Upper Funnel vs. Lower Funnel Marketing

Anthony Xiques

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Updated:
December 7, 2022
Created:
December 7, 2022

With the advent of the internet and e-commerce, shopping as we know it has changed completely since the turn of the century. And the speed of continual change is only increasing.

The question then becomes… how to keep pace with your growth marketing strategy?

The pervasiveness of social media and mobile phones means that the customer journey is more fragmented than ever. In other words, your customer journey from awareness to research and discovery now happens across various touchpoints.  

Brands now understand the importance of adopting a full-funnel strategy to drive awareness and demand simultaneously across multiple channels.

What Are Marketing Funnels? 

Funnels are not new.

In fact, they had their birth at the beginning of the 20th century with AIDA — a model that mapped stages in a customer’s journey with a brand. The AIDA concept was developed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis, an entrepreneur living in the United States, in 1898. The stages were:

  • Awareness - A prospective customer becomes aware of a problem and its possible solutions.
  • Interest - The prospect expresses a keen interest in a product or service that will most likely solve their problem and has an “I Like It” mindset.
  • Desire - The prospect has determined what they need, is ready to finalize their purchase, and has an “I Want It” mindset.  
  • Action - The last stage of the marketing funnel is where marketing efforts finally pay off, and the customer purchases your product or service.

William H. Townsend added to the AIDA, creating the first marketing funnel concept sometime in 1924. From then to now, it has undergone significant changes. Today’s funnel resembles an hourglass to account for the modern empowered customer. 

Benefits of Marketing Funnels

A judicious marketing funnel strategy has many benefits for businesses. For one, mapping customer journeys allows brands to understand their customers and curate better experiences with marketing plans tailored to where they are in the funnel. 

This also helps attract new leads since the brand can deliver content relevant to prospects at various stages of the funnel.

Marketing funnels also allow brands to measure their efforts and make smarter, more strategic decisions. For instance, if marketers see customers exiting at the consideration stage, they can modify their content to include effective persuasion. 

Finally, a marketing funnel helps in optimizing a brand's marketing strategy. Using customer journey mapping and insights, brands can learn more about consumers, including what pulls them, what makes them convert, and what will convince them to stay. 

This enables brands to create timely, hyper-personalized consumer experiences to keep customers moving forward in the funnel.

What is Full-Funnel Marketing?

A full-funnel marketing strategy is one that covers all marketing funnel stages simultaneously, namely awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, and loyalty. Using this approach, brands can now reach more consumers. 

Why is Full-Funnel Marketing Important?

Ideally, a customer journey is a linear progression from one phase to the next. And while social media and mobile gadgets have made it easier to stay connected, they've also made the journeys fragmented.

Implementing a full-funnel approach helps brands reach customers at any stage of the buying process and is, therefore, more impactful than focusing on any single stage. Additionally, its strategy meets the prospect where they are at, and is better to adapt to the impulses and quick jumps when a prospect does not follow a linear progression in their buying journey.

Full-Funnel Marketing Measurement

Setting performance targets will enable brands to accurately evaluate the impact of each channel on key performance metrics.

There are three approaches to measuring the marketing funnel's success:

  • Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU)
  • Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU)
  • Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)

Advertisers can optimize their spending at all points in the funnel by paying attention to these three benchmarks.

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What is Top-of-the-Funnel Marketing (TOFU) or Upper funnel Marketing

Upper-funnel marketing focuses on prospective customers just starting out on their journey. Strategies at this stage focus on increasing brand awareness and trust to draw them in and keep them informed. 

Key metrics at this stage are

What is Middle-of-the-Funnel Marketing (MOFU)

This strategy corresponds to the funnel's consideration stage. Brands now have captive audiences that evaluate them against their needs and how they claim to meet those needs. Here a brand’s audience requires nurturing through educational content.

Key metrics include:

What is Bottom-of-the-Funnel Marketing (BOFU) or Lower Funnel Marketing

BOFU is the last stage of the marketing funnel, where the customer finally makes a purchase decision. Marketing strategies focus on highlighting the brand’s USP while delivering personalized content. The goal is to gain customers’ trust so they choose the brand.

Key metrics include:

Marketing Funnel Stages

Although the modern marketing funnel stages aren’t specific, these four are generally agreed upon:

Awareness Stage

It is the stage involved with building brand awareness, a process of getting consumers interested in a product or service so they recall it later. Since a customer at this stage knows nothing about your company, you need to be visible to them wherever they may be — on television or social media.

The next step is developing marketing and informative content that introduces the company and emphasizes its unique selling proposition. The primary objective is to keep your brand at the forefront of clients' minds so they think of you when it’s time to make a purchase.

Consideration Stage

At this stage, a brand knows it has captured the potential customer’s attention. The goal now is to nudge them into the next stage. Consequently, marketing communications should address their concerns, offer information on how to use the product, and demonstrate its uniqueness from other brands.

