Full Funnel Marketing Strategy for Customer Acquisition and Retention

Full funnel marketing is a model which provides a visualization of the journey a prospect goes through, from brand awareness to purchase decisions and the follow-up that comes after.

Full Funnel Marketing Strategy for Customer Acquisition and Retention

Introduction – Full Funnel Marketing

“Full Funnel Marketing” is the process used by a company’s marketing teams to acquire and retain customers. It can also describe the customer journey from “totally unaware of the product or brand” to a “loyal customer of the product or brand”.

What is a marketing funnel?

Let us first understand the concept of a “marketing funnel”. A marketing funnel is essentially a visual presentation of the lead-to-customer conversion process. The marketing process, if depicted graphically, will have a large top and a narrow bottom, reflecting the reducing number of customers engaged at each stage of the journey. This graphic visualization of the marketing process looks like a funnel, and hence we have the term “marketing funnel”.

A “marketing funnel” refers to the state of mind of the consumer during the entire purchase cycle. It considers both the customer’s perspective and mindset in relation to purchasing from your brand.

The “marketing funnel” is not necessarily the same as the “customer journey”. The marketing funnel should ideally be derived from the customer journey to make it useful to the potential customer.

Evolution of the customer acquisition and retention process

In the pre-digital days, the marketing function of any company approached customer acquisition and retention through the AIDA model, created towards the end of the 19th century by an American advertising practitioner called Elias St. Elmo Lewis.

The AIDA model stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

This model worked on a “problem-solution” approach, and Mr Lewis proposed that every purchase involved the following steps:

  • Awareness: Potential customers are aware of their problems and searching for possible solutions for them
  • Interest: Potential customers show interest in a group of products or services that could solve their problem
  • Desire: Potential customers begin to evaluate a certain brand
  • Action: Potential customers decide on whether to purchase the product or services

The model can be pictorially described as below:

Image source: www.dolomitesconsulting.com

The digital revolution and evolution of the marketing funnel

Customers today are increasingly digital and consume content, shop and watch movies on a digital device or through the internet. The customer journey has also evolved to more online search and purchase patterns. Therefore, it has become mandatory for most companies to have an online presence and digitally market their products or services to customers.

However, even in the digital age, the marketing funnel and customer acquisition follow the AIDA process. Companies have developed a “digital marketing funnel” to move consumers from one stage of the journey to the next.

This digital marketing funnel maps the customer’s online journey through the AIDA process. It allows the brand or company to determine the content and digital tools required at each stage to engage and convert leads into paying customers.

This digital or “refined” marketing funnel can be presented as below:

Image source: sproutsocial.com  

Two new stages are added to the digital marketing funnel – Loyalty and Advocacy. These stages highlight the post-purchase action that a marketing team should take to retain and reward customers (for promoting the brand within their social network).

This concept can also be represented by mapping each stage of the customer journey at different parts of the funnel:

  1. Top Of The Funnel (TOFU)
  2. Middle Of The Funnel (MOFU)
  3. Bottom Of The Funnel (BOFU)

This approach can be shown as:

Image source: online.visual-paradigm.com

What Are the Different Types of Funnels?

There are primarily two main types of funnels based on the end customer base:

  1. B2B marketing funnel
  2. B2C marketing funnel

What is the difference between B2B and B2C marketing funnels?

Though the customer journey is similar for B2B and B2C marketing, there are some key differences in the process and content available at each stage of the respective funnels. These are:

  • B2C customers go through each stage of the customer journey either alone or with someone they trust, like family members or friends. On the other hand, B2B customers have larger and more focused buying groups.
  • B2C clients do not interact directly with a company or brand representative. However, B2B consumers interact directly with sales representatives.

A visualization of these two types of marketing funnels will be as under:

Image source: skyword.com

The key differences between a B2B and a B2C funnel can be summarized in the following table:

Element B2B B2C
Funnel Stages 6 4
Marketing Cycle Duration Longer Shorter
Target Audience Group Individual

Marketing Funnel Stages

Let us delve deeper into each stage of the digital marketing funnel to understand how the customer journey progresses from lead to conversion. We will also examine the various tools or content strategies used at each stage to improve the conversion rate.

Stage 1: Awareness

This stage is aimed at a large pool of potential customers. The goal at this stage is to generate the maximum number of leads from various sources of customer traffic.

This is where a potential customer learns about the brand or the company, not always while actively searching. This usually comes about because the prospective customer is searching for a solution to a pain point that they are experiencing. So, it is important for the company or brand to target the right customers at this stage.

The company must know its customers – it cannot have an "everyone is a customer" approach. Customer personas (or profiles) are extremely important at this stage to ensure that the company is engaging the right customer at the right time with the right message through the right channel.

It is better to use inbound marketing tools at this stage to pull customers towards the company/product/brand. Some of the tools that can be used here include:

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to optimize content for better visibility on search engines
  2. Blog posts to educate potential customers on insights or information relevant to the industry or business in which the company is operating. Blog posts also boost the company's credibility by showcasing its expertise or knowledge of the specific industry.
  3. Infographics present dense statistical or numerical information in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand manner.
  4. Social media to create word-of-mouth visibility and build or engage a community with similar interests or desires.
  5. Online banners can also help develop visibility and draw people's attention to your company website or online promotion.

Also read: The Complete Guide To Performance Marketing

Stage 2: Consideration

The goal at this stage is to engage the customer deeply enough to capture their interest. The potential customer is still not completely sold on the product or brand and requires more information to decide. Therefore, relevant information and a way of using that information are essential at this stage to strengthen the initial engagement that has happened.

At this stage of the funnel, the company must focus its efforts on educating customers on why it is the best solution to their problem. A company can use several tools to achieve its goal at this stage:

  1. Case studies offer real-world examples of how the company's product responds to a customer's needs. Case studies confirm or validate the effectiveness of the product being considered and reinforce the customer's interest.
  2. Retargeting to engage leads who visited the company's website. This is an effective way to remind the visitors of the company's products and follow up with them to push them further on the marketing funnel.
  3. Email marketing uses marketing automation to engage potential customers on a direct, one-to-one basis with relevant and useful information. Email marketing can also provide valuable reports on the performance of the email campaign.

Stage 3: Conversion

This is where the customer buys the product. The goal is to pull the maximum number of people from the first two stages to this point. Remember, the customer will always have an option, so the customer must be convinced at this stage that the product they are buying is the best solution for them.

The conversion can be best achieved by:

  1. Reducing friction at the purchase point ensures higher conversion and less "shopping cart drops."
  2. Offering an incentive to the customer to make the purchase decision.
  3. Avoid asking for excessive information, which could be a point of dissonance and drive the customer away.


Stage 4: Loyalty

A properly designed marketing funnel ensures that a customer becomes a repeat customer, i.e., it will ensure customer retention. It is cheaper to retain an existing customer than get a new one. The company's marketing and content should pull the customer to visit the website or engage with the company repeatedly. Loyal customers know what to expect from their company or brand and do not always go through the earlier stages of the funnel.

Customer loyalty can be developed with the following tools:

  1. Newsletters with useful information and incentives to drive more purchases.
  2. Loyalty programs reward customers for repeat purchases. Loyalty programs keep customers locked into the product/brand and discourage searches for alternatives.
  3. Email marketing to update and engage existing customers with product information and incentives such as purchase discounts.

Stage 5: Advocacy

This stage can work only when the company's customers are strongly convinced of its reliability and purpose and are willing to "promote" it to others in their social circle. The effort at this stage is to encourage existing customers to recommend the product or brand to others and create new customers. Recommendations by existing customers help companies get new customers directly to the consideration stage, leading to faster conversions.

A company can drive advocacy from its existing customers through a variety of methods:

  1. Referral programs that reward customers for bringing in new customers.
  2. Surveys to find out what customers think of the product and to use the feedback received to make improvements in the products. This makes the customers feel part of a select group and that their opinions are important to the company.
  3. Process improvements using feedback from surveys to smoothen or simplify the customer journey and reduce areas of friction that could turn away customers or lead to a negative experience. This makes the customers happy and confident in recommending the product or company to their friends and acquaintances.

Why are marketing funnels important?

The importance of a marketing funnel in today's online marketplace cannot be over-emphasized. In fact, a properly designed and implemented full-funnel marketing process can prove to be a game-changer for the company or brand as it tries to engage and acquire customers.

The main benefits of a marketing funnel are given below:

  1. Save time and effort
    1. Mapping the customer journey and designing a plan of activities or content for each stage of the journey helps the company to automate its marketing process.
    2. This helps the marketing team save time and effort. With this, the companies can concentrate on strategic and tactical plans for acquiring and retaining customers.
  2. Design the marketing strategy
    1. Understanding a marketing funnel helps the marketing team to learn and understand why a prospective customer drops out before making a purchase.
    2. It also helps the marketing team develop strategies and tools to keep the prospect engaged with the brand through all stages of the customer journey.
  3. Consistent marketing promotions
    1. A marketing funnel tells the marketing team precisely what to do at each stage of the customer journey.
    2. This helps the team refine the messaging and promotions to be consistent with each stage of the journey and provide a rich and useful engagement to the customer.
  4. Close deals easily
    1. This is particularly important for B2B companies, where both marketing and sales teams need to work together.
    2. Marketing funnels give deep insights into customer behaviour, allowing the sales team to work out how to close a deal faster.
  5. Increase sales
    1. A marketing funnel helps the company nurture and guide a lead towards a purchase decision.
  6. Make better sales forecasts
    1. Funnels allow the company to analyze the results of each marketing activity in a detailed manner.
    2. Funnels provide the quantity of lead conversion for each stage, and by using this data, the company can forecast how many current leads will become paying and regular customers.
  7. Customer retention
    1. No company wants to lose a customer, and retaining a customer is up to five times cheaper than acquiring a new one.
    2. Knowing the post-purchase behaviour of the customer can help the company plan how to keep customers engaged and make them return to purchasing the brand.

