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What is the Difference: Marketing Funnel vs. Sales Funnel

What is the Difference: Marketing Funnel vs. Sales Funnel When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

You don’t have to hang out in the business world very long to overhear conversations about topics like how to create a small business sales and marketing funnel.

There are now plenty of resources that cover topics like how to create a small business sales and marketing funnel. But while some authors use terms like “marketing funnel” vs “sales funnel” interchangeably, the truth is that these are actually two different strategies. 

While businesses often use both to interact with potential customers and clients, each funnel has its own unique attributes and goals. Join us as we explore how to distinguish a marketing vs sales funnel, how each works, and how the two strategies can work together. 

Understanding the Marketing Funnel

New customers rarely discover a company, make an immediate purchase, and remain loyal fans from that moment forth. Instead, they tend to go through several different psychological stages along what’s known as the “customer’s journey.”

Think of a marketing funnel as a metaphorical map of those stages. It can be used to develop a well-rounded marketing strategy by creating content designed to appeal to customers in each stage.

Stages of the Marketing Funnel

One team’s content marketing funnel stages might look a little different than another’s, but there are several phases they all tend to have in common. Here’s an example of a common marketing funnel and the goals associated with each stage.

The goal of the awareness stage is to make potential leads aware of a company and how its products or services can help solve their problems.

After a lead becomes aware of the problem they want to solve, they begin looking for the best possible solution. The goal in this stage is to demonstrate what sets your unique value proposition apart from the competition’s.

The conversion stage is where leads become paying customers. The goal here is to make it as easy for them as possible by providing a seamless sales experience.

The goal of the loyalty stage is to turn a new customer into a long-time customer by providing excellent customer service and engagement.

What is the Difference: Marketing Funnel vs. Sales Funnel Featured Image Bottom Icon
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Marketing Funnel
focuses on drawing customers and keeping them engaged
Sales Funnel
more about direct interaction with customers and leading them to purchase
track metrics such as Return on Ad Spend, Open Rates, and Engagement Rates
Sales Teams
more concerned with KPIs like Sales Growth, Customer Lifetime Value, and Average Purchase Value

Exploring the Sales Funnel

Now let’s explore the difference between a sales funnel vs marketing funnel. While sales funnels are also intended to map out the customer’s journey, they focus on slightly different stages than their marketing counterparts.

Stages of the Sales Funnel

Much like marketing funnels, sales funnels aren’t set in stone and can vary from one sales marketing agency to the next. That said, let’s look at the stages of an example sales funnel and the goals associated with each stage.

Lead Generation/Discovery.
The earliest stages of the sales funnel tend to begin when a lead first makes contact or expresses interest by doing something like filling out a form. The goal here is to cash in on this interest by reaching out as soon as possible.

While leads still aren’t ready to become customers in this stage, they are interested in learning more about your solution. The goal is to demonstrate why your product or service is right for them.

When a lead begins to show serious interest in making a purchase, it’s time to delve deeper into developing a deal around their unique goals. A focus on value and an easy purchase process are keys here.

The phase is exactly what it sounds like- if all goes well, this is where you’ll seal the deal and earn a new customer.

Account Management/Repurchase.
Much like the loyalty stage of the marketing funnel, this is where you’ll provide excellent service.

Key Differences Between Marketing and Sales Funnels

Don’t be discouraged if you still feel like the difference between the marketing funnel vs sales funnel are a little murky. While the objective of both funnels is to convert strangers into loyal customers, each goes about it a bit differently.

In general, the major goal of a marketing funnel is to engage leads at every stage, usually through various types of content. Here are some of the ways a marketing team might target leads at every stage of a campaign:

Attract new customers by spreading awareness through paid social media campaigns and SEO.

Educate customers by providing helpful information through blog posts, videos, and webinars.

Offer free trials, discounts, and plenty of convenient payment options.

Engage customers through newsletters, loyalty programs, and social media interactions.

As you can see, a marketing funnel largely focuses on drawing in customers and keeping them engaged. The sales funnel is more about direct interaction with customers and leading them to make a purchase.

Marketers might track metrics such as Return on Ad Spend, Open Rates, and Engagement Rates. Sales teams, on the other hand, are more concerned with KPIs like Sales Growth, Customer Lifetime Value, and Average Purchase Value.


How Marketing and Sales Funnels Work Together

Make no mistake - while the sales and marketing funnels may be different, they work best when orchestrated in alignment. In many ways, the marketing funnel is intended to create the best possible leads for sales teams.

A great marketing campaign can equip leads with the information they need to make initial contact with a sales team. So what is a sales funnel in marketing? It basically kicks in and ushers customers through the conversion stage.

Once leads become customers, sales and marketing teams work together to keep customers engaged in their own ways. While sales teams provide ongoing customer service, marketing teams continue to offer engagement through content.


Understanding the difference between a marketing funnel vs sales funnel can initially be a bit tricky. But whether you’re a member of a marketing team or work in sales, understanding what both teams are trying to achieve can go a long way toward aligning your objectives. The closer sales and marketing teams work together, the more invaluable information they can share to help each other achieve their goals.

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