I’ve talked to so many business owners over the years who attempt to apply financial processes to their marketing programs and they almost all fail at some point. Have you ever said “if you can prove to me my marketing is profitable, I will increase the budget to whatever you need” put another way “If my cost to acquire a new customer (CPA) is less than the profit generated from that customer, I will spend a lot more on advertising.” The pragmatism behind those statements is attractive to so many and makes good, logical sense to any business owner. From my point of view, there’s nothing wrong with these statements. It’s what comes next that leads them to failure.
The next step is to bring in several competing agencies to make a pitch on how they are going to deliver more leads than the next guy and ultimately lower their CPA. Marketing companies, hungry for new business tend to pitch specific tactics or creative they will deploy to achieve your desired results without digging into why your customers currently buy from you, the lifecycle of the relationships you have with them or how you communicate a message that will resonate with them. This will lead to a campaign which is only targeting the bottom of the marketing funnel since those leads are easiest to track to a final sale where the agency can take credit for the revenue. Messaging will typically be aggressive and focus on an exclusive offer to drive clicks since that is a successful bottom of funnel strategy for a lot of different business types.
The campaign above may deliver results for you in the short term, especially if you haven’t done much marketing in the past but will eventually fall flat over time. The problem with this logic is that you are attempting to condense a relationship at the bottom of your funnel, in one short 144 character message or offer and my guess is that’s not how you built your customer base.
To get to the root of the problem think back to when you closed some of your best customers and ask yourself these questions:
- Where and how did the relationship begin? Was it a referral from someone you knew for many years?
- How was trust built over that relationship? At what point in the relationship did the client trust you and stop shopping the business to competitors?
- How casual and personal are your conversations with these customers? Do you know anything about their personal life? Do you know what they do outside of work, hobbies, etc.?
Here’s the secret to digital marketing: DIGITAL ADVERTISING HAS NOT CHANGED HOW TRUST AND RELATIONSHIPS ARE FORMED. Imagine for a minute if you swapped in your current ad messaging into your first encounter with the customers from above. Would you have sold them? Would you have the relationship you have now? Probably not. They would see you as someone trying to sell them something and you would be lumped in with the thousands of other companies they are exposed to every day through digital ads. It’s tough to get a personal relationship when it starts that way.
Your digital campaign should make sense to you even if you don’t understand the platforms! Each stage in the funnel should progress a relationship naturally, the same way you have done it in the past. Something like the following:
- Top of funnel – Think about an introduction at a cocktail party. You might introduce yourself with your name and what you do for work. Top of funnel strategies will generally do the same thing: your brand name and a point or two about what makes you different.
- Mid funnel – You meet this same person at a second event. Now you know them, you say hello, start a conversation and possibly exchange contact information. A good Mid funnel strategy will work the same way. Maybe it’s a social media outreach to all the people who follow you, a response to a comment, attendance to a Webinar or a collection of an email address through a registration or resource download. This is the beginning of the conversation with these prospective clients.
- Bottom funnel – Now that you have their contact information, you might schedule a lunch, a drink or coffee. This is where you make your sales pitch, after you have built the relationship and trust. A good strategy will identify those prospective customers who are in the middle of the funnel with an offer or other hook.
The purpose of digital advertising is to take what you already do and scale it. Think of how many cocktail parties you could possibly attend on your own or even with a team of sales staff. It won’t compare to the number of relationships you can build using digital tools. It’s not even a comparison to the thousands or even millions of people you can connect to on digital media.
Now, let’s get back to your current digital campaign and ask yourself the following questions:
- Top of funnel [think about how many new introductions you are getting]
- How many new people do you reach every day [impressions]?
- How often do you get in front of them [impressions/reach]?
- Middle of funnel [how many new conversations did you engage in]
- How many engagements (clicks, comments, likes, video views, downloads, etc.)?
- Bottom of funnel [how many meetings or opportunities to pitch are you getting]
- How many meetings, quotation requests, lead forms, request for additional information are you getting?
If your marketing campaign worked at one point, but then slowed down over time it’s likely that you have been missing the top or middle of the funnel. A strong strategy at the top should feed the bottom with a consistent flow of incoming leads. It’s a far more sustainable process than just focusing on the bottom of the funnel and will provide more value to the brand long-term.