This post was originally published in Localogy.
Having emerged in the late 1900s, the concept of the marketing funnel is even older than the whiskey in Don Draper’s rocks glass in Mad Men, and like the old school advertising in Mad Men, the marketing funnel itself is all about utility. But modern digital consumers aren’t as predictable as Mad Men-era families, who only saw new ad campaigns twice a year. Marketers have to shift focus to objective-based outcomes rather than the specific tactics within a marketing plan. We have to at least iterate as rapidly as the daily regulatory changes and algorithmic updates of the times we live in, and at best, we should be responsive within each viral opportunity or organic customer engagement. How can enterprises achieve that, you might wonder?
By first establishing objectives that dictate the outcomes we seek, marketers can ensure each plan is flexible for cross-channel optimization and adaptive targeting. In this perspective, the funnel becomes a playground that allows freedom of movement of funds to ensure the highest possible performance. This requires trust in your media team and a performance-marketing mindset in lieu of an affinity for one media type. And yes, we know this is a difficult ask for seasoned affiliates who have diehard faith in one media that used to work wonders.
For those local affiliates and CMOs who are determined to knock TikTok off the bucket list, or to keep all funds in search beyond saturation and efficacy, let’s simply ask the question: Do you want to just say you’re running TikTok to appear modern, or do you want to hit your objectives? The mismatched objectives-to-tactical choice is a bit like dating a noncommittal bad boy and wanting a fast church wedding: There has to be alignment from desire to action or you’re just wishing in vain for unlikely outcomes.
With our objective-based outcomes in mind, let’s review the marketing funnel to consider which outcomes are being driven by each tactic.
When your mindset shifts to a focus on objective-based outcomes, you can detach from a fixation on running a specific tactic — like Facebook lead gen or paid search on Google — and instead see the funnel outcomes that are aligned with your objectives as all equally valid cross-channel optimization strategies. In other words, you may plan to run Facebook lead gen only to discover that a recent algorithmic “privacy enhancement” tweak had a deleterious impact on lead quality that no one could have predicted during planning, so you could then shift funds into paid search, which has similar expected outcomes but higher lead quality at the moment.
The unpopular truth is that a marketing strategy is only as good as the past insights and the experience-based intuition of the strategist who built it, as well as the responsive, ongoing optimization of the SMEs who continually monitor the marketplace for unprecedented changes. As we’ve all learned, unprecedented is the new norm! So choosing a strategy that relies on ongoing, responsive cross-channel optimization is simply part of a healthy strategy, and the tactics are just the best tool for the job in the moment. The tactics are not the destination. Rather, tactics are one of the paths that can lead you to your destination.
Once you know your objectives, and the tactics that can deliver the desired outcomes, another consideration is how to approach a full-funnel marketing strategy. Upper funnel tactics drive brand awareness. Mid-funnel tactics nurture, educate, and groom consumers to become long-term brand ambassadors. Lower-funnel tactics support sales with leads. If you supply sales data, your leads can deliver ROI or ROAS, too. Knowing the lifetime value of a customer and the value of a lead internally as an enterprise is the first step to find that ROI.
Although your affiliates might desperately want leads — and nothing but leads — it’s still critical to nurture your customers down the funnel with a broader strategy than that isolated tactic. Leading customers from awareness to education to capture improves customer retention and satisfaction for longer-term brand loyalty. According to CSO Insights, mature lead generation and nurturing have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate.
Tying the full-funnel marketing strategy back to an objective-based outcome approach, the ideal package set would encompass a tactic from each level of the funnel, and a disposition to cross-channel optimize within a family of tactics that drive the same outcome to support performance. For example, if you’re running CTV (TOF for brand awareness), Facebook lead gen (MOF for nurturing), and on-site events (BOF for in-person leads), then your objective-based outcomes are brand awareness, nurturing, and leads. If you have to pivot to improve your top-of-the-funnel brand-awareness performance, then display would drive a similar outcome. If you had to pivot away from Facebook due to a site security constraint, then paid search on Google would drive a similar outcome and maintain your full-funnel approach.
Planning your full-funnel marketing strategy with an objective-based outcome approach can be complicated because of our unprecedented market responses to fears of recession, new waves of COVID-19, or supply chain constraints. We’re here to help if you want to talk more about your marketing strategy and cross-channel pivot plan.
Vice President of Performance Marketing, BrandMuscle
Erin Strong is the VP of Performance Marketing at BrandMuscle. She has 15 years of progressive leadership experience with hands-on skills as a copywriter, ad designer, social media and digital advertising SME, creative director, brand strategist, and customer research analyst both on the agency and client-side of strategic development. Erin has industry experience in CPG, telecommunications, automotive, retail, F&B, hospitality, gaming, convenience, manufacturing, and wine, spirits, and beer. She's passionate about finding new audiences, carrying best practices across industries, and developing omnichannel strategies that drive results.