifecycle stages, and the changing needs of your subscribers.

That’s what makes this framework useful – and effective, too.

To help you guide your subscribers through your funnel, we’ve developed this email marketing funnel infographic.

Below, I’ve summarized its main points, but feel free to bookmark it and save it for later.

It’ll be useful when you’ll start developing or optimizing your existing marketing funnels.


Your audience isn’t yet aware of your brand and the products and services you offer. You need to change that, as effectively as possible.

To do that, focus on lead generation.

Build a landing page, create a lead magnet, and drive traffic to your page.

There are many ways you can drive traffic, effectively.

Use Facebook ads, Google search ads, display ads, add banners to your pages, send an email to your existing email list, sponsor a podcast or partner up with another business.

Make sure you’re not just attracting any audience – this has to be a target email list consisting of people who you potentially convert at a later stage.

Remember to pick the right lead magnet for your audience. Not everyone will be interested in an ebook or a checklist.

And don’t forget about retargeting those who’ve engaged with your ads. This will help you get a bigger bang for your buck.


So you’ve managed to turn some of your landing page visitors into email subscribers.

Great job!

Now’s the time to help them realize that what you’re offering is the right solution to their problem.

To do that, create an autoresponder email cycle that’ll discuss the different aspects of the topic your subscriber’s interested in. While doing so, make sure to emphasize the strengths of your offer and why your brand should come up naturally when they’re thinking of the topic.

During this process, you’ll want your prospects to engage with your brand and products.

  • If it’s a video course that you’re selling, let them watch some of the course materials, answer a few quiz questions, and download some additional materials.
  • If it’s an ebook, give them a free sample including the first few chapters.
  • If it’s a physical product like a T-shirt, show your subscribers how it can be worn on different occasions to fit their mood and style.

You know what I’m getting at.

To step up your game, give email automation a try. Send them in response to your subscribers’ and users’ actions.

You’ll soon see why triggered emails outperform regular emails multiple times.

Here you can learn more about what email automation is & how you can use it for your business.


It’s time to convert your email subscribers into paying customers.

At this point, your email communication should motivate your audience to take action and commit.

Emphasize the reasons for why they shouldn’t waste any more time. Overcome the hesitation by using testimonials, customer reviews, and case studies. Use the language that works for your audience.

If your product is going to help them save money or advance in their career, show them the numbers! If you’re selling a physical item with limited stock – this is the time to make this clear. And if you offer a money-back guarantee, easy or free-returns, a free trial period – all of this should be emphasized in your email sequence.

Eliminating friction in the funnel report.

Eliminating Friction in the Funnel

Grab this free guide and learn the key findings from our ground-breaking study with Demand Metric.

Download guide

How to create a marketing funnel – best practices

Creating a marketing funnel isn’t necessarily rocket science, it just takes a bit of time.

But creating an effective marketing funnel takes both time and practice.

That is why we’ve gathered the best practices that’ll help you start at an already high level, which you’ll then be able to improve on your own.

1. Drive traffic effectively

As I mentioned before, it’s not about driving any kind of traffic to your landing page or squeeze page. It’s about driving the right traffic.

Focus your efforts on identifying the audience that’s likely to convert.

This means narrowing down your segmentation when setting up social media ads, using lookalike audiences, and observing which users perform your desired action.

If you’re seeing that some groups, in particular, are visiting your site and not converting, it’s probably best to remove them from your target group or tweak your ads to fit their needs better.

To learn more about driving traffic to your landing pages read our guide.

2. Optimize your communication for all devices

By now this shouldn’t have to be repeated, but I’ll do it anyway. Your website, landing pages, and emails should be optimized for all types of devices.

At the same time, if for some reason the mobile experience for any of those assets isn’t working, ask yourself whether you want to target mobile users at all?

See whether mobile users are converting and if not, make a strategic decision whether you want to include them in your targeting.

To learn more about mobile optimization, consider reading our responsive landing page design guide and the email design guide.

3. Choose the right lead magnet

Take a look at this list of lead magnet ideas and the study we ran among 790 marketers.

After reviewing these, you should understand that the same lead magnet won’t work for everybody. That’s why you need to understand who you’re targeting and then test your gut feeling.

Perhaps a checklist is going to win over an ebook? Or an email swipe file over a 1-on-1 consultation? Evaluate each lead magnet, but don’t just focus on money.

