A Beginner's Guide to Building a Conversion Funnel

Lauren Haas
Published: Mar 10, 2020
Last Updated:
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If your business uses online advertising and an email list, you already have the experience you need to create a conversion funnel. You may even be able to use some existing pieces of your marketing strategy once you’ve optimized them to work together as a unit.

Anatomy of a Conversion Funnel

A conversion funnel is a collection of digital marketing tools that work together to find prospects and turn them into customers. Like a funnel, this model captures prospects at various points in the buying journey and moves them toward the sale in an orderly fashion.

Experts usually break the conversion funnel marketing model into five distinct phases.

1. Awareness

The top of your funnel captures prospects who are in your target market and pulls them into your communication reach so that you can message them again.

Awareness tools:

  • Google/Facebook/Instagram ads
  • Content marketing/SEO
  • Social media campaigns (shares)
  • Events/trade shows
  • Webinars
  • Viral campaigns

2. Interest

The transition to this stage is usually a landing page that offers a lead magnet, like an e-book, webinar, prize drawing, or free trial, to entice people to share their email addresses. Once the lead joins your email list, you can market to them with automated emails and newsletters.

Interest tools:

  • Landing pages that collect email addresses
  • Automated email campaigns
  • Newsletters

3. Decision

At the end of the Interest phase, a special offer persuades the lead to make a purchase.

Decision tools:

  • CTA landing pages
  • Pricing pages
  • Shopping carts

4. Action

At the moment the customer buys, your automated system needs to help them feel great about their decision.

Action tools:

  • Checkout pages
  • Welcome emails
  • Product delivery systems

5. Retention

After the sale, your funnel keeps working to turn your customer into a brand loyalist who continues to buy from you and refers others.

Retention tools:

  • Automated email campaigns
  • Customer support pages
  • Training materials
  • Newsletters
  • Social media

<div class="tip">Check out these successful customer retention strategies to find out how to keep customers coming back for more.</div>

How to Build Your First Conversion Funnel

If your business is new to the idea of conversion funnels, don’t worry. With the right tools and the right know-how, it’s simple to build an effective system that moves leads toward a final sale.

These 12 steps can help you create your first fully functioning conversion funnel.

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind

The moment when your customer connects with your product is the final piece of the conversion funnel, but it’s the pivotal one as well. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a great funnel can make up for a bad product or a weak understanding of your customer. No marketing trick can turn prospects into happy customers if they don’t want or need what you’re selling.

Make sure your product is exceptional and that you know exactly who will buy it—and why—before you start building your funnel.

Step 2: Know your brand identity

Your brand has a personality, whether you build it consciously or not, and it's conveyed through your logo, colors, fonts, and design elements as well as your text. These choices can make your brand seem serious or lighthearted, wise or youthful, upscale or casual, authoritative or friendly.

If your brand personality is strong and likable, your customers will feel close to you more quickly. Consistency builds trust, and personality helps you stand out from the pack.

Step 3: Create your lead magnet

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to start building the actual funnel. The first thing you need is a compelling lead magnet. What are you willing to give away?

Lead magnet possibilities are as endless as your imagination. An e-book, a prize drawing, a downloadable tool, a webinar, a free trial, or even a quiz can be a lead magnet—but your giveaway is only effective if it’s something your target market really wants.

The internet is glutted with free e-books and checklists, but people will still respond if the content is something very specific to their needs that they haven’t seen before.

Your lead magnet should also be closely related to the product waiting at the end of the funnel, so you can be sure the people joining your email list want what you’re selling.

Digital Marketer put together a Facebook template library that generated over 35,000 leads in 60 days. It’s a small collection, but it promises precisely what digital marketers are looking for—big advertising results.

Step 4: Create your landing page

An ideal landing page is very simple and focused. Your visitors came to this page because they want your giveaway item—don’t distract them by changing directions. Don’t include navigation tools or links that could lead them off the page. Don’t scare them away with a big sales pitch or bore them with a lot of text about your company.

Instead, repeat the colors, images, and messaging that brought them here so they feel secure that they landed in the right place. Include a few sentences about your offer and a bit of social proof, like testimonials, to overcome any resistance they might feel. Reassure them that you’re not going to spam them or sell their email.

It’s a good idea to briefly let people know what kind of emails they’ll be getting from you, so they know what they’re signing up for. If you can promise them useful content, they’ll be happy to join your list.

The are lots of free tools to help you build a landing page if you’re new to web design.

Step 5: Go get those prospects

Now it’s time to create the awareness tools that will capture your prospects’ attention and send them to your landing page.


