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Marketing Funnel vs Sales Funnel: The Complete Guide

GemPages Team
8 minutes read

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a marketing funnel and a sales funnel

These two business concepts sound similar, but they serve distinct purposes. Understanding how to leverage both funnels properly can transform your business results.

This complete guide will clarify the unique goals and processes of the marketing funnel vs. sales funnel. With clear definitions, visuals, and actionable tips, you'll gain the knowledge to boost conversions at every stage. Continue reading for more!

What is a Marketing Funnel?

In order to make a comparison of the marketing funnel vs. sales funnel, we also need to familiarize ourselves with the definition and explanation of each one. First, let’s begin with the marketing funnel. 

#1 An overview of the marketing funnel

The marketing funnel is a conceptual model that depicts the traditional consumer decision journey, from initial awareness of a product or service to becoming an advocate. 

It helps marketers understand where potential customers are in their awareness and decision-making process so they can roll out targeted campaigns and messages accordingly.

The marketing funnel provides a framework for:

  • Understand your audience and customize messaging for each stage
  • Identify and resolve weaknesses leading to customer drop-out
  • Contextualize marketing results
  • Create an effective customer acquisition and retention strategy

#2 Stages of the marketing funnel

There are five key stages in a typical marketing funnel:


  • Awareness: The top-of-funnel is the introduction stage. It involves launching brands, products, or services to new audiences through channels like advertising, public relations, social media, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). The aim is to familiarize people with what you offer, so they recognize your brand.
  • Interest: As awareness grows, some prospects will progress to researching or actively considering different options to meet their needs. At this stage, marketers use demand-generation tactics to capture leads by getting website and social media visitors to provide contact information or download resources.
  • Desire: After piquing their interest, you want to create a desire for your product/service by conveying the key benefits and value it will bring the consumer. The goal is to make them want the product and crave the value proposition you are providing. Common tactics include promoting features, sharing customer testimonials, providing product demos.
  • Action: The final stage is driving the consumer to take action and make a purchase. This usually involves calls-to-action (CTAs) to get them to buy now, sign up for a free trial, and request a quote. The consumer has moved through the first 3 stages and is now compelled to engage further with your business and offers. Tracking conversions throughout the funnel is key to optimizing results.

What is a Sales Funnel?

Now, let’s continue with the sales funnel, an important part of helping sales teams optimize their work efficiency.

#1 An overview of the sales funnel

While marketing funnels take a high-level view, sales funnels outline a more detailed, tactical sequence for how leads convert into paying customers. Sales teams design funnels to optimize workflows of nurturing leads towards becoming sales-ready in a shorter time frame. The result is higher conversion rates and revenue.

A well-defined sales funnel helps businesses:

  • Identify and prioritize leads based on their level of interest and readiness to buy. 
  • Provide a roadmap for engaging leads at each stage with relevant messages
  • Build trustable relationships with customers by addressing their pain point

#2 Key stages in a sales funnel

Here are the main stages of an effective sales funnel:

A graphical example displaying how a sales funnel builder works

  • Awareness: Like marketing, this first stage establishes brand recognition among targeted segments. However, sales funnels rely more heavily on outbound tactics like email, phone calls, and web form submissions.
  • Interest: Qualified contacts respond to advertisements or are engaged through personalized outreach. At this point, sales development reps (SDRs) work to qualify their interest and schedule demos or consultations.
  • Desire: Now that prospects better understand your offering, they start to desire it and see its value. The goal is to convince them that your product/service is the best solution for their needs through demonstrations, and free trials. You want to create a strong preference for your brand over competitors.
  • Evaluation: At this point, prospects evaluate if the offering is right for them. They compare options, assess budgets, get buy-in from stakeholders, etc. Your goal is to provide the information needed to facilitate the evaluation process and overcome any objections. Testimonials, ROI calculators, and custom quotes can help.
  • Sale: The prospect has decided to purchase! They place an order and become a customer. Your goal shifts to ensuring a smooth sales process and positive first experience to foster loyalty.
  • Retention: The final stage entails keeping customers happy long-term, so they become advocates who refer others and purchase add-ons or upsells. Customer experience, reviews, member programs, and other retention efforts come into play here to extend the customer's lifetime value.

Learn more: Choose the Best Sales Funnel Builder & Software: The Complete Guide [2024]

Key Differences Between Marketing Funnel and Sales Funnel

While marketing and sales processes work in tandem, there are some key differences between the marketing funnel vs. sales funnel.


Marketing Funnel

Sales Funnel


Broadly spread brand awareness and generate a steady stream of sales-qualified leads over time.

Convert ready-to-buy leads into closed deals within a shorter time frame. Success depends on efficiency in moving deals through pipelines.


Rely on non-personalized digital campaigns, mass-market messages, and collecting contact data.

Focuses on personalized touch points like cold calls, targeted emails, and one-on-one product demos tailored to buyer personas. Activities heavily involve human engagement.


Assess page views, lead form submissions, clicks, and email subscribers. Quantity of indicators contributes to the initial stages of the sales process.

Concentrates on conversion metrics such as scheduled demos, sent proposals, ongoing deals, and total contract value won within reporting periods. Metrics tied directly to revenue attainment.


Focuses on long-term brand awareness and scaling prospects; timeframes generally span 6-12 months.

