What’s the difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel?
That’s what we’ll cover in this article.
But we won’t only explain the differences between marketing funnels and sales funnels… we’ll also describe how and when to use each.
Let’s dive in!
A Few Quick Notes
Before we talk about the differences between marketing funnels and sales funnels, it’s important to understand that the marketing world is quite divided and arbitrary about this distinction.
Many people use the terms “marketing funnel” and “sales funnel” interchangeably.
Some people draw the line between marketing funnel and sales funnels based on their strict terminology — marketing funnels are for turning people into leads and sales funnels are for turning leads into customers.
We take a slightly different approach.
As we’ll describe in more detail below, we think of a marketing funnel as the holistic journey a person takes from learning about your business and making their first purchase to becoming a loyal customer.
Sales funnels, on the other hand, we think of as the page-by-page experiences that guide each of those actions — whether it’s getting people to opt-in, sign up, or buy.
When these two types of funnels work together — marketing funnels from their high perch and sales funnels from their ground-level execution — the entire structure sings.
That said, here are the details.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
The marketing funnel represents a high-level picture of how people within your target market…
- Become aware of your business
- Become interested in your business
- Desire what your business offers
- Take action and buy from your business
In fact, there’s a famous acronym representing those four steps within the marketing funnel: AIDA.
From awareness to action, every stage of a new customers journey lies within the marketing funnel — from top-of-funnel to bottom-of-funnel.
But how is this useful?
Let’s talk about that.
How to Use a Marketing Funnel
The marketing funnel is most useful for getting a high-level picture of how and where your business accesses its target market, how people enter your business’ ecosystem, how they become interested in your products or services, and what persuades them to take action.
It’s a helpful exercise to map out your marketing funnel in its entirety.
Here’s an example.
You can get quite a bit more detailed than that, however.
And we’ll show you how in the example below.
Mapping out your entire marketing funnel is most helpful for identifying and filling gaps in the customer’s journey.
You might find, for instance, that you’re doing a good job of guiding people to become leads, but the guidance from a lead to a customer isn’t great — you can then fill that gap with other offers, products, or advertisements.
Check out the real-life example below to see how to map out your own marketing funnel.
Real-Life Example of Marketing Funnels
Want to create your own marketing funnel?
Examples are super helpful for that!
Here’s an example of what our marketing funnel might look like at ClickFunnels (it’s a bit simplified for brevity)…
- Awareness — Facebook Ads, SEO Blog Articles, & Google Ads. All of these are designed specifically to target our dream customers.
- Interest — Free Lead Magnets, Such As 30 Days, Traffic Secrets, and Funnel Scripts. All of these lead magnet offers are designed specifically to appeal to our target market.
- Desire — The desire to purchase our software or other offers is created by the education provided within our lead magnets. We also consistently send emails to our leads to increase and enhance their desire for our products and services.
- Action — Through email marketing and consistently staying in touch via email, we drive leads to take action and purchase our software or other offers.
- Loyalty — Our software is a monthly subscription that creates loyalty and longevity in our customer base.
See how it works?
Try it for yourself and see if you’ve got a good flow between each step. If you notice gaps, try to fill them in with new products, offers, or advertising efforts.
What is a Sales Funnel
Sales funnels are the page-by-page experiences that drive your target market to take action — that “action” will be different depending on the sales funnel and the corresponding offer.
It could mean signing up for a webinar, opting in to receive a free ebook, or purchasing a high-ticket product.
There are different sales funnels for different things.
Tripwire Funnels are great for turning cold traffic directly into paying customers by offering “bait” on the front-end and a slightly higher ticket product or service as an upsell.
Squeeze Page Funnels are great for promoting a bribe-to-subscribe and snagging people’s email addresses.
Application Funnels are built to get more information about the leads that are coming through your door — they are fantastic for pre-qualifying leads before you get on a call with them.
Webinar Funnels are a double-whammy of awesomeness. They generate leads on the front-end (during the registration process) and generate sales on the back-end (at the end of the webinar when you promote your product or service).
Product Launch Funnels are perfect for promoting the launch of a new product or service so that you have a line of customers the second that your doors open up.
Video Sales Letter Funnels can serve any of the above purposes, but they focus on using video content (rather than written text) to complete their goal.
As you can see, there are a lot of different types of sales funnels to fill in every possible gap in the marketing funnel.
But… How do you use them?
How to Use a Sales Funnel
There are just two main uses of sales funnels — you can use them to generate leads and make sales.
The easiest way to build a sales funnel is to grab a piece of paper and a pen and ask yourself this question: “What experience does my target market need to have in order to go from point A to point B?”
Then start mapping out the perfect sales funnel for that goal.
Where will you drive traffic from? What is the first page they’ll land on? Where will they go if they click through? What’s next? How will they convert?
Also, spend some time looking at and studying other great sales funnels in your niche (we call this funnel hacking) to see what works for them — you can take what you learn and apply it to your own sales funnel.
These little beauties will help you generate more leads and make more sales like clockwork. Here’s a real-life example…
Real-Life Example of Sales Funnels
It’s called a sales funnel because it’s meant to help you sell more products, more often.
And while lead generation and event-hosting are important, selling products is where a sales funnel really shines.
The tripwire sales funnel is our personal favorite for making more sales.
We use it all the time to sell books, courses, and other ClickFunnels services.
Here’s how it works.
First, you make an irresistible offer to your prospect… something that is a no-brainer purchase for them.
Then, once they’ve filled out their buying information, you make an upsell or down-sell offer — this is the real product you’re trying to sell. This can be a membership, continuity product, or a special discount on another relevant item.
They can add the upsell/downsell product to their purchase with one click.
And finally, you thank the new customer for their purchase.
Of course, this is just one example of a sales funnel. There are lots of other different types of funnels to accomplish your goals. Choose the template that works best for you and start building!
TL;DR — The Key Difference Between Sales Funnels & Marketing Funnels
Skip to the bottom and just want the gist?
In our view, the key difference between a marketing funnel and a sales funnel is that…
Marketing Funnels provide a holistic overview of the customer journey and the steps involved, from becoming aware of your business to buying and becoming a loyal customer.
Sales Funnels, on the other hand, are the page-by-page experience you create to guide each specific conversion event, whether that’s opting in, signing up, or purchasing.
Having said that, many online marketers have their own definitions and distinctions for marketing funnels and sales funnels.
Some use the terms interchangeably.
Others believe that marketing funnels are for “marketing” and sales funnels are for “sales”.
We believe that the two should work together to build an experience that grows your business as systematically as possible.
Marketing funnels are useful for finding gaps in the entire customer journey… sales funnels are useful for filling those gaps on a more granular level.
Marketing Funnels Vs. Sales Funnels: And the Winner is…
Your business needs both marketing funnels and sales funnels to be successful.
You can use marketing funnels to outline your customer’s journey from lead to loyal buyers and identify gaps in that process.
You can then use sales funnels as the granular tools to drive people from one step to the next — these are the page-by-page experiences that drive action.
That’s all there is to it.
If you’re ready for the next step, click below to start building your first sales funnel for free!