How to Create a Marketing Funnel Strategy That Will Get You Results
In today’s digital marketing landscape, there is an increasing fixation on lower marketing funnel tactics to drive immediate results and return on investment (ROI). Marketers constantly tweak pay-per-click (PPC) bids, refine email subject lines, and experiment with new lead magnet offers in pursuit of conversions and sales.
But in this obsessive focus on lower-funnel optimization, many neglect foundational brand building and upper-funnel efforts. The problem is that while lower-funnel tactics efficiently deliver customers in the short term, they rely heavily on established brand awareness, familiarity, and consideration. Neglecting ongoing upper-funnel brand building over the long term can erode equity.
It’s essential for modern marketers to recognize that upper and lower funnel efforts actually work symbiotically. When properly aligned and executed in harmony, upper-funnel activities reinforce lower-funnel results and vice versa. This integrated approach accelerates overall growth whether you’re an ecommerce or a SaaS or anything else. These principals work across most verticals to improve leads, mqls and overall customer acquistion..
This comprehensive guide aims to help marketers understand the marketing funnel framework holistically, recognizing how brand building and performance marketing intersect to mutually impact success. We will provide an in-depth examination of:
- The distinct roles and mechanisms of upper and lower funnel efforts
- Why branding (or rebranding) serves as a crucial yet overlooked key player in lead generation
- Strategies and tactics to align branding with performance marketing
- Tools to quantify branding’s impact on the funnel and campaigns
- A practical step-by-step approach to implement an integrated funnel strategy
In addition to explanatory overviews, we’ll share revealing case studies and examples demonstrating these strategies in action. You’ll also gain access to downloadable templates, calculators, and creative guides to immediately apply these methods.
By journey’s end, you’ll have the insights and resources to develop unified campaigns that leverage branding and performance marketing synergistically. The likelihood that your organization will be equipped to execute integrated strategies that accelerate conversions across the entire customer journey will be on track after you read this.
Let’s start by examining the overall marketing funnel to help inform your marketing plan. Understanding the architecture provides context to see how upper and lower efforts either enhance or hinder one another.
Section 1: The Marketing Funnel Explained
The concept of the marketing funnel has become ubiquitous in the world of business, providing a valuable framework for tracking how prospective customers move through stages from initial awareness towards becoming loyal, repeat buyers.
It serves as a model of the buyer journey, depicting how marketing and sales efforts attract consumers, convert them to leads, close them into customers, and foster loyalty. The funnel metaphorically captures how a wide pool of prospects narrows at each successive marketing funnel stage.
While simplistic linear funnels are giving way to more cyclical models in recognition of multi-touch journeys, the core framework remains indispensable for aligning go-to-market strategies. It informs everything from messaging to channel selection.
Understanding the Funnel – tofu, mofu, bofu
At its most basic, the content marketing funnel is divided into 3 core stages representing shifting consumer mindsets:
Upper Funnel: Focused on awareness
This wide tofu funnel strategy encompasses anything meant to drive awareness of and familiarity with your brand, products, and services. Prospects are not yet in buying mode but become aware that you exist.
Middle Funnel: or “mofu” Focused on consideration
As consumers actively research solutions to serve their needs, you aim to place your brand on their shortlist for consideration. They form initial opinions by comparing options.
Lower Funnel: or “bofu” Focused on conversion
When a prospect is ready to buy, your efforts focus on persuading them to choose your product and complete the purchase. This bottom funnel drives lead generation and sales conversion.
To visualize these distinct stages, here is a classic representation of the marketing funnel:
[Image of marketing funnel model]
Marketing funnels are commonly based on the ‘AIDA’ model:
- A wareness
- I nterest
- D esire
- A ction
But you can simplify the funnel into a three-stage model:
- Top of the funnel (TOFU): awareness stage
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU): consideration stage
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): conversion stage
While simple, this framework helps contextualize how and when consumers engage with your brand. But in reality, customer journeys are far messier than this linear approach.
Prospects continually cycle through these phases in a nonlinear fashion as they research products over time. Brand touchpoints across channels influence their progress.
As an example, this model from Digital Marketer more accurately reflects the iterative customer funnel:
[Image of circular style marketing funnel]
This cyclical visualization represents how consumers continually loop between phases. Someone in the loyalty stage may still rotate back into research mode when evaluating new purchases.
