Let’s talk about lead generation funnels and how to make sense of the confusion between marketing campaigns and marketing funnels.
I’ll say it over and over again. Marketing can be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many marketing terms for things, that all sound like the same thing. But as you already know from your area of expertise, it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Take marketing campaigns and marketing funnels. They are often used interchangeably. Honestly, it just depends on who’s using the term and what “silver bullet” solution they are trying to sell you.
But — THERE IS A DIFFERENCE — granted, it’s a subtle difference, but there’s a difference between marketing funnels and marketing campaigns and once you see it, you won’t be able to unsee it.
Even more importantly, you’ll know when to use a marketing funnel, when to use a marketing campaign and which tools will help you along the way.
Marketing Campaigns and Marketing Funnels = Lead Generation Funnels
Before I get into the details on what the differences are between marketing campaigns and marketing funnels, let’s keep things simple by calling them “Lead Generation Funnels”.
Both marketing campaigns and marketing funnels sit in the lead generation space.
Both marketing campaigns and marketing funnels are driven by scheduling and automation.
Now, let’s get some more context.
Where do Marketing Funnels and Campaigns Fit in the Marketing Process
I can’t say this enough — before you do anything, always understand where you are in the marketing process!
Here’s what the marketing process looks like:
When you’re talking about marketing funnels and campaigns — you’re at step 4 of the marketing process — IMPLEMENTATION.
The implementation step is where everything starts coming together.
I love to cook, so I’m going to make a recipe analogy.
Every professional chef talks about how important it is to prep your ingredients. Chefs call it “mise en place” — it literally means “establishment” in English we call it “prep”.
Preparation in marketing includes getting your stuff together; Market Research, Your Ideal customer, Your Offer. It’s knowing what you’re going to put out into the world.
In my head, I envision a waiter, presenting a tray of deliciousness for you to simply grab and consume.
The Implementation part of the process is where you are ready to get out there and share it with the world. It’s where all of your prep work gets packaged into different messages and sent out via different communication channels.
I suppose you can say it’s like fishing for customers.
You’re going to decide on what fish you want to catch, you’re going to outline what ponds you want to fish in and you’re going to make sure you have the perfect bait to lure them in.
Think of implementation as literally going fishing for customers.
What are the Ingredients to a Successful Implementation?
No one asks this question — and we all should.
A successful implementation means that you have the following:
marketing strategy: You’ve decided whether you’re going to primarily focus on content marketing, direct marketing, or paid advertising.
- Selected marketing channels: You’ve selected the channels you’re going to use to deliver your message: blog, email, specific social media, video, events, etc.
- Marketing message: You have specific marketing messages and how you’re going to deliver them inside of each channel.
- An irresistible offer: You know what your audience wants to buy, you’ve created the offer and how they are going to get easy access to it.
If you do NOT have these laid out, written out, outlined, etc. then do not pass go. Take the time to work out these details. Because without them, it won’t matter whether you’re doing a funnel or a campaign, none of it will generate results.
Having said this, it doesn’t have to be fancy or some marketing plan, it just has to be crystal clear in your head.
Once you’re clear about what you’re selling and to whom, you’ll be astonished how many times the details take care of themselves.
What’s a Campaign and What’s a Funnel? Are They the Same?
Let’s use the dictionary to get us on the same page. For our purposes, I had to choose second or third definitions because we all know that we’re not talking about wars or kitchen utensils.
A campaign is a series of operations designed to bring about a particular result.
A funnel means to move to a focal point or into a conduit or central channel.
Both of these terms mean to start in one place and move to another.
And this is why these terms often get confused.
Now let’s look a little more closely.
Campaigns run to achieve a particular result, and funnels are a conduit that “funnel” into a central channel.
But wait, there’s more.
Funnels are Long-Term and Campaigns are Short Term
There is really one BIG and important difference between marketing funnels and marketing campaigns. Funnels are long-term or evergreen.
Sticking with our fishing analogy, funnels are like a fish farm. They are designed to capture and grow new customers day in and day out.
Funnels tend to be focused on your overall brand promise, and always provide you with a growing list of prospects.
