Sell More & Sell Faster: Inbound Marketing for Startups

Do you have tons of content, but you don’t know what to do with it?

Are you starting from scratch and don’t know where to begin?

Whether you’re working with a blank slate or a library full of content that just isn’t converting, this guide is for you. This is an in-depth look at the inbound marketing approach we’ve used to help startups reach their customer acquisition goals. We’re going to cover all the fundamental marketing concepts you need to understand to fill your pipeline and keep prospects moving through your funnel.

Through the questions, exercises, and worksheets in this guide, you’ll develop all the elements you need for a successful sales funnel and marketing campaigns.

So if you want to build a full-scale lead generation platform that will have customers coming to you, let’s get started!

What People Are Saying About This Guide

Georgios Chasiotis
Georgios Chasiotis
Managing Director

“Instead of giving generic tips and methodologies, Roy breaks down the elements of a powerful framework and explains how to use marketing automation and retargeting to get better results for your business.”

Christine Gritmon
Christine Gritmon
Christine Gritmon, Inc.

“Roy Harmon guides you through the funnel step by step, in plain English, with ample opportunities to lead yourself through your own custom plan and lay out a simple strategy for enhanced growth.”

Lindsay Tabas
Lindsay Tabas
Tech Startup Consultant
Lady Engineer®

“Whether I need to review existing sales channels and funnels or set up new ones, I have Roy’s templates and guidance printed out right next to me.”

In this guide you’ll learn to build:

  1. Qualification Funnels that draw qualified traffic into your website
  2. Awareness Funnels that identify people with a problem you can solve
  3. Consideration Funnels that pinpoint leads who are in the market to buy
  4. Decision Funnels that close leads who are ready to make a purchase

​As your leads make their way through your funnels, you will come to be seen as a trusted authority. As such, you won’t have to rely on cold calling and email blasts. This marketing strategy will have potential customers coming to you!

That’s because instead of focusing on interruption-based advertising, you’ll be serving 

  • highly relevant ads
  • with useful content
  • at just the right time.

But that’s not the only benefit of this approach.

  • You will see results faster. Who has the time to wait around for SEO? This approach accelerates the lead generation process with digital advertising.
  • You will build your credibility. By providing value through each stage of the buyer’s journey, you’ll win your prospects’ trust.
  • You will increase your sales velocity.​ Through remarketing and behavioral targeting you’ll work leads through the sales process faster.

What You’ll Learn in This Guide

I’ve been generating leads in multiple industries over the last 10+ years. I started out in state politics, moved to national politics, then automotive, then healthcare, software, legal, etc., etc. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the general principles of lead generation are the same for every industry, and it helps to have a template to guide your thinking as you build a new campaign.

In this guide, you will:

  1. Learn the template you’ll need to develop the four key funnels that guide your leads from opt-in to close.
  2. Ask yourself the questions you need to answer as you shape the copy and creative for your campaign.
  3. Learn to segment your audience so that you can send the right message to the right person at the right time.
  4. Determine the right content for each stage of the buyer’s journey, so that your leads know you’re the expert on their problem.

This is how it works:

Step 1: Build Your Audience

First, you’ll build a qualified audience through the use of third party data and advertising. This will build your audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey much faster than SEO alone.

Step 2: Fill Your Funnel​

You’ll develop contextually relevant information to build your credibility with potential customers and keep them coming back for more.

Step 3: Guide Your Customers

By advertising the right content to targeted audiences, you’ll help your leads navigate the buyer’s journey faster than they could on their own.

Step 4: Close Deals Faster

You’ll deliver progressive messaging that educates your leads so that they’re ready to close faster when they get to the Decision stage.

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It’s important to make sure you understand your business in terms of the solutions you provide. To get the most out of this guide, answer these questions before you continue.

  • What problem(s) do you solve?
  • What’s unique about your solution?
  • What are the strengths of your solution?
  • What are the weaknesses of your solution?
  • Who are your top competitors?
  • What do they do better than you do?
  • What do you do better?
  • What does your ideal customer look like?​

What Now?

