You know all about funnels, as you use them to pour gasoline into your lawn mower’s tank and to refill the Windex bottle. However when it comes to digital marketing funnels you think that TOFu is a rather tasteless white brick and MOFu is a derogatory term in a gangsta rap tune. Since not everyone is completely up to speed on the concepts and terminology of digital marketing funnels this primer on what this is all about will help get everyone on the same page. Besides, it helps even the most seasoned online marketer to review the basics every once in a while.

The funnel is essentially an inverted customer pyramid

If the funnel concept has you a bit mystified think of it as an inverted pyramid. At the top, the widest part, there are all your potential customers. Here are where the vast masses reside, the ones that are well aware of you as well as the ones who have never heard of your brand other than maybe seeing a banner out of the corner of their eye when they were checking out Bieber’s latest misfit adventure on TMZ.com and clicked on it by mistake. The further down the inverted pyramid (or funnel) we go, the fewer people we deal with, as at every step along the way we lose a large number of them. It’s an unfortunate fact of business life that unless you’re a monopolistic utility or the IRS, you can’t engage all your potential customers.

Three primary strata: TOFu, MOFu & BOFu

While some Ph.D dissertations on digital marketing funnels stratify each segment of the pyramid/funnel in paper thin sections which are of interest only to the doctoral thesis crowd, most of us can get away with separating up the process into three primary chunks:

1.Top Of Funnel. This is the famous TOFu that’s great fried with soy sauce. It’s also the very top of the funnel where the swirling customers enter the event horizon of the black hole… oh sorry, there is no event horizon and no black holes as they’re now gray according to “180 degree reversal Hawking” (hear the echoes of a cosmological constant?) but that’s the subject for another day. The very top of the funnel connotes absolutely anyone who has taken any activity to generate that very first click. Essentially, it’s the beginning of a winnowing down process which will eventually lead to a checkout.

2.Middle Of Funnel. This is where a number of customers become bona fide leads and also where Hal lays off the acronym jokes as nothing good could possibly come out of it. The customers in this stage of the funnel might have filled out a contact form in exchange for a download or other incentive, or have succumbed to any one of a myriad of other sales strategies. At this point they are starting to see that your brand is offering a solution to their requirements and preferences and are getting comfortable with that prospect.

3.Bottom Of Funnel. These customers who are now at the BOFu are fully engaged as they have interacted with your online presence through possibly a variety of touchpoints and are highly qualified by you as being “ready to buy.” The marketing actions you should be taking with the customers at the BOFu stage no longer need to focus on convincing them to proceed to checkout as they’ve pretty well made up their mind by now, but might want to focus around building some subtle urgency around their process of actually making the purchase through a time-limited discount voucher or some other motivation which encourages them to buy now, before they get distracted and drift away.

Customers proceed down the funnel as they react to your (mostly) automated lead generation and nurturing processes. If you have set up your overall marketing lead strategies, you will have created and implemented the correct content at every step along the way so that your customers flow easily towards checkout with a minimum of attrition. After all, securing as many customers to make a purchase as possible is Business 101!