Full-funnel marketing strategy

Customer purchase behaviour has changed dramatically over the last few years, particularly post 2019, due to the impact of the Covid pandemic. The marketing funnel has also taken on greater importance in recent years because of the growth of digital marketing, making it possible for marketers to focus on individual consumers at a very granular level and develop measurable means of promoting brands.

Why should a company have a funnel strategy?

From the company's point of view, a marketing funnel is a valuable tool for the marketing team to design plans to attract, engage, and convert potential customers through relevant marketing material. It is beneficial because it is a measurable activity and can help prevent customer leakages, i.e., customers dropping out at different stages before buying. 

To get the maximum benefit out of its marketing funnel, the company should have a full-funnel marketing strategy to get a 360-degree view of the customer journey, build lasting relationships and offer better brand experiences.

To do this, the company must start by defining its buyer personas or profiles. The goals of each persona should be matched with company goals, and the company should identify the proper channels to reach and engage these customers.

Let us now examine the key funnel strategies that will help companies to:

  1. Identify and prevent customer leakage areas
  2. Identify and implement growth tactics
  3. Drive cost efficiency and better ROI

Strategy 1: Place customers at the heart of the marketing funnel

  • The company needs to connect emotionally to its customers and understand their motives and desires

Strategy 2: Define the objectives of each stage of the marketing funnel

  • There is no such thing as a "standard marketing funnel."
  • Every company needs to have a customized marketing funnel relevant to its customers and its products.
  • Each stage of the marketing funnel has a specific objective that the company should define.

Strategy 3: Create a meaningful customer journey

  • Every stage of the funnel should be inter-connected and give a reason to the customer to move to the next stage
  • The stages cannot be stand-alone segments in the customer journey
  • Create a smooth and friction-free customer journey that drives the customer to move through the full funnel.


Strategy 4: Establish KPIs for each stage of the marketing funnel

  • Every stage should push the customer to the next step.
  • The metrics defined for each stage allow the company to gauge the effectiveness of the tools and content used at that stage.
  • A key metric is a percentage of customer drop-offs (leakages) at each stage. This is an obvious indicator of the robustness of the tools and content for that stage.

Strategy 5: Use different marketing channels for different stages

  • We cannot use the same marketing channels for different stages of the marketing funnel.
  • Different channels have different outcomes and impact the ROI of each stage differently.
  • Aligning the marketing channels through the entire funnel helps the company plan smarter acquisition tactics without wasting money or time.

Strategy 6: Focus on the complete brand experience

  • Customers can find a company or brand on different platforms and channels.
  • Each channel or platform has a different customer profile.
  • It is therefore important that the company adopts an omnichannel approach to identify, reach and engage its customers.

 Strategy 7: Use SEO optimization and CRM tools

  • Content is critical to move prospects along the marketing funnel.
  • Since most customers search online for solutions, the company should ensure that its content is optimized for search engines and can be easily found online.
  • CRM tools deliver relevant and enjoyable brand experiences at every touchpoint.
  • The better the brand experience, the stronger the customer relationship with the brand/company.

Benefits of full-funnel marketing

There are several benefits of designing and maintaining a full-funnel marketing strategy:

  1. Provides measurability
  2. Prevents "funnel leakage"
  3. Gives access to data
  4. Makes the customer journey simpler
  5. Can be applied to most customer engagements

Full funnel marketing example

The full-funnel marketing concept is important to all industries but nowhere more so than for an e-commerce site. The full-funnel for an e-commerce site will look like this:

Image source: neilpatel.com

In simple terms, the customer:

  1. Visited the e-commerce site
  2. Explored the products available or signed up for a trial
  3. Selected the product
  4. Proceed to pay


Full funnel marketing is a model which provides a visualization of the journey a prospect goes through, from brand awareness to purchase decisions and the follow-up that comes after. A carefully designed and researched full-funnel marketing strategy allows the company to determine how to engage and influence customers at specific stages in the purchase cycle.

Full funnel marketing is required to engage the audience, build trust and create an authentic base of "promoters" of the brand. While setting up a full-funnel marketing strategy can seem challenging to a company doing it for the first time, the process and outcome of having it are of immense value to the brand and the company.

A marketing funnel is not always a linear channel. Customers may go directly to the purchase stage upon becoming aware of the product or company, or they may spend more time at the consideration stage evaluating several options before making a decision. It is always better to think long term and build an omnichannel, cross-platform funnel that helps the company connect with the customer in every possible way, influence the customer mindset at every stage of the journey and reduce the chances of a "funnel leakage".

A full-funnel marketing approach is a valuable source of customer data. Every company needs to ensure that it has developed the correct metrics to judge and evaluate the effectiveness of every stage of the marketing funnel. A marketing funnel not only helps to acquire new customers but also pushes them to be loyal and promote the brand to their contacts.