Create a digital marketing funnel to get more leads and sales

Watch Tom Young’s webinar “Boost your sales with a high-performing digital marketing funnel”

Marketing today is complicated and changing fast as digital marketing continues to evolve, requiring CEOs to keep up or get left behind.  Creating a high-powered digital marketing funnel can help companies get more leads, plain and simple. Understanding how funnels work can help CEOs overcome the marketing challenges of today and improve marketing and sales results.

What’s a marketing and sales funnel?

Your customers go through a process before they buy.  Sometimes this involves a salesperson and it almost certainly involves online research.  Companies that perform best at sales and marketing understand marketing and sales funnels very well and nurture their prospects along the way to get leads and close more sales.

Sales and marketing funnels go by different names.  They are also known as the “customer journey” or “sales process.” Whatever you call them, these processes are critical to optimizing sales for your company.

Digital Marketing Funnels

Companies that implement digital marketing funnels will outperform those who don’t.  It’s a very simple premise, but often a challenge to implement.

Digital marketing strategies require the creation of specific digital marketing funnels.  The digital marketing funnel comprises the steps taken by prospective customers online before they contact a salesperson or make a purchase. It may include multiple points of contact, researching content in various online channels, using a variety of devices and more. These “touch points” make up the digital marketing nurturing process leading prospects toward becoming customers. Doing these things strategically will result in higher lead conversion rates and increased sales.

Many companies don’t know where to start and have made no attempt to put a digital marketing funnel in place.

Why don’t more companies create digital marketing funnels?

The short answer is many companies do not have the expertise on their team to get the work done. The expertise needed to develop digital marketing funnels is a new skills — not yet taught in many schools — and only learned by experience on the job and by having an open mind.

New digital marketing trends and tactics emerge on a regular basis and it’s hard for sales and marketing professionals to keep up.  Only companies with the right talent will be able to spot trends, learn from them and adapt it to their organization’s marketing efforts.

Based on what CEOs learn in this article, they can take the next steps to hire or train their team to do this work.

Two types of funnels

Many CEOs confuse sales processes with digital marketing funnels.  There are two fundamental types of funnels — a sales funnel and a digital marketing funnel. They often go by different names and are easily confused with one another. However, they are very different.

The Sales Funnel

For most companies, the sales funnel is the relationship a prospective customer has with your sales team — from their first communication to closing the sale to follow-up to a prospering, ongoing relationship. The sales funnel is heavy on relationships, trust and interactions between people.

Although the sales funnel is very important, the internet has changed how it works. The sales funnel now relies much more on the prospect’s online research and highly targeted presentations from the sales team. In the past, people would need to be qualified by a salesperson armed with probing questions to uncover needs. Now the sales prospect has done their homework and the salesperson must customize their presentation to meet very specific requests.

In some cases the prospect will know more than the sales rep because of their online research.

Sales funnels should have milestones and a process for keeping in touch. The keys to reaching milestones in the sales funnel are built on trust and mutual understanding.

The Digital Marketing Funnel

The digital marketing funnel is used to nurture prospects through their online research and generate qualified leads for the sales team. In the past, selling was more about finding prospects to become sales leads. Now marketing is about helping prospects find your company and become a sales lead.

Many marketers don’t realize how this works. Marketers have tremendous impact on lead generation by creating opportunities for prospects to interact with their company anonymously online before they are ready to talk with a sales rep.

The digital marketing funnel is the path prospective customers take online from their first experience of your brand, products or services through to purchase. It often continues even after the sales process has started.

What steps are needed to create digital marketing funnels?

1. Digital marketing channels and content

Assuming you already have a solid marketing strategy, excellent content and professional branding elements, the first step is to understand the preferred channels and content preferences of your targeted prospects.

Where do your prospects go to get content and what types of content do they prefer? Answer this question by getting inside the head of your target market to understand how they use the internet to research your products and services. Keep in mind they will be using a variety of devices with various screen sizes. 

This is often a challenge for many companies because people have their own preferences for how they take in information online and how they choose to interact with your online content. Establishing a successful digital marketing funnel requires you to find the channels most appropriate to reach your company’s goals for leads and sales.

Content Channels

Where do our prospects go to research on the internet?

  • Your company website
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media websites
  • Other market and industry related websites
  • Association and conference websites
  • Amazon
  • Other channels?

Content Types

What types of content do our prospects prefer?

  • Website content
  • Blog posts
  • Videos on YouTube and other social media sites
  • Webinars
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Audio recordings
  • Other content types?

You won’t be able to cover every channel, but start with the top five channels and content types and make sure to have a presence in each one.

2. The digital lead nurturing process and touch points

After selecting the channels and content types, the next step is determining the paths people take within each of these areas. To do this, you need to understand the key places people will interact with your brand online. Let’s call these touch points.

Start with the various touch points in your digital marketing funnel and list them in order by their level of importance.

Here are 10 examples of touch points used in many digital marketing funnels. The most important touch points are lower on the list because they’re lower in the funnel.

  1. Website visit to home page
  2. Website visit to services and products pages
  3. Website visit to resources and blogs
  4. Referral from associated website
  5. Social media visits
  6. Follow on social media
  7. Email newsletter sign-up
  8. Webinar attendance
  9. eBook download
  10. Speak to a salesperson

Each of these touch points should trigger various digital marketing follow-ups. Remember, people will jump around in the process and these steps are not always completed in order. All of these touch points should include very clear calls to action (CTAs) so people can reach out to a salesperson when ready. 

3. Set conversion points and CTAs 

These are the critical CTA areas where prospects go from being anonymous to making contact with your company. Each part of the digital marketing funnel must have a conversion point included.

