Ultimate Guide to Marketing Funnels

If you’re a seasoned marketer with an in-depth understanding of marketing funnels, then this guide will form a substantial refresh of your talents, and maybe even provide a tip or two for you to add to your toolkit.

However, if you’re not a marketing funnels pro and have limited, or no prior knowledge of marketing funnels and the positive impact they can have on your business, then rest assured you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, I’m going to share with you an overview understanding of the benefits that a marketing funnel can bring to your business and why you are missing out right now if you don’t have marketing funnels in your business.

Some industry experts would have us think you need the brains of Albert Einstein to introduce marketing funnels into your business and that they are a complex web of business tools.

It’s simply not true and as our Queen of England would say - “One is not amused”.

Whether you have noticed it or not, you have at some point been through a marketing funnel, and I’m confident you’ll successfully implement them in your business after we work through them in this guide.

First of all, we need to start with some of the challenges your business might be facing right now. The good news is that often the issues we face have clear solutions that can be easily implemented.

Chapter 1

Can a Funnel Help Your Business?

There is generally one main factor that determines the success or failure of a business, and that is 'sales'. 

Every business thrives on increasing its bottom line and will endeavour to increase its sales numbers.

There are common challenges that slow down the growth of an online business and often a few simple fixes can make a world of difference. 

If you’re experiencing any of these challenges that we have identified below, then marketing funnels will be the business solution you're looking for.

Better still... if you are yet to experience any of these issues then adding marketing funnels to your business could save you from a world of stress and frustration.

With ten years of experience helping all kinds of web businesses succeed online, in every niche you can imagine possible, we have learned the main challenges your business must overcome to be successful.

Often marketers and business owners think they have a traffic or product problem when, in fact, they need to introduce marketing funnels to their business, or they need to fix the funnels they have already set up.

Challenge #1 - You get traffic but visitors don't subscribe.

Your website is your online ‘business card’; it’s your digital shopfront and home for your brand. It’s where you meet and greet visitors and guide them with knowledge and experience into becoming customers.

The simple fact is, it’s generally difficult to build a relationship with a first-time visitor, regardless of how valuable your content is. Therefore, your main aim should be to create a ‘hook’ and a compelling incentive to lead visitors into the next stage of the customer journey. 

The majority of visitors to your sites are looking for a solution to a challenge they are facing. 

Depending on their niche, examples of challenges visitors are trying to solve could be:

They want to change their eating habits and are looking for tips on moving to a vegan diet.
They want to start a new hobby and are looking to learn how to fly a plane.
They want to better save for their future, so want to understand financial investing.
They are going on vacation and want to learn how to scuba dive.
They are looking to update the technology in their home and want to know more about home security systems.

It’s not always easy to clearly show to a first-time visitor that you, your business or your product are the solutions they seek.

How does a funnel solve this?

A Marketing funnel gives you a clearly defined path that you want visitors to follow. This means your landing pages are targeted to lead visitors through the stage to becoming subscribers. After opt-in your new subscriber continues through the funnel to the thank you page to receive the lead magnet.

Challenge #2 - You get subscribers but they don't buy

Having a website and a product is only part of the makeup that forms a successful web business. There is a range of other factors that connect your visitors through to them becoming a customer and buying your products.

On average, it takes around seven interactions with a business for a visitor to become a customer. A lot of companies fail to turn subscribers into customers because they ask too soon for the sale. The subscriber is not informed or confident enough to be ready to make a purchase.

How does a funnel solve this?

The best marketing funnels build relationships with subscribers. Providing value and sharing knowledge with your subscribers give them confidence in your business. This extra level of knowledge gives subscribers the confidence they need to make an informed purchase.

Challenge #3 - You get customers but they don't repeat buy or refer your product

A business with a growing number of customers is on the right track, but there is a cost to getting customers into your business. Designing your websites, writing copy, creating products, driving traffic, paying for traffic all takes time and costs money. The majority of costs in your relationship with your customers is the initial cost of acquiring them.

Getting customers to buy a second, third, fourth time from you is when you start to see real profits. Healthy profits mean you can grow a team, invest in a new business, or take time away from your company to enjoy your lifestyle. 