If you took the time to answer the questions above, you’ve now got a 360-degree perspective on 

  • What your company has to offer, and
  • To whom you should be offering it.

In the following exercises, you’ll be taking the answers to those questions and using them to decide:

  • what content you should develop for each stage of the buyer’s journey to help your potential customers
  • how to position your product or service in your copy so that potential customers understand if you’re the perfect choice
  • who to target with your advertising in the Qualification stage to build up your initial audience

And notice that in that second bullet point I said ​IF ​you’re the perfect choice.

As you’re working through the rest of these exercises, remember:

No product or service is right for everyone.

Be laser-focused in your pursuit of the people who are the perfect fit for what you have to offer. 

According to a survey conducted by Marc Wayshak, “at least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you sell.” These people should know within three seconds of landing on your landing page that they should look elsewhere.

You’ll help them do that by avoiding what I call “sloppy copy.” Sloppy copy is copy that wins the contact information of someone who isn’t a good fit for your offering. It’s a detriment to your lead generation efforts.

If you don’t nip it in the bud, its negative effects will echo throughout your entire sales process. ​It will cost you time and money. 

​Time that you could be spending on people who are likely to buy. And money you could spend on ads to move those people down the funnel.

So don’t write sloppy copy!

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Audience segmentation is a crucial aspect of inbound marketing. Let’s talk about how to segment your audience according to the stage in the buyer’s journey they’re in.

“Audience segmentation is the process of dividing (or segmenting) your overall audience into smaller audiences based on demographics, behavior, and other factors.” —Advertoscope

To make this approach work for you, you need to segment your visitors into buckets based on where they’re at in your sales cycle so that you can target them with contextually relevant information.


The best way to segment your audience is to determine what behaviors visitors will exhibit in certain stages of the buyer’s journey and what pages they’ll be on. For example, if a lead visits your sales page, that’s one indicator that they might be in the Decision stage.

The more traffic you have, the more specific you can be. 

Getting More Specific

For instance, you might only put someone in your Decision audience if they’ve done multiple things that indicate that they’re towards the bottom of the funnel. 

But don’t be any more specific than you need to be. You don’t want to slow-roll your sales.

(By the way, the reason the amount of traffic you get matters is because if you don’t have enough traffic in each audience you won’t be able to serve ads to them.)

One way you’ll deal with this problem is by generating a lot of top of funnel traffic from your Qualification audience.

Your qualification audience is a broad audience made up of traffic generated from third-party data and any traffic that doesn’t fit into one of your other audiences. 


A lot of audience segmentation can be done without any special tools. You can set up remarketing audiences in Google Ads, AdRoll, Facebook Ads, etc. without having to use any third-party tools.

 If you want to go a little deeper, you can use Google Analytics to analyze segments of your audience based on new and returning users, traffic source, demographics, geography, device, and behavior.

You can use that information to determine what you should prioritize when building your remarketing audiences. This also plays a role in how you nurture your leads.

How to Grow Your Audience

​So I’m sure all of this sounds great, but what if you don’t have an audience yet? That’s where digital advertising comes to the rescue.

Although inbound marketing is usually considered to be almost synonymous with content marketing, the approach I’m sharing with you in this guide relies heavily on what I call “inbound advertising”. 

Advertising is inbound when its focus is on developing valuable content to educate potential customers, with audiences segmented based on the buyer’s journey.

The strategy allows you to nurture your leads through ads, while simultaneously nurturing them through traditional methods (e.g., email marketing).

For display advertising, paid social, and any  other ad channels you choose to use you’ll create four campaigns:

  1. Qualification: This campaign targets a broad group of people who might be interested in your product or service (using interest targeting on Facebook, third party data through a demand-side platform, etc.)
  2. Awareness: Your Awareness campaign identifies people who are becoming aware that they have a problem by remarketing to anyone who has been anywhere on your website in the past 180 days (but excluding people further down the funnel, i.e., in the Consideration and Decision stage campaigns below).
  3. Consideration: This campaign targets people whose website activity over the last 90 days indicates that they’re considering solutions to their problem (e.g., if they visited your “Features” page or an article comparing different solutions).
  4. Decision: This campaign targets people whose website activity over the last 30 days indicates that they’re ready to make a purchase (e.g., if they visited your “Pricing” page).

