When I first started talking to C-suite executives about digital marketing back in 2006, I got a lot of blank stares and bemused questions. "What is SEO?" "What is a landing page?" I even was asked, "Can I remove my name and business from The Google?"
As technology becomes ubiquitous in our working and personal lives, you might think that leaders would have confronted their fear of "The Google" by now. But many in the C-suite still don't feel like they have a firm grasp on digital principles and why they need a digital presence in order to be successful and stand out in today's world.
Just because you aren't digitally connected, though, doesn't mean your audience isn't. Avoiding this truth will have serious consequences for your brand – if it hasn’t already. People have grown accustomed to having information at their fingertips, which means you have to be constantly accessible and available to tell the right story. It's a gift and a curse. But whether you're ready or not, the world is digital, and you'll soon have no choice but to be digital right alongside it in order to keep pace.
Why full-funnel marketing fluency is vital for leaders
Getting a strong grasp of digital concepts – especially those related to full-funnel marketing, which reaches audiences at every stage of the buyer journey – is crucial for leaders looking to grow their brands in a way that aligns with customer expectations and behaviors.
Full-funnel marketing makes your messaging relevant and targeted and turns leads into conversions. Because the digital life of your company extends in many directions, you want to connect with your audiences through the right touchpoints at the right times. This means growing your digital presence in every stage of the marketing funnel.
But leaders often harbor a misconception about full-funnel marketing. They think that if one stage of the buyer's journey is more influential than another, that's the only stage in which their limited budgets should be invested. The purpose of the funnel, though, is to outline and follow every moment of a prospect's journey to becoming a customer, not just the one with the most obvious benefits.
There is more than one way to go about getting started or succeeding with this approach, so use the funnel that works best for your needs. For example, you might begin with a smaller funnel that starts specifically with search, or you might open up the top of your funnel and experiment with different techniques to see how your particular customers respond before determining which tactic works best for you.
However you do it, it's the doing it that counts. Confusion over digital marketing concepts prevents too many leaders from growing their businesses. They underestimate the power of marketing, and it's often the first budget to be slashed when results aren't what they want to see. But embracing a full-funnel mindset can set a company apart as innovative and one that harnesses the power of emerging technologies and trends for the good of not only itself but also its customers.
Finally, be careful not to take the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. You can convince yourself that if sales are good, marketing must be great, too. But that assumption will quickly set you back, and before you know it, you'll be limiting your reach to audiences and new customers and heading into the downward spiral of revenue loss.
The 4 mistakes brands make when implementing full-funnel marketing strategies
Once you've decided to execute a full-funnel marketing plan, don't take the leap without context. Learn from common mistakes, and let the lessons from those guide you in crafting and employing your own full-funnel strategy.
1. Not establishing a clear goal. You can't go into things with a goal of just "brand awareness" and no way to measure it. As with any business objective, if you don't set a clear goal from the start, your chances of success will be muddied, too. Make sure your results hold value by spending time defining strong, measurable goals for your funnel strategy and then determining success based on those goals.
Start by asking critical questions that get at the heart of what you want to achieve. What effect do I want to have on my customer’s behavior? What does success look like for this campaign? Identifying goals and what meeting them would look like for you will put you closer to creating a purposeful action plan. It can be hard to whittle down a tangible way to see whether or not you're seeing success, but you won't be sorry you did.
2. Not putting the customer first. Only paying attention to the numbers that come from full-funnel marketing can make brand teams lose sight of the customer experience. But losing sight of what customers want and need can make you more likely to lose them, which is a costly move – acquiring new customers can be up to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.
In everything you do, don't forget the bigger picture. The trigger points in the customer journey that affect customer decisions aren't just price point and quality. Sentiment surrounding the brand and what it sparks in consumers matters more than anything. What does your company stand for, and why do consumers love it? The answers to these questions should be at the heart of everything you do, because they're what will turn numbers into real, lifetime loyalists to your brand.
3. Stopping the relationship at conversion. The final – but arguably most important – stage of the funnel is advocacy. If you stop at conversion, you miss the chance to develop cheerleaders for your brand. Neglecting to carry on relationships with customers after the initial transaction will inevitably make them feel unvalued and lead them to cut ties with you and find a different option. All of a sudden you find yourself without repeat customer visits and no way to measure the lifetime value of customer relationships.
Paying attention to the advocacy stage means maintaining a communication cadence that delivers repeated and rising value. Think of Dollar Shave Club, which sends razors monthly but frequently includes something extra, new, and personalized to go with it, too. A little bit of tailoring can go a long way.
4. Failing to measure cross-channel performance. Attribution – knowing where to spend more, spend less, and stop spending – is a key marker to use when determining where to focus your efforts.
This can be complex, and it’s never an exact science. In a full-funnel approach, you’ll notice that there are many ways customers engage with you and take action. Keep in mind, too, that a lot of these ways are softer and less directly tied to the bottom line – but still hugely influential. But by forming an attribution model, whether it's a simplified "last click" record or a machine learning solution, you ensure you commit to the best tactics for you and your customers.
Ultimately, don't fall prey to the idea that the customer journey is linear. If you do, it'll keep you from noticing the intricacy and personality each customer brings to the table. So be bold and forget any fears that are holding you back from going digital. Embracing a full-funnel marketing plan is a chance that will pay off in the end.