What the Hell is a Funnel, and Why do Marketing and Sales Professionals Need to Master Them?

What exactly is funnel hacking?

Funnel Hacking 101

Funnel hacking is a big buzzword in digital marketing and sales circles. It’s frankly been the next big thing for a few years now. Promoted by Russell Brunson and ClickFunnels, more and more jobs are looking to hire funnel hackers. A quick search on Indeed.com brought up 42 jobs in Manhattan alone, with 6 offering salaries of $120k+. A similar search for just “funnel” alone brings in 184 jobs.

Within the context of growth hacking, or optimizing for rapid growth in sales, audiences, etc., funnel hackers are concerned with enhancing and managing customer touch-points. Primarily, this looks like driving web traffic to a landing page, with associated retargeting and follow-ups by email and/or phone.

Though funnel management is mainly concerned with online sales, it’s really about honing processes through a mix of science, art, and intuition over time. It can involve a/b testing, competitor research, trend analysis, and much, much more.

The ultimate funnel hacker, Russell Brunson, originally described funnel hacking as “the process of strategically investigating the sales and marketing process of your competitors, which you can use to model and test within your own sales and marketing processes.”

Now, the term has broadened to include any and all funnel optimizations.

So what are these positions looking for? And is funnel optimization a skill that you need in your toolbox? Read on.

What is a Sales or Marketing Funnel?

At it’s core, a funnel maps your customer’s journey from knowing nothing about your brand to making their first purchase to making repeat purchases - or exiting the funnel for one-time-only deals. (If your business is running a one-time-only product, you should seriously investigate the longevity of your business model!)

A sales and marketing funnel is a useful tool for visualizing and illustrating the theory that you need many prospects to make one single sale. For example, Coca-Cola runs an advertisement at the Big Game. Of the millions watching, perhaps tens of thousands will make purchases. And perhaps thousands will keep purchasing over and over again. As we move downwards along our funnel, people will drop-off.

Funnel Example.med.png

The sales funnel above starts at awareness, i.e. making prospects aware of your product or service. It moves to consideration where prospects already understand their pain points and decide between competing services. Once purchases are made, some funnels stop. That’s it. You’re done.

For services like consulting, you need to retain your clients or encourage repeat business. If you’ve got everything down, you can convert customers to advocates, having them take to social to spread awareness of your awesome product or offering referrals to other clients in need of your services.

Many marketing, sales, and advertising professionals are already familiar with the funnel concept. Funnel hackers take that to the nth degree, working to optimize every step to bring more customers through the funnel, faster and cheaper.

How can Funnel Building Help You?

At its core, funnel hacking is merely turning prospects into clients with as little wasted effort as possible. It can help you streamline your sales process, combat reduced marketing budgets, find and deliver better leads and become indispensable to your business’ sales process, the latter being a surefire way to build job security.

By learning how to turn sales on and off, you become the most valuable player in your company.

Remember, funnels are the step-by-step process wherein a customer or client goes from clueless about your brand to purchasing, perhaps through advertising to email nurturing to sale then an up-sell or repeat visit. Any business that relies on sales can benefit from funnel optimization, whether that’s a Shopify storefront that wants to maximize profits by lowering advertising costs or a construction firm that wants to land better clients by pre-qualifying prospects before a sales person even makes an appearance.

So you Want to Be a Funnel Jedi?

There are tons of free resources available online to help you up-skill your abilities with sales and marketing funnels. From the most basic standpoint, you need to understand the steps in a funnel, how customers move through it, and the various barriers they may encounter (both as pain points and logistically). Once you have the fundamentals down to a “T,” you can brush up on optimization options around copy, creatives, landing pages, and more.

I also recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s where I was first introduced to lean methodology and rapid iteration, two important tools in the funnel hacker’s toolbox. Finally, make sure you understand that metrics you’ll encounter. Read up on “vanity metrics” here to ensure you don’t waste your time – or your boss’.

What advice to you have for budding funnel fanatics? Let me know on Twitter at @TomBasgil.