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Marketing Funnel vs Sales Funnel: Two Roads to Revenue Growth

Imagine two kids, Sarah and Tom, want to make some extra money during summer break. Sarah decides to open up a lemonade stand, while Tom offers his neighborhood dog walking services. They both hope to attract customers and make sales, but they take different approaches.

Sarah follows the marketing funnel approach. She starts by making large street signs that attract attention from down the block. When people get closer, they see her colorful stand filled with delicious lemonades and cookies. Sarah engages customers in friendly conversation and offers free samples. Many who stop end up making a purchase.

Tom follows more of a sales funnel method. He goes door to door introducing himself and his dog walking service. If people seem interested, Tom shows photos of dogs he has walked previously and testimonials from happy customers. He closes by asking if they’d like to schedule a walk that week.

Like Sarah and Tom, every business today needs to master both the marketing funnel AND the sales funnel if they want to thrive. While the two methods share the same ultimate objective (making sales), they take different approaches.

In this post, I’ll break down the key differences between marketing vs sales funnels across these five dimensions:

Understanding these distinctions will help your team coordinate your efforts for maximum results.

Purpose: Top vs Bottom Funnel Focus

Marketing funnels take a broad, top-of-funnel (TOFU) approach focused on awareness and interest generation. The goal is to attract as many potential customers into the funnel opening as possible, then nurture them toward a buying decision over time. Think mass media advertising, lead magnets, content offers, and multi-touch nurturing campaigns.

Sales funnels, in contrast, zoom in tight on the bottom of the funnel opportunities, focused on consideration, decision, and purchase facilitation. Their goal is to move qualified prospects through an orderly progression of closing activities, like demos, trials, pricing negotiations, contract signing, etc.

Put simply:

  • Marketing funnels bring strangers in.
  • Sales funnels turn prospects into buyers.

Think of it this way – marketing generates VOLUME (of leads) while sales produces VELOCITY (rate of conversion). An effective funnel strategy requires both velocity AND volume working together, filling your revenue bucket faster.

Stage Types: TOFU vs BOFU

Every funnel has a series of stages leads pass through en route to becoming customers. The stages in marketing and sales funnels are quite different.

Marketing funnels focus on Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) outcomes like:

  • Awareness: Getting on target buyers’ radar screens
  • Consideration: Positioning your solution as an option to explore
  • Interest: Getting buyers to engage further and consider if you’re a fit

Sales funnels prioritize Bottom-of-Funnel (BOFU) results like:

  • Evaluation: Getting prospects to take next steps like demos, trials, consultations, etc.
  • Decision: Choosing your solution over alternatives
  • Purchase: Signing contracts and completing the transaction

Of course, marketing impacts the middle and bottom of the funnel too, and sales cares about earlier stages. But the priorities change as leads move down the sequence.

Metrics: Volume vs Velocity

With different purposes and stage focuses, marketing and sales funnels also use distinct metrics to gauge effectiveness:

Marketing Funnels track volume and pipeline flow metrics like:

  • Website Visitors
  • Content downloads
  • Email open rates
  • Lead quality scoring
  • Sales accepted leads

Sales Funnels monitor velocity and conversion rates like:

  • Sales demos scheduled
  • Proposal acceptance rate
  • Time in trial or negotiation phase
  • Average deal size
  • New customer acquisition

Again, both volume AND velocity are essential. Marketing generates lots of potential customers, while sales convert high-potential prospects faster.

Aligning your volume and velocity metrics ensures one doesn’t get too far ahead (or behind) the other. Like focusing on filling seats in a stadium while nobody is buying hot dogs and beer.

Timeframe: Months vs Days

Marketing and sales also work on very different timeframe expectations:

Because marketing funnels focus higher up the buyer journey, they expect to nurture leads over weeks or months before they convert. Think about the timeline of someone who discovers your brand from search ads, downloads a few pieces of content, clicks some email offers, watches a demo video, and then schedules a sales call – could easily be 2-3 months.

In contrast, sales funnels move much faster, typically converting leads to revenue in days or weeks. Once a qualified buyer has engaged with a sales rep and started product demos or free trials, they probably decide fairly quickly if there’s a fit. No time is wasted on “tire kickers”.

So marketers breathe a sigh of relief if a lead nurturing campaign generates a pipeline 2 quarters out, while sales feel antsy if a hot prospect goes quiet for a week.

Ownership: Marketing vs Sales

Finally, marketing and sales funnels have different levels of ownership:

Marketing funnels are usually built, optimized, and analyzed by a company’s marketing team. While dynamic sales leaders give input to target personas and content strategy, execution stays with specialists like:

  • Demand generation managers
  • Email marketers
  • Lead scoring analysts
  • Marketing Operations

Sales funnels, not surprisingly, fall under the command of the sales leaders. While marketing creates templates, technology, and content to facilitate the process, VP Sales and Sales Operations owns the playbooks that nurture prospects toward closed deals, including:

  • Pre-sales engineers
  • Sales development reps
  • Account executives
  • Proposal coordinators

With their divergent purposes, activities, metrics, and owners involved, no wonder marketing and sales funnels can seem so disconnected at many organizations!

The truth is, growth requires alignment of both disciplines, like two wings lifting a plane. Let’s tie these pieces together…

Unified Funnel Strategy = Growth

Marketing and sales often feel like very different worlds. And yes, their funnel activities have distinct purposes, stages, metrics, and timeframes.

But that’s exactly WHY strong collaboration between the two teams is essential to accelerate revenue.

Marketing attracts and nurtures more of the RIGHT leads…which Sales can convert FASTER into buyers.

Like Sarah and Tom from my opening example, a unified funnel strategy blends both width AND depth for optimal results:

  • Attract droves of potential customers (WIDTH)
  • Progress qualified prospects towards purchases (DEPTH)

With both engines firing, your company’s revenue growth can skyrocket. Cha-ching!

So bridge the divide between marketing and sales. Align volume and velocity goals, backed by shared data and agreed lead definitions. Set consistent time expectations across the buyer journey. And ensure leaders rally their teams towards the same revenue growth vision.

By coordinating their funnel efforts, Sarah and Tom each doubled their summer income. Imagine the possibilities when your marketing and sales juggernauts start rowing together!

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