Sales funnel vs marketing funnel – is there a difference between them, and which do you choose?
Well, here’s the very short and easy answer.
In today’s world of digital marketing, there really isn’t any difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel. They both do the same thing.
What’s more, the search giant Google prefers the term sales funnels too!
For those of you looking to learn a bit more, here’s the longer answer to “sales funnel vs marketing funnel?”.
This post includes affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you. I only partner with companies that I trust, and offer the best software tools to help my readers achieve their goals. You can read my disclosure for more information.
Sales Funnel vs Marketing Funnel? The Longer Answer
In digital marketing and modern ecommerce, there is not and significant difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel.
Both terms are alike, have the same meaning online. No matter the name, a sales funnel and a marketing funnel do the same thing.
Online funnels help you to turn your site visitors into paying customers.
They get your visitors, also known as potential customers or prospects, to take two important actions.
Firstly, and in the ideal case, the primary action is to buy one or more of your product or services.
Secondly, if they are not ready to buy, the other action is for them to give you their contact information. Ideally, on a dedicated landing page.
In so doing, your prospects now become leads. And you now will have the ability to follow up with them with great offers that add value.
This will encourage them to return to your website or online store and buy from you.
When your prospect takes either of these actions, it is called a conversion.
Online sales funnels and marketing funnels are important because they help you to get more conversions.
Which Funnel Term Was First?
For those interested in a little history, the answer to “Which was first – sales funnel vs marketing funnel?” is actually neither.
The first funnel ever created was referred to as a “sales and marketing funnel”, and it has been around for a very long time.
In fact, in 1898, an American advertising executive called Elias St. Elmo Lewis built the model for the first sales and marketing funnel.
His model is known today as the AIDA model. It stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. The model maps the customer path from first awareness to the point they then take action and buy.
The top three stages of the AIDA model (awareness, interest, and desire) involved more marketing. Whilst the final stage of taking action was pure selling to close the sale.
In 1924, William Townsend linked the model to the concept of a funnel in his book Bond Salesmanship. He used the term to help salesmen visualize a way to drive customers to a sale.
Fast forward almost a hundred years and the new ‘sales and marketing’ funnel has two additional stages of retention and repeat action (or advocacy).
What’s more, in today’s most successful online funnels there is complete overlap with the sales and marketing roles at every stage.
With the very best funnels, you will find each stage does a great job in both marketing and trying to sell something to a prospect.
Hence, the reason for the confusion regarding the difference between a sales funnel and marketing funnel. The lines are now blurred.
But because each stage now contains selling and ultimately, the goal of the funnel is to sell, the term sales funnel is the most preferred name in the digital marketing industry.
It is worth noting that sales funnels and marketing funnels have had many other names in the last few decades.
Some of the more common ones include purchase funnel, revenue funnel, customer funnel, and conversion funnels.
Most recently, they have both been called an ecommerce funnel.
But, for the rest of this post, the there is no difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel as you will see.
Sales Funnel vs Marketing Funnel? How Does Google See It?
To be really candid, like most things these days, in the digital world, everything comes down to how Google sees it.
So, what’s the difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel to Google Search?
Sales funnel vs marketing funnel? Which term does Google prefer?
Let’s have a brief look.
Doing a quick search for “sales funnel” in Google reveals about 47.2 million results.
Surprise, surprise, doing a similar quick search for “marketing funnel” in Google shows exactly the SAME number of results at 47.2 million too!
But, has this always been the case? For that answer, we can take a look at which term, sales funnel vs marketing funnel, has trended better in recent years.
Sales Funnel vs Marketing Funnel: Which is Better?
Using the free tool Google Trends, we can compare which term, sales funnel vs marketing funnel, is trending better.
Google Trends analyzes the popularity of top search queries by users of Google Search. It uses simple graphs to very easily compare the search volume over time.
As you can see in the image below, there is an overall difference between the search use of a sales funnel (blue) and marketing funnel (red) between 2007 and 2020.
In this sales funnel vs marketing funnel trend comparison chart, the term sales funnel has consistently had more interest than the term marketing funnel.
What’s more, this chart also shows that the sales funnel has on average between 50-100% more interest that a marketing funnel.
Sales Funnel vs Marketing Funnel? – The Overall Winner
To confirm the Google Trend data that shows there is a big difference between the use of a sales funnel and a marketing funnel, let’s look at how the industry leader calls it.
Which term do the most popular funnel building software companies use? Sales funnel vs marketing funnel?
Well, although ClickFunnels® still display their trademark Marketing Funnels Made Easy in Google Search, their home page now only shows the term sales funnels throughout.
Kartra, one of the best all-in-one marketing platforms in the industry also refers to funnels as sales funnels.
And, sales funnel software Systeme.io, also refers to funnels on its online business platform as sales funnels.
So, in this case, sales funnel vs marketing funnel, the sales funnel terms is the overall clear winner!
In Summary: Sales Funnel or Marketing Funnel?
In today’s world of digital marketing and ecommerce, there isn’t any real difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel.
Every stage of a truly effective online funnel is designed for both marketing and selling.
Although there have been many names for a sales and marketing funnel since it was first created in 1898, one name has always stood out – a sales funnel.
Both Google and the leading funnel building software companies continue to show that between sales funnel vs marketing funnel, a sales funnel is still king!
For some of the best sales funnel examples used by some of the biggest brands, please check out my other guides: