How To Master Your Marketing Funnel and Mix in 2022

How to Master the Marketing Funnel and Communications Mix continues to be one of the most pressing challenges frequently shared by clients. Knowing how to create a communications strategy and mix using the right content to be effective at each stage of the marketing funnel (referred to as the ATTRACT-ENGAGE-DELIGHT flywheel by others including HubSpot) across a mix of media and aligned to the right metrics to assess and manage the ROI is tricky for most businesses.

It All Starts with the Right Strategy

Before discussing or thinking about the content and media for each stage of the funnel or flywheel, we need to first and carefully think through the strategy that will inform these go-forward efforts. What are you really trying to accomplish: what are your defined goals and objectives, and how will the strategy help drive this?

If a strategy pre-exists, we often examine it to ensure the right strategy is in place to guide the future marketing and communications plan and efforts.

Understanding the size of the company, the stage of growth and maturity, and the resources (financial and human) available considering the business goals, we are equipped to discuss and build the most effective strategy for either the full marketing funnel or flywheel, or specific stages of the funnel: upper-, mid-, lower funnel.

This blog post will discuss the various stages of the marketing funnel which you can apply to the flywheel if preference is to use the three stages of ATTRACT-ENGAGE-DELIGHT. The blog will share the right approaches, tactics, and defined metrics at each stage of the funnel. It will also translate these into the most effective mix for marketing communications.

Defining The Marketing Funnel

Let’s begin by defining what the marketing funnel really is. The marketing funnel is an integrated flow and process for making prospects initially aware of your brand, and once aware of your brand, nurturing them over time to become customers, and remain loyal customers and fans.

The upper funnel focus is on building brand awareness with prospects (defined in your buyers’ personas). The mid- funnel focuses on making your brand top of mind and visible so that your company, product, or service is considered when the prospect is researching alternative solutions to their need. The lower funnel aim is to convert your prospects into buyers/customers. Translating this to the flywheel cycle, the upper funnel is to ATTRACT, the mid-funnel is to ENGAGE, and the lower funnel is to DELIGHT.

While many clients want to focus their efforts on building awareness, increasing consideration, and motivating conversion, you also need to consider the importance and value of customer retention (loyalty) and delight (advocacy). Ideally, you want customers to become loyal, repeat buyers. Even more, you want your customers to be so delighted that they become your advocates and champions by sharing positive reviews and generating word-of-mouth referrals to new customers.

An Overview of The Marketing Funnel

This image below from Sprout Social depicts the various stages of a typical marketing funnel:

Figure 1: Image of Marketing Funnel from SPROUT SOCIAL

A Deeper Look at The Marketing Funnel

Let’s take a minute to define each stage to ensure we’re on the same page:

Top of Funnel
Awareness: This first stage is intended to do just that…build awareness with your prospective buyers. The goal here is to make an individual aware of your brand. Being aware of your brand does not necessarily mean they are a customer; it just means that the individual is aware of the brand. The prospect must first be aware of your brand, product, or service before they can consider it when the right time comes.

There are two types of brand awareness: unaided and aided. Unaided is always the preference. It equates to top-of-mind awareness because customers recognize the brand without requiring any assistance. Whereas aided brand awareness requires that the company name or brand or a list of companies or brands are first shared, and only then is it recognized.

Interest: Still at the top of funnel stage, but after awareness has occurred comes interest. Here, an individual learns more about your brand and product or service offerings through some form of communications, e.g., a press release, article, blog, ad, live event, or more.

Consideration: Moving to the mid-funnel, a person is now actively in the market for the products or services you provide and is willing to learn more about your solutions. This is when the person often starts comparing alternatives and looks at reviews and other information that informs them further about the alternatives that are being considered.

Evaluation: Once an individual has been able to consider the product or service alternatives, he/she narrows it down to a few (usually up to 3) options. At this stage, the person is digging even deeper into the details and information that helps them differentiate between the various brands, products and services, and pricing.

Decision: Finally, the person is now at the point where he/she has decided upon the company, brand, product, or service that they want to buy or engage with to do business.

Lower Funnel
Purchase: Here is where your efforts to date begin to produce a return (or ROI). The individual has converted from a prospect to officially becoming a customer. He/she has made the first product or service purchase or has signed an agreement to engage with your services.

Repeat Customer: At this stage, you begin to compound your financial return provided the person’s needs were met by your product or service. The focus is to further motivate a subsequent purchase from your business for another time or several times. One way to do this is to have the same product or service purchased again, or you can expand the “share of wallet” by cross-selling and having the person purchase an entirely new product or service, or at purchase at a larger quantity or with greater frequency.

Loyalty and Retention: Most of us have seen comparison models of the cost of acquiring a new customer vs. the cost associated with retaining an existing one. The goal being to develop and retain loyal customers. To do so, the individual must be so happy with your product or service that he/she purchases from your company whenever they have a need you can solve. No longer are other business’ products or services considered because the person is so delighted with your product or service.

Advocacy: Client loyalty and retention are incredibly important, yet the real testament comes from this relationship when your customer is so enthusiastic about your product or service that they willingly share positive words and refer others to your business. They are so enthusiastic about your product or service that they promote it in discussions with others and/or online via social media to their network. This is when your ROI kicks in even further. Rather than having to focus your efforts at the upper portions of your funnel to build awareness and attract leads to your business, you are doing this more efficiently and effectively through the help of your customers.

Selecting the Right Approach for Each Marketing Funnel Stage

Not all marketing and communications is the same. It is important to tailor your efforts to where your buyers are at each stage in the funnel or flywheel as they move through the customer journey. The diagram below from Econsultancy displays how your marketing and media is tailored at each stage of the funnel:

Figure 2: The customer journey and the marketing-media mix from Econsultancy

From Stage to Stage

Starting at the Awareness stage or top of the funnel, you will want to get a wide reach to attract leads to your business. The goal here is to make your target market aware of your company, brand, product, or service. Depending on your marketing budget and size of business, the approach you select may include strictly online media, or radio ads, tv ads, or other forms of building awareness on a wider scale or with a larger budget. Small to mid-size businesses and start-ups often need and use an approach that is more affordable, and may include paid social advertising, email newsletters, SEO, networking, and other lower cost means of building awareness with prospective buyers.

Once an individual shows some interest or buying signs for the product or service you have to offer, it is then time to start marketing differently than in the awareness building stage. They are now ready for your consideration efforts. Here the funnel focus is to engage with the individual so to continue them through the customer journey.

Some marketers see their job as done once they have provided sales with a lead, commonly referred to as a Marketing Qualified Lead or MQL. While generating a qualified lead to buy your product or service is certainly the role of marketing, it does not end there. The journey continues. Once Sales converts the buyer into a customer, the effort now is to market and motivate your new customer to do a repeat purchase. This further improves ROI and fosters client loyalty and retention.

The journey continues to ensure your new customer becomes a loyal and delighted customer. One who is willing to help promote your brand through providing positive reviews and to share their delight with your company, product, or service with their social network and in discussions. Moving them into the unofficial role of brand champions or ambassadors allows you to broaden your reach and acquire additional customers through effective and cost-efficient word-of-mouth referrals.

Using the Appropriate Metrics at Each Stage

One common error that surfaces when collaborating with clients is the tendency to use the same metrics across each stage of the funnel. An example of this is businesses who compare the cost of acquiring a customer called Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to each of the marketing tactics. The mistake using this approach is it will favor lower funnel efforts. The CAC from lower funnel buyers will be a much smaller than the costs of acquiring upper funnel prospects where you must invest in a wider reach, and you are attempting to engage with more people. Investing in upper funnel initiatives and building brand awareness may cost more but this is a necessary stage of the funnel that allows for greater scale for the company overtime.

Measuring the return of your upper funnel with a metric aligned to cost per impression or cost per visitor is more appropriate and effective. Also, as you move from the upper funnel to the mid-funnel, your measurement must also change to measure the cost per lead. It is at the lower funnel that your metric aligns to cost per acquisition.

Setting the right metrics at each stage of the funnel will increase your chances of scaling your business over the longer term. It may be less profitable at the beginning when your focus is on building awareness at the top of your funnel, but over time your business will be more profitable than if you limited your focus to just lower funnel efforts.

Allocating the Media Mix through the Funnel

With the goal of growing a profitable and sustainable marketing business, I allocate my media mix so that 50% goes to upper and mid-funnel efforts. Specifically, 20-25% are allocated to brand awareness building, 25-30% for engaging and developing relationships at the mid-funnel, and the remaining 45-50% for conversions and client delight, retention, and advocacy.

While this is my ideal mix, not every business can allocate the same mix. It is variable based on your unique sales cycle. Some higher-end, more costly, less frequently purchased products or services need to focus more on the mid- and lower funnel areas. While products or services that are more affordable and purchased with greater frequency lends themselves to more upper funnel communication efforts to rapidly build brand awareness and hold off competitors.


Defining your brand, marketing and communications strategy needs to precede your plan and efforts throughout the marketing funnel. Once the strategy is finalized, it makes planning your marketing funnel and media mix so much easier.

My advice for those who are not confident in this process and discipline is to ask for help. There are consultants and agencies (hint, hint Marketing Matters) that have the knowledge and expertise to ensure your marketing resources-financial and human, are spent effectively and efficiently.

The intention of this post is to provide you with a better understanding of the marketing funnel and how it works. Also, to offer guidance on how to build your company, brand, revenue, and drive profit. If you have any questions, please reach out to me to discuss this or if you need help with your marketing strategies and planning efforts.

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Marketing Matters based in Stamford, CT in Fairfield County serves diverse businesses and organizations in CT, NY, NJ and throughout the US. We help clients across the entire marketing spectrum from conducting research to gathering insights and intelligence, developing strategy and plans, brand development, traditional and digital marketing and communications, and aligning with and enabling sales to drive growth and achieve results in today’s evolving market.  For questions or to learn more, contact us by phone at 203.329.7773 or online.