The Art of Selling: Applying the Marketing Funnel in the Digital Age

The Art of Selling: Applying the Marketing Funnel in the Digital Age

Jordan Belfort (JB): "Sell me this pencil."
Sales Candidate (SC): "Alright, Jordan, do me a favor and write your name down on that napkin for me."
JB: "I don't have anything to write with."
SC: "Exactly. You see, the value of this pencil isn't just in the pencil itself, it's in its ability to fulfill a need. In this case, the need is to write something down.”
The "Sell me this pen" scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street" is iconic. In the movie, Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, uses it as a test to evaluate sales acumen.
This pencil here is more than just a piece of wood and graphite. It's a tool that you can use to jot down your million-dollar ideas, sign important contracts, or even draw a picture to capture a moment. It's reliable - it won't run out of ink like a pen. If you make a mistake, it's got an eraser. You can fix it right away.
This is a great example of understanding the marketing funnel and applying it to our customer journey to find the best insights from our customers. By turning the situation around and creating a need for the pencil, the sales candidate shows the immediate value of the product and closes the sale. This scenario highlights the importance of understanding the customer's needs and presenting the product as a solution to those needs.

What is Marketing Funnel?

Marketing has undergone significant transformations over the years, but the fundamental goal has remained unwavering. It doesn’t matter whether we're reflecting on a period twenty years ago dominated by print media, broadcast, direct mail, and telephone, or navigating today’s blossoming era of AI, digital marketing, and e-commerce. Regardless of these shifts, our core premise remains steadfast - the zenith of a marketing campaign is measured by its ability to generate sales.
With the progression of technology, customers' behaviors transform as well. Customers yearn for a personalized journey with brands, which requires brands to track numerous KPIs such as impressions, clicks, orders, ROAS (Return on Ad Spend), add-to-cart, and cart conversion rate. While the availability of extensive data can be a boon, the numerous volume can often leave us feeling overwhelmed. The failure often lies in not knowing how to align all elements of marketing - strategy, budget, channel management, and messaging - with the journey that consumers undertake when they make purchasing decisions. Marketers and entrepreneurs often falter when they fail to leverage data to optimize the marketing funnel, thus missing the opportunity to connect with consumers at the right place, at the right time, and with the right message.
Historically, we have had a simple marketing funnel to cover all marketing activities in and out of organizations. In the late 19th century, businessman Elias St. Elmo Lewis created the AIDA model. AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire (AIDD), breaks down the steps necessary for successful marketing: Attention, Interest, Desire (or, in some variations, Decision), and Action. This model is still widely used today to demonstrate that the core value of marketing has not changed in two centuries.
In response to the evolving digital landscape, the AIDA model has also been adapted and expanded to include factors such as engagement, sharing, and network building, reflecting the interactive nature of today's digital ecosystem. For instance, in the digital world, after the Attention and Interest stages, brands focus on fostering Engagement. This can take the form of likes, comments, shares on social media platforms, or time spent interacting with a brand's digital content.

Digital Marketing Funnel

The inception of Google marked the dawn of a remarkable digital era, causing a seismic shift in consumer behavior. The traditional marketing funnel is no longer sufficient to encompass all the touchpoints and critical purchase influencers, thanks to burgeoning product alternatives and digital avenues. While you are gaining access to a broader global customer base, you are also facing increased and demanding customers who aren't easily swayed by mere words.
This calls for a strategic redesign and personalization of our marketing funnels to match our distinctive products, digital audiences, and marketing strategies.
Logically, in this digital age, we must meticulously map the customer journey to meet their every need and determine our course of action.
The customer journey begins with their discovery/awareness of our brand and solutions. Our marketing and advertising initiatives pique their interest, prompting them to compare our brand to competitors on aspects such as cost, reviews, and discounts, or they may turn to personal references. Finally, they complete their purchase and become our advocates.
All of these touchpoints have their KPIs and targets to achieve. We also put a look-back window to know the optimization timeline for each test/experiment we do.
In the traditional funnel of years past, consumers started with several potential brands and methodically whittled that number down to a simple purchase. Today, we have millions of brands in the marketplace, with many brand impressions reaching their minds every day through many social media touchpoints such as Google search, TikTok, Facebook, etc. Unless consumers are actively shopping, much of this exposure seems wasted.
That’s why it is critical to understand the digital customer journey at every touchpoint in the marketing funnel. It's a clear map to help the brand grow by defining our own or our customer's problem and helping the team find the best solution/insight that will help us become unique in the customer's minds. From a holistic point of view, the Customer Journey is the Explorer's COMPASS; without it, you might still find the road if you're lucky, but with it, you definitely know which way to go to find the treasure, the thing you want.

Five Parts of Marketing Funnel

Join us on an extraordinary journey. Imagine the pulse-pounding excitement of the Premier League as it’s about to kick off, and you see ads for stunningly sharp TVs on Facebook, sparking a desire to bring a new TV to your home. As with any major investment, you begin your quest by exploring the most revered brands. So, what's your first move? It's an intuitive leap into the arms of Google, hunting for the perfect TV to be your home's centerpiece, followed by poring over reviews on YouTube and Facebook. This is the starting point of your journey – the realm of Awareness/Discovery, where brands in your initial consideration are three times more likely to become your final choice.
As you dive deeper, you may encounter countless ads, but what makes a brand stand out? It's their empathetic understanding of your journey. They streamline your search by presenting their most compelling attributes in blog posts and articles, tailored to your specific needs. Your social media becomes a vibrant marketplace filled with rich content about these brands, creating a positive impression. Welcome to the second stage of your journey - Interest/Engagement.
Your list narrows to three top contenders. You have lively discussions with your spouse about which brand shines brighter and spend hours sifting through the whirlwind of reviews. Eager to feel the reality, you decide to visit a brick-and-mortar store and go to a price comparison website. Welcome to the Crucible of Consideration, the third stage of your journey. This is where brands' retargeting ads come into play and have a significant impact on your final decision.
Then comes the sweet allure of discounts and promotions from your favorite brands or e-commerce platforms, coaxing you toward the final decision. But remember, even when you're reveling in the glory of your purchase, brands are not done impressing you. The post-purchase experience is the stage on which they shine and shape your mind for all future decisions in this category. Thus, the journey becomes an ongoing cycle of delightful discovery.
A deep understanding of how consumers make decisions is the first step. For most marketers, the difficult part is focusing strategies and efforts on the most important touch points in your industry. In certain scenarios, the marketing trajectory may need to shift from focusing on the initial consideration phase to fostering brand awareness that helps consumers build trust during their active evaluation stage. Some may need to reconsider their loyalty programs as a better investment than allocating time and budget to new customer acquisition. In addition, brands may need to consider putting more effort into producing expert articles for their blog.
The increasing complexity of the consumer decision journey will require strict adherence to the digital marketing funnel plan and will usher in innovative ways to measure consumer attitudes, brand performance, and the effectiveness of marketing spend throughout the process.


Traditionally, marketers have often prioritized either the top or the bottom of the marketing funnel, striving to build brand awareness or leverage existing demand to drive sales. However, by focusing solely on either the top or the bottom of the traditional marketing funnel, brands risk missing golden opportunities to not only strategically target their investments to the most critical stages of the decision journey, but also to accurately identify and engage the right customers.
Digital marketing has long held the promise of expanding businesses and transforming small businesses into large ones. Following the right digital journey in the marketing funnel will make it more accurate and cost-effective to manage.