Still, the basic marketing funnel metrics remain a crucial part of structuring strategies. Let’s examine the activities and metrics associated with upper and lower portions of the funnel.
The upper funnel focuses on elevating brand awareness, affinity, and consideration among target audiences who may eventually have interest in purchasing from you. Efforts here aim to attract an audience and get your brand on their radar early on.
Examples of Upper-Funnel Activities
- Brand advertising (TV, out-of-home, radio, print)
- Content marketing (blog, social media, videos)
- Public relations
- Event marketing
- Market research
- Website visitors
Role of Upper Funnel
While upper-funnel activities may not directly generate leads, they play an invaluable role in positioning your brand to attract consumers further down the line. Key functions include:
- Informing potential consumers that your brand exists
- Educating them on your capabilities, values, purpose
- Generating interest and establishing credibility
- Getting audiences thinking about and building affinity for your brand
- Priming prospects so that when they eventually enter the market for your products, you are top of mind
Upper Funnel Metrics
Because the upper funnel focuses on awareness and affinity, key performance indicators (KPIs) include:
- Brand awareness (% of target audience familiar with brand)
- Brand favorability (Net Promoter Score)
- Content engagement (blog subscribers, social actions, video views)
- Web traffic (unique visitors, repeat visit rate)
- Audience reach (impressions, inquiries)
Robust upper funnel efforts pay dividends when consumers later enter the market, as your brand has an established presence. Now let’s explore the lower funnel.
While the upper funnel concentrates on brand presence, the lower funnel focuses sales conversion – triggering a direct, measurable purchase action from consumers already in market for your offerings. The emphasis shifts from impressions to conversions.
Examples of Lower-Funnel Activities:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Lead generation offers (webinars, coupon codes, content downloads)
- Email marketing
- Retargeting campaigns
- Sales emails and calls-to-action (CTAs)
Role of the Lower Funnel
Lower-funnel efforts are laser-focused on persuading prospects ready to buy to choose your brand over alternatives and complete the purchase.
- Captures consumer interest as they research solutions online
- Positions your brand as the superior go-to-market leader
- Drives leads by enticing direct response
- Guides prospects through the sales funnel to conversion
- Maximizes customer lifetime value through cross-sell/upsell
Lower Funnel Metrics:
Because the lower funnel concentrates on conversions, key performance indicators include:
- Sales revenue
- Lead volume
- Cost per lead
- Conversion rate (% prospects converted to sale)
- Keyword rankings (for SEO)
- ROI (return on lower funnel ad spend)
While lower-funnel activities are naturally better at generating measurable conversions in the short term, they rely heavily on established upper-funnel brand equity. The two work together in synergy, with brand building setting the stage for lead generation.
This interplay is essential to understand yet often neglected, leading to imbalanced strategies. Let’s explore this in more detail.
Section 2: The Impact of Branding on Lead Generation
Given the clear division between upper and lower funnel focuses, many organizations take a bifurcated approach to brand building versus lead generation.
Upper-funnel brand teams concentrate on creating awareness funnels and engagement campaigns, viewing sales outcomes as secondary. Meanwhile lower-funnel product and performance marketing teams fixate on driving ROI through lead gen and sales conversions.
But isolating these efforts in strategic and organizational silos overlooks their inherent interconnectedness. While sometimes obscured, branding plays a significant role influencing conversion rates further down the funnel.
Branding as a Key Player
Many organizations under-invest in ongoing upper-funnel brand building compared to lower-funnel demand generation out of a desire to demonstrate definitive ROI. Marketing budgets concentrate on sales qualified lead (SQL) producing activities.
However, this narrow focus on lower-funnel conversions neglects the substantial influence brand building has on purchase decisions and sales success.
Even when not actively in-market, prospects continually form impressions of your brand through passive touchpoints like advertising, editorial content, social media, and word-of-mouth. This upper-funnel brand building shapes opinions, consideration, and willingness to buy down the line. More importantly, it makes sure you hit your sales goal, or helps you with your exits if you’re a startup.
Let’s examine branding’s impact on purchases through both direct and indirect mechanisms.
