Marketing Funnel Lexicon: Top-Funnel Programs

Last month, we gave an introduction to the Marketing Funnel and discussed how marketers need a balanced mix of programs beyond email and search to effectively reach prospects wherever they may be traveling online. In this paradigm, broad, top-of-the-funnel branding initiatives such as social engagement and demographic-targeted display ads provide initial awareness, and mid-funnel tactics such as social ads pinpoint buyers who have engaged. Only when your target audience is educated and primed to engage with your sales team directly will lower-funnel tactics, such as search and email marketing, perform at their best to convert leads and deals.

In this column we will focus on the top funnel and examine the different programs you can employ to increase brand awareness.

Top-funnel tactics

The top funnel is where you focus to increase awareness and recall of your company and products, and to drive more of the right traffic to your Web site, corporate blog or landing pages. Top-funnel campaigns convey what your company does, why your products are unique, and why customers should care about your company.



There are many different tactics that you can implement at the top funnel, including:

  • Display ads. Display advertising is uniquely versatile and can be designed to impact the top, mid- and bottom-funnel. For the top funnel, marketers can deploy a range of display advertising techniques including broad business demographic targeting (e.g., targeting campaigns by someone’s role or seniority in an organization) or company targeting (i.e., running campaigns against a target account list). These techniques can help you reach the broader audiences you are targeting early on in the purchase process --  in most cases long before these people are actively on the hunt for a solution or vendor.
  • Social media. Most marketers are now also driving brand awareness through ongoing social media programs: following and engaging with influencers in their target market, promoting their own news and sharing information from relevant industry publications on social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • PR. Generating media coverage for your company provides “air cover” for your sales team.  Increasing awareness for your brand through PR activities not only helps your sales team get in the door, but will also provide the third-party validation for your products and services that can help them close the deal.

Top-funnel measurement

Top-funnel measurement can be tricky, which is why many marketers take the easy way out and simply attribute success to the strength of the last marketing campaign that touched a deal before it closed. For example, if they have deployed a display advertising program to fill or accelerate prospects through the funnel, and paid-search or SEO programs to convert prospects lower in the funnel, they may jump to the conclusion that search is driving all the new business, which may lead them to increase their incremental spend on search alone.

Here's the conundrum. If all credit is given to search, and spending on search is subsequently increased, the shortage of budget in display is likely to adversely impact the next quarter's search results. Simply put, the lower-funnel activity will plateau if you don't invest in the upper funnel.

One way to avoid short-changing your top-funnel programs is to assign an equal share of attribution to each marketing initiative you use. In an equal credit attribution model, you can spread the value of a deal evenly among each marketing touchpoint, and measure the ROI of each channel accordingly to guide future program investments.

Beyond proper attribution, there are several tangible metrics that you can track to get a handle on the impact of your upper-funnel programs. Fundamentally, if you’re reaching more of your target audience higher up in the funnel, you should see a lift in:  

  • Brand recall. You can run an online brand study that compares increase in awareness among a control group (i.e., people who didn’t see your display ad) to an exposed group (i.e., people who saw your display ad).
  • Branded search. You should see an increase in the number of people searching for your company or products in their search engine of choice.
  • Targeted traffic to your Web site. Your Web site analytics tools should show an increase in the volume of targeted traffic to your Web site.
  • Form conversions. You should see an increase in the number of the right people who are engaging with your Web site content and submitting forms (e.g., contact forms, downloading white papers, free trials)


2 comments about "Marketing Funnel Lexicon: Top-Funnel Programs".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Sana Badhwar from Invesco, April 4, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.

    Hi David, thanks for sharing such an insightful article on top-funnel strategy!

    I wanted to take an opportunity to expand on the Social Media and Measurement sections: It appears that the most reliable metric for measuring long-term Social success and brand development is through an increased number of shares. A follower of a brand displays a higher level of engagement with it when s/he is willing to put their reputation on the line.

    This article captures it:

  2. Bill Freedman from Product Marketing & Management, April 4, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.

    What you can measure is golden. Multi-channel attribution and ROI calculations...I'm not a believer...yet.

    I also want to put in a good word for emphasizing "relevance" in your top-of-funnel strategy. Anyone with a budget can get their logo in a lot of places...nothing new there. Cutting through the clutter in the digital age requires relevant, click-worthy content.

    While not a believer in the ROI calculation, I strongly believe in using measurements to improve performance from one campaign to the next. If your performance indicators improve, so should your ROI...event if you can't calculate the number.

Next story loading loading..