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How A Digital Marketing Funnel Works

When it comes to the marketing and sales process, there are an array of ways to visualize how prospects move through the customer journey. Hubspot recently introduced the “flywheel,” customer journey maps, but perhaps the most common visualization is the funnel. In essence, it looks similar to:

A sales funnel for the digital marketing process. 

While the specific funnel stages might change based on your approach, the concept here is that different digital marketing strategies and tactics are used depending on where prospective customers are at in their journey. You’ll typically see or hear stages broken up into Top of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU).

In this post, we outlined how to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that incorporates this model.

Top of the Funnel

When thinking about the “top of the funnel,” we’re really thinking about how we attract attention and create brand awareness. At this stage of the funnel, we’re simply trying to get in front of the right audience with relevant messaging and/or creative. The typical digital marketing methods employed in this stage are:

  • Content Marketing - Blog posts and other forms of content that are meant to provide relevant information and thought leadership to your target audience.
  • Social Media Marketing - Relevant social content on the right social channels to intrigue and inform your target audience.
  • Digital Advertising - Not all digital advertising is “top of funnel,” but ads focused on creating brand awareness and driving traffic to your site would certainly fit here.

With “top of funnel” marketing, you’re not necessarily focused on selling your products or services yet, you’re more focused on creating awareness of your brand and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry space. You’ll have the opportunity to move these leads to the next stage later.

Measuring Top of Funnel Success

So how do you know if your “top of funnel” digital marketing efforts are working? Here are a few metrics or KPIs that will help you gauge your success:

  • Website Traffic - While total website traffic is not necessarily a great indicator of successful lead generation or sales, it will help you understand if you’re increasing the size of the audience you’re able to reach. Consider taking a closer look at new website visitors at this stage as well.
  • Social Media Audience - Once again, not a great leading indicator of sales/revenue success, but the larger your audience, the more opportunity you have. Social media also gives you a compounding effect, where your audience not only sees your content but can share it with their networks.

Middle of the Funnel

The middle of the funnel is where you really start to narrow this large audience to a more targeted, intent-based audience. When you look at the entirety of your website traffic, social media followers, email subscribers, etc., you’ll find that you have a lot of individuals that aren’t likely to ever do business with you. They interact with you because they like your content or they like your brand. And that’s OK - these individuals still have value, but in the middle of the funnel, we really want to focus on the portion of your audience that is more likely to do business with you.

During this stage, it’s really important to understand the profile of your target audience. Sure, demographics will help, but ultimately you need to know:

  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What questions do they have?
  • What information do they value?

Your goal during this stage will be to generate leads within your target audience. You’ll do this through:

  • Content Marketing - While “top of funnel” content is focused on driving awareness and traffic, “middle of the funnel” content is focused on the questions above. Your success in driving the right traffic will hinge on your ability to understand what information your audience needs. This will come in the form of blog posts, guides, whitepapers, etc.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Knowing what your audience is looking for will inform the content, topic, and keywords that you want to target in search engines. A successful “middle of funnel” SEO approach means that you’re optimizing your website and pages for intent-based keywords that your audience is searching for.
  • Digital Advertising - At the top of the funnel, the goal of digital advertising is more so to build awareness. But at this “consideration” stage, we again want to focus on intent-based advertising. This means paid search campaigns focused on intent-based keywords and social and display campaigns focused on a highly-targeted audience.
  • Marketing Automation - Pulling all of the above tactics together, we want to ensure that we’re driving leads in the middle of the funnel. That means moving our audience from anonymous to known. Using well-built landing pages and gated content paired with marketing automation allows you to exchange your valuable resources for contact information. This will then open up the opportunity for you to nurture these leads as they move through the funnel.

Measuring Middle of Funnel Success

Just as our digital marketing strategy changes as we move through the funnel, our method of measuring success does as well. In the middle of the funnel, we want to ensure that we’re moving our audience from visitors to leads. Here are a few ways to measure success:

  • Lead Generation - Likely the best indicator of success during this stage, you’ll want to quantify how many leads your digital marketing efforts are generating. At the very least, you’ll want to try to capture the email address of leads for follow-up and lead nurturing.
  • Organic Traffic - Looking at overall organic (search) traffic is good, but looking more deeply at traffic being driven to your most important product and service pages is even better.
  • Conversion Rate/Cost Per Conversion - At this stage, you’re going to want to start looking at the conversion rate of each of your different marketing tactics to see what’s working well. Comparing the Cost Per Conversion between different channels can help you make quicker and more agile decisions over time.

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Bottom of the Funnel

The “bottom of the funnel” means that leads are in the decision or conversion stage of their journey. They’re aware of our brand, they’ve likely consumed some of our content, and now they’re likely comparing their options to decide on a solution. In other words, they’re ready to buy.

At this stage, we want to provide individuals with the resources and confidence they need to work with us.

  • Content Marketing - Content plays an important role in each stage of the funnel, but here, we’re likely going to focus on formats like case studies, comparison charts, FAQs, etc. If you can provide the most or best information that a prospective customer needs to make a purchase, you can drastically increase your chances of winning their business.
  • Marketing Automation - If you’ve done a good job of capturing leads in the previous stage, then you’re likely sitting on a goldmine of customer data. You can use marketing automation to “nurture” them through email with the content in the above bullet.
  • Digital Advertising - At each stage, our approach to digital advertising changes. At the top, we’re focused on creating awareness. In the middle, we’re focused on intent and audience. Now, we’re focused on action. One of the best tactics at this stage is retargeting, which allows you to put ads in front of individuals who have already interacted with your brand or website. Focus on individuals who have visited important product or services pages, but haven’t taken action (i.e. filled out a Contact form or made a purchase).

Measuring Bottom of Funnel Success

We’re at the end of the road here, so it’s only fitting that we’re measuring the ultimate success metrics that your business has identified. If you’re in a service-based business, this is most commonly quality lead generation ultimately leading to sales. If you’re in a product-based business, this is most commonly product sales. Here’s how to measure this:

  • Lead Generation - Yes, we’re measuring lead generation in the middle of the funnel, but here we really want to focus on quality and sales conversion rates. We should be generating leads not just interested in content, but interested in doing business. Ideally, a CRM is in place to track the lead as it converts into a sale.
  • Sales - For ecommerce sites, this is as “simple” as tracking ecommerce sales/revenue. Leveraging more in-depth analytics like Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce will allow you to attribute revenue to each digital marketing channel that you’re using.

Getting Started with the Digital Marketing Funnel

Every business’s digital marketing funnel is going to vary naturally. You may utilize slightly different stages and strategies than someone else uses, but the goal is to be able to visualize and understand that your approach shouldn’t be universal. If you’re ready to build a successful digital marketing funnel strategy, reach out to us and our experts will work with you to strategize and implement the right approach for your business.