Marketing Campaigns Have a Beginning and an End
Marketing Campaigns, on the other hand are short term marketing spurts. They are more specific and dedicated to achieve a certain marketing goal such as:
- Product Launches – When you launch a new product, a marketing campaign can help create buzz, generate interest, and drive sales.
- Brand Awareness – If you want to establish your brand in the market, a marketing campaign that increases brand awareness can be crucial.
- Lead Generation – Marketing campaigns can help generate leads and convert them into customers. You can design marketing campaigns that target your desired audience with tailored messaging that can help bring new customers.
- Restructuring and repositioning – Rebranding, changing your company name or messaging, or pivoting your business can be critical times to launch a marketing campaign to ensure customers are informed of any upcoming changes.
- Event Marketing – Hosting an event requires significant time and resources, and a marketing campaign can help spread the word and encourage attendance.
- Announcements – Marketing campaigns can be used to make announcements about anything that would be of interest or value to your target audience, such as new product offerings, executive hires, sponsorships, partnership announcements, and more.
- Seasonal offers – The holidays are always a good time to launch a marketing campaign and cash in on the season’s offers.
Marketing Funnels are Evergreen
Funnels, on the other hand, are designed to collect leads and move them toward a specific goal and outcome all day, every day.
- Lead Generation – A marketing funnel can help businesses attract and retain leads by nurturing them through the funnel stages. Through various stages, you can provide educational content and other resources that will help you generate interest in your products or services.
- Increase Sales – Marketing funnels can be designed to drive sales. Funnel stages can be designed to provide offers or promotions that help to convert leads into customers.
- Customer Retention – After making a sale, marketing funnels can help businesses to retain clients. By continuously nurturing relationships with customers and adding value to their lives, you can turn them into lifelong brand advocates.
- Customer Engagement – Marketing funnels can be used to create an engaged audience through social media or other platforms. This audience could be vital for upselling, cross-selling, and for repeat business.
- Upselling – A marketing funnel can be used to create a customer journey that leads to increasing average order value by adding complementary products, services, or upgrade options.
Skills You’re Going to Need for Campaigns and Funnels
Don’t skip this section! Creating successful marketing campaigns and funnels requires more than just having the right tools.
To be successful you don’t just need to know what to do or what tools to use, you have to have substance
In this list, I’ll highlight the top skills you need to master to achieve your marketing goals and create campaigns that deliver the results you’re looking for.
Every element of your marketing campaign or marketing funnel is going to require content. This includes copywriting – writing effective emails, landing pages, social media posts and more, to engage and convert your audience.
What features to look for in Software
- AI assisted writing or integration with AI writing tool.
- Email templates
Design skills are essential in creating visually stunning and brand-centric marketing content. A designer’s ability to create engaging social media, web graphics, and other design elements plays a critical role in capturing the attention of the target audience.
What features to look for in Software
- Integrations with Canva
- Conversion optimized templates. They will all offer “professionally designed templates. You’re looking for templates for landing pages, and emails that are proven to have high conversion rates.
- Drag and drop design – so that you can easily edit or create your own.
To really make an impact in today’s marketing landscape, you’ve got to have some serious video skills up your sleeve. Whether it’s creating “lives” for Instagram or Facebook, or whipin’ up some shorts for TikTok and Reels, or crafting a killer webinar, video is where it’s at. So if you’re ready to make your campaigns stand out, sharpen those video production and editing skills!
What features to look for in Software
- Integrations with YouTube, Reels, TikTok
- Automatic transcriptions.
- Editing video from the transcript
- Ability to convert videos into multiple formats
Being able to measure and analyze data to determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and to refine your strategies accordingly.
What features to look for in Software
- Analytics and reporting
Strong teamwork skills are essential in working with other members of your marketing team, other departments, and external partners.
Project Management: Being able to manage projects, set timelines, and accomplish goals within a specified time frame.
What features to look for in Software
- Ability to add team members, drafts, approvals, and edits
How Marketing Campaigns Evolved into Marketing Funnels
The reason there’s so much confusion about marketing campaigns and marketing funnels is because of how the marketing technology landscape has changed with the advent of technology.