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to think that the relationship ends when a subscriber becomes a customer. 

After all, a purchase has been made, so the goal has been achieved, right?


How does a funnel solve this?

Marketing funnels give you the perfect combination of web pages so that you can continue to build upon your customer relationships with further value.  

The real value in your business is when subscribers become customers and then continue to be repeat customers who buy again time after time. This value is also further reflected when customers recommend or refer their audience, clients and friends to your service. 

Get this part right, and your business is on to a certified winner. Repeat and referring customers are the icing on your business cake.

Why consider OptimizePress?

Funnel technology is built directly into our platform

If you're considering building your landing pages in WordPress, you need to know that WordPress adds a lot of "overhead" to your pages by default.  This can mean slower times and more difficulty getting those top speed ratings in the tools we mention above.

When you use OptimizePress for your landing pages, you're using a platform that has been optimized for speed.  We remove the unnecessary codes that WordPress adds, giving you the best possible performance in WordPress.

Get OptimizePress with full funnels & checkouts support from only $199/year

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Chapter 2

Marketing Funnel Mechanics

Marketing funnels have existed for decades in various ways and have formed the basis of every successful business regardless of the niche or audience type. 

There are numerous ways of explaining and showcasing the concept of marketing funnels. We have drawn from our experience of dealing with hundreds of thousands of websites in the last ten years to provide you with what we have found to be the simplest explanation.

Simply put, a marketing funnel is a process that effortlessly guides a person from a casual website visitor through to a loyal repeat customer.

TOP TIP: The most successful funnels thrive on loyal repeat customers, not short term one time payments.

You might be thinking the word “funnel” is a bit strange after all funnels are often used for getting oil into cars, or playing drinking games with friends, right? 

When it comes to marketing, the word funnel refers to the overall concept that you want every visitor that hits one of your web pages (the top of the funnel) will eventually progress to become a customer (the bottom of the funnel).

Funnel Visitors


As the diagram above illustrates, the simplest way to think about a funnel is three stages - top, middle and bottom of your funnel. 

Your marketing funnel aims to move the visitors through the three stages of the funnel from visitor to a subscriber, through to a customer.

There are many variations and explanations of marketing funnels. We believe this is simply the most effective way to get a real understanding of the core principles of marketing funnels.

Chapter 3

Top of Funnel - Build Your List

The top of your funnel is usually where your visitor traffic has its first real interaction with your business. This interaction could be on your homepage, a blog post or the landing page of a product you offer. 

Stage one is where you must establish initial value for your visitor. The key focus of this stage is converting that visitor to becoming a subscriber. 

Generally, visitors find themselves at the top of your funnel because they have a challenge they are attempting to overcome, and you have a solution for them. 

Your aim at this first stage as the business/product owner is to move the visitor from stage one the top of your funnel to stage two the middle of your funnel. 

You might be wondering why we don't sell at this stage, after all, you have a visitor at your site and a product ready for them to buy. 

Here's why...

...You could present a sales offer, and some visitors might buy it. Still, your chances of converting a higher amount of visitors to customers and retaining them as repeat and referring customers are much greater if you nurture them through the funnel stages.

A vast majority of businesses fail at this stage as they ask too soon for the sale.

NOTE: Some business models have this top of funnel stage as a sales stage, and that is fine. The core principles in this guide still apply, and you should continue to guide visitors through a funnel process to reduce refunds and increase recurring purchases and referrals.

Lead Magnets & Incentives

The hook that moves visitors from stage 1 to stage 2 where they become subscribers.

The top of the funnel stage is all about getting a visitor to become a subscriber. The best way to do that is by offering them something free of high value [Lead magnet or incentive] that solves part of the challenge they are trying to overcome in exchange for their email address. 

This process is a simple value exchange, your lead magnet/incentive for their email address. It is at this stage where the real relationship starts. 

TOP TIP: Your lead magnet must be of high value. The more it presents and educates like a paid piece of content, the better your chances of nurturing the relationship in stage two (the middle of your funnel) will be.