Note: You should tweak the membership duration of the list based on the length of your sales cycle.

​Next, we’ll cover the sort of content you’ll need to create for each campaign.

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According to these statistics from The Content Marketing Institute, only 37% of B2B brands and only 38% of B2C brands have developed a content marketing strategy. This means that if you develop a content marketing strategy, you’ll be ahead of more than 60% of your competition!

That’s a nice advantage! So let’s talk about each stage of content and how you can get the most bang for your content marketing buck.


Should ​appeal as specifically as possible to the ideal customer you identified earlier in the workbook. This content exists to get likely customers onto your remarketing list, so more specific you are, the less money you’ll spend on wasted clicks further down the funnel.​​ 


Identifies potential customers who are at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. They’re just starting to become familiar with their problem, so use this content to help them understand it better.


Provides value for your audience with information on possible solutions. It’s OK to mention your product or service at this point, but it shouldn’t be salesy. Instead, subtly focus on why the areas you’re strong are more important than the areas where you’re weak (without mentioning your company or your competitors).


​Here’s where you make your pitch. Why are you the best choice?

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You’ll need a strong foundation of valuable content to fuel your funnel. Based on your understanding of the buyer’s journey, develop content ideas based on their wants, needs, questions, and concerns.

Below is a template to facilitate the process. And if you struggle to come up with ideas I’ve written on article on how to develop blog post ideas, and I’ve created a freewriting tool to make the process easier for you (learn more about freewriting here).

Buyer’s Journey StageBlog TopicOffer​Format

Example Content Map

​Here’s a brief example of a content map for an imaginary SaaS company that sells a productivity app called Producktive. Put a map like this together​ upfront, then continue to add onto it as your business grows and you learn more about your target market.

Buyer’s Journey StageBlog TopicOffer​Format
​AwarenessAre You Spending Too Much Time On Social Media?​10 Things You Should Do Every Day to Increase Your Efficiency​Checklist
​Awareness​​My Favorite Tool for Organizing my Life​5 Ways to Stay Organized​Resource Guide
​Awareness​​Are These Time Wasters Killing Your Productivity?​How I Tripled My Productivity in Just 10 Minutes a DayVideo​
​Consideration3 Tips to Make You More EfficientEisenhower Matrix TemplateTemplate
​Consideration​​Productivity Tools: Software vs. Paper​The Effect of Organization on Productivity​Whitepaper
​Consideration​​3 Productivity Strategies from Busy Billionaires​How to Increase Productivity with the Pareto Principle​Webinar
Decision​​How Producktive Increased ACME’s Efficiency by 143%​N/A​Demo
​Decision​​Producktive vs. NAHTN/A​Free Trial

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According to sales reps surveyed by HubSpot:

  • 22% of sales reps say qualifying leads is the hardest part of the sales process,
  • 36% say closing is the hardest part of the sales process, and
  • 42% say prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process.

It’s not enough to create your content, build your ads, and wait for things to happen. You have to design your funnel in a way that pulls people through the process.

To do that, you’ll need to your visitors into buckets based on where they’re at in your sales cycle so that you can target them with contextually relevant information that holds their hands throughout the buyer’s journey.

Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting helps segment your audience based on the buyer’s journey. Based on the pages they’ve been to on your website, how frequently they’ve visited, when they listed visited, etc., you can get a good idea of whether they’re at the top, bottom, or middle of the funnel.


Trapdoor offers are offers that you promote to an audience that’s earlier in the buyer’s journey. For example, you might have a Decision offer (e.g., an offer for a free demo), for your Consideration stage audience. That way you can nudge them along the funnel.


As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about audience segmentation, a lot of audience segmentation can be done without any special software. You can set up remarketing audiences in Google Ads, AdRoll, Facebook Ads, etc. without having to use any third-party tools.

But to build really sophisticated funnels, you will need a software solution like Drip or Zapier (both have free options) to set up behavioral targeting, trigger emails, and run workflows. 

Almost everything you’ll need can be found for free, so don’t let money get in the way. You can wait to invest in software until you begin to see consistent revenue.

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First, let’s discuss the key components of any funnel.

Traffic Source

This is how you fill your funnel. It includes paid traffic (e.g., Google search ads or Facebook ads) and organic (e.g, social media or blog posts).


This is the copy you’ll use to entice people to take advantage of your offer.​ It should be very clear about what you’re looking for them to do.

Landing Page

This is where you persuade prospects to download your offer (and give you their contact information). It will include a form through which you’ll collect your prospects’ contact information.​


Also known as a “lead magnet,” this is the reason your prospects will hand over their information. It can be anything your potential customers will find valuable.​

Thank You Page

Here’s where you say thanks and provide the download. You can also use the thank you page to drive them deeper into the buyer’s journey by serving up another offer for a later stage of the buyer’s journey here.​​​

Confirmation Email

Provide the download via email as well. Like the Thank You Page, you can use this email to drive your leads deeper into the buyer’s journey or get more information with another offer.​​​

Follow-Up Email

Send emails to see where your prospect is in the buyer’s journey. You can send offers from the current stage of the buyer’s journey and later stages.


Remarketing ads allow you to advertise to website visitors who didn’t convert, and you can promote offers from later stages of the funnel.

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SaaS Marketing Funnel Template

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Your Qualification content exists for one reason and one reason only: to identify people who might be a good fit for your product or service. You want to get these people on your remarketing list. (Bonus points if you get their first name and email address!)

Who is a good fit for your product or service? What separates them from the rest of the population?

Who is not a good fit? 

What information can you provide that will be compelling to the first group, while the second group scrolls by without a second thought?

Qualification Funnel

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, answer the following questions.

  1. Where you’ll get your traffic (organic search, paid social, etc.)
  2. Where you’ll send that traffic (blog posts, landing pages, etc.)
  3. How you’ll get their contact information (e.g., downloadable content behind a form)

Traffic Sources

You can use any traffic source you want as long as they make sense when considering your objective. For example, if you use Facebook Ads, you could use broad interest-based targeting.

In the Qualification stage, make sure your ad copy, where you’re sending the traffic, and any content offers would only appeal to people who might be a good fit for your product or service.

Blog Posts​

Blog posts in this stage will be more general interest, but they will only be of interest to people who you want in your funnel.

Content Offers

Simple offers like checklists and top 10 tips are effective at this stage of the game.

Qualification Diagram​

Drawing a simple diagram can help get everything straight in your head so you know what you need to get started.

​Here’s an example of what your diagram might look like if you were a mechanic who specialized in foreign cars:

SaaS Marketing Funnel Qualification Diagram

Since this is the top of the funnel, he’s going to focus on content that is specific enough to only appeal to people who’d be a good fit for his shop.

But he’s also going to make sure it’s broad enough not to exclude anyone who might be interested.

If he’s able to get their contact information at this point, he’s going to follow up with a coupon for an oil change to see if he can’t get them into the shop. If that doesn’t work, he’ll follow-up a few weeks later offering a free inspection.

It’s important to set up marketing automation so that you move people out of your funnels when it’s time (for example, once someone takes advantage of your oil change coupon, you wouldn’t want to send that to them again until they’d actually need another oil change).

Your diagram doesn’t have to look exactly like the one above, but you should sketch something out to make sure you’re covering all your bases.

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In the Awareness stage, your potential customers have a problem. It’s your job to help them understand that problem, its ramifications, and possible solutions.​​

​What problems does your target audience have that are relevant to your product or service?​

Where can you find those people? (Examples: trade shows, Facebook, shopping malls, etc.)

What compelling information can you provide about the problems you solve? (For example, the consequences of not dealing with the problem.)

Awareness Funnel

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, answer the following questions:

  1. Where you’ll get your traffic (organic search, paid social, etc.)
  2. Where you’ll send that traffic (blog posts, landing pages, etc.)
  3. How you’ll get their contact information (e.g., downloadable content behind a form)

​Content Offers

Pretty much any format that works in the Qualification stage should work here, you’ll just want to make sure your content is focused on the problems your potential customers have.