In this section, I’m going to do something few articles do, I’m going to outline the landscape of marketing software. When you understand how this software has evolved over the years, you’ll be able to make better and more cost effective choices.
CRM: Customer Relationship Management
It all started with the Rolodex, grew into databases and sometime in the mid 1980’s ACT hit the sales scene as one of the first customer management software. Then in 1990, Goldmine launched the idea of relationship management. Soon after that, Salesforce became the first online only CRM.
Over the years, CRM software has grown beyond managing customer data and relationships by adding more and more sophisticated email features.
Just remember, CRM software is mostly about tracking the sale – but what about building relationships BEFORE the sale?
In 1995, Constant Contact launched it’s email marketing software. They were soon followed by
Email marketing tools made it possible to generate leads, nurture them, and convert them to customers when they would end up in the CRM.
With the rise of email marketing tools, marketers added an additional communication channel to their toolbox.
In the early years of emails technology, emails were used for newsletters, coupons and basic marketing campaigns.
This is still the case, but technology improved, consumers got smarter and savvier and soon, email marketing started morphing into marketing automation.
Before we get into marketing automation, let’s talk what triggers marketing automation, marketing campaigns, and marketing funnels — landing pages.
Now, marketers were using single pages to generate leads for as long as the web had been around. You remember those newsletter sign-up forms on the home page — right?
Then marketers would simply add a page to their website where they would pitch an offer — so, the idea of a single sales page or landing page isn’t new. In fact, Microsoft had a software called Frontpage back in 2003.
In 2009, Unbounce launched. This was one of the first user-friendly landing page builders. Unbounce made it possible for marketers to do A/B testing to see which variations of a page were more effective at generating leads and conversions.
But then, in 2012 came LeadPages.
LeadPages was a game-changer because they created high-converting landing page templates. Each template was pre-designed with the perfect images, colors, and even some copy to get you started.
LeadPages also added the ability to send emails directly from the platform or to integrate with your own email marketing software.
CRM+Email+Landing Pages = Marketing Automation
Drumroll please. In 2001, Infusionsoft (now Keap) was founded in 2001 by brothers Scott and Eric Martineau. In 2004, they developed an automated sales and marketing system. In 2006 they were followed by Ontraport and with that, marketing automation — and an integrated way to generate leads, nurture them and convert them to customers was born. In other words — a marketing funnel.
Again, I’m simplifying, but now you can see how marketing campaigns evolved into marketing funnels.
The early 2000s also saw the advent of social media. Remember MySpace, Friendster, LinekdIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and so many more.
Before social media marketing communication was a “push” situation; marketers send messages and customers respond (or not). But then social media opened up the conversation. Social media democratized the marketing conversation and “engagement” was born.
Marketers flocked to this “free” form of organic marketing and then — scheduling tools were born.
Today social media is both a marketing campaign channel and a marketing funnel channel.
OK, so now it’s time to look at software to make it all work.
Campaign and Marketing Funnel Software
Now we want to make it all come together with some software. As you already know, there is SO MUCH software with so many functions and features that it becomes virtually impossible to choose the right one for you — and stay within budget.
That’s what we’re going to do here.
I’m going to set some criteria here so that we have a guideline against which to test different types of software.
- $50 per month price point: We’re going to look for a tool or tools that can give us as many functions as possible for as close to $50 per month.
- Fewest tools possible: The goal is to find a single tool that will do it all with the fewest clicks as possible.
- Seamless scheduling and automation: The next thing we’re looking for is the ability to run and manage campaigns and funnels without too much bouncing around from one platform to another.
Before I start describing popular marketing software I want to make sure that you understand that there are going to be tradeoffs.
This is why you have to be very clear about your goals and what features matter the most to you — so that you can invest where it’s appropriate.
What are Critical Functions for Selecting a Lead Generation Funnel Software
As someone who gets super excited by bells and whistles, I wanted to share some insights about marketing software and the different functions.
Scheduling and automation are the most critical functions of any marketing campaign and automation. While all the tools have this function, it’s the way this function is done and how easy it is to do that will influence your choice.
