How to automate your lead generation with sales funnels

If you’ve read any kind of sales or marketing article recently, you’ve probably come across the term ‘funnel’.

A lot of so-called gurus sell this as some kind of ‘silver bullet solution’, that when implemented will fix your entire marketing.

Don’t fall for it.

Whilst funnels are incredibly important (and should be at the heart of every piece of marketing you do), they aren’t the magic solution that some ‘gurus’ make out.

In this article, I’ll answer the 5 most commonly asked questions about funnels including:

  1. What the hell is a funnel anyway?
  2. Are there really 7 stages of a funnel?
  3. Why are there 3 different types of funnel?
  4. Which funnel is best for me?
  5. How do you build a good funnel?

In a moment, I’ll show you an example of a funnel that attracts, converts & monetises customers on auto-pilot, however, let’s define the word ‘funnel’ first.

1. What the hell is a funnel anyway?

In its simplest sense:

[pullquote align=”normal”]A funnel is a pre-defined pathway that takes strangers and turns them into customers, using a set system of tasks and events, often automated [/pullquote]


You’ve almost certainly seen a funnel before, and might even have a funnel in place already in your business.

You might call it a:

  • Pipeline
  • Sales cycle
  • Autoresponder sequence
  • Marketing blueprint
  • Sales funnel

Having a funnel is essential in any business for 3 important reasons.

  1. It is a standardised method for getting leads into your business
  2. It provides a steady flow of new leads & customers
  3. It adds value to your business by systemising the most important process, (important if you’re looking for funding or to sell)

In fact, some business experts argue that unless you have a proper method of getting and keeping customers, then you don’t actually have a business at all.

2. Are there really 7 Stages of a funnel?

Yup. At any point in time, contacts in a funnel will be in one of 7 stages:

  1. Stranger
  2. Suspect
  3. Prospect
  4. Lead
  5. Customer
  6. Fan
  7. Groupie

Of course, the general idea is to take as many Strangers as you can and turn them into Groupies (Groupies are ‘super-fans’ who buy regularly, leave great reviews and tell everyone how great you are).

So here’s a funnel with each of the 7 stages:

Image of a sales funnel with 7 stages

The 3 most common marketing mistakes

However, having only one funnel, will usually lead to falling for the 3 most common marketing mistakes.

These are:

  • Trying to take Strangers to Customers in one move
  • Not turning Customers into Fans & Groupies
  • Putting marketing designed for Prospects in front of Strangers

Before I outline the easy solution to these problems, let’s look at an example of a good funnel in action.

Example of a good funnel

If you go to the Groupon website, you’ll see an example of a good funnel at work.

This funnel is designed to take you gently by the hand and lead you through the entire buying process from Stanger to Groupie.

Here’s what happens as a visitor:

Step 1: Stranger to Prospect

Assuming you’re not an existing user, the homepage is taken up with a popup asking for your email address (This is converting you from Stranger to Prospect)

Screenshot of the Groupon sign up page

Step 2: Prospect to Customer

Once you’ve entered your email address, you see an offer of £10 off your first groupon. (This is trying to convert you from Prospect to Customer)Screenshot of the Groupon Tripwire

Step 3: Customer to Fan

If you go to buy a deal, you’ll see an upsell offer. (This is trying to move you from Customer to Fan).Screenshot of the upsell offer from Groupon


Step 4: Fan to Groupie

Once you’ve bought the deal, you’ll get a series of emails asking you to interact in other ways. (This is trying to convert you from Fan to Groupie)

Notice that each stage of a Groupon’s funnel is designed only to move you to the next stage – no further.

Although this might look like a simple funnel, we’re only seeing a small part of it – there are 3 separate funnels at work here.

Let’s look at the 3 different types of funnel.

What are the 3 types of funnel?

Remember those 3 marketing mistakes I showed you earlier? They’re all easily solved if you split your large funnel into 3 small ones.

You see, most businesses use some kind of funnel, but the super-successful businesses know that one big funnel is no good – you need to split this down into 3 different types of funnel each with their own specific purpose.

The three types of funnels are:

  1. Acquisition Funnel – This funnel turns Strangers into Prospects
  2. Conversion Funnel – This turns Prospects into Customers
  3. Nurture Funnel – This funnel turns Customers into Groupies

With most businesses, each funnel flows nicely into the next one.

An image of the 3 funnels combined

Why bother? Can’t I just put these in one funnel?

It’s a fair question.

Let’s  take B&Q as an example, and build one big funnel for them, then build 3 smaller funnels – you’ll soon see how the smaller funnels are so much easier.

Imagine walking into somewhere like B&Q, and a guy in the orange apron comes up and says…
“Welcome to B&Q. Can I have your email address please? Oh and here’s a catalogue. I’ll take you over to the till now so you can order right away. Here’s a loyalty card too – oh and can I have your home address so I can sign you up for our B&Q credit card with a limit of £3000?”
You’d run a mile!

Instead, each stage should be done separately, and often using different mediums.

Here’s the same end result, but split into the 3 funnels:

Funnel 1: Acquisition (Stranger into Prospect)

B&Q greeter asks you an important question: “Afternoon – are you looking for anything specific today?

  • If you say ‘No’, then the greeter smiles and leaves you to browse.
  • But if you say ‘Yes’ then the greeter gives you a small card, and tells you that you’ll get 10% off anything today if you enter your email on the website that’s printed on the card.

If you register your details, then the greeter has just converted you from a Stranger into a Prospect.

Funnel 2: Conversion (Prospect into Customer)

I go to the checkout and use my new discount code I got from signing up

  • I immediately get an email thanking me for my purchase, and welcoming me to B&Q
  • Over the following 7 days, I get links to relevant tutorial videos and special offers, loosely related to my purchase

At this point I’ve been converted from a Prospect into a Customer. Watch how B&Q now try to turn me into a Fan or a Groupie using a nurture funnel.

Funnel 3: Nurture (Customer into Groupie)

I’m now getting a relevant, helpful email every day that gives me hints, tips and tutorials on DIY.

  • I click on the ‘power tools’ emails because, well I’m a man and I love power tools. Obviously.
  • On day 7, I get a one-time 2 for 1 offer on all tools. Blimey. That’s handy (it’s almost like they knew I liked power tools…) I take them up on their offer and go back to the store to buy my RealMan PowerDrill 1200.

I’m now a Fan, because I enjoy shopping at B&Q

I then get an email asking me to record a quick video explaining how I’ve enjoyed B&Q so far.

  • I get a £10 gift card (redeemable when I spend over £50) if I email them the video and allow B&Q to use it on their website.
  • So I do a video in my garden, with my shirt off, using the power drill because I’m actually 126% RealMan.

4 weeks later, I’ve been back 5 times to B&Q and I get an email asking if I know anyone who wants a 2 for 1 discount card.

  • I get my own 2 for 1 card for every person who I refer who uses the voucher.
  • I get 3 of my friends to use the card and have 3 cards myself. Happy days!

I get an offer to join the ‘Gold Card’ scheme where I get a B&Q credit card, first dibs on all deals and a special checkout.

  • I tell my friends how good B&Q is, and even take friends there (mainly just to show off that I can use the gold card till.)

I’ve been taken from a Stranger to a Groupie in just a few weeks, and B&Q get all my business in the future, not to mention I happily refer them to anyone who’ll listen (even if I don’t get anything in return!)

Can you see how this was made so much easier because we split it down into 3 funnels?

So how do we decide which funnel we need?

Deciding which funnel is best for you

You’re now convinced by the need for a funnel, so how do you choose which funnel is right for you. Broadly speaking, this is how:

[one_half_first]Need more leads[/one_half_first][one_half_last]Acquisition Funnel[/one_half_last] [one_half_first]Need more customers[/one_half_first][one_half_last]Conversion Funnel[/one_half_last] [one_half_first]Need more profit[/one_half_first][one_half_last]Nurture Funnel[/one_half_last]

It’s important to choose just one to start with. You can download my free ‘Funnel Building Guide’ that takes you, step-by-step through building your first funnel.


I’m not trying to be dramatic when I say this:

[thrive_highlight highlight='default' text='light']Implementing these 3 marketing & sales funnels that will change your business forever.[/thrive_highlight]

You’ll have built a sales and marketing machine that will automatically pluck eager prospects from Facebook, Google, billboards etc., and gently pull them through your funnels, turning them into highly profitable, highly loyal customers who will buy again and again and again.

Itching to start? Download my free ‘Funnel Building Guide’ that takes you, step-by-step through building your first funnel.