What is funnel marketing?
Funnel marketing is a phrase used to describe a way of looking at a B2B buyer journey. The idea is that the further along the journey, the fewer people there are. At the top, you may have website visitors and people downloading bits of content, of which there are many. And at the bottom, you will have people taking part in trials and demonstrations, which there are few.
It is a theory that is widely accepted in B2B marketing and it is adapted in many ways to suit different people’s views on how it works in detail. A popular way of segmenting the funnel is using the acronyms ToFu, Mofu & Bofu: Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel and Bottom of Funnel.
What is the ultimate goal of the digital marketing funnel?
The ultimate goal of the digital marketing funnel is to gain new customers through online marketing. The funnel is a framework to build a digital marketing strategy around. Having a framework to work from like the funnel allows you to create a plan for your digital marketing strategy.
How do you build a digital marketing funnel?
Building a digital marketing funnel starts with understanding the different stages of the funnel and producing content and employing tactics for each stage.
Each stage of the funnel requires a slightly different approach as your potential customers are at different stages in their journeys and therefore will have different needs.
What is a full funnel strategy?
A full funnel strategy is when you cast a wide net at the top of the funnel to try and fill it with as many prospects/leads as possible. Although this seems logical it is often the wrong approach to utilizing the funnel, as the priority should be to increase conversion rates from stage to stage first.
What are the stages of the marketing funnel?
There are 3 stages a buyer typically goes through in the basic digital marketing funnel. From top to bottom they are called the awareness, the consideration and the decision stages.
These 3 segments of the digital funnel are also often abbreviated to ToFu, MoFu and BoFu. These acronyms roll off the tongue rather well and are easy to remember, which is probably why they hung around.
ToFu stands for Top of Funnel, MoFu for Middle of Funnel and BoFu, if you hadn’t guessed, stands for Bottom of Funnel.
There are different objectives that align with each stage of the funnel and different types of content required for each too.
How to make the funnel work
Although using the funnel as a framework is a good foundation for your B2B digital marketing strategy, it comes with some caveats, especially when targeting businesses.
Logic dictates that the more traffic you get at the top, the more qualified leads you will get out the bottom, and if you’ve got your strategy right, that is often the case. But, more often than not, companies we come across suffer from a lack of qualified leads, and the problem can stem from the top of the funnel.
When you get a lot of leads but your poor conversion rates, especially the conversion rate between a lead and a qualified lead.
There is often nothing wrong with ranking well for a generic search term and getting lots of traffic from people who will never buy from you. The key is that your calls to action and your proposition are very clear on your website so that people can qualify themselves out.
For example, let’s say you sell accountancy software for large accounting firms, the big 4 perhaps. If your digital marketing strategy means you are ranking highly in Google for “accountancy software” you are going to have great visibility online, and probably loads of traffic too.
Now a lot of the traffic may be from freelancers that are looking for a cheap piece of free software. Not your audience, but not always a bad thing, you get exposure, raise ‘awareness’.
Now bear this in mind, are you running remarketing ads on Google? Are you building lookalike audiences based on website visits? All these elements are affected by visitors to your website who you are not selling to.
What resources are you spending on serving that audience? How much time, money? Could that time spent writing a piece of content about ‘10 free accounting software platforms’ be better spent?
At this point, the counter-argument can still be made that it doesn’t matter that some traffic is irrelevant because you are casting a wide net and you’re bound to catch some big fish, right?
That’s true, but what if you are in a small marketing team in a growing business with a tight marketing budget and need to prove return on investment to your peers? What if you are generating 100 leads a day but only 1 of them is qualified, how is that affecting your ROI figures and what about your sales team, are they wasting hours wading through unqualified leads?
When you run a ‘lean’ marketing operation, being efficient is very important.
Making your digital marketing funnel efficient
The answer to this problem for B2B technology marketing is to make the marketing funnel as efficient as possible. Think of it like changing the funnel shape more into a thin pipe, meaning the drop-off between each stage is small because your conversion rates are higher.
Segmenting your audiences into funnels is a great way to ensure you are serving each audience with the most relevant message. This is essentially why ABM (Account-Based Marketing) has become popular. We know, personalised, specific messaging converts many more leads.
By segmenting your audience into separate ‘funnels’ or ‘pipes’ you can measure the conversion rate for each. Your volumes may be less but you’ll have higher conversion rates.
Achieving this is a bigger issue but it starts with defining what your value proposition, positioning and strategy is and who your ideal clients are, and then defining who the buyer personas within these clients.
Now that’s a lot to take in, probably too much all at once. One thing that runs throughout your marketing though is your content, producing the right content for the right people at the right time will improve your conversion rates and drive more relevant traffic to your website.
Still using the marketing funnel framework we’ll quickly explain the objective of content at each stage.
What is Top of Funnel Content?
At the top of the digital marketing funnel, your main objective for content production is to raise awareness and generate more traffic to your website.
The 2 KPIs for content at this stage are organic website visits and the conversion rate between visits and leads.
The people who interact with your website and it’s content at this stage are the furthest away from becoming a customer. At this awareness stage, buyers are not necessarily looking for a solution or a product, they are looking for answers to generic questions and educational resources.
A typical call to action at this stage would be to download a piece of content so you can capture the prospects details or sign-up to a newsletter. But, as an objective at this stage being simply to raise awareness to your target audience, it can be expected no immediate action to be taken.
If someone is ready to download a piece of content it is always best practice to include call to actions within this content to take people to a piece of MoFu content where the aim facilitates evaluation of products and solutions.
This is about UX design and mapping your user journeys on your website to ensure there is a clear journey for someone to follow if they want to.
Top of funnel content examples
- Blog Posts
- Social Media Posts
- Press Release
- Industry reports
What is middle of funnel content?
The main objective of the middle of the funnel content is to facilitate the evaluation of products or services, not just your own, but your competitors too. You are aiming to convert problem aware and solution aware prospects into leads.
The KPI for content at this stage # of leads generated from gated content.
Content at the middle of the funnel can often be objective and agnostic, you are not yet trying to ‘sell’ your product or service, you are providing useful information to help inform buyers looking at potential solutions to their problem.
A typical call to action at this stage of the funnel would be to download a piece of content from your website.
An example of a piece of middle funnel content would be a download guide on a specific subject for example, a buyers guide that is gated behind a form.
Middle of funnel content examples
- Education resources
- Useful resources
Bottom of funnel Content (BoFu)
Content at the bottom of the marketing funnel is aimed at facilitating conversion, and by conversion, we mean becoming a customer. You are enabling leads to be able to make an informed decision to purchase.
Think about answering all the questions someone has about your product or service through your content.
Content at the bottom of the funnel is about your product and service and why they should choose you. The bottom of funnel content also needs to be specific to individual buying hubs within a business
For example, API documentation for a technical team member, pricing for the main stakeholders and in-depth product videos for the end-users. Think about providing your leads with the information they need to sell it internally.
A typical call to action on the bottom of the funnel content would be to book a demonstration or get in touch.
Bottom of funnel content examples
- Product Demonstration
- In-depth product videos
- Comparison/Specification Sheet
- Case studies & testimonials
Acquiring website traffic
When your main objective is to build awareness and generate more traffic to your website there are 3 popular digital acquisition channels used in B2B technology businesses.
- Organic Search
- Paid Search
- Paid Social
Organic search is when someone finds your website naturally through a search engine. It’s the most popular acquisition channel of the 3 because it is in the cheapest and typically has the highest conversion rates.
SEO is the practice of improving your search engine rankings so you can rank higher and generate more traffic through ‘organic search’. It’s called organic because it’s the user naturally finding your business rather than you going out to advertise to them.
Paid search is a way of acquiring traffic by advertising on search result pages. You’re targeting the same channel (search engines) but paid search typically has a lower conversion rate and higher cost, but, it is much easier than ranking highly organically as you simply out-bid your competition.
Long-Form Content vs Short-Form
My view on this is that the more in-depth the better. The principle is to answer a question better than anyone else and in more detail. There is so much information on the internet short explanations and guides don’t have much of a chance. Quick answers are found in SERP results and quick tutorials can be found on YouTube.
What is Gated Content?
Gated content is when a piece of content is hidden behind something, usually a web form, and the user has to fill in the form to gain access. This is probably the most popular tactic in B2B marketing at this point in time. Why? Well, it works a lot of the time.
If a piece of content is really useful and you spend a lot of time putting it together and it has legitimate value then you are within your rights to hide it behind a form. This is how a lot of publications make their money. There is also an element of scarcity here, is something is hidden behind a form, the perceived value is higher than if it wasn’t.
Producing gated content is another great digital marketing tactic for the top of funnel marketing. It also has the added benefit of building your email list. From this point, you can nurture contacts with more useful content using email drip campaigns (as one example).
The funnel is a simple framework to understand, it’s just more difficult to put in place as it requires a lot of work. If you think you need help with creating an effective digital marketing strategy based on the funnel framework then get in touch.