What a Marketing Funnel is, and Why You Need One

NB: Read to the bottom for an offer you can’t refuse……

Your marketing acts like a funnel, or should do.

The idea is, you put prospective clients – vendors and landlords – in the top, and sales – revenue; money in the bank – tumbles out the bottom.

By its very nature, a funnel is designed to accommodate a larger volume in its bowl than it allows out of its neck.  So in marketing, we need to make sure enough people enter our marketing funnel for sufficient pound notes to appear at its base, and in your bank account.

Take canvassing as an example. 

You may need to send out 10,000 cards to produce one instruction that completes and pays you.  We accept this as relatively normal; a good return on investment, even.  That’s a very extreme funnel: super wide at the top, and absolutely tiny at the bottom.  Some of your marketing activities have a really long funnel – social media is a good example – and may only produce one instruction in a blue moon.  But even long funnels can be lucrative: Telford Talk – a community Facebook page for Northwood Telford – has generated eight instructions and counting, since it was set up in August 2014; a better return than most canvassing generates.  Now at around 3000 likes, the Northwood Telford team have proved that consistency and engagement are the secret to producing tangible financial results from a platform most agents just play at.

The shape and effectiveness of your funnel is determined by three main factors:

  1. The volume of people you need to enter the top of your funnel for one sale to emerge from the bottom.
  1. The touchpoints within your funnel – the number, quality and effectiveness of each one.
  1. The length of your funnel – is it days, months or years?

A really effective marketing funnel should be simple and totally focused on what your target audience wants to read. 

An agent friend was telling me recently that he has a ‘sellers’ guide’ on his website that people can download in exchange for giving him their email address.  Brilliant.  A really effective funnel opening.

“What do you do with those people once they have your guide?” I asked him.

“I put them on my newsletter subscriber list,” he explained.

Not so brilliant.


These people could well be hot vendors!

They deserve a list all of their own, so you can send them – and only them – relevant information about selling: timing, preparation, tips and advice from you – the area’s primary property expert.  While they are reading your helpful emails on a regular basis, you are gently leading them towards your goal – the opportunity to be invited to a market appraisal. Or even just a chat and a coffee.

A newsletter will not allow you to reach those heady heights; it just puts you in the same category as all the other agents who send out email newsletters, which are mostly self-focused and frankly, boring.


Every business needs an effective and goal-orientated marketing funnel.

Estate agents more than most, because our lead time can be so long and drawn-out.  Although I was listening to an interview with the marketing director of Mercedes recently, and he was explaining that their marketing funnel can be a staggering forty years long!

“We need to feed the five year old messages that a Mercedes is the ultimate luxury car, throughout his whole life: drip, drip, drip. When the 45 year old man is ready to choose his dream car, we want it to be a Mercedes.”

Most of us don’t want to (can’t) wait 40 years for someone to become a customer, so your funnel needs to produce results a little quicker than that. Some funnels you may use – like canvassing –  should product near-instant returns, whereas others – a blog, maybe – could take several years; though perhaps not 40.


Most agents I see do not really have a marketing funnel at all, or at least not one that works.

The first step in creating your own marketing funnel, is not working out how you are going to get people in the top, but what you want them to do when they are safely inside your funnel.  What do you want more than anything else from them?

You want a market appraisal opportunity. But it’s very rare for you to be granted that opportunity without a phone conversation, right?


So your interim goal is to generate a phone conversation.

However, as we know to our (great) cost, it takes an awfully big pile of canvassing cards to produce just one phone call, and that is because most canvassing cards try to sell the wrong thing – a market appraisal.  We’ve just established that you’re not trying to sell a valuation, you’re trying to produce phone calls.   Go look at your last leaflet – and better still – send one to me, and I’ll tell you whether you are selling a valuation or a phone call.


Even a phone call is often a step too big for many prospective clients to take.

After all, they may still be in thinking-about-it mode, and have not yet reached doing-it-now mode.  These people need a much lighter touch – like my friend’s sellers’ guide. But not such a light touch as a newsletter, which is just too broad to be relevant to a would-be vendor.

You may have heard that people have to know you, like you and then trust you, in that order, before they go on to become your vendor or landlord.


That is a journey and your job is to guide them on that path from stranger to client.

Maybe they have seen a board, driven past your office and found your website. They are now in the awareness phase, or KNOW. How do you move them through LIKE to TRUST?

Most agents do not manage this part of their marketing funnels effectively, instead hoping enough people will simply take that leap past LIKE to TRUST, and feel comfortable enough to book that market appraisal anyway.

There are two problems with that scenario:

  1. Stone cold appointments that don’t convert well
  2. Not enough people want to skip that step from KNOW to TRUST

At this stage of the marketing process, way before that person is ever ready to become a client, the purpose of the funnel is to ‘nurture’ the lead, ie to warm them up, to instill liking and engender trust. This process takes time, care and attention, and most agents don’t bother.

I wrote here about the process a vendor goes through to first shortlist and then prefer a particular agent, before that agent even walks through the door. Your marketing funnel – when created successfully – can be really effective at positioning you in the client’s mind, not just as one of three, but as THE preferred agent with the best chance of winning the instruction.

The way to achieve this coveted first position before you even ring the doorbell is through your marketing funnel – your lead nurture plan.


Over the next 2 weeks, I’m offering 5 agents a free Marketing Funnel Assessment call with me.  Up to the challenge?

Just email me at sam@samashdown.co.uk with FUNNEL in the subject and you could find yourself in pole position at more market appraisals than you could hope for, before you can say thank you Sam

What to read next: Where have all your leads gone?

What to do next: Do you get my Supertips? They’re jam-packed full of great tips and marketing strategies just like this one, and best still – they’re free! Get yours here -> www.samashdown.co.uk/samsupertips

Speak to Sam: If you’d like to know how I think you could improve your marketing, just answer a few short questions here and I’ll tell you if and how you could be more effective.


Sam Ashdown

Sam is an industry-renowned marketing strategist to estate agents. She helps agents grow and flourish, using her unique smart marketing techniques and strategies. Sam works with agents throughout the UK to help them gain more valuations, win more instructions and sell more properties.

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