Awareness Diagram​

Here’s an example of a funnel our European car mechanic might use to generate leads in the Awareness stage:

SaaS Marketing Funnel Awareness Diagram

You can see that he’s focusing on a problem, and highlighting the consequences of ignoring that problem. 

Then he’s offering some advice to help his readers take care of their Audis. If they take advantage of that, he’s sending them to a Thank You page offering a free inspection because that’s more relevant to the blog topic than an oil change.

Even if they don’t take advantage of the offer, if you’ve got their contact information and you know they’ve looked at relevant content, it’s good to have emails triggered with related offers from time to time.

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In the Consideration stage, your potential customers are exploring different solutions to their problem. Provide value by helping them better understand their options.

What are some possible solutions to the problem(s) you solve?​

How do the solutions compare to each other? What are the pros and cons of each?​

What sort of information can you provide to help people choose the best option for their needs?​

Consideration Funnel

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, answer the following questions:

  1. Where you’ll get your traffic (organic search, paid social, etc.)
  2. Where you’ll send that traffic (blog posts, landing pages, etc.)
  3. How you’ll get their contact information (e.g., downloadable content behind a form)

Content Offers

Whitepapers, tools, and resource guides are some of the best options for this stage of the buyer’s journey. But ideally, your offers will educate your visitors about the solutions to their problem.

Consideration Diagram​

Is everything starting to make sense? Here’s an example of a Consideration stage funnel:

SaaS Marketing Funnel Consideration Diagram

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In the Decision stage, your potential customer has chosen a category of solution, and they’re looking for the best product or service within that category. Provide honest educational information to help them determine whether or not your offering is a good fit.

Why is your product or service better than competing products or services that solve the same problem in the same way?​

Why is your product or service better than competing products or services that solve the same problem in different ways?

What information can you provide to help people determine whether or not your product or service is the right choice for them?

Decision Funnel

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, answer the following questions:

  1. Where you’ll get your traffic (organic search, paid social, etc.)
  2. Where you’ll send that traffic (blog posts, landing pages, etc.)
  3. How you’ll get their contact information (downloadable content behind a form)

Content Offers

This is a good time to offer a free trial, live demo, or something else that will give them a closer look at your product or service to help them determine if it’s the best fit for them.

Decision Diagram​

SaaS Marketing Sales Funnel Decision Diagram

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Generally, you should focus on the bottom of the funnel first. Find people who are ready to buy and persuade them to buy from you. That’s the fastest way to generate revenue. But that won’t work for every startup. If your product or service solves a problem in a way no one understands yet, there is no one in the bottom of the funnel.

For example, no one is in the market for “savings-as-a-service,” so Vendr has to generate demand for it. And no one is in the market for “automated monitoring for revenue operations,” because they don’t know that’s a thing. So Automaton has to educate its target market.

Right now almost all IT companies use CRMs and PSAs, but there’s work to be done before a project can go from the CRM to PSA.

Right now they’re using Excel and Word to handle the steps in between the two, but that’s not the best way to do it anymore. ScopeStack is.

They’re not searching for alternatives because they don’t know there’s a better way yet, so top- and middle-of-funnel marketing initiatives are critical.

But, unless you have a specific reason not to, you should prioritize the Decision funnel above all else. It’s closest to the bottom of the funnel, which means it will almost always lead to revenue before the other funnels (unless you have less expensive offers along the way). Even if you’re creating a new category, you may be able to piggyback off of demand for other solutions to the problem you solve (e.g., the iPod was a new category, but people were already searching for CD players).

That means:

  • Build your Decision stage funnel first
  • If you only have the budget to send ad traffic to one funnel, it should be your Decision funnel
  • Don’t start building other funnels until you’ve completed your Decision funnel
  • Invest most of your resources in your Decision funnel until you begin to reach a point of diminishing returns ​

Once you’ve got your Decision funnel firing on all cylinders, you should move on to the other funnels in reverse order (i.e., Consideration, Awareness, Qualification).

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