While in New York I get to sit on many sales calls. One of the words that I hear most often is the word funnel and I think it would do engineers good to know what it means in the context of marketing.
Acquiring a new customer can be well modeled by a concept of a funnel. At the top of the funnel are customers who are only starting to learn about the goods and services you have to offer. The main goal of marketing in this stage of the funnel is to get customer's attention and to make them aware of your offering, so that they hopefully move down to the middle of the funnel and start showing interest in your specific products and services. Once a potential customer understand his or her problems and see how you can help him or her solve them, it is the role of the marketing to get potential customer to make a decision and move further down the purchase funnel. At the bottom of the purchase funnel lies action, that is, a customer opening his or her wallet and exchanging money for goods or services of the vendor, which is the ultimate goal of the purchase funnel.
To make remembering stages of a purchase funnel marketeers coined term AIDA which is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action, besides being a famous opera by Guiseppe Verdi. If you understand AIDA, you understand purchase funnel, and consequently you understand marketing, as marketing is nothing else but a series of steps and activities to bring together the customer in need of products and services and a vendor providing them.