When I talk to my clients about running ads on Facebook, I typically get one or two of the same objections over and over again. People think that they’re either too expensive, or that they just plain don’t work. This can be true, but you can decrease the likelihood of either happening if your ads are created to be as relevant as possible to the users who you’re targeting.

Relevance, after all, will make a night-and-day difference between the kind of results you get. It can even directly affect your cost per click or cost per action, because the more clicks and engagement your ad gets, the higher your relevance score goes. And the higher your relevance score is, the less your CPC will be.

While targeting based on things like demographic, location, and use case matter, creating ads based on the users’ stage in the digital sales funnel is also important. In this post we’re going to go over the digital sales funnel, why you need to create ads for each stage, and how exactly you can do so.

What is the Digital Sales Funnel?

When you see an ad for a new brand for the first time, are you likely to buy right away? Probably not. If you’re a long-time customer seeing an ad for a new product from a brand you love, however, you’re a lot more likely to purchase without even a second thought. This is because you’re much further along in the digital sales funnel in the second scenario.

The digital sales funnel consists of different stages, each of which can tell you where the customer is in their buying journey and what their relationship with your brand is. Depending on who you ask, you might find four or five or six different stages of the digital sales funnel, but my favorite model that I use includes the following stages:

  • Awareness. Users in this stage of the funnel have just discovered your brand, whether through a Facebook Ad or word-of-mouth marketing or a Google search. They typically don’t trust you, and they’re not familiar with you.
  • Research/Consideration. During this stage of the sales funnel, users are interested in purchasing, but they aren’t ready to do so. They may still be looking for reviews (especially UGC reviews) and checking out competing products before they’re ready to take the plunge.
  • Purchase. Customers are ready to purchase, and they’ll convert for the first time– all they need is a little push.
  • Loyalty/Advocacy. These are sometimes broken down into two different stages, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll keep it at one for this funnel. In this stage, users have not only purchased, but they’ve selected you as their preferred brand. They’re likely to come to you to purchase without researching the competition, and they either have already told their friends about you, or they’d be willing to do so.

Creating Facebook Ads for Every Stage of the Sales Funnel

You need to consider where your audience will be in the digital sales funnel when they see your ad. If you’re retargeting to past customers, they’re likely in the loyalty stage, though it’s possible to run re-engagement campaigns on customers who have fallen back to the awareness stage if it’s been awhile.

Think of it like dating. You’re not going to greet someone with a kiss on the lips if you’re on a first date, but you likely would if you’d been in a relationship for awhile. Similarly, you don’t want to start talking kids or marriage or dropping I-love-you bombs on the first date; that should take more time. Knowing where you are in the relationship can directly affect whether or not the relationship will continue to move forward. The same is true for Facebook Ads.

Let’s take a look at a couple specific strategies you can use to cater to users at all stages of the buyer’s journey, effectively creating a Facebook Ads digital sales funnel to nurture them through.


Ads that are delivered to cold audiences should focus purely on building brand awareness and slowly introducing viewers to your brand. Now really isn’t the time for a lead ad or a hard sell; discounts at this stage aren’t really effective, but a quick ad (text or video) introducing users to the concept of your brand or product is a good way to go. Think a “Learn More” CTA instead of a “Shop Now.”

Facebook Ads digital sales funnel

This ad does an excellent job explaining the product quickly but it doesn’t focus on aggressive conversions.

A favorite strategy of mine is to use a video ad at this stage, and then retarget users who watched at least half of the ad in a campaign designed to encourage them to enter into the next stage of the funnel. Thanks to incredible tools like Shakr, you can quickly make high quality videos in just a few minutes that will serve this purpose well.

Research & Consideration

Users at this stage of the funnel are a little more interested in hearing what you have to offer, because they’re already familiar with you. This is an excellent time to run a lead ad campaign, especially if you can retarget users who interacted with that first ad.

If possible, run your lead ad with a valuable incentive in place to entice users to take this first conversion. You could, for example, offer a free class or access to an ebook or webinar. This gives you a way to share more information about your product with the potential customer and provide a valuable relationship-building opportunity as you continue communication both on and off platform.


Users at this stage have likely checked out your site and may have messaged you on Facebook. It’s time to run a retargeting campaign based on different on and off platform activities (like site visits or on-platform engagement) to encourage purchasing.

Your best bet here is to offer a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for customers. Things like discounts, free shipping, money-back guarantees, and free returns all let users know that not only do you stand behind your product, but if they hate it they’re not out an arm and a leg. It lets them try your product without a lot of risk on their part, which is the best way to get that conversion.

Loyalty & Advocacy

At the loyalty and advocacy stages, the goal will be on building that relationship and encouraging repeat purchases, preferably of higher value like your premium products. You can also try to encourage users to become affiliates or join a referral program. Both of these plays can benefit your business.

What you definitely want to do, either way, is utilize what you know about your customers during these campaigns. Use heavy retargeting based on custom audiences and site activity to make sure you’re showing the right ads (and products) to the right people. I, for example, have purchased a floral card from Love Pop before, so it wasn’t much of a surprise I saw this ad:

When possible, you can mention loyalty discounts and loyalty programs for “platinum” or “gold” members. Give them “private access” to sales before everyone else and advertise it with a sale. The exclusivity will be just as effective as actual money off.

Final Thoughts

Having a strong understanding of your audience will make all the difference in how well your ads are received, and a big part of that depends heavily on understanding their current relationship with you. Creating a strong Facebook Ads digital sales funnel with ads designed to appeal to users at every stage will make your campaigns more effective and get you significantly more results. You’ll be able to help nurture customers along the buying journey instead of hoping they don’t get stuck.

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Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter is a business writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at anagotter.com.

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