The Marketing Funnel: How to Drive Success with Your Digital Strategy

When it comes to marketing strategy, it can be easy to stray off track with your marketing goals. Understanding the marketing funnel can keep you on course with maintaining a rhyme & reason for your efforts, while also keeping realistic goals in check.
Let’s rewind a bit, go back to the basics – and break down why this theory is vital to your digital marketing success.


What is the Marketing Funnel?
In simple terms, the funnel can be defined as merely a theory. It explains how, when, & why your audiences might convert into customers – starting from when leads are first introduced to your brand, all the way to their loyalty to you as a valued customer.

marketing-funnelThere is a multitude of variations of the funnel, however, we’ll use the basics for starters. These phases can be summarized in just a few words: See > Think > Do > Care.


There are 4 phases of the Marketing Funnel: Brand Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Loyalty & Advocacy

Why is this important?

Think of how you might go about selling a product or service to someone in person. You’d likely start with a friendly introduction, explain who you are and what you’re selling, then ease your way into some more aggressive sales tactics.
To put it simply – you probably wouldn’t run directly up to a stranger and forcefully demand they make a purchase. 
When it comes to digital advertising & social media marketing, it can be easy to forget this sales process. You’re behind a screen after all; the experience is entirely depersonalized. You might feel high pressure to introduce yourself, sell your product, and drive action – in one split second and with one ad.
The reality? It’s going to take a bit longer than that. 75% of B2B companies can take up to 4 months to acquire a new customer, so you might not always see an immediate return on your advertising. (Source)
To gain a better understanding of your purchase cycle, here’s a key question to ask yourself:
  • Am I selling a product/service people will invest in on a whim or impulse?
If you answered no, odds are your customers have a lengthy purchase cycle. They need sufficient time to do their research on you, and they’ll likely need to interact with your brand more than once.
The marketing funnel better defines this process so you aren’t just running ads and posting to social just for the sake of doing so. It puts a purpose & mission behind every move you make with your digital strategy while helping you maintain realistic goals. 

Some brands’ customers have a lengthier purchase cycle than others. The Marketing Funnel teaches us how to convert leads into customers from when they are first introduced to your brand.




Phase 1: Brand Awareness

At this phase, assume your audience has no idea who you are. They’ve never seen your brand, your logo – nothing. You might even be catching them at a time that they aren’t ready to purchase. That’s okay. All in good time. Your focus here is to establish your brand, and help people to see you.
We’re from Illinois, so we’ll touch base with our agricultural roots and use farming as a nice analogy here. You’re not focusing on harvesting & selling your crops at this phase. You’re planting the seeds to ensure you have plenty of crops to harvest later on down the road. 

Your Message
This is your introduction to the world, and first impressions are crucial. What do you want your audience to remember most about you right now?

Answer: you just want them to remember you. 
  • Hit heavy on branding.
  • Make sure your logo and brand elements are strongly represented.
  • Focus on storytelling around your brand.
  • Entice users to learn more about who you are. Drive them to your website to gain more information.
  • Avoid any aggressive selling.



Your Audience
It is a funnel, after all, so your audience at this phase should be fairly broad. Cast a wide net of potential customers and narrow it down as you move along.

  • Create an ideal customer profile.
  • Target ads based on the demographics and interests of that customer profile.
  • If you’re focusing on search engine ads, use broad keywords.



Your Objectives
As long as your audience is noticing your brand at this phase, your efforts are serving their purpose. If you didn’t drive a lot of clicks or conversions here, don’t beat yourself up – that wasn’t the point… yet.

What you want to focus on here is:
  • Reach
  • Impressions
  • Brand Recall
  • Top of Mind
We previously mentioned that you might catch your audience at a time that they aren’t ready to purchase quite yet. That’s okay. You want to hit hard on your brand so when your audience is ready to purchase – they think of you first, because they remember you the most.

Your Platforms

Although it’s true that some social media & ad platforms better serve brand awareness efforts, we can’t totally give away all of our secrets. 😉
No two businesses are alike, so this differs from brand to brand anyway.
Ask yourself:
  • Where will I gain the most exposure?
  • What platform makes the most sense for me?
For example, maybe you are a B2B company whose services are only relevant to certain industries or job titles. What platforms give you the tools to target those criteria?
After reflecting on this, you’re ready for the next phase.


Phase 1: Brand Awareness
  • Help your audience remember who you are with heavy branding!
  • Cast a wide net of potential customers
  • Focus on reach, impressions, brand recall, & top of mind
  • Ask yourself what platform gives you the ability to target who you need to





Phase 2: Consideration

After you’ve introduced yourself to your ideal customer base, you can start easing your way into selling. Don’t get too ahead of yourself quite yet though.
Your audience now knows a little bit about who you are, but they likely don’t know what sets you apart from your competitors yet. Although it’s still not the time to do any hard selling, here is where you can start introducing some additional brand attributes. Help your customers understand why they should pick you over your competitors.

Your Message

  • Continue implementing heavy branding.
  • Implement key brand attributes & selling propositions.
  • Drive your audience back to your website to gain more information.

Your Audience
As your audience is considering your brand, it’s still okay to cast a wide net since you aren’t aggressively selling yet. Continue to target your ideal customer profile, but also begin implementing some retargeting.

  • Continue to target your ideal customer profile.
  • Target those who have shown interest in your brand.
  • Retarget site visitors.

