What is the inbound marketing funnel? (+ examples)

Buyers today are more equipped than ever with information readily available at their fingertips. Technology provides us with an infinite amount of data. And since technology is constantly changing, buying behavior is too. That’s why inbound marketing continues to be the most effective way to reach your ideal buyer in the digital age.

As the name suggests, inbound is a digital marketing strategy in which a business organically earns ideal customers’ attention at different stages of their purchasing journey. Customers seek you out instead of the other way around (which is known as outbound marketing, of course).

This type of marketing focuses on delivering quality content to your audience when and where they need it. That means being at the right place at the right time throughout the different stages of the buyer’s journey — awareness, consideration, and decision. 

🔎 Related: What are the real benefits of inbound marketing?

If you’re already familiar with the They Ask You Answer approach to inbound marketing, you might already know this is done best by aligning content with your audience’s interests and pain points. By simply answering all your prospects’ questions in a straightforward and honest way, you can naturally attract inbound traffic to your website, improving the quality of your leads and increasing sales. 

Whether you’re searching for inbound marketing advice in general or piecing together your They Ask, You Answer approach, the inbound marketing funnel can help guide you along the four stages of the inbound marketing methodology: attract, convert, close, and delight. 

The inbound marketing funnel visually represents the active research process (or stages) someone goes through leading up to a purchase. The inbound methodology marketing team can use this strategy to help attract visitors to your website, convert them into qualified leads, close sales, and delight customers.

If you’re familiar with the generic marketing and sales funnel, the inbound marketing funnel follows a similar model. And more recently, Brian Halligan, the co-founder of HubSpot, created a different model: the inbound marketing flywheel. This approach works to align your entire business strategy around delivering an exceptional customer experience. 

[Source: HubSpot]

Inbound marketing funnel stages

In each stage, there are specific digital tactics used to guide people toward a purchase. The top of the funnel is where people are further away from making a purchasing decision, while people at the bottom of the funnel are closer to purchasing.

Attract: Similar to the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, this stage focuses on attracting visitors to your website. 
Convert: Once you’ve attracted visitors to your website, the next step is to convert them to leads by obtaining contact information in exchange for valuable content.
Close: This is where you nurture leads through the sales pipeline providing them with specific content to address their pain points and help them make a purchase.
Delight: Here, you continue to engage and delight, hopefully turning happy customers into promoters of your brand. 


The first stage in the inbound marketing funnel is attracting visitors to your website. But you don’t want to attract all visitors. You want to attract the right visitors. The right visitors are your buyer personas or ideal customers. These are the people you need to be creating content for, and in this phase, buyers are generally looking to solve a problem, get an answer, or meet a need.

Some of the most effective components used to attract the right users to your website are:

content development
search engine optimization (SEO)
social media marketing

Here’s what to know about each of these three parts of the process.

Content development

Creating and publishing content is now essential for any inbound marketing strategy. In fact, in 2020, 89% of content marketers used blog posts in their content creation strategy.

Producing high-quality content that centers around your buyer personas draws your target audience in and familiarizes them with your brand. This content should provide value to your audience by offering insights and solutions that align with their pain points and goals.

Some examples of this type of content include blog articles, video tutorials, guides, e-books, infographics, customer testimonials, and case studies. 

🔎 Related: The Big 5 best business blog topics to drive traffic, leads, and sales

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

To attract your target audience on a deeper level, optimize all of this content with an SEO strategy. Incorporating the appropriate keywords into your content will drive potential customers to your website. You do this by focusing on keywords built around your products or services, the challenges you are solving for visitors, how your products can help them, frequently asked questions, etc. This will help your content organically appear on the search engine results page (SERP), giving you a better chance of the right fit finding you.

A great example of the power of content development comes from none other than Marcus Sheridan, IMPACT partner and author of They Ask, You Answer. Some of you might be familiar with his story, but for those who aren’t, during the 2008 recession, he nearly lost his swimming pool company, River Pools and Spas, until he began publishing content on his website in the form of blog posts that detailed answers to common customer questions, problems, and concerns. The content quickly gained attention, increasing traffic to the website, boosting lead conversions and sales. 

🎓 IMPACT+ course: They Ask, You Answer fundamentals with Marcus Sheridan

Buyers at this stage are usually looking for content that’s educational, answers their questions, and helps them learn how your products or services might solve their issues. Blog articles on River Pools and Spas website — such as “How Much Do Inground Pools Cost” and “What is the Fiberglass Pool Installation Process?” — are great examples of how to do this effectively.

Social media

Social media marketing can help attract new followers to your brand. This gives you the insights you need to connect with those individuals on a medium where your customers already are and where they are most comfortable. 


Once visitors have found your website, you want to build a relationship with them and turn them into leads. To turn a visitor into a lead, you need to get contact information, which is incredibly valuable. But for visitors to give you their contact details, they need to get something in return. This is when you should offer additional high-quality content that is going to aid in their decision-making process.

Some of the most important things to consider when turning your visitors into leads include:

Landing pages: A webpage that persuades users to download or sign up for content offers such as e-books, newsletters, webinars, free trials, etc.
Forms: In exchange for content or something else of value, you want to obtain visitors’ contact data, such as their name, email address, and phone number. Forms are what your visitors will fill out to obtain that valuable content.
Calls-to-action (CTAs): Text and/or a button on your website that tells the visitor what you want them to do next, such as buy now or request a demo, encouraging them to take action or contact your business after viewing your content.

A great example of companies creating converting content right is Rover, a company that connects dog and cat parents with loving pet sitters and dog walkers in neighborhoods across multiple countries through its website and mobile app.

[View full landing page]

On their landing page where you can find the perfect pet sitter, there is a direct headline made up of short sentences making the offer very clear: “Loving pet care in your neighborhood. Book trusted sitters and dog walkers.” A simple CTA at the top of the page states “Sign up,” along with a form you can fill out to begin your search. As you scroll, there is a list of the services offered at Rover and how it works, followed by a CTA button with the words “Book a local sitter.”

Plus, to build more trust, the webpage includes real-life pictures of users and pets with positive testimonials.

They also feature the CTA, “Get cute puppies in your inbox,” in exchange for your email address. Who doesn’t want that?


The “close” stage of the inbound marketing funnel is where you guide leads through the sales pipeline toward the final buying decision. Converting a lead into a customer can be a long process in many businesses. So, continue providing helpful and relevant content to aid prospects in their decision-making journey using the following components:

lead nurturing
marketing automation
customer relationship management (CRM) software

Here’s how:

Lead nurturing

Since leads are always at different stages of the buying process, you need to make sure you provide the right content at the right time to the right individuals. This is called lead nurturing. Through email, dynamic content, your website, and social media, you can nurture prospects through every step of their decision-making journey. Marketing can work in tandem with inbound sales to nurture leads through the buying process and optimize the conversion funnel.

🍿 IMPACT+ on-demand: The art of using content in your sales process

Marketing automation

With digital marketing technology and software to automate marketing tasks, you can make the process smoother and more effective. (According to HubSpot, 68% of businesses use automation in some way.) Consider using marketing automation tools HubSpot, Outgrow, or Percolate to automate tasks such as scheduling meetings, content delivery, contract generation, emails, text messages, and even reminders for your sales team to connect personally. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software 

Using CRM software can help you better organize and access prospects and customer data. 

For instance, since using HubSpot for marketing and sales automation, our client, Aquila Commercial, has worked with IMPACT to achieve remarkable growth. Significant growth wouldn’t be possible without the help of a marketing automation solution. 


Even after you’ve made the sale, you need to continue to engage and delight to grow your customer base. 

The goal of delighting customers is to build relationships with them and turn happy customers into promoters of your business. Always think about the customers because they can be the biggest supporters or biggest critics of your brand.

Social media listening is a valuable customer relationship strategy because followers may use one of your profiles to share their experience, ask questions, or leave feedback about your products or services. Respond to these interactions with helpful and supportive information — this shows you care about them and aren’t only looking for business.

🎓 IMPACT+ course: Fundamentals of social media marketing for businesses

Hilton, a multinational hospitality company with a broad portfolio of hotels and resorts, does an excellent job of mastering the art of delighting its customers. They created a social media listening strategy that enables them to be alert and respond to interactions whenever and with whomever. This genuine customer connection adds value to audience members, builds brand authority, and directly impacts the business.

Companies also use chatbots, loyalty programs, and surveys to support, assist, and delight customers. Hilton, for example, offers a loyalty program for customers and offers incentives for guests to fill out a survey regarding their stay.


Boost business with the inbound marketing funnel 

Inbound marketing is all about providing outstanding and helpful content to your audience, whether they are visitors, leads, or existing customers. This can be done in the form of blog articles, newsletters, free trials, case studies, reviews — the list is endless. 

You achieve the best inbound marketing results through digital channels and tactics that allow you to deliver specific and rewarding content for your leads and customers at the right time based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.

If you’re looking for more information about how to how to establish your own inbound marketing funnel, you may find the following resources helpful:

Inbound marketing vs content marketing: What’s the difference? 
Who should use inbound marketing?
Inbound Marketing Process: How to Get Started in 3 Months [Infographic]
Here’s exactly why your inbound marketing leads suck
17 inbound marketing examples to inspire your digital strategy

Read more: impactplus.com

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