Your lead magnet should:

Solve a problem - whatever your visitor is trying to overcome you must solve part of that problem.
Be high value - your lead magnet must present like a paid-for item.
Share quick wins - include easy to implement strategies or solutions.
Focused content - keep the lead magnet focused on a key topic.

Here are some common lead magnet examples; the key here is that they are free but are presented like paid-for content:

eBooks, Guides or reports

You can easily give your ebook or guide a premium and professional look by styling it using tools like Canva (they have a free account tier) or outsourcing to a service like Fiverr who have reasonable pricing.

Here are some example ebook lead magnets from Ramit Sethi.

Free book / physical item plus shipping

This is a popular method of obtaining additional information from visitors like their property address.

In this example, you would offer to send the visitor a physical item such as a copy of a book, training resources, event recordings, etc. This might be something to consider if you want to do any form of direct mail via the post to your subscribers. It does, of course, come with a higher upfront expense to you, but having the additional data on your subscriber is highly valuable.

In some examples, I've seen of this principle the business offers to cover the shipping cost or asks the subscriber to pay for the shipping only. Getting the subscriber to pay for the items has a few benefits:

The shipping cost is covered and so there is less expense for you.
You have the subscriber's payment details on file, this means you can quickly process payments in the future.

Here is an example of a free book giveaway from Ask Method founder Ryan Levesque:

Checklists or Cheat Sheets

These provide listed content that is easy to consume and offer visitors quick wins. Checklists & Cheat Sheets give your subscriber an easy to follow document that they can work through.

The interactive nature of this type of lead magnet means that your new subscribers can work through the lists and get an easy win.

Cheat sheets can be just one or two pages as long as the content is valuable.

Here are five examples of checklists and cheat sheets:

Marketing: A pre-webinar checklist - details all the steps needed to prepare and host a live webinar.  

Automotive: Car brake disc change checklist - details all the steps needed to change and service the brakes on a car.  

Lifestyle: Recipe cheat sheet - take the recipe that is typically complicated with many steps and simplify it into a cheat sheet. 

Technology: Computer game cheat sheet - take a computer game and condense the steps to complete the various levels into a cheat sheet. 

Marketing: Product launch checklist - details all the steps needed to launch a new product.

Example Product Launch Checklist

Example Product Launch Checklist

Webinar recordings

Your previous webinar recordings offer incredible value and can provide new subscribers instant access to recorded content. Video and presented live content has a high perceived value and therefore provides excellent value for subscribers.

Event recordings

As with the webinar recordings, if you have hosted any events, masterminds, meetings, group calls and have recordings of those, they also provide great recorded content.

Free software trials

If your product is a software tool, offering limited-time free trials is a great way to provide value and get subscribers as users into your platform. The key concept here is to get subscribers adopting the platform and seeing the value in it and then hopefully becoming customers. 

The most common method of a free trial includes asking for a credit card to be submitted to access the free trial and then payment to continue to access the software will be taken after “x” days of the free trial.

You could try offering a free trial and not asking for credit card details if you want to provide subscribers with the lowest barrier to entry. Our advice in this scenario would be to make sure you have comprehensive onboarding in place that guides subscribers to achieving a goal as quickly as possible. 

Here is an example of a seven day free trial from software application, Jira. After the seven days of a free trial, the billing period then starts:

Free software tools

Tools like calculators or generators that provide quick wins are highly effective at converting subscribers. Of course, they require you to have the generator created, but the best types of tools like this are often the simplest and require very little development expense.

Examples of useful calculators or generators are headline writers that help you write website headlines for your niche, image compression tools that optimise image file sizes for the web or generators that calculate calorie intake. 

Tip: A good resource we have used ourselves for tools like this is Upwork. You can post a job and have skilled trades quote for the job to be done.

Swipe files or resources

The great thing about swipe files is that they are free to create. They do take a bit of time to collate all of the various resources, but you only have to create them once and then update them occasionally.

Examples of swipe file resources are collections of images for marketing promotions, teaching resources, knitting patterns, copies of emails, website templates or recipe sets.

Free video course

The key with this type of lead magnet is condensing information that provides some quick wins into content that is easy to consume. Free video courses have high perceived value and offer excellent opportunities to build rapport.

Creating video courses might seem like a lot of hard work, but they can be as simple as just a few short videos. The key is making sure that the content provides value and a quick win.

So to summarise stage 1 - the top of your funnel, your aim is to move your website visitor to becoming a subscriber. The standard method of doing this is to offer them a lead magnet that helps them overcome their challenge in exchange for their email address. 

This starts the relationship and moves your visitor to stage two - the middle of your funnel.

Note: With any subscribers you should always consider GDPR regulations. You can find out more about GDPR here in our guide.

Chapter 4

Middle of Funnel - Build Value

Stage two is the part of the funnel that most entrepreneurs get wrong and a reason a lot of online business either fail or never achieve their full potential. 

The good news is this part is often not as tricky as stage one, so if you can get visitors to become subscribers and enter stage two, you’ve made a significant step forward.

This phase is the nurture phase, the stage of the funnel where it is all about over-delivering on value and building a relationship with your new subscriber.

By this part of the funnel, your prospect is getting to know who you are, and they should be starting to like and trust you and feel like your product or business can help solve their challenge. 

It’s also at this stage where far too many businesses are bombarding their subscribers with promotions and sales offers. To some extent, this will work, but it only really brings short term reward. 

I don’t blame marketers that focus on the short term gain, it’s easy to say “think for the long term” but not so easy to do when you have bills to cover and people to pay. Sometimes in your funnel, you will have to offer promotions and offers in stage two. 

However, the most successful businesses double down on value at this stage of their marketing funnels. Your customer is not expecting you to continue providing value after they subscribe so this creates a massive pattern interrupt that will undoubtedly get their attention. 

As the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, said..

Howard Schultz

“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

If you can establish long term customers in your business that repeat buy and refer your products, the entire sum value of your business will be worth much more and provide you with greater rewards.

So what should you do to deliver further value?


You know that your audience is interested in your subject matter; otherwise, they would not have subscribed during stage one of the funnel.

Newsletters provide you with a regular reason to make contact with your subscribers, and they work best when they deliver bite-sized snippets of tips and guidance. As long as the newsletter provides value, it will keep your subscribers engaged and your email list responsive. 

An excellent example of a successful weekly newsletter is from Tim Ferries. He shares in his newsletter what he has been working on, what he has learned, and some recommendations - it works!

Relevant content compilations emails (Content Curation)

These take a bit of time to put together, but the great part is you don't have to make any of the content yourself. The concept here is to bring together content that is relevant to your target audience but created by other influencers in your broader niche market. Of course, you don't share content from your direct competition but content that is complementary to yours. 

Let's use the Vegan food niche as an example which is an incredibly popular and fast-growing niche. You want to maintain yourself as your subscribers authority on the subject.

Still, you know that people interested in the vegan niche are also concerned with their wellbeing, health, fitness and their general lifestyle. With this in mind, you collate good quality content on those subjects and share that via email with your subscribers. You get all the credit for providing value but haven't had to write any content yourself. 

It's a win - win! 

A great example of a content compilation email is Hiten Shah with his Hiten's Picks emails. He emails weekly compilations from the business growth space.

Behind the scenes (BTS)

At this stage in the customer journey, you're building further on your relationship with your subscribers. Nothing does that better than giving them some of you and your business. 

In this current world of consuming reality TV and social media, people want to get a stronger connection to the businesses that they buy from. People buy from those that they know, like and trust. 

There are various methods of sharing behind the scenes content. Which one you choose will depend on your business, but here are some suggestions:

If your company has had positive growth, you might want to share the story of how that happened and the key takeaways that you learned.
If you started not knowing much about your niche or there is a specific reason you got started, then tell the story of that. For example, if you suffer yourself with a medical challenge that you overcame, and now you're educating others how to do the same. 
If your niche requires certain levels of equipment, then share the set of equipment you use, the types, models, brands, etc. This works well for vloggers, YouTubers, photography or music professionals.
Share your average day. People like to emulate others, and they want to know the little rituals you have and the productivity tips you use to get ahead daily. You might not think people are interested in your average day, but this is a powerful way of building on your relationship with your subscribers.

Recap your most popular blog posts

This one is good if you are starting and don’t have a wide range of content to share with your subscribers. It’s unlikely that they would have consumed all of your blog content. 

So, a good strategy is to put together your best or most popular blog posts into one curated email. Put a snippet from each post into the email with a “read more here” link, and then your subscribers can click through to the content which is of most interest. 

Here is an example from Neil Patel of a simple value building email that shares recent content (simple, easy value building):


If you are in a position where you are building a subscriber list but do not yet have a product ready to sell, then you should consider creating a product waitlist. 

How this works is simple. You share an opt-in waitlist page with your subscribers and ask them to opt-in if they would be interested in finding out more when you do release a product.

A waitlist gives you a super hot list of subscribers ready to purchase from you when your product is available.

As we are in the middle of the funnel at stage 2, we would recommend that you include some valuable content on the thank you page after opt-in to continue to over-deliver on the relationship.

Case studies

As we have discussed above, the middle of the funnel is about increasing your subscribers' trust and confidence in you. Case studies are examples of your own subscribers' stories of success with your product or service. These are incredibly powerful as your subscribers see success from customers, and this leads them to feel more confident in taking similar action. 

Case studies have two significant advantages. Firstly, they subliminally sell your product, and secondly, they provide content as your subscribers will find other customers stories of interest. 

Two of the main ways you can deliver your case studies are either written into a PDF, or if you have video case studies, you could provide those on a formatted web page.

Chapter 5

Bottom of Funnel - Build Income

This stage of the funnel - bottom of the funnel, is when you benefit from the relationships you have built with your subscribers in stages one and two. 

The aim of stage three is all about presenting your sales offer to your subscribers and getting them to make a purchase.

The goodwill and value you have provided in the previous stages of the funnel will give you the best chance of successfully converting a subscriber into a customer. 

If your product is ready to be sold to your subscribers then you can, of course, present your product at its standard pricing to your subscribers.You'll usually do this by sending them to a sales page connected to a shopping cart. 

The key to making the sale is presenting such a compelling offer to your subscribers that it makes it easy for them to take it. There are various ways you can present your offer to make it as appealing as possible, let's take a look at some examples.

Sales offers you can make

Early Bird Offers

If in stage two, you built a waitlist of subscribers interested in your new product when it was ready, now is the perfect time to make them a sales offer. 

An early-bird sales offer is when you give early access to the product to the subscribers that have shown additional interest. The reward for your subscribers is that they are getting early access to the product before anyone else. You might want to offer them some form of early-bird bonus to sweeten the deal, but the fundamental principle here is that they are benefiting from getting early access before anyone else.

Here is an example of an early bird offer sales page from the Traffic and Conversion summit:


If you have more than one product, then bundling your products is a great way to share value with your subscribers. It also allows you to offer the products at a lower price than if they were to be bought as individual products. Bundles make an attractive offer for your subscribers, and they benefit from the bundled discount. 

Below is an example bundle from Shopify. You can see how bundling together products makes a compelling offer to your subscribers:

Product Launch

A great way to build up anticipation for your product is to run a product launch. There are various ways of running a product launch with the primary type being to drip content over a set period of days. During the initial days of the launch, you highlight a challenge your subscribers face and teach them part of the process of overcoming that challenge. In the final days of the product launch, you sell your product which offers the main solution to success.

The stages of the product launch are very similar to the funnel stages we have been discussing in this guide. We will take a look at a product launch funnel later.

In this example of a product launch from Todd Herman, you can see various pieces of launch video content, educating the customer through the funnel towards the sale:


If you don't have a product ready to be sold, no problem, a highly effective way to bring revenue into your business is to offer a pre-sell offer. In this scenario, you send subscribers to your sales page and offer them a special offer to get access to your product when it goes live. 

A few of the benefits of pre-sell offers are that you get early revenue into your business. This revenue can be invested in the product. You can also test your audience's demand for your product. Generally, pre-sell promotions are most effective if you have an established brand or you have done a good job of delivering value and building subscriber confidence in stages 1 and 2 of your marketing funnel. 

