Biz Features

Basic Marketing Concepts Demystified! – Part Five: The Purchase Funnel

by . November 26th, 2013

The Purchase funnel (also called the Sales funnel, or Decision funnel) is any of a number of different frameworks that show how customers arrive at decisions, using a funnel shape to illustrate the diminishing number of customers that get through each subsequent stage.

The terms “purchase funnel” and “sales funnel” are the most popular, but they’re also imperfect since you can use the same models for things other than sales — promo sign-ups and survey participation among the most common non-sales actions.

The same principle also applies to social media likes and shares. For every like or share that you have, you can be confident that several other people came in contact with your posts.


The AIDA model(standing for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action), is a classic marketing framework that has managed to be part of pop culture.

AIDA is now often considered to be a historical model and has been superseded by TIREA ( Thought, Interest, Risk Evaluation, Engagement,  Action), REAN (Reach, Engage, Activate,  Nurture) and many others.

There isn’t any standard purchase funnel, and different marketers, salespeople, and business writers advocate different models for different situations. Here are a few examples:

 funnel 2 funnel 3 funnel 4 funnel 5 funnel 6

Is it worth adding complexity to a pretty straightforward idea? It depends on your business model and what you hope to achieve from your marketing.  For smaller companies where the role of sales and marketing isn’t differentiated all that much, it might be better to stick to simpler traditional models.


It’s more important to know which projects are generally TOFU (top-of-the-funnel), and which ones are MOFU or BOFU (middle and bottom of the funnel). This can help illustrate why certain projects are better than others at attracting customers, versus converting or retaining them.


Social media campaigns and branding for instance, tend to be (but aren’t always) TOFU projects. Lead generation can be TOFU or MOFU. Customer relations management tends to be MOFU or BOFU. There are no hard and fast rules, and it all depends on the channels you use and how you use them.

Major Limitations of Purchase Funnels

  • Most do not reflect the fact customers can move back and forth between different stages
    • Classic models may not sufficiently emphasize the need for repeat business and CRM
    • Some marketing and sales campaigns affect multiple parts of most funnel models at the same time

In the end it doesn’t really matter which models you use so long as you could use them to help your team understand their roles as marketers and sales people . It works best as a visualization tool- not as a guiding factor in an overall marketing strategy.

Tell us about your thoughts on Sales Funnels! We’d love to know! Comments welcome below.


Other parts of our Basic Marketing Concepts series!

The Marketing Mix: The 4 P’s of Marketing

Customer Relationship Management 

Demand Generation

The Sales Process



Image Credits

Funnel: Charles Haynes via photopin cc


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.