Segmenting your customers has to be automatic, effortless and insightful. You should be able to see your customer’s “story”; how they found you, what emails they opened, what they bought, etc. with a single click on their record.
In the end, it has to be easy to use so that you can create a campaign or funnel as soon as you get the idea.
Analytics are another important feature. You want to make sure that the software you use provides useful analytics so that you can see what’s working and what isn’t working and where you need to make changes.
Optimization is a really nice to have feature. If you have the ability to do A/B testing or a tool can mid and match copy with images
Lead Generation Funnel Software Recommendations
One of the things that I love about software and technology is how it democratizes marketing and makes it accessible to businesses of all sizes, even solopreneurs.
The downside is that you have dozens of software tools to choose from and this makes it very overwhelming and difficult.
I’m going to try and make it easy.
Social Media and Marketing Automation: You’ll need both
For some strange reason, the software world has a sort of wall between social media management and marketing automation.
All-In-One Marketing Funnel and Marketing Campaign Software
For non-technical small businesses and entrepreneurs on a budget, there is ONLY ONE option — the Zoho platform.
Zoho is the only platform that gives you all of the tools and features for running both marketing automation (marketing funnels) and marketing campaigns — including social media for less than $50 per month in a single platform.
Zoho Marketing Plus: The ONLY platform that has both social media management and marketing automation in one place
I highly recommend using a single platform when you can. Considering all the criteria I set out for this challenge, there was only one platform that meet the criteria — Zoho Marketing Plus.
Get an entire "enterprise quality" operating system at a small business price. 50+ small business apps -- all integrated -- all in one place and all at one insanely affordable price!
For just $45/month you’ll have access to 50+ marketing apps, I’m just going to highlight the critical ones for your lead generation funnels:
Zoho Social: So you can schedule, manage, and track your social media posts.
Marketing Automation: Use their pre-built funnel templates to take new leads through an evergreen funnel.
Zoho Campaigns: This email marketing app can do newsletters, coupons, follow-ups, ideal for any of your campaigns.
Zoho CRM or Zoho Bigin: You’ll also have access to either Bigin, the simple CRM, or Zoho CRM, the full feature platform to manage your leads and contacts. Since all of these apps (plus dozens more) are inside the Zoho platform, they are all easily integrated to work together from a single sign on.
Zoho Sites: Now, this is a full website platform, but I like to use it for landing pages. Zoho has an app called Landing Pages. But Landing Pages isn’t included in either the Zoho One Bundle or the Marketing Plus Bundle. You have to get that separately for $23/mo.
If you only want the marketing apps, I’d recommend you go with Zoho Marketing Plus.
An outstanding overall marketing tool for small business owners. You can run your entire marketing plan from this single dashboard and integrated tools; social media, email, marketing automation and more
For just 25/mo you get: Social, Campaigns, and Automation. You also get everything you need for webinars and events: Meetings, Events, Surveys, Website performance, Analytics, and Collateral management.
No matter how you slice it, this is the best value in marketing software. No, it doesn’t sing and dance and glow in the dark, but it comes pretty darned close. The only thing missing for ME in this platform is its inability to create fully automated social media drip campaigns. However, their social media campaigns run about the same as Buffer’s and (this is my favorite thing) if you connect your social media to your Zoho Social platform, you’ll still see all the content and all the analytics!
I’ve been using Zoho One for years and run most of my business inside of this one platform.
Here’s a shot of all my Zoho apps in a single dashboard — my ENTIRE business and all my marketing campaigns and funnels are here.
If you’re NOT going to go with the Zoho platform, you are going to be using two types of platforms; marketing funnel platforms and social media campaign platforms.
This is the point where the monthly charges really start to add up.
Choose Your Strategy Before Choosing a Platform!
I can’t stress how important it is for you to choose your strategy first.
Your chosen strategy will drive what features you will need. There is very little room for error because all of these platforms will start costing you serious amounts of money — especially if you want to use a popular platform.
You can find other platforms using software directories like AppSumo, but you will still need to know what features you want.