Here are a few examples of conversion points and CTAs:

  • “Contact us” submission form
  • Email newsletter sign-up
  • Demo or free consultation
  • Live chat
  • Social media follow or like
  • Blog subscription
  • eBook or PDF download request
  • Webinar sign-up
  • Workshop or seminar sign-up
  • Phone call to your company
  • Email to a sales rep

Make sure all your conversion points are tracked in Google Analytics, Hubspot or a similar reporting application. Also, keep in mind people prefer to make contact in various ways; your favorite method for contacting a company will not be necessarily be shared by everyone in your target market. 

4. Establish Data and Analytics Tracking

Most of the steps in your funnel should be tracked in Google Analytics or Hubspot. This includes landing pages, email sign-ups, social media engagements, contact form submissions, webinar sign-ups and those listed above.

Companies should schedule regular digital marketing meetings and hold people accountable to completing and delivering reports and the proper tracking and reporting of CTAs. These meetings ensure the work is getting done. 

Digital Marketing Funnel Example

Here is an example of a digital marketing funnel that applies to most companies as they work to generate leads for their sales teams. This funnel will establish the flow through the various touch points people experience when they interact with your brand on the internet. These touch points will need to be customized to your company based on the content types and channels.

Touch points

1. Website visit from Google search or ad

This is a very common first touch point. At this point, the prospect is still anonymous and has not made contact. They will need to engage through a CTA before you can start the nurturing process. Your website must have excellent content, be very easy to use and motivate people to contact you and move through the funnel to the next steps. The website is doing the marketing work and heavy lifting at this point in the funnel.

2. Social media visit and follow

You can start marketing to people with social media content once they follow or like your social media pages but this approach has limitations, as social media is a challenging method for converting leads and sales. Social media is effective at getting people into an event like a webinar or seminar. It is also good at staying in touch, but don’t count on people converting from social media in large numbers. Video is also very popular on social media along with photography and eye-catching graphics.

3. Email newsletter subscription

This is an important step in the funnel as the prospect now agrees to no longer be anonymous and is willing to give their email address. This shows they value your content and want to hear from your company. It’s a big step in the funnel. Keep in mind, however, that many people avoid using their corporate email address when subscribing to email newsletters.

4. eBook download with email address

At this point the prospect has expressed interest in your content and is willing to give you their contact information. This is another major step in the funnel and should lead to more intensive communications and follow-up emails. It may not yet require contact from a salesperson. People may still not use their company email address to get an eBook.

5. Webinar sign-up

This touch point may be ranked higher than an eBook download because they are now willing to show up and meet you virtually. Most people attending a webinar should get an email or phone call from a salesperson as an introduction and key follow-up to get their feedback on the webinar training. If you have put in the time to present a webinar for free, the prospect should be willing to engage with a member of your sales team.

6. Contact form

This is a request to speak to a salesperson and should be followed up on very quickly — the same day if possible. This is perhaps the most important part of the digital marketing funnel.

7. Schedule a call with a salesperson

This is often where the digital marketing funnel ends and the sales funnel begins. Contacts that fall out of the sales process can go back into the digital marketing funnel.

All of these steps and touch points can be tracked in your reporting, digital statistics and analytics. Because you can track this data so closely, it is also possible to track the ROI of this work and measure the return in closed business.

Let’s take a look at a few of the resources that help in tracking and reporting.

Tools and Resources

There are many excellent resources available to implement and track digital marketing funnels. One of the best is Hubspot, however there are several alternatives. Google Analytics is a must-have tool and resource. Companies using these tools and tracking success rates will out-perform those that don’t.

Each of the resources below has extensive content. Evaluate the ones that work best for your company and budget.

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Hubspot
  • Google AdWords
  • Leadfeeder
  • Salesforce
  • Mailchimp
  • Pardot
  • Bombora

Get started on your funnel!

  • Assign a marketing team member the task of defining your company’s digital sales funnels and get started to nurture a prospect from a researcher to a qualified sales lead.
  • Understand how your target market prefers to research your company.
  • Determine at least three channels and content types needed and get started with content and visuals.
  • Identify and rank each touch point in the funnel.
  • Determine your conversion points in each step of the funnel.
  • Evaluate and select the digital marketing funnel apps and tools that work best for your company.
  • Configure Google Analytics and other tools to track the digital funnel and monitor conversions.
  • Schedule weekly digital marketing meetings to review your funnels with sales and marketing teams.


The internet continues to drive massive marketing and sales disruptions. It also drives very intense competition. These are the challenges CEOs must overcome to drive sales growth.

Developing effective digital marketing funnels to drive leads and powerful sales processes to close sales are more important than ever and will continue to drive your company’s growth into the future. Closing the sale is the first step in your customer relationship.

The real value in the digital funnel comes from the lifetime value of a customer who is loyal to your brand and a key referral source over the long term.

You must strive to keep customers loyal because the internet also drives disruption and confusion among your prospects and customers. Buying options can be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many choices and the buyer’s research process can be drawn out and difficult. People prefer to stick with their favorite options and stay loyal to a brand they have researched and chosen.

Begin the process of building your digital marketing funnel and grow your company sales with increased numbers of loyal and long-term customers. Keep in mind this does not have to be a perfect process or include everything at once. It’s best to get started with a few milestones and take action! 

Watch my webinar on this including live reviews of existing websites: Boost your sales with a high-performing digital marketing funnel.

About the Author

Thomas Young is President of Intuitive Websites and an award-winning Vistage speaker since 2001. He is the author of “Winning the Website War” and a Vistage member based in Denver, Colorado. Thomas has worked in the field for 20 years and helped thousands of companies across North America find success with digital marketing.

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About the Author: Thomas Young

As president and owner of Intuitive Websites, Tom has established himself as a leader in understanding how prospective customers use websites, and has helped his clients create well-designed, user-friendly experiences that positively enga

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