The most popular solution is a Google or Facebook ad. Both tools let you target your audience according to age, gender, location, interests, or other demographic info. Include a simple, bright graphic and stick to a clear message that sells your incentive. Don’t try to promote your company or product yet. Neil Patel has a great article about creating Facebook and Google ads on his website.

Content marketing

If you know how to capture organic search traffic using SEO and great content, you can bring those prospects in without spending money on ads. You can promote your bait and collect email addresses right on your site and wait for visitors to come to you.

For instance, if you clicked on the link above about creating ads, you might have seen this message when you tried to leave the site:


No money for ads and not enough traffic to use your website to collect leads? Pitch your lead magnet to your vendors and other non-competitors in your industry as a free gift for their clients. Your partner gets a free giveaway, and you get traffic to your landing page.

In person

You can also offer a prize drawing at trade shows, events, or physical locations and collect email addresses on the entry forms. Make sure the prize is relevant to your audience, and give people the choice to opt out of your email list so you’re not spamming.

Step 6: Create a “thank you” page

When your prospect hits “submit” and sends you their email address, they should immediately see a message telling them what happens next. Can they download their incentive directly from this page, or should they check their inbox? When will contest winners be announced? What’s the next step in their free trial? If they’ve signed up for a webinar, offer an “add to calendar” link for them and let them know that the details will be emailed.

Step 7: Build an email campaign

Mailing list apps like Mailchimp and Constant Contact have built-in automation tools that let you schedule a series of emails for your new list members.

How many emails you want to send and how to space them out is up to you. Industry wisdom suggests that you should include four to 11 emails, spread out over the next four to 14 days.

These emails should be customer-focused. If you’re not delivering engaging information that improves their lives, they’ll stop opening your emails and won’t fall in love with your brand.

Don’t bore your new lead with the history of your business or turn them off with a lot of sales pitches. Instead, show them that you understand their needs and care about them by sharing useful content. That content should be mingled with information about your products or services and testimonials from your customers, but keep the spotlight on the content, not the sales pitch.

Use the same graphics, colors, and language that you used in your ads and landing pages—consistency builds trust as well as brand recognition.

Step 8: Finish the series with a Call to Action

The final message in your welcome series should be a call to action email that offers your new friend a discount, a bonus, or some other reason to buy now.

Spotlight the offer in the subject line (“Save 60% if you order now”) and at the top of the email. Use the prime real estate at the top of the email to highlight your major selling points and your offer, and put a CTA link or button near the top in case your reader is ready to buy.

Then include a few testimonials and other social proof, like the number of happy customers who use your product, and a second CTA link at the bottom.

This email shouldn’t include any other content, just your sales message. Keep it brief and laser-focused.

Step 9: Design your order page

Have you ever entered a website through a special offer link and been confused about how to claim the discount? It’s a frustrating experience that destroys brand loyalty.

When people click the link to claim your offer, they shouldn’t land on your homepage or a generic shopping page. Instead, you should create a special order page just for this funnel, with colors, images, and messaging that connect it seamlessly to the rest of the campaign.

Make sure your funnel visitors see a headline that mentions their special offer, echoing the language in the CTA email.

Repeat your social proof and highlight the selling points that brought them to this page, but keep it brief—they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t ready to buy. Don’t include navigation features or links that could distract them.

Make the checkout process as simple as possible so they can check out before they’re distracted by a phone call or email. If your customer needs to choose options, present them with no more than three choices. Don’t ask them to enter any information you don’t absolutely need to fill their order.

Step 10: Follow up

After the purchase, welcome your new customer with an email, or another brief series if what they’ve just bought is complicated or high-priced. The goal is to head off any buyer’s remorse and make sure they know how to enjoy their new product.

Congratulate them on the great deal they just got and welcome them to your community of users. Make sure they know how to access any documents or training materials they might need, and give them links to customer service options.

At this point, they can leave the funnel and enter your customer newsletter list. Use the newsletter to continue sharing helpful content, and also to upsell, cross-sell, build brand loyalty, and encourage referrals.

Step 11: Test and revise

Once you activate your funnel, keep trying different options and revising. Small changes, like word choice or button color, can make an enormous difference in how people respond to your ads, emails, and landing pages.

Test different email automations, checkout pages, colors, and headlines. Keep improving your funnel until you’re sure you have the best conversion rate you can achieve.

Step 12: Build more funnels

You can probably segment your target market into many smaller groups. Creating a distinct funnel for each one will let you create precisely the premium experience and messaging that will be irresistible to them.


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