Popular Marketing Funnel Software
If you are a coach, consultant, or thought leader, and you are using a direct
I’m going to start with the most popular and end with the lowest cost tools.
Formerly known as Infusionsoft (or confusionsoft for those in the know) Keap is the grand-daddy of marketing automation and CRM for coaches, consultants, and anyone who is selling online information.
Starting with email marketing, and running all the way through to complex marketing funnels, it’s all in there —
And you will pay for it — not just for access to the software, but to get the most out of this software, you will most likely need to hire a Keap consultant to get it set up correctly.
Keap is the Luxury Marketing Automation system. It’s the most well known, the most popular, and, I think, pretty complicated.
I wouldn’t recommend this fore newbies who don’t have all their marketing ducks in a row.
To be successful with Keap you should have your marketing funnels all mapped out. You should have your email lists segmented. You should have all your offers developed, etc.
I would say — don’t choose Keap unless you already have a solid 6-figure business already.
ClickFunnels is another very popular marketing funnel software.
ClickFunnels was originally developed to run marketing funnels, and they have honed this process and cracked the code on everything you need to create a high-converting funnel.
They also offer challenges, programs, masterminds and all kinds of courses to help you along the way.
I think it’s a lot more user-friendly than Keap, and a little bit cheaper.
Your next best choice is Kartra. I have used Kartra for about a year and I really, really liked it.
I found it to be the best value of the easy to use Marketing Funnel Software options.
Everything that ClickFunnels does – Kartra does also but for less than $100 per month!
You can’t beat FREE — right? Exactly.
My recommendation if you want a marketing funnel software and you’re just getting started — Systeme.io is your best bet.
I mean LOOK at all these features and you get 2,000 contacts FREE FOREVER! Check out the list of all these “unlimiteds” — unlimited emailings, unlimited file storage, unlimited students, no transaction fees, an affiliate program — so much good stuff.
But what are the negatives?
I’ve played with systeme.io for a little bit and it is a little clunky.
For one thing, you will have to have a mapped out funnel — this is a VERY good thing, if you’re learning about funnels — this is great practice on a free platform.
Popular Social Media Campaign Software
If you’ve been clicking over to these platforms as you read along, you’ll notice that NONE of them have anything set up for social media marketing and management.
So let’s go through some of the best social media campaign tools.
Buffer is a comprehensive and intuitive social media management platform that helps businesses succeed on social media. With Buffer, you can schedule social media posts, analyze performance, and engage with their audience simultaneously.
It’s FREE plan gives you 3 social channels; so you can definitely cover the basics of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook — or whatever your top three channels are.
Yes, it’s affordable to start, but as soon as you want to add additional channels (errr profiles), you’ll see your price go up significantly. For example, I have 7 profiles, that puts me at $42 per month.
Buffer doesn’t offer any drip campaigns (few platforms do), but they do offer a super cool new AI content creator that I think is super helpful.
This is my new favorite platform. While I also use Buffer, Missinglettr is the platform I use simply because they are the most affordable social media platform that also offers AI driven social media drip campaigns.
Just take a look at the pricing!
There’s a forever free option. The $9/mo option gives you three profiles. Again, that’s enough to get you started. As I mentioned, I have 7 profiles, so I’m using the Pro plan – with the Pro plan, I also have access to their analytics features.
Just look at this. It’s nothing complicated. It’s got all the data you need and none of the data that you don’t.
I’ll tell you right now — I’m shocked to see that in my test here, LinkedIn was the big winner for a specific article I wrote about “Decentralized Social Media” — That’s pretty interesting. It tells me what type of content resonates with my LinkedIn audience.
Are there other social media management tools? YES — probably hundreds of them. I purposely didn’t include them here.
My goal is to have you choose a platform that’s the best value for you and that is easy enough to use.
Funnels and Campaigns Simplified
So there you have it, the lowdown on how marketing campaigns and funnels work, and a bunch of awesome software tools to keep in your marketing arsenal! Remember, creating successful marketing campaigns takes careful planning and execution, but with the help of these tools, you’re well on your way to success. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be reading about your own wildly successful marketing funnel!