Define your marketing funnel first

June 4, 2019

Everybody is told to talk to their audience when they're starting to market their product. That's generally solid advice but it's not nuanced enough and not very actionable. It doesn't tell you how to define who your target audience is, where they are, nor how to reach them. Before even defining your target market, you should have a basic marketing funnel defined for your product.


A marketing funnel is a way to model your potential prospect's journey from when they first hear about you to the purchase.

Your goal should be to focus your marketing efforts on people based on where they are in the funnel. Let the pareto principle or 80/20 rule be your guide. Focus on the area of the funnel that will result in the most benefit to your bottom line.

Examples of marketing funnels

B2C - College Recruiting

An example of a more “B2C” marketing funnel are the company recruiters that go to college campuses:

  1. Student hasn't heard of potential future employer and has never considered an opportunity there.
  2. Student has heard of company and wasn't considering an opportunity there.
  3. Student has heard of company and is considering pursuing an opportunity there.
  4. Student gives recruiter their resume / information
  5. Recruiter later reaches out and begins hiring process

The college recruiters’ end goal is to hire employees for their company. A hire would be a conversion in this case, similar to a purchase in ecommerce.

Take a minute to think about this funnel. Have you ever deeply considered why there are so many companies recruiting on college campuses? Why don't they just put a post on a job board and call it a day?

Let's pretend you're a startup with some funding and you're ready to start hiring. When few have heard of your small startup, you have to begin by educating your target market (college students) that you exist and what you do before you start asking them to join you. If you skip this step and start slapping flyers around a college campus, you're likely to get weak results.

Think about it from the perspective of a college student looking for a job. You go around on campus and see a flyer to join Google and Facebook and you're much more likely to consider it than if you saw a flyer for some random company you've never heard of before. Google and Facebook have a huge leg up on you here everybody has heard of them already so most of the time they start at the next step of the funnel; convincing you to pursue an opportunity with them. If you were to simply copy what you see the big companies doing, your efforts will be far less effective.

B2B SaaS - CI Service

Say you run a cloud CI service like Travis or Circle. You could naively think that you should go talk to any developer or engineering team because it's a tool for developers. Developers are the correct target demographic, but without considering your marketing funnel your results may vary wildly in effectiveness.

Here's an example of a marketing funnel for a CI service that targets engineering teams:

  1. Do these engineering teams even know what CI is and how it can help them?

  2. Are these engineering teams currently researching different CI tools?

  3. Do these teams already use an existing CI solution like Jenkins?

Marketing that targets people that don't even know they need a CI tool is far different than marketing that targets teams that are currently looking for a solution and far different than teams that already have a solution in place and have to go out of their way to switch.

If you're reaching out to people in your network that work at established tech companies, it's likely that they already a CI solution in place. It'll make it harder to get customers and good feedback for your product. If you reach out to people with startups or side projects, you'll probably have better luck.

You need to match your marketing to where your potential customers are in the funnel. If you're starting out with a newer SaaS product with few customers, I would suggest that you target people that are either unaware of the problem or solution your product solves. It'll be much easier and effective to go after people that are not yet doing CI than a team that has to migrate everything from Jenkins to your product.