Upsells - If you have more than one product, you might want to consider offering additional products as Upsells to your customers. Upsells can be presented either before or after your subscriber completes their initial purchase.

In this example of product Upselling from the Dollar Shave Club website, you can see that although the product clearly says Dollar Shave club and they have a $1 razor, they are tempting visitors to Upsell to the better quality $6 and $9 razors.

They also continue the Upsell after you choose the product by offering you add-ons:

TOP TIP: These strategies to uplift the average customer spend can make a big difference to the bottom line of your business and are simple ways to grow your profits.

Some extra considerations

To improve conversions for your sales offers, you might want to consider a few optimisations to focus subscribers attention to taking action: 

Time / Date Scarcity -  Opening your offers for a limited time or set period will give your visitors that extra incentive to take action. So, for example, you could run a 48 hours flash sale or a seven-day launch sale. 

Volume Scarcity - If you have a business product such as coaching, consulting, a mastermind, or done for you service, you might want to consider limiting the number of available spaces. So, for example, you might want to offer ten spaces for your private live mastermind. 

Travel sites like booking.com are masters at using volume scarcity as you can see in this example:

Automation - With tools like OptimizeFunnels, you can run your marketing funnels on autopilot using automation. 


Tools that help enhance urgency and scarcity

OptimizeUrgency - included with our Suite plan. OptimizeUrgency helps add simple social proof alerts and FOMO warnings to your WordPress pages.

Get OptimizePress with full funnels & checkouts support from only $199/year

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Chapter 6

Revolving Funnel - Your Perfect Business Model

If you’ve read this far then you should have hopefully caught on to the fact there is a crucial element to your marketing funnels success. It’s not technical, and it doesn’t involve websites, hosting or autoresponders, it's relationships.

You can, of course, use tools to assist you in building relationships. Still, the core principle you must approach your marketing funnels with is creating a relationship of trust and confidence with your subscribers.

Strong relationships with your subscribers aren’t something you can buy or earn overnight; it takes extra work, but the rewards can make a massive difference to your business revenue over time.

We covered relationship building in stage 2 of the marketing funnel and it's a fundamental part of the middle of the funnel. However, in the best marketing funnels that get the most customers and the most repeat buyers, it doesn’t just stop when your subscribers become customers. 

A vast majority of businesses think that as soon as someone buys their product they have completed the funnel and then they continue to focus most of their energy on putting new people into the top of the funnel. 

As long as your product delivers everything that you have promised, then it is proven that the people most likely to buy from you are the people that have previously purchased. Not only that, but every additional sale that you make with repeat buyers is more profitable as you're not spending money advertising and paying for traffic to acquire them.

The secret sauce that brings in free visitors to the top of your funnel 

This entire process of delivering value and building relationships with your subscribers and customers has a highly valuable by-product called, referred visitors. 

Referred visitors are those that are recommended to your product or service by their friends, families, colleagues, clients, mentors, coaches and other businesses.  

Referred visitors are free traffic to the top of your funnel. Not only that, but because your customers have recommended them; they have a prequalified confidence passed on to them from the referrer.

Customer referrals mean that the stages of your funnel have to do less heavy lifting to convert that visitor into a subscriber and then into a customer.




The concept of repeat customers is the ideal situation for your marketing funnel. If you look at the diagram above, you can see that the best funnels take customers after step 3 - the bottom of the funnel and place them back into step 2 - the middle of the funnel.

Here they continue to work on providing value and enhancing the customer relationship further. The more this process repeats, the more successful your business will be. 

The more you can get those customers to refer your product then those referrals enter at the top of your funnel, work through your funnel and then themselves repeat the process of being repeat customers and also referring your product.

It may seem like a simple process, and yes, it will take time to build momentum, but if you can get it working effectively, then your business will be hugely successful.

Chapter 7

Marketing Funnel Examples

Marketing funnel examples your business must have.

So when you are building out your marketing funnels, there are generally a few main types to focus on: List building, launching and sales

We will now define what each one means with examples and list them below so you can take and apply them to your business.