What are relationship funnels in marketing?

A relationship funnel in digital / content marketing is a strategy to build a relationship with a potential customer through a series of carefully structured content.

The funnel is a metaphorical representation of the customer journey, which begins with awareness of a product or service (or the largest part of a funnel where we pour into), progresses to interest and consideration (middle of the funnel), and ultimately, the intended action(s).

Most people talk specifically about the sales funnel but this is like asking someone to marry you as soon as you meet them. It’s going to be a ‘NO’ every time and if someone actually does say ‘yes’, you know it’s not going to work out.

In the past, people weren’t really aware they had choices and brands got away with talking “at” them.

Promotional content went like this:

  1. Here’s a bathroom cleaner…
  2. It stops mildew from growing in your bathroom.
  3. Buy it!

…and you did because there weren’t many choices. Sales funnels work when you have very little to no competition.

Relationship funnels work differently. It’s you letting people know that you’re aware they have choices and that’s why instead of being like everyone else, you’re different. You’re better. You took the time to see their unique situation, understand their challenges, create solutions to their challenges, and that you’re already solving these exact problems for a bunch of people just like them.

Basically, the relationship funnel involves creating content at each stage of your reader’s journey that’s designed to engage and educate them, building a relationship and trust.

This content can be blog posts (easiest to do), social media posts (great reach but you’re limited by length and restrictions on linking), email newsletters (you need a fairly big email list so start working on building one ASAP), webinars (time consuming, requires specialized skills and tools, and quite expensive), and ebooks (you have time to write one that’s actually good?).

At the top of the funnel, the focus is on creating content that attracts potential customers and builds awareness of the brand or product. As prospects move down the funnel, the content becomes more targeted and specific to their needs and interests, helping to convert them into customers.


The relationship funnel is a powerful tool because it allows you to engage with potential customers in a meaningful way, resonating with them and building trust and credibility.

By providing valuable content that educates and informs prospects, you’re positioning your brand as a trusted authority, making it so prospects choose your products and services when they’re ready to make purchase decisions.