full funnel marketing

Full funnel marketing: What it is and how to use it

Don’t know the first thing about full-funnel marketing? Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

This type of marketing method is grounded in history, but it’s still a popular area of discussion. You needn’t be put off by its name; it’s a lot simpler than it sounds, trust us. 

Join us as we dive into exactly what it is, and how you can use it to drive your future growth.

What is a full-funnel marketing approach?

Firstly, let’s get to grips with what a full-funnel marketing approach actually is. You’ve probably already heard of the marketing/purchase/conversion/sales funnel. So many names, but it’s all the same concept.

Think visually. Yes, picture an actual funnel – the type you’d use for cooking or back in those old science lessons. Instead, this time it’s a funnel for the customer journey. At each stage, it considers both the customer’s perspective and mindset in relation to purchasing from your brand.

marketing experiments funnel

The funnel begins at the top, which allows the maximum possible number of leads to enter. But then, as you move through it and it becomes more and more narrow, your marketing activities become more and more focused. Towards the bottom of the funnel, you’ll only be targeting those who are your closest audience, and so are the most likely to convert.

The marketing funnel stages

There will be various stages in this funnel. These are not cemented anywhere – it ultimately depends on your brand’s target audience and its objectives. One common one is ‘pirate metrics’, where the acronym spells ‘AARRR’: ‘Acquisition’, ‘Activation’, ‘Retention’, ‘Revenue’ and ‘Referral’.

Data irregularity may be commonplace, but to be able to run a business effectively, we have to make the best possible guesses as to what’s going on. If you look at this Metrics for Pirates video, you’ll see what these metrics may look like for you.

With this considered, and with the average conversion rates and final revenue amount calculated, working out your costs becomes much easier. It’s a simple case of working backwards: multiply the cost from a previous phase by the conversion rate. For instance, if a sign-up is valued at $13.33 to us, and 5% of visitors go ahead and sign up, a visitor is then worth 67 cents (13.33 x 0.05 = 0.6665). Our blog here goes into more detail around the marketing analysis process.

For the funnel itself, below is an example of some of the stages you may use:

Awareness

At this phase, the customer doesn’t yet know about your product or service. So here’s where you educate them. It’s essentially lead generation, but is quite subtle at this point – using things like social media.

Interest

This covers the interest, consideration and intent phases. You’ll be nurturing leads who are actually keen to buy. 

Desire

The desire stage encompasses intent too, along with evaluation. The customer has shown that they want to use your product or service, or your brand somehow, and so you nurture those who are incredibly likely to purchase.

Action

This can also be called ‘purchase’. Your marketing efforts encourage the customer to engage in the steps that lead to buying. The action stage is often where you’ll hand over the customer to the sales team so they can do the final work in getting them fully over the line. 

The funnel can also be broadened to include the other parts of the customer journey after they’ve purchased, including phases such as retention and advocacy.

Through this method, you’ll target your potential customers differently depending on the stage they’re at. As a result, your marketing activities will vary – from the overriding strategy to the individual elements like creative and copy. 

Why you need a full-funnel marketing approach

This approach is necessary – it’s not just ‘good to have’. It enables you to map out which part of your customer journey (funnel stage) is leaking the most, and so is your absolute priority to fix. As you have the data to measure it, you can interpret this and draw valuable insights.

Another reason why full-funnel marketing is a necessity is that it means, if you’re only responsible for one part of the funnel, you’ll limit your impact on the other stages – it’s out of your hands.

A great example is an agency that’s solely responsible for traffic acquisition. They’re held accountable for the bottom line (ensuring a positive ROI), but they have no influence on other aspects like the website, email flow or the sales rep’s interaction with the customer. It’s like blaming a farmer for producing bad meat when it’s gone through a number of other places before it reaches your plate.

Full-funnel marketing is useful at any time, and for any business – proving particularly valuable for those whose marketing team and sales team aren’t aligned. It is, after all, all about the customer journey, and there’s no end to improving this. 

Plus, it’s a step above other marketing approaches. Why? Because it allows marketing efforts to be calculated. The targeting ensures investments aren’t aimless, and the potential results are clear before you take action. It’s focused on outcomes rather than just activities. 

And, afterwards, you can perform a marketing funnel analysis. This means you can analyze data and take measures to fine-tune the funnel even further.

You can even take your funnel to the next level, segmenting by time and goals. In this way, you’ll know if you’re on the way to hitting your targets and how well your business is doing over a longer period.

Or, you can opt to take it to the next-next level by segmenting by user behavior. You can divide the full-funnel marketing into ‘TOFU’, ‘MOFU’ and ‘BOFU’ – the top, middle and bottom of the funnel – and gain further insights into the preferred channels of your audience in each section.

