What is the marketing funnel? Does it (or should it) apply to a handmade business? The marketing funnel is also known as the purchasing funnel and it describes a customer’s theoretical journey from not knowing anything about your product, service or business to becoming a customer. It is a useful way to look at your marketing activities and how to create and measure your marketing goals.

The funnel can be (and is) manipulated in different ways for different goals and businesses, but in its simplest form it starts broad with Brand Awareness, gets narrower in the middle with Customer Acquisition and becomes smallest at the bottom with Purchase Intent. 

Nicole Stevenson from Dear Handmade Life explains:

“Our marketing strategy is multi-pronged which I think is essential these days. Gone are the days of building a large social media following and using that as your only marketing tool. This is actually how advertising used to be, it’s rare that a business would just do one thing (ie: print ads) – they had a whole campaign. Perhaps because we started our business before social media existed, we had a multi-faceted strategy from the start. This includes brand awareness, customer acquisition and purchase intent marketing.”

Let’s see how the funnel might look for a handmade business.

Brand Awareness

At the top of the funnel, also the widest point, is Brand Awareness. This is where your customer theoretically starts their journey. The goal of Brand Awareness marketing is for potential customers to learn about your product or service. The funnel is wide here because this is where your throw out your largest net. Some of these people will filter down to the next section of the funnel, but not all, and that’s okay. You’re looking for your potential customers in this pool of people.

How do you create brand awareness as a handmade business? Because you’re trying to reach a large number of people, the type of marketing you do at this stage would usually be educational and/or entertaining. This would include videos, free webinars, free tutorials and eye-candy-type images. Content that people would want to like, view and/or share. At this stage, you want them to get to know you. 

Jamie Bourgeois of Bourgeois Baby shares:

“I had done a video tutorial several years back on how to sew a tutu.  At the time, hand tied tutus were all the rage and I wanted to provide a more professional looking tutu option for customers. The video remains on YouTube and has received more views than I anticipated.  It also still is a lead generator to my website.”

How do you measure the success of your Brand Awareness marketing? The goals of your marketing at this stage would usually be measured by how many people were reached, how many views your videos received and/or how many impressions were served (if you are doing brand awareness advertising). 

Customer Acquisition

Also known as the middle of the funnel, these people know about your business and may be considering purchasing something. After an initial purchase, your customer returns to this part of the funnel. The goal for is to engage your potential customer. 

How could you go about Customer Acquisition marketing as a handmade business? Any content that you create that is designed to have a user engage in a meaningful way would fit here. That might include groups, social media and blog posts designed to elicit responses or trial periods for a service. Newsletter sign-ups are an important tool at this point in the funnel. These customers have signed up to engage with your business.

Nicole Stevenson explains how they go about this with Dear Handmade Life:

“We do this through trying to create engaging content and relationships on social media, our newsletter, our podcast, our blog posts, brand and craft videos, in person workshops, our ambassador program and good old fashioned word of mouth. Is it a lot of work keeping up with all those avenues as opposed to say just having one Instagram account? Yes, but for our business where our goal is to create community and resources for purpose-driven creatives it’s essential.”

Platforms for this stage of the funnel would include social media groups and engaging posts, but because of changes to algorithms on social media, it may be difficult to achieve a decent level of engagement. Your most important platform may be your newsletter. Your website will also be important to acquire newsletter signups, trials and to host engaging content. 

Jamie Bourgeois of Bourgeois Baby talks about her Facebook group: “Recently I opened a Facebook group for customers, calling it Bourgeois Baby Elite, offering special sales, products, and insider info for people in the group.  This was entirely experimental, and frankly I didn’t think it was going to work all that well.  I have pushed the group via email newsletters and boosted posts to our FB page followers. The group has a little over 100 members, but they have proven themselves to be a highly dedicated group of customers. To incentivize people to join and remain engaged I have posted special sales as well as having the group members choose fabrics for our baby bibs. It has worked exceedingly well.”

How do you measure success for marketing activities at this point in the funnel? You might look at number of newsletter sign-ups, number of opens and/or clicks on your newsletter, number of engagements on a post and/or number of free trial sign-ups.

Purchase Intent

At the very bottom tip of the funnel is the Purchase or Transaction, so the marketing activities just above that point in the bottom of the funnel are geared towards creating Purchase Intent. Everything you’ve done prior to this should lead potential customers here. Of course, there are times when people sort of show up at this point of the funnel (perhaps through a Google search, for example), and those people are theoretically ready to purchase despite not having been in YOUR funnel previously. 

What would a handmade business’s marketing activity look like for this part of the funnel? Here’s where your product/service descriptions and/or portfolio will be most important along with a clear call to action. Also reviews and testimonials. This is the last place a customer will make a consideration before purchase. 

Stephanie Capps Dyke of Creative + Mindful explains: 

“In pursuing opportunities, it’s been important to maintain a portfolio of work. Artists and small businesses are leery of working with a service provider – particularly for work like I do, which tends to be intangible (ie. time management courses) or ”mysterious” (ie. instructional consulting) – unless they can touch the goods, so to speak. Testimonials can be helpful here too.”

Your most important platform at this part of the funnel is your website, or shop, if hosted on another platform like Etsy. This is also where any SEO work and search engine marketing might fall. When people perform a search they are most likely towards the bottom of the funnel and ready to purchase soon.

You will measure success for marketing activities at this point in the funnel by purchases or transactions. You may also want to measure by items that are put into carts.

Do you use the Marketing Funnel when planning marketing activities? Share some of the marketing activities you use and let us know if you have any questions!

Melanie O'Brien

Melanie O'Brien


Melanie O'Brien is a social media professional with 7+ years of experience driving audience growth and engagement. Her past experience includes working in the creative lifestyle space as a former sewing blogger and fabric shop owner. She currently works with small creative businesses and organizations managing social media posting and strategies to free up their time to do more creative work. Find out more on her website, Melanie O'Brien Social Media.

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