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What Is a Digital Marketing Funnel? Skip to content

What Is a Digital Marketing Funnel?

All marketing and sales is a numbers game. 

If you reach a large enough pool of people, you’ll eventually find the subset of those who might be interested in what you have to sell, and from there you’ll find those who are ready to make a purchase. 

With infinite time and money, you can swim in a pretty deep pool.

But the marketing game doesn’t have infinite anything. You want to find your ideal customer and be there when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. 

The digital marketing funnel helps potential customers find your business and get to know you long before they’re ready to hear a sales pitch. You’d never go from a first date to a marriage proposal overnight. In the same way, a digital marketing funnel helps warm up new prospects, so that “I do” is practically a forgone conclusion on the big day.

What is a Digital Marketing Funnel?

Any marketing funnel is a means of cultivating prospects so that you have a steady supply of customers ready to make a purchasing decision at any given time. 

In a digital marketing funnel, you use a variety of digital marketing tools to help educate individuals, create familiarity with your brand, and convince customers your solutions are the ones they need and keep them engaged long after they make their first purchase. 

There are three main stages of the digital marketing funnel:

Top Funnel Marketing

Top funnel marketing is where most customers will first encounter you and your brand.

This might be as a result of a Google search if you’ve got strong search engine optimization or through paid placement like a social media ad. It could also be something like one of your staff appearing on a podcast, or offering up a free webinar or a white paper.

In top funnel marketing, the goal is engagement. It’s not time to be actively selling a product or service. You want to share your brand voice, whether that be knowledgeable, trustworthy, innovative or quirky.

Think of it like a first date, or kicking tires at the car dealership. Everyone is feeling each other out, without committing long term.

One of the big goals of top funnel marketing is finding ways to connect with prospective customers in the future.

Whether that’s getting them to follow you on social media, or having them give an email address in exchange for a webinar registration, if you’ve done your targeting properly, you want to keep in touch with people who are ready to move farther down the funnel.

Middle Funnel Marketing

So much of marketing is about timing. People often do online research as a preliminary step long before they’re ready to make a purchase decision.

Those of you working in industries with long sales cycles know how important it is to stay top of mind even if the customer won’t be ready to sign on the dotted line for months or even years.

Middle funnel marketing is about continuing to build a relationship with prospective customers.

Like dating or a job interview, this process goes both ways. They get to know what you have to offer and why you’ll be the best choice when they’re ready to make a decision, and you get to know their problems and pain points so you can further tailor your messaging and direct them to the product or service that will be the best fit in the future.

Email marketing is often one of the key ways to keep people engaged in the middle of the marketing funnel. Unlike social media marketing, where ever-changing algorithms mean you can’t guarantee on any given day that followers will see your latest post or announcement, email marketing gets you into the inbox that business people check every day.

But just like in top of funnel marketing, now isn’t the time to go in for the hard sell. You can make product announcements, or share case studies so customers become more confident in you and your brand. Just remember that the people in this phase of the funnel still aren’t ready to commit.

You want to be memorable without being pushy.

Bottom Funnel Marketing

So you went out on that first date. Then you went on a few more. You’re spending more time together and feeling really comfortable with each other. Maybe they’ve even reached out to you a few times with questions or requests for more information.

The bottom of the funnel is about sealing the deal.

If you’ve followed the steps of the marketing funnel properly, you know who the people at the bottom of the funnel are, what they’re looking for, what obstacles they face, and what they need to know before they can make a commitment.

Maybe it’s time to offer a free trial. Or connect them with your sales staff to take a deep dive into the product. The key is the customer wants your product. They believe it can provide the solutions they’re looking for, they just need to understand how it will integrate with the systems they already have, or what can be built to meet their budget.

But bottom funnel marketing doesn’t stop once the sale is closed.

 You know it’s easier to sell to customers you already have, rather than starting at the top of the funnel all over again. You want to retain existing customers by continuing to add value.

 Setting your customer up for success means they’re more likely to upgrade what they’ve already purchased, or add more licenses, or recommend you to other contacts in the industry.

At the end of the day, bottom funnel marketing is about building community. New clients want to be part of the community, and existing ones continue to find value by being part of it.

 You can offer members-only exclusive advantages, online masterminds so that customers can network with each other, or offer white papers that give insights into new developments with your customers’ industry.

How to Build Your Digital Marketing Funnel

Building a digital marketing funnel for your B2B product and service offerings needs a concerted strategy and continual improvement.

Not everyone’s funnel will look the same, but if we had to make some broad recommendations, they would be these:

  1. Be as specific as possible from the beginning. While the top of the marketing funnel may feel very broad, knowing who you’re targeting, what industry they’re from, what level of the decision-making process they work at, and what your ultimate goal for them is will mean you can most accurately gauge the success of your funnel.
  2. Designate responsibility at each phase of the funnel. Top of funnel activities are often easy to set up, but they’re also pretty passive. Once someone has signed up for your newsletter or attended your webinar, what happens next? Do they get moved to an email drip campaign? Does your sales team make a follow up call? Having defined goals and responsibilities helps you better quantify engagement and conversions.
  3. Be prepared to change. Once someone is in your digital marketing funnel, what happens if they don’t engage? If they’ve received a half dozen emails and haven’t clicked on a single link, is the problem with the prospect or the email? Be prepared to rework the messaging in your funnel so it resonates with the reader.
  4. Call in the experts. Whether you’re just starting and want to make sure you’re building high-quality collateral, or you’ve launched your funnel and it’s not delivering the way you hoped, outside help can be instrumental in your long-term success. A digital marketing agency brings expertise to build a well-defined digital marketing funnel strategy, or audit your funnel to help identify what part isn’t working.

Successfully acquiring new customers and keeping them in your community is always a question of time and money.

A properly-built digital marketing funnel with well-defined goals and metrics will save you both in the end. You’ll spend less time looking for new customers, and less money on things like digital ads targeted to the wrong people.

To get started on the right foot (or restart with an increased chance of success), talk to a digital marketing expert at Sparked Digital today.

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