Your Objectives

Continue to monitor reach and impressions, but also focus on:
  • Brand favorability
  • Brand preference
  • Clicks (to gauge purchase intent)


Phase 2: Consideration
  • Hit heavy on branding, but begin implementing selling propositions
  • Cast a wide net, but also retarget previous site visitors
  • Focus on brand preference, brand favorability, and clicks





Phase 3: Conversion

Finally! You’ve shown your ideal customers who you are, now it’s time to drive action and bring in some sales. With these ads or efforts, your focus is to create urgency and get your audience to take action. The intent is already there – make it happen!

Your Message

  • Create urgency. Use phrases like “Limited Time Only” or “Limited Products”
  • Implement a strong call to action specific to what your audience should do. “Buy Now,” “Sign Up,” etc.
  • Consider offering a coupon code
  • SELL! What are you offering that’s going to make your audience invest now?

Your Audience
Your sole focus right now is those who have shown strong interest in your brand. Retarget, retarget, and retarget.

  • Retarget site visitors
  • Get dynamic with it. Consider targeting those who visited your site but did not convert.

Your Objectives
Whatever your campaign objective is, that’s your focus here. Whether it be online purchases, lead form completion, video videos, downloads, etc. – this is where we drive that.


Your Platforms
Ask yourself where your audience has the intent to purchase. Where do they turn when they’re ready to buy? Some may utilize search engine ads, others might use social media platforms, banner advertising, etc. What makes the most sense for you?


Phase 3: Conversion
  • Get your audience to act! Create urgency!
  • Retarget site visitors
  • Focus on online purchases, downloads, lead forms, etc
  • Where do online users go when they have the intent to purchase?


Phase 4: Loyalty & Advocacy

Whew! You made the sale, but it’s important to note that your efforts do not stop here. We all want our businesses to succeed, so it’s easy to overlook this last phase of the funnel after spending so much time driving sales. Here, your priority is your current customers – to keep them coming back for more. You want them to care about you and to advocate on your behalf.
Did you know?
  • Your probability of upselling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while that probability is only 5-20% to new prospects.
  • Your current customers are 50% more likely to try a new product and spend up to 31% more, compared to new customers.

Still, however, 44% of brands focus on customer acquisition vs. only 18% that focus on retention. (Source)

So what’s the deal? How can you balance your acquisition vs. retention efforts effectively? How can you reel in your loyal customers?

Focus on Engagement
Right now, your top priority is to keep your current customers engaged with your brand as much as possible. Focus on connecting deeply with them in order to create a meaningful relationship. Your customers should be special to you, so make them know that.

Stay engaged with your customer base, because traditionally, the most engaged users online are the most likely to stay loyal to your business. Not only that, but studies have shown that on average, happy customers will tell 11 people about their positive experience with a brand. (Source) With that, you’re hitting two marketing objectives with one stone:
  • Brand Loyalty
  • Brand Advocacy

How to Keep Customers Engaged
Aside from a great product and excellent customer service – connection, relationships, and personal experiences are key to staying engaged with your customer base. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How can I make my customers feel as valued as they are?
  • What matters to my customers? What do they care about?
  • How can I help improve their quality of life?
  • How can I connect with them?
Some examples might include creating a loyalty program, offering exclusive promotions, creating a regular newsletter, email marketing, social media – the list goes on. But let’s touch on one of the most powerful tools to connect with your customers.

Using Social Media to Connect
As you know, social media is a very personal experience for users. Most utilize it to stay in the loop with friends, family, maybe even colleagues. Now that social media marketing has blown up in the last decade, some marketers might find it difficult to break through that organic content to promote their business. So how can you break through it?

Answer: don’t.
We aren’t saying don’t use social media as a business. We’re saying don’t use it to clutter up users’ feeds with promotional content, stock images, etc. Most people don’t want to see this content in their feeds anyway, so social media algorithms are evolving to show less of it. So, if you can’t break through the authentic content that circulates social media, join it.
Gone are the days of using stock photos to promote a service. That kind of brand-generated content is failing us as marketers. Make your content more personable instead. Use videos and photos of real people. Show customers who you are as a brand. What do you stand for? What matters to you? What goes on behind the scenes that your customers don’t get a chance to see? Who are your employees? Showcase it all organically on social media, and we’re positive you’ll be able to break through to your audience.
Phase IV: Loyalty & Advocacy
  • Keep an even focus between customer acquisition & retention
  • Prioritize connecting with your current customers to maintain brand loyalty & advocacy
  • Stay engaged with your customer base by creating a meaningful relationship with them
  • Use social media to personally connect with them





The Marketing Funnel: Note From the Author

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a fan of school. Maybe you can relate when I say that not a lot I learned in my years of schooling is anything I actually took with me when I started my career. However, if there’s anything that I use on a day-to-day basis, it’s this funnel.
I’ve stumbled into too many marketers running ads just to run ads, with a lack of strategy behind it. My best advice is to look at your marketing like it’s a puzzle. There are so many pieces that make up that puzzle, and each piece serves its own purpose. Your social media strategy is a piece, your search ads are a piece, and so on. Using the marketing funnel, we’re able to take all of these separate pieces, put them together, and see the bigger picture.
Questions? Need a hand? Let’s brand together.
Visit here to contact us.

Allison-Lovdahl-SystemaxAuthor Info

Hi there! My name is Allison Lovdahl and I serve as the Digital Marketing Specialist here at Systemax. My role is to work closely with clients to help develop digital marketing strategies that help meet their business objectives. Outside of work, you can catch me belting some Johnny Cash with one of the two local bands I play with!