Redefining customer journeys: A guide to perfecting the conversion funnel

Jon Araten
By Jonathan Araten
Davor Štefanović - Editor
Edited by Davor Štefanović
Romi Hector
Fact-check by Romi Hector

Updated July 28, 2023.

Redefining customer journeys: A guide to perfecting the conversion funnel

Understanding the conversion funnel and its various stages is crucial for businesses aiming to secure and expand their customer base. But what exactly is this funnel, and why is it essential to perfect each of its stages? Let's examine how to approach the customer at each stage of their journey, from product awareness to the final purchase.

The key stages of the conversion funnel

The conversion funnel represents a customer's journey with a brand, and it can be divided into three main stages:

  • Top of the funnel (TOFU): This is the awareness stage. Potential customers discover the brand or product through various mediums like videos, banner ads, TV, or radio advertisements. The goal here is to enhance the customer's familiarity with the product or service.
  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU): This stage signifies customer engagement. It could involve a potential customer clicking on an advertisement leading to the company's website. At this stage, customers are exploring their interest in the brand or product. The objective is to guide these customers to the final phase of the funnel.
  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): This stage marks the point of conversion, where a customer takes an action that contributes to the company's revenue, such as making a purchase. The goal here is to provide a smooth purchasing experience and to clarify any doubts or queries about the product or service.

Each stage requires a unique strategy to guide potential customers toward making a purchase. It's crucial to understand the specific needs, motivations, and behaviors of customers at each stage to be able to cater to them effectively.

» Learn more about SEO and paid search approaches to conversion funnels.

TOFU: Creating brand awareness

At the top of the funnel, most users are in the information-gathering phase, much like window shopping, and are unlikely to convert immediately. As marketers, the goal is to guide them through the customer journey by providing the information they need and encouraging them to move further down the funnel.

At this stage, customers are typically trying to find solutions to their problems. From a content perspective, the emphasis should be on writing material relevant to that stage, focusing on the problem and associated topics to target awareness-focused search terms like this example from Mayu Water.

Screenshot of a TOFU blog post from Mayu Water

A visual campaign, such as an ad, would follow a similar approach. It would address the problem without explicitly mentioning the solution or the brand. At this stage, the primary focus is on the problem, not the product.

Screenshot of IKEA's ad campaign for their homeware

Effective strategies for boosting awareness

The best way to make customers aware of a product depends on several factors, including how you plan to sell it. The goal is to make a connection with customers who are just starting to look for your product or service. Images and videos can be very effective for this, but always consider where you're selling your product. If all of your sales are online, then things like billboards or TV commercials may not be as useful. Instead, you could use banner ads, video ads, or even Google Ads.

Generally, the aim should be to address the problem and the broader context: use broad strokes that are highly relevant to your product or value proposition. Whether it's a TikTok or search campaign, speaking to the problem with relevant content is a crucial strategy at the top of the funnel.

A common pitfall to avoid at this stage is bombarding potential customers with sales pitches or excessive promotional content. Focus on building credibility and trust and establishing authority in your industry.

MOFU: Engaging and retaining customers

As customers continue down the conversion funnel, they arrive at the middle stage, a critical point where their interaction with the brand intensifies. Here, customers are in the exploration phase. They have moved beyond awareness of your brand or product and found something of interest.

For businesses, the primary goal at this stage is to guide these users to the bottom of the funnel. Targeting MOFU users is easier, as their focus is already somewhat narrowed, and they typically convert at a higher rate than those at the top. At this stage, you can address more specific issues and position your product as a solution.

Customers in the MOFU stage are likely to engage with multiple brands and conduct their research. They will consider your brand in this comparative process, so the content you provide should highlight your strengths.

If you're confident about your brand and product, you can provide direct comparisons, laying out how your product stacks up against the competition.

Optimizing the middle of the funnel

The key to MOFU optimization lies in emphasizing your value proposition. As customers are engaging with your brand and considering a purchase, it's crucial to highlight what sets you apart. Clear language, visual elements, and product placements are all valuable strategies at this stage, such as this article from Zoom.

a person sitting at a table with a laptop

The middle of the funnel also allows for actual performance optimization. Tracking behavior can be challenging at the top of the funnel, but in the middle stage, you can start seeing immediate performance and conversions. This data provides insights into the user journey and highlights what elements lead to successful conversions.

Keep in mind:

Users at this stage are likely interacting with multiple brands. So, standing out and providing clear, valuable information is paramount.

» Will brand marketing help you stand out?

BOFU: Making the sale

The BOFU stage revolves largely around technical aspects and a clear presentation of information. At the bottom of the funnel, customers are essentially at the point of purchase. This stage is vital as the ultimate goal is to ensure a smooth purchase experience.

Here, customers need a clear understanding of what they're buying and how they're purchasing it. Is the buying process easy and intuitive? Is the delivery information readily available? These customers are ready to seal the deal, and your content at this stage should be precise, devoid of exaggerated claims or unnecessary distractions, much like this example from Shopify.

Screenshot of a BOFU blog post from Shopify

Most sales start with users entering at the bottom of the funnel. However, top-of-the-funnel content plays a crucial role in building initial awareness and generating topical authority, which improves your search engine ranking.

Measuring success at the bottom of the funnel

At this stage, the primary focus is on the conversion rate. You're not looking at traffic or click-through rates anymore but rather assessing how many users convert from those that reach BOFU, or how much revenue each user generates, depending on your company or brand's specific goals.

Optimizing the bottom of the funnel

Simplicity is the key strategy for optimizing this stage of the conversion funnel. Everything should be very conversion-focused, minimizing distractions and streamlining the process. The fewer clicks a user has to make to complete the conversion, the better.

There needs to be a clear and accessible "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart" button, and prices should be clearly displayed. If there are options, such as product variations, these should be minimized to avoid overwhelming the customer.

Keep in mind:

Brands focusing only on the bottom of the funnel may find it challenging to convert due to a lack of topical authority. While a bottom-of-the-funnel campaign alone could work in specific instances, such as a product launch with a limited budget, it may not be a scalable strategy in the long run.

Re-engagement: Maintaining success after conversion

As the journey continues post-purchase, you essentially kickstart a new sales process with the client, re-selling or introducing new products. Given that these customers have already purchased from you, they are typically more likely to buy again. That's why campaigns targeting existing customers often yield better results than those aimed at acquiring new ones.

Once a customer makes a purchase, the focus shifts to three primary aspects of their journey with your business:

  • Client satisfaction: Gauge client satisfaction through surveys, which can be sent via emails, texts, or direct calls. Your understanding of client satisfaction will help you refine your service or products to better meet customer needs.
  • Retention rate: Calculate the retention rate by examining the number of repeat purchases or tracking the repeat revenue generated. A higher retention rate often indicates successful customer retention and loyalty.
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV): This measures the total predicted revenue from a customer throughout their relationship with your business. By knowing the LTV, you can project each customer's potential worth.

Maintaining customer relationships and enhancing their LTV are central in this post-conversion phase. This involves re-engaging customers through various communication tools such as newsletters, promotional emails, promo codes, discounts, and special sales.

Tailoring your messaging and offerings to fit individual customers' preferences—a strategy rooted in the personalization used in creating look-alike audiences—can encourage customers to make repeat purchases.

Mastering the conversion funnel

Navigating the customer journey effectively is a cornerstone of successful marketing. Each stage of the funnel requires a unique approach and strategy to move potential customers toward the point of purchase. However, the journey doesn't end with a sale. Re-engaging customers, ensuring their satisfaction, and boosting their LTV are vital for sustained success.