Works to close opportunities within a tighter schedule, usually within 90 days or less, to hit quotas and contribute to quarterly/annual targets.

Why Do You Need Both a Marketing Funnel and a Sales Funnel?

When making a comparison of the marketing funnel vs. sales funnel, we can see the two terms imply separate concepts. However, in reality, these two models interact and complement each other to create a comprehensive process for acquiring customers. 

By leveraging the marketing funnel to generate awareness and leads that fuel the sales funnel's conversion efforts, businesses can optimize outcomes at every stage of the buyers' journey.

#1 Comprehensive Customer Journey 

Photo by Dilox on

Happy customers help raise brand awareness and loyalty. 

The marketing funnel, focusing on awareness and interest, ensures that potential customers are well-informed and engaged from the outset. Simultaneously, refining the sales funnel, which emphasizes conversion and post-purchase satisfaction, helps seamlessly guide prospects towards becoming loyal customers. Integrating these two funnels streamlines the entire customer experience, creating a cohesive journey that not only attracts and converts but also nurtures long-term relationships, fostering customer loyalty and advocacy.

#2 Data-Driven Decision Making

Integrating and optimizing marketing and sales funnels collectively enhances data-driven decision-making for businesses in several ways. Firstly, a unified funnel approach enables tracking of customer interactions across the entire buyer's journey. This comprehensive data provides a holistic view, allowing businesses to identify touchpoints, understand customer behavior, and refine strategies based on real-time insights. 

Secondly, aligning marketing and sales funnels fosters better collaboration between teams, ensuring a streamlined flow of information. This synergy helps in identifying and addressing bottlenecks promptly, improving efficiency and overall conversion rates. 

Lastly, the integration allows for a more accurate and detailed analysis of the customer lifecycle, facilitating the identification of high-performing channels and campaigns.

#3 Optimize Business Resources

Photo by Prostock-studio on

The overall marketing and sales process enables companies to minimize waste. 

It is not difficult to understand why. Firstly, a streamlined approach ensures seamless alignment between marketing efforts and sales strategies, eliminating redundancies and maximizing the impact of each stage. 

Plus, data sharing and analysis between the two funnels enable a more comprehensive understanding of customer behavior, allowing targeted interactions that enhance conversion rates. 

Case Studies: Example of a well-defined sale funnel: Shopify

Shopify is a Canadian multinational eCommerce company headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. It is best known for its proprietary eCommerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. 

The platform is designed to be easy to use, even for people without technical experience. It allows businesses to create an online store, manage their inventory, accept payments, and ship products. 

Shopify also offers a wide range of add-on apps, such as landing page builders, email marketing, and customer relationship management (CRM).

Pro tip: Opt for GemPages if you seek a user-friendly and comprehensive landing page template for your Shopify store.

Screenshot of Shopify landing page

Shopify's sales funnel is well-oiled and effective.

Let's break down the Shopify sales funnel into six steps, each corresponding to a stage in the customer journey:

1. Awareness:

What they do: This is the top of the funnel where Shopify focuses on creating awareness about its platform. They employ various marketing strategies such as social media advertising, content marketing, and search engine optimization to reach potential users.

What they gain: The goal at this stage is to generate brand and product awareness. Shopify aims to introduce its e-commerce solution to a wide audience and attract potential store owners who may be looking for an easy-to-use platform.

2. Interest:

What they do: Shopify continues to engage potential users by highlighting its features, benefits, and success stories through targeted content, webinars, and advertising. They showcase how their platform can help individuals and businesses set up and run successful online stores.

What they gain: The focus here is to capture the interest of users who are exploring eCommerce solutions. Shopify aims to position itself as a compelling option, emphasizing its user-friendly interface, customization options, and scalability.

3. Desire:

What they do: Shopify emphasizes the unique selling points that set it apart from other eCommerce platforms. This may include showcasing ease of use, a variety of themes, app integrations, and success stories of businesses that have thrived using their platform.

What they gain: The goal is to create a sense of desire or aspiration among potential users. Shopify wants them to see the platform as the solution that can help fulfill their dreams of running a successful online business.

4. Evaluation:

What they do: Shopify provides potential users with free trials, demos, and detailed product information to allow them to evaluate the platform. This step focuses on addressing any concerns or questions users may have before committing to the platform.

What they gain: Shopify aims to convert potential users into active users during the evaluation stage. By offering a risk-free trial period and addressing concerns, they encourage users to experience the platform firsthand and understand its capabilities.

5. Sale:

What they do: Once a user decides to commit, they proceed to the purchase phase. Shopify facilitates the onboarding process, making it easy for users to set up their online stores and choose subscription plans based on their needs.

What they gain: At this stage, Shopify gains a paying customer. The user officially becomes a part of the Shopify ecosystem, utilizing its tools and services to operate their online store.

6. Retention:

What they do: Post-purchase, Shopify focuses on customer retention through ongoing support, education, and community building. They offer resources, forums, and customer support to help users make the most of the platform and continue growing their online businesses.

What they gain: Retaining customers is crucial for the long-term success of Shopify. Satisfied users are more likely to continue using the platform, potentially upgrade their plans, and may even advocate for Shopify, bringing in new users through word-of-mouth.


In navigating the dynamic landscape of business, understanding the nuances of marketing funnel vs. sales funnel is paramount. Businesses can create a robust framework for sustained success by strategically aligning and optimizing both funnels.


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