How Branding Influences Upper-Funnel Actions
While difficult to quantify precisely, a strong brand presence shapes upper-funnel activities in ways that enhance awareness-building efforts:
Brand Strength Enables Efficient Reach
Heavily marketed major brands like Coca-Cola require relatively minimal spend to get their messaging and products in front of massive audiences. Even brief TV or social media advertising rapidly generates impressions thanks to pre-existing brand familiarity and affinity built over decades.
In contrast, small unknown brands need astronomical budgets just to carve out even basic awareness and consideration against competitors. Their messaging lacks mental footholds without established familiarity and goodwill.
For example, upstart athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices competes against market dominators like Nike and Adidas. The larger brands achieve broadly impactful reach with a fraction of marketing spend thanks to existing brand ubiquity.
Strong Brands Attract Earned Media
Familiar, beloved brands also earn substantial free exposure through editorial coverage, user sharing, and word-of-mouth buzz. Audiences actively promote brands they connect with.
During the 2022 Super Bowl, major brands like Pepsi and Avocados from Mexico generated millions in free social impressions as audiences organically discussed and shared their commercials. This significantly extended reach beyond paid media placement.
Smaller brands cannot activate similar organic promotion without strong branding and creative.
Built Trust Improves Audience Receptivity
When audiences have existing awareness of and goodwill towards brands, they become more receptive to messaging. Exposure feels less like interruption and more like value-add engagement.
Imagine a longtime iPhone user casually browsing Apple’s latest device announcements on social media versus interrupting ads from an unknown tech brand. Existing rapport primes audiences for inbound marketing.
Overall, established brand recognition enhances upper-funnel building blocks, while unknown brands struggle for consumer mindshare. Now let’s look at direct lower-funnel advantages.
How Branding Translates Into Lower-Funnel Performance
Beyond upper-funnel influence, brand building provides tangible conversion rate boosts further down the funnel through:
Strong Brands Enjoy Higher Conversion Rates
Extensive research shows that buyers are significantly more likely to purchase from and repurchase familiar, reputable brands compared to generic or unknown competitors. Familiarity breeds preference.
According to Forrester, brands ranking highest in familiarity convert sales at 2x the rate of brands with lower familiarity scores. Their brand recognition earns incremental revenue.
When consumers know and trust your brand coming into the buying process, you already have a leg up on competitors fighting just for awareness.
Brand Affinity Drives Long-Term Loyalty
Positive brand sentiment also pays dividends by driving loyalty and retention over time. Satisfied buyers inclined towards your brand will stay customers for longer and have higher lifetime value.
Software company HubSpot leverages brand surveys to quantify this halo effect. They consistently show that customers with the highest brand affinity purchase 2-3x more over their lifetime.
By building an emotional connection beyond transactions, established brands cultivate customer retention versus endless churn and re-acquisition costs.
In summary, branding indirectly boosts lead generation and conversions by priming upper-funnel recognition and affinity. It greases the wheels to build familiarity so that lower-funnel efforts gain traction.
And stronger branding directly boosts conversion rates by making audiences more receptive to your lower-funnel outreach and messaging. Brand cachet pulls buyers towards preference.
Overall, brand building fuels sales growth. But quantifying these diffuse effects precisely remains challenging. This leads us to our next section covering measurement effectiveness of tactics.
The Secret Ingredient
Think of branding as the special sauce bringing together all aspects of the marketing meal – it provides a invaluable yet hard to isolate flavor profile improving the overall experience. No small feat.
Creative brand building enhances individual funnel efforts, making marketing campaigns add up to more than the sum of their parts. As covered above, brand familiarity and equity lift conversion rates at every stage from top to bottom.
Trying to substitute more aggressive lower-funnel conversions for foundational branding often proves ineffective. Without brand awareness and trust, the marketing meal feels hollow and incomplete.
That’s why an integrated, full-funnel strategy recognizes branding as a secret ingredient that unifies and improves both upper and lower efforts. Keep this metaphor in mind as we explore measurement tactics to quantify branding’s impact. Google analytics has updated their free platform but you should still find it useful and should help you take out the guesswork.
Section 3: Challenges in Measuring Brand Impact
While the interconnected influence of branding on the funnel is clear conceptually, quantifying real-world effects presents complexity. But difficulty measuring impact should not negate the significance of brand building.
Pinpointing the Secret Ingredient
Think of upper-funnel brand building as a subtle flavor enhancer like saffron threads. It permeates the entire dish, influencing overall taste for the better. But good luck trying to scientifically isolate the nuanced impact of that one ingredient within a complex recipe.
Measurement difficulty does not negate your knowledge that the savory, aromatic saffron improves the meal when used properly. You may not be able to decrypt its exact flavor chemistry, but you trust its positive influence.
Branding similarly permeates the full marketing mix, enhancing campaigns through increased awareness, familiarity, and sentiment. Concrete attribution remains challenging. But that does not diminish branding’s critical role in engaging audiences.
Sometimes you have to trust the recipe and your taste buds even if the chemistry eludes you. Next let’s explore measurement tactics that can at least provide directional guidance.
Section 4: Strategies for Success
Despite difficulties quantifying the precise impact of branding on conversions, marketers can still take proactive steps to measure effects and align efforts to maximize synergy.
Aligning Branding with Performance Marketing
While the relationship between branding and lead generation has nuances, let’s get back to basics because strategic initiatives can better integrate the two forces:
Ensure Brand Consistency Across Efforts
A fragmented brand identity dilutes impact, while unified messaging and experiences boost cohesion between funnels. Maintain alignment across channels.
Leverage Performance Channels for Brand Messaging
With traditional brand media declining, leverage digital platforms like paid search and social ads for upper-funnel brand awareness and storytelling.
Promote Branded Content Assets Via Lower-Funnel Efforts
Distribute upper-funnel brand content offers like ebooks and webinars through lower-funnel outreach and ads to nurture prospects.
Compare Branded vs. Non-Branded Keyword Conversions
Measure search traffic and conversion differences between your brand name keywords (branded queries) and generic keywords (non-branded) to quantify brand impact. Your target keywords should be more about long tail, unless you have a massive site with 10+ years of SERP history.
Survey Customers on Brand Influence
Ask customers directly during surveys and interviews how brand familiarity shaped their purchasing decisions to approximate influence.
Shift Some Lower-Funnel Spend to Upper-Funnel Brand Building
Dynamically shift some budget from lower-funnel efforts during sales lulls and lean seasons into upper-funnel brand building for future payoff.
No singular strategy integrates branding with demand generation. But these examples demonstrate tangible initiatives to better synergize efforts and confirm impact. Now let’s explore measurement tools.
Measurement Tools and Frameworks
Sophisticated attribution models can at least roughly quantify how branding contributes to conversion success:
Brand Lift Surveys
Probe target audiences exposed to upper-funnel brand marketing vs. a control on brand familiarity, consideration, and favorability. Lift demonstrates branding impact.
Marketing Mix Modeling
Sophisticated statistical modeling isolates the sales impact driven by branding factors vs. other initiatives like promotions. This approximates attribution.
Brand Equity Studies
Survey consumers to benchmark and track brand sentiment and associations. Favorability maps to conversion influence.
Brand Halo Effect Analysis
Calculate if customers with the highest brand affinity convert, repurchase, and spend more, illuminating branding’s conversion “halo”.
Lifetime Value Models
Analyze which acquired customers deliver the greatest lifetime value. High LTV aligns to strong branding.
Map prospect journeys across multiple channels and inputs to uncover the influence of branding engagements.
Brand Share of Voice Monitoring
Unless you’re a Fortune 500 sized company, rather than measure share of voice (SOV), measure share of traffic in digital media against competitors to quantify brand visibility and awareness levels.
Brand Keyword Bid Modeling
Build models estimating the minimum bids required for branded keywords to appear highly in search, revealing the monetary value of brand equity.
Brand Website Traffic Sources
Analyze website traffic sources to determine the portion of visits driven by branded online presence versus lower-funnel marketing efforts.
Audience Age Analysis
Evaluate website visitors and purchasers by age cohorts to assess the impact of long term brand familiarity on goal conversions. Older cohorts enjoy more cumulative branding.
Econometric Market Models
Build statistical models analyzing longitudinal market data to isolate the sales impact of increased branding investment over time.
