Visualize the Funnel. No, Really… Visualize It.

Today The Funnelholic is pleased to introduce Jesse Noyes, the in-house journalist at Eloqua, who covers the trends, surprises, events and the movers and shakers of the marketing industry. Guest posts don’t often appear here, but Jesse came to The Funnelholic saying he was dying to spit some “funnel” game, and he thought this would be the place to do it. Now, that is my kind of opportunity. He sent over what he wanted to post and it was great — far better than what I can do. So, now The Guestpost-aholic is lucky enough to have a great post from Jesse. I hope everyone enjoys it as well.

Quick question: How many different illustrations of a funnel are floating around in your sales and marketing departments? Two? Ten? Too many to count?

Marketers will tell anyone within earshot to “visualize the funnel.” What they usually mean is to imagine the steps, content and definitions you need to move a prospect through each stage of an integrated of sales and marketing cycle — an important element of a functional lead management system. They aren’t typically referring to a literal, graphical manifestation of the funnel.

That’s too bad. Visuals matter. They give people a common, physical framework to map out thoughts. And in the case of the funnel, having too many flying around your offices can result in a lack of consistency. We sought out to address that internally at Eloqua, which is why we had our graphic designer punch up a classy version that could serve as a building block for anyone in the company. “One funnel to rule them all,” so to speak.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take you on a short tour of some of the sample funnel concepts we’ve used at various points over the years. Enjoy the evolution!

I call this one the Tron because it has about as much sophistication as an early Atari game.

As far as funnels go, it’s pretty basic: three stages and simple trajectory. In fact, it’s too basic and doesn’t convey the complexity of a modern marketing and sales process.

Here we get more detail. The stages a buyer goes through, as well as how the leads progress, are more clearly defined and explained.

Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads are addressed. While it provides greater detail, it still lacks that visual “umph” quality.

Now we’re getting warmer. The stages are all there, but this time there’s even more detail.

The roles of lead scoring and lead nurturing in directing prospects progressively through the funnel have been introduced. But this looks like a figure you might see in a college textbook. Let’s move on, shall we?

This may well be the Avatar of funnels.

It’s visually appealing and gets the point across. We see how top-of-funnel prospects emerge from the shadows, revealing their digital body language, as they move deeper down the funnel. The downside is that, for all its visual splendor, you can’t play with it as easily as the previous concepts. It’s more difficult to customize with additional layers of behaviors or content that influence buyers. Sure is pretty though.

Ah, yeah…that’s the stuff. Here’s what we came up with. It’s simple, clear, and eye-catching without being flashy.

This image takes the best from previous iterations of the funnel, including the most heavily employed stages of the buying cycle, and lays it out in an immediately understandable fashion. Additionally, it provides wiggle room. Depending on your needs, you can easily adapt it based on a particular company’s business model.

It’s not going to win any artistic awards, but it delivers the perfect mix of consistency and coherence. How about your business? Are you working on one vision of the funnel or relying on many different images?

Jesse Noyes

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Craig – great post. Unfortunately, all of the funnel images include different terminology and mean different things. My experience would that whatever the image is and whatever the terminology…the entire organization (sales & marketing) needs to be trained/educated, and needs to embrace both to serve the objective…systematize sales/marketing to drive highly qualified leads to close as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

    I also think you should use green vs. red for closed/won.


  • Jesse, great post, all too often team members across sales and marketing have a different perspective and indeed image of the sales funnel.

    Added to this fact is the reality that sophisticated buying organizations have their own funnels also. Sorry if I have complicated this even further!

    When deals don’t make it through the sales funnel, maybe as sellers we need to look into the buyers funnel for the reason why. Can we apply sales funnel principles to the buying funnel, food for thought.

    Thanks again, great post.


  • I work as an illustrator in my spare time and was pleased to see Jesse highlight my Sales Funnel image (the fourth one down, with the people.) In its original format, it was designed to be flexible.

    Assuming you don’t mind adding your own labels in Adobe, PPT, etc, you could highlight 4 or 5 steps in your funnel… with the bottom segment being the variable. If you label the people — there could be as many as 7 layers highlighted.

    Admittedly, the funnel is one color and you’ll need Adobe Illustrator (or similar) to really move around the elements. Still, glad to see it being used here and hope it helps people in their business.

    BTW the original isn’t divided like the one shown here. Here’s a link to that original: