Building Brands In The Middle Of The Sales Funnel
Effective content moves mid-funnel metrics. Unless you work at a breakthrough company, your brand health metrics look very similar to the vast majority of other brands. You have strong aided awareness and strong conversion rates, but your mid-funnel metrics are weak.
Those are the metrics that show how well people understand what makes your brand different and better than the competition. Almost every brand today has a mid-funnel problem. This is the inevitable result when brands don’t use a differentiated strategy.
Since the advent of digital, the business world has thought that the sales funnel had exploded. Consultants have created sales funnels that look like Seussian sousaphones and charged ludicrous prices to untangle them. But the sales funnel has not fundamentally changed in shape. The funnel is still broad at the top, with a bunch of people who are aware of a brand. It then tapers into perceptions of the brand, and finally narrows with those who convert and purchase.
Now think for a moment about what makes a brand great to you, personally. It’s not about the overwhelming awareness at the top of the funnel (think Walmart) and it’s not about the amazing coupons and discounts at the bottom of the funnel (think Walmart again). It’s the perceptions of the brand that sit at the middle of the funnel. Most people only have a handful of brands that they are loyal enough to evangelize for (now you can stop thinking about Walmart). Those brands empower you in some way, even if it is as simple as how Amazon empowers us to make a more educated and convenient purchase.
Digital is the mid-funnel playground. It’s where all of the fun and exciting marketing is taking place. It’s about creating experiences that help the audience understand what the brand truly stands for and how it can impact their lives. A strong experience produces change. It makes someone think and behave differently.
Activations like Patagonia’s content, North Face’s events, Rapha’s retail experiences, USAA’s customer service are all ideas that play in the midfunnel playground.
Successful mid-funnel experiences deliver benefits without implicit returns. There’s very little commerce built into them. In fact, when brands add a “buy now!” button, they reek of selfishness and insincerity. It renders the content ineffective. Great experiences are about teaching the audience something, connecting with them emotionally and getting them to perform better.
While most brands are still stuck in the awareness-building mindset or the conversion-only attitude, those that adopt this expansive approach succeed at differentiation. Yet, the benefits are not limited only to building brand perceptions. Empowering experiences help the entire sales funnel. They create brand evangelists who build awareness at the top of the funnel more effectively than paid media and reduce reliance on promotions at the bottom of the sales funnel.
Old-school, commercial-style branded content that solely seeks to entertain is risky, expensive and rarely sustainable. It’s virtually impossible to compete against raunchy, yet viral content. No matter how well you do, you’ll never win on a day when some violent and tasteless video steals the show. Brands can’t win in this arena. But they can win by creating content that has true meaning. Content that enriches, informs and creates a deeper connection than simple entertainment. Digital is the mid-funnel playground. Go play in it.