Sometimes it’s about how quickly your audience can benefit from the lead magnet and not how comprehensive it is. Ever downloaded an ebook you never actually read because it was too big? That’s what I mean.

4. Nurture your leads

The whole idea behind marketing funnels is targeting customers with the right type of content at the right moment. Don’t ask for a commitment right away.

You hint at the address of your order form for those who already arrived with the ‘I’m ready to buy’ mindset. For others, you’ll have to nurture them first.

5. Get your objectives and metrics right

This is something we, as marketers, often get wrong. What we’re looking at are vanity metrics. But what we’re interested in are actionable metrics.

Are you really interested in how many people visited your page or how many of them converted? Are you interested in how many people opened your email or how many of them clicked through to your upsell offer?

Write down your objectives, and then make sure you’re focusing on the right metrics – the ones you have an influence on and which bring you closer to business growth.

The funnel visual highlighting funnel metrics frequently used by marketers should help you get started.

Pro tip: Another potential issue might be that your tracking is inaccurate. This can happen for many reasons, like someone forgetting to add a tracking code to a new landing page. To ensure you’re not burning your marketing budget, always check that your tracking is set up properly.

6. Experiment and increase your conversion rates

Even if you know your target audience very well, chances are that you’ve got more than one idea on how to approach them best.

Rather than going with your gut, you can evaluate your ideas by running A/B tests. What can you test? For example, your squeeze pages or follow-up email sequences.

When doing so, don’t just focus on changing the color of your CTA buttons – these things may not make a major impact on your conversion rates.

Different copy, the placement of your signup form, the placement or type of social proof, videos, and more – these elements can help you improve your conversion rates and grow your business, too.

Speaking of optimizing your funnels, here are two pro tips from Pam Neely:

When setting up your A/B tests, always think about how the changes you make affect your final conversion.

For example, it’s great to optimize a landing page until it gets a 40% conversion rate. The old page only got a 10% conversion rate. That new page crushes the old version, right?

Not necessarily.

The old landing page had been converting at 10%, and each lead was worth $100. Your new landing page converts four times better at 40%. But those leads end up being worth only $10 each.

Not so good. Here’s how the math on that would net out:

Landing pagesTraffic to the pageConversion Rate Total conversions Value per conversion Gross income
Old landing page 1,000 uniques 10%100 conversions$100 $10,000
New landing page 1,000 uniques 40%400 conversions $10$4,000

Most real-world examples aren’t going to be this stark, but the principle still applies. Make sure you’re optimizing for the right thing: the final conversion at the end of the funnel.

You should also remember to test one element at always start with the one you can improve the most.

Why? Because of how multiplication works. If all the elements in your funnel were equally easy to fix, it actually wouldn’t matter which element you improved first. But they’re not equally easy to improve.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example. This is a very simple funnel. It’s for a SaaS company, but whether you’re a creative agency or selling automotive parts, you’ll probably see some similarities to your business in this funnel:

Funnel elementConversion rateConversions
PPC ad10%10,000
Landing page15%1,500
Click on email20%300
Download whitepaper60%180
Fill out follow up form20%36
Schedule demo30%10.8
Complete demo60%6.5

Here’s how this funnel looks if you increase the conversion rate for the worst-performing element in the funnel, the PPC ad, by 50%:

Funnel elementConversion rateConversions
PPC ad15% 15,000
Landing page15% 2,250
Click on email20% 450
Download whitepaper60% 270
Fill out follow up form20% 54
Schedule demo30% 16.2
Complete demo60% 9.7
Purchase20% 1.9

Here’s how it looks if you increase the conversion rate of the highest performing element in the funnel, the whitepaper download, by 50%:

Funnel elementConversion rateConversions
PPC ad10%10,000
Landing page15%1,500
Click on email20%300
Download whitepaper90%270
Fill out follow up form20%54
Schedule demo30%16.2
Complete demo60%9.7

It’s the same result. Because of this, we go after the link in the chain that’s easiest to increase rather than the one that’s performing worst.”

Create your funnel today

Now that we’ve covered the bases, you’re good to go and start building your marketing funnels.

The good news is that with ready-made funnel templates this process shouldn’t take you too long. So now the question is…

How are you going to use this knowledge?

Let me know by leaving a comment below 🙂

And if you want to see the full walkthrough of how you can create a sales funnel from scratch, here it is:

Ready to create your first marketing or sales funnel? Give GetResponse Conversion Funnels a spin and see how simple the funnel creation process can be.

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.