Marketing tactics include sharing case studies, blogs, customer reviews, and product comparisons.

Conversion Stage

Also called the "decision" or "buy" phase, the objective here is to convince customers that your brand is the best answer to their problem. The strategy should focus on providing consumers with a justification for selecting your brand over competitors.

Free trials, guidelines to remove any purchase barriers, and utilizing social proof to increase trust are a few key approaches.

Loyalty Stage

Brand loyalty can be fostered by offering a flawless purchase experience and providing high-quality products or services. It can also be reinforced by nurturing relationships with customers after the transaction. Without this stage, many buyers might make a single transaction and then abandon the brand.

A few engagement marketing campaigns at this stage can make a big difference. Brands can employ loyalty programs, nurturing campaigns, and social media activations.

The Relationship Between Purchase Behavior and the Upper Funnel

The upper funnel is often not credited for conversions since it is so far from the purchase stage. Based on the presumption that all customers at this level are prepared to buy, most marketing and ad budgets focus only on the bottom of the funnel. That said, companies with larger ad budgets may choose to run lead generation campaigns (which bridge the gap between upper and lower funnel), and the biggest of them all will run brand campaigns (the kind of advertisements you might see while watching the Super Bowl).

Mastering targeted advertising to increase awareness will put your brand before quality leads and encourage them to choose it over competitors, making you their top choice.

Top-of-the-Funnel vs. Bottom-of-the-Funnel

Top-of-the-funnel is aligned with the awareness stage, the very first stage in the funnel where potential customers are unfamiliar with the brand. This phase involves educating them about the brand and what problems it can help solve.

In contrast, the bottom of the funnel is aligned with the purchase decision phase, when customers only need a nudge to convert. The consumer has already decided to buy, but they may require guidance in getting there, such as determining the specific product or service they should choose.

The primary distinction between upper funnel vs. lower funnel marketing is where the priority lies. In the upper funnel, you're working on getting your brand in front of potential customers; in the lower, you're trying to get those customers to buy.

What is a Sales Funnel in Digital Marketing?

A digital marketing sales funnel has a similar structure to a traditional marketing funnel, but works within the marketing funnel to move a client from awareness to purchase. 

The Differences Between A Marketing and a Sales Funnel

A marketing funnel, as we’ve said, covers every stage of a customer journey as they move from first impressions to completing a purchase. In contrast, the sales funnel is a very small portion of that journey. By employing urgency techniques, the sales funnel gives the potential buyer a friendly push through contemplation into completion. 

A marketing funnel will work to garner brand loyalty and win repeat customer relationships through education and customer support, as well as quality and value overall. The sales funnel will generate the call to action, which is the natural decision of someone moving through a well-crafted marketing campaign. 

Examples of Marketing Funnels

Netflix

Netflix has rewritten the playbook for the television industry. To generate awareness, the streaming platform employs social media campaigns and guerilla marketing to generate viewership for its upcoming shows. 

Whether on TikTok or Instagram, the entertainment medium teases its audience with intriguing summaries and short clips. In addition, the company uses social media to provide fans with access to behind-the-scenes information and interviews with their favorite characters.

Crazy Egg

This well-known website optimization tool helps businesses discover and analyze visitor activity on their websites. The startup got its name out there by giving talks to industry audiences and giving out $99 Crazy Egg memberships to the owners of influential blogs like Mashable, Techcrunch, and others in exchange for reviews.

But what actually drove people to their website was the excellent content there. It was informative, helpful, and relevant. Additionally, they took care to advertise it through social media, mailing lists, and influencers. The content on their blog was used to direct audiences toward the consideration stage.

The consumer is encouraged to subscribe and subsequently visit the website, where a straightforward interface welcomes them. The use of persuasive copy, great UX, and social proof on its website all contribute to consumer conversion.

Basecamp

Basecamp is a tool for team collaboration and project management. It keeps its customers happy and, in return, earns free advertising in the form of positive word of mouth. Additionally, the Basecamp podcast called "Rework" employs the unique perspective of its founder and acquaintances on work and business.

The homepage succinctly explains what Basecamp does and the outcomes it can achieve to keep prospects moving toward the funnel. With the alluring tagline "no credit card necessary," its call to action clearly stands out, dispelling any reservations and barriers that potential customers might have. It's then followed by a social proof section written in a large, attention-grabbing font.

Visitors who click this CTA are sent to a simple and speedy sign-up form that provides an excellent user experience. Following a successful sign-up, users receive a welcome message from Basecamp's CEO that includes a brief rundown of the platform's functionality.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to increase sales and, consequently, profits. This can only be achieved by driving more awareness and nurturing leads to fuel the various stages of the marketing funnel. Marketers should therefore focus on developing plans and growth strategies that balance all stages of the funnel to grow the business and stay on course as they do. 

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