Make sure to keep up to date with your funnel analysis. It’s important to interpret the results effectively so you can make informed decisions.

Creating a full-funnel advertising strategy

Now that you get what full-funnel marketing is all about, you can get to work on building the strategy and the associated content

It’s important to note that what a campaign looks like will differ from one brand to the next – it relies on your particular target audience and goals. A distinct content marketing strategy will be required for your brand.

To create a successful full-funnel advertising strategy, you should map out the stages of the funnel and the content assets required for each.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the funnel for this. This time, we’ll use the ‘AARRR’ approach, but we’ll start with awareness.

Brand awareness

There are two approaches to getting your brand out there: push and pull. People will follow the path of seeking out something related to you, or they will come across something interesting that entices them (social media ads which result in an impulse purchase of a gadget are very common, for example).

Customers in need of a push will be looking for some sort of answer, but you don’t want to just shove your brand in their face. Act as a helper – be educational and informative with content such as blog posts, videos, infographics and social media. The audience should get value from you at no cost. 

Whether you’re pushing or pulling, you’ll need to be present where your target audience is on the web – it will maximize your chances of being discovered by them.

full funnel startup-metrics-for-pirates-4-728

Source

Acquisition

This is where your audience member is beginning to turn into a customer. There are endless acquisition channels – from SEO to traditional campaigns. 

Potential customers who are more active in their pursuit for a solution will be a lot more receptive to a product or service like yours. At this stage, you can reinforce your brand a bit with something like a landing page to gather lead data. Again, they’re more likely to fill this in if you offer free content – such as eBooks, checklists and cheat sheets. 

The customer may then have done some research and are now weighing up the best product or service solution. You’ll narrowly target them through the information you’ve already captured. Tailored brand content includes emailing them with relevant webinars, podcasts and white papers.

Next, you can tell them all about your brand and its offering. Perhaps the sales team will speak to them directly, and you’ll send some sales-level content like case studies, competitor research and analyses, and sales presentations. 

Activation 

This is all about the potential customer being happy with what your brand is providing. You need to make sure they engage, and have the best possible experience. This will involve testing.

Perhaps you’ll carry out A/B testing for email campaigns or landing pages. You can run social media ads too – analyzing the metrics to see which ones perform best.

Once your testing is complete, you should be left with a clear view of which methods are best for lead generation.

Retention

Here, the customer comes back. But you need to drive them to do this. Email content is a great method and can be automated at regular intervals to encourage them to return to your brand.

The sales team will likely be heavily involved here, as well as in the activation stage. They’ll be the customer’s point of contact for any questions on your product offering. You’ll enhance this with brand content such as emails, product sheets, and social media messages.

Revenue

Finally, the customer will be involved to the extent that your product or service actually makes money. You’ve reached the finish line!

But you’ll need to make sure the lead is actually getting transformed into a customer that pays for your product or service. Onboarding will need to be seamless to ensure they don’t exit the funnel altogether. 

If you notice people dropping off, analyze why! Is there something in the content strategy that could be changed for better results?

Referral

At this stage, a customer will like a product or service enough to refer others. This means your cost per lead will go down. But what it doesn’t mean is that you can rest on your laurels.

Each customer is different, so make sure you tailor your marketing to them. Perhaps social media ads aren’t enticing to them, and they need other content to get them truly invested in your brand. Things change over time as well – so what was effective previously, may not be anymore.


This leads us to our next point: full-funnel optimization. This is where you use marketing data to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t, and then look for ways to improve it so that you can enhance the customer journey. 

Implementing your marketing funnel strategy

It can be tough to know where to start when building your sales funnel. That’s natural.

We recommend looking at your direct and indirect competitors who are seeing success in your space – that’s those who are targeting an identical audience or have the same product offering as you. 

Examine everything they’re doing as part of their own funnel – ads, landing pages, content – the whole enchilada. 

You can see a given brand’s Facebook ads by searching here and LinkedIn ads here. Google ads can be viewed by researching a brand through SEMrush. It’s also a good idea to visit their website and sign up and inquire. That way, you can see how their marketing complements their sales process. 

Why should you do this? Their strong position in your market means they’re the perfect example, and therefore have the perfect full-funnel model to base your own efforts on.

You can take this one step further and purchase ads on the exact same websites that your competitors do. How can you know where they’re advertising? A website analysis tool allows you to simply enter your competitor’s URL and see the sources of their website traffic. 

Measuring your campaign results

Wondering how you can go about actually measuring your full-funnel digital marketing strategy? Thanks to online marketing and advertising tech, there are a number of methods. 

Here are just a couple of examples:

Display advertising

Consider Google Display Network and Facebook (though there are a lot of others too!). Look at factors like:

  • Website traffic
  • Number of new site visitors
  • Ad impressions
  • Reach and frequency metrics (to discover the number of people shown your ads, plus the frequency with which they appeared)
  • Clicks to website landing pages from ads

advertising funnel impressions clicks purchases

These measurements are more related to awareness and engagement. But there are ones relating to conversion for your product too. You can see the contribution your ads make when an individual is shown it and then later converts to a customer through another channel.

Assisted conversion value is similar. Here, you’d track the contribution of display ads where users have clicked through to your website, but then later converted via a different marketing channel.

It’s also a good idea to frequently analyze Google Analytics and Search to spot surges in both direct or organic traffic, and organic branded search volume. You can conduct channel segmentation – this is where you look at the entire funnel from top to bottom, only highlighting traffic that was driven originally from channel A and how it converts all the way down, to identify the actual ROI of this channel. 

Another crucial thing to carry out is multi-channel attribution. Users will commonly find a brand through channel A, visit again using channel B, and then finally convert by exploring channel C. In Google Analytics, you’ll find this as a feature – it displays the channels contributing to for example ‘last click conversions’ from other channels by powering the top of the funnel for them. 

This is something we did with Floyd, an ecommerce brand for mattresses. They were experiencing very few conversions from Facebook ads – almost all were instead coming from Google ads. We decided to switch off Facebook ads, crippling the whole funnel. The resulting data showed that people would actually find Floyd through Facebook, and then later convert via Google Search ads.

Video advertising 

Video has huge benefits, especially as YouTube ads can be used on social media to generate awareness. You should look at metrics such as impressions and view rate – these will tell you how many people saw the video ad of your product or service. 

They have an extra benefit too: they’ll let you know how many individuals watched the ad until the end, giving you much deeper insights!

There’s also a thing called a ‘brand lift’. If you’re lucky enough for your product’s ads to make at least 1.5 million impressions, you’re able to evaluate the direct effect your YouTube ads are having on the perceptions and behaviors of your audience.

To measure engagement, you can also look at:

  • Watch time
  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments

Conversions can be seen through the view-through conversions, conversions and conversion rate in the Google Analytics interface. Find out more here.

Benefits of using a full-funnel marketing approach

There are so many reasons to adopt a full-funnel content marketing approach for your marketing campaigns – and not just because you’ll see an increase in sales and conversion rates.

Firstly, imagine a marketing team that is only responsible for traffic acquisition (solely the top of the funnel), and therefore has no input on the website or lead nurturing process. To be certain their activity is effective, you need feedback from other teams (such as sales), which may take some time. Now imagine being rated based on the traffic quality, when you don’t actually have the opportunity to boost conversion once people arrive on the website. It’s quite a broken system. 

full funnel growth

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It’s a good idea if we take a step back here and address what the disadvantages of this sales approach are. 

The drawbacks of a marketing funnel

The funnel has been around since the 1800s, and so it’s not surprising that it’s not as popular as it once was. 

Some marketing teams say it’s outdated and the customer journey is no longer so linear. During their path to purchase – which can take months, and sometimes even years – an individual might filter through to one sales stage, but then go back to a higher phase like brand awareness, or even pop in and out of the funnel altogether.

Plus, they have such an endless stream of channels to use, so they may switch between them frequently. They’re on social media one minute, then engaging with content marketing the next, then interacting with search ads.

Therefore, it could be argued that the full-funnel marketing approach is perhaps too simplified for achieving sales in the modern world.

However, we can’t help but disagree.

Why a full-funnel marketing approach works

Yes, the sales and marketing funnel has been around for a long time. But it’s still incredibly valuable. This is because the basic principles are still the same.

It’s a proven framework that, time and time again, turns a potential customer into an actual one. The funnel acts as a blueprint for all marketing and sales activities, allowing you to effectively optimize them. 

And it brings together the separate sales, marketing and product departments – what we call ‘the true growth team’. Without it, they’re siloed, resulting in significant ineffectiveness and lost information.

Another reason that full-funnel marketing works is because it’s incredibly effective when producing marketing strategies and targeting audiences successfully. You can use it to identify opportunities, help generate content marketing ideas, and conduct testing for your sales tactics.

A full-funnel sales method ensures that you don’t take a scattergun approach to your marketing. Instead, it’s organized – with activities and the stage of the funnel clearly aligned. Analyzing the sales funnel, too, can save time, accelerate growth and prevent stress. You’ll be able to identify those parts of the funnel that leak and can then put more of your energy into fixing it.

The ultimate advantage

These are just some of the best reasons to adopt a full-funnel marketing approach. Yet you could say that the greatest benefit (and when it’s most important to use this method) is that it allows you to beat your competition.

With consumers having access to an endless stream of information, this means that they can conduct a more significant amount of research than ever before. The result? More price competition. 

But this is simply a contest to see who can price the lowest the quickest. And we’re guessing that you didn’t go through the process of deciding which products and services to sell simply to enter a sales price game…

Instead, you can make sales and competition no longer about price. With a full-funnel marketing approach, you can pinpoint your exact dream audience, effectively target them, and upsell to them. No slashing prices. No reducing your profit margins.

Taking your full-funnel marketing approach further

To be this competitive, you’ll need to really dig deep into analysis. This will require you to measure the funnel performance by each channel and by every funnel stage. Through this, you can make data-informed decisions, and pinpoint where the most essential parts are to improve your performance.

Earning digital marketing certifications such as Google Ads certification can help you analyze your data correctly.

Best of all, this is free – as is the HubSpot Inbound Certification Course. It explores the basics of inbound marketing for each stage of the sales funnel, educating learners on how to attract an audience without being intrusive.

You’ll also discover how to convert visitors into qualified leads and then into customers and brand advocates. It’s a holistic understanding of the full-funnel marketing approach, and allows you to maximize the benefits of this content marketing method.

Tools and resources for developing full-funnel marketing

Tools for building your sales and marketing funnel include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • G Suite
  • Google Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Microsoft Advertising
  • Funnel.io
  • Mixpanel
  • Mode Analytics
  • Hotjar
  • UserTesting
  • Unbounce
  • Cratejoy
  • VWO
  • Balsamiq
  • KickoffLabs
  • Optimizely
  • Mailchimp
  • Zapier
  • Howdy.ai
  • MeetEdgar
  • Lumen5
  • Sumo
  • Slack
  • UberConference
  • Intercom
  • Stripe
  • Yesware
  • HubSpot CRM 
  • HubSpot Marketing
  • Asana
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Brain.fm
  • JustReachOut
  • BuzzSumo
  • SEMrush
  • Moz
  • SERPs
  • SpyFu
  • Zest
  • Ahrefs
  • Drift
  • Publi.sh

The best resources for full-funnel digital marketing

These aren’t all the tools for the lead generation and sales funnel – we don’t have space in this blog post for that. So we’ve put together a few of the very best content marketing resources instead. They show you what you need to do during the sales process to target your potential customers effectively.

The Ladder Growth Blueprint

Get this interactive template completely free. It’s super straightforward – simply enter in your own digital marketing data and you’ll have access to the information you need to improve your lead generation and sales. Your data is automatically calculated and translated so you can understand exactly how to direct your content marketing to growth.

The Ladder Playbook

Considering a sales tactic? You’ll find it in the Ladder Playbook, undoubtedly. We’ve got over 850. Don’t worry, though – you don’t have to scroll through it all. Just like a funnel (those ones in science lessons we mentioned at the beginning of this blog), you can add a filter. Simply search by keying in the funnel goal, or filter by keyword. 

You’ll be met with fresh ideas that you can experiment with to achieve your desired sales and growth. These tactics are proven too. Each one will give you a clear explanation on how you can action it, plus the reasons why you should. There will also be a visual representation, links to discover more about each tactic, as well as evidence of the success rates we’ve experienced. 

Ad spend calculator

If you use ads in your full-funnel marketing – which, in the modern age, is essentially a given – then you need to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Through creating an ad spend calculator like the one we made in Google Data Studio, you can ensure your budget is under control and see exactly what your paid activity is doing.

Ladder’s The Expert’s Guide to a Growth Marketing Audit

This is your step-by-step guide to everything you need to do before you get started. You’ll learn exactly how to carry out a sales funnel audit across each and every sales channel. 

Through this, you can get a complete understanding of your business and its target audience, and know precisely how to transform insights into tactics. On top of this, you’ll be able to identify previously hidden opportunities and effectively prioritize what to do as well.

We would always recommend a full sales funnel audit as the first step in creating a content marketing campaign. You should never go straight into the creation phase – implementation should always be backed by thorough research.

Another first step is to chat with a Ladder strategist. Our tools make full-funnel channel marketing easier, that’s for sure – but you may still need some help on the path to achieving the growth and sales you want. We’d be more than happy to talk through your business’ objectives today.