While no perfect full-funnel attribution solution exists, these quantified frameworks can at least partially demonstrate branding’s amplification effects when properly leveraged. With refined analytics measurement, branding moves beyond a “feel good” expense to an investment with traceable returns.
Now let’s switch gears to outline actionable steps for implementation.
Section 5: A Practical Step-by-Step Approach
We’ve covered a lot of conceptual ground explaining the interconnected marketing funnel. Now let’s distill key frameworks into a practical approach for implementation:
Step 1: Map Your Current Funnel
Start by analyzing the current marketing funnel. Identify efforts and metrics associated with reach, branding, conversions, and retention. Look for imbalances or gaps.
Which activities focus on long term brand building versus short term conversion? How do you track brand impact on revenue? Identify strengths and disconnects in the current funnel and datasets.
Step 2: Set Core Brand Strategy
Refresh core brand messaging and positioning if needed. Defining who you are and what you stand for grounds marketing and sales efforts.
Clear brand strategy aligns team efforts and informs creative. Rally stakeholders around brand narratives to avoid fragmentation.
Step 3: Understand Your Audience
Conduct in-depth buyer personas, spanning demographics, psychographics, heatmaps, needs, and media consumption habits to resolve intent.
These insights tailor messaging and guide channel selection across the funnel to improve resonance. Deepen persona understanding over time.
Step 4: Map Optimal Funnel Strategy
Given your brand platform and audience insights, chart an ideal integrated funnel that aligns upper and lower efforts synergistically.
Identify desired channels, messaging, and metrics across awareness, consideration, and conversion phases. This strategy informs resource allocation and creative.
Step 5: Build Upper Funnel Brand Assets
Develop upper-funnel assets like content, social campaigns, and ads focused on engaging audiences without immediate conversion expectations.
Prioritize branding while aligning narratives and experiences to brand strategy for continuity. Support branded content with upper-funnel media budget.
**Step 6: Nurture Prospects into Lower Funnel **
Create seamless experiences guiding upper-funnel prospects into lead gen when ready. Repurpose brand content into offers, promote via retargeting.
Tightly integrate upper and lower funnel teams to collaborate on calibrated customer journeys. Reduce friction and leaks through cross-functional workflows.
Step 7: Track Performance Holistically
Avoid vanity metrics. Define full-funnel KPI dashboards spanning awareness, brand equity, conversions, and LTV.
Build cross-channel attribution models quantifying how branding boosts downstream sales. Continuously refine strategies based on data signals.
With this integrated, metrics-driven approach, companies align disjointed efforts into cohesive funnel strategies that accelerate traction. But execution takes experience. Seeking professional assistance is recommended.
Conclusion and Next Steps
In today’s fragmented marketplace, brands must transcend outdated divisions between brand building and demand generation. These functions work symbiotically, not in isolation.
When properly aligned, upper and lower funnel efforts reinforce each other to drive more powerful marketing results than either can achieve independently. But outdated silos and assumptions often prevent unification.
The truly modern marketer must recognize the need for integrated strategies. Brand and performance teams should collaborate to ensure consistent messaging and optimized budget allocations. Missteps like overly neglecting or fixating on either sphere can undermine success.
But integration is complex. No singular recipe guarantees an ideal blend – approaches must be tailored over time based on market conditions, budget, and business goals.
Hopefully this comprehensive guide has provided a more nuanced perspective along with actionable strategies to help fuse brand building with performance marketing.
We recommend that most organizations engage professional assistance to audit their current marketing funnel strategy, integrate upper and lower efforts, and quantify the business impact of increased branding investment. Our team brings decades of experience in data-driven integrated funnel optimization.
Let’s Meet Over Virtual Coffee
If you’d like to meet with one of our marketing strategists to discuss your current funnels strengths and pain points, simply click the link below to schedule a free consultation. Come hungry – the coffee’s on us!
We’ll review your situation, identify optimization opportunities, and provide strategic recommendations to align your funnel steps for increased growth. By working together, branding agency services can ensure your marketing strategy leverages the power of integrated branding and performance marketing firing on all cylinders.
Reach out today to maximize results and avoid leaving marketing outcomes to chance. We look forward to helping you capitalize on the interconnected funnel and don’t forget to join our newsletter!
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