Secrets of the middle funnel: Four simple steps to grow your business

This article was written by Pete LaFond, vp of marketing at TruSignal.

By now, marketers are well-versed in direct response, aka bottom funnel, marketing – i.e., search marketing, retargeting and behavior targeting. The middle funnel is about influencing the right shoppers and prospects before they are in-market or ready to buy.

For longer consideration products – i.e, auto, insurance, electronics and durable goods – middle funnel marketing is critical to influencing new prospects along the path to purchase.

Marketers with a fuzzy understanding of the middle funnel are leaving money on the table. Here are four ways to get started on your mid-funnel strategy.

First, you’ll need different data

Since these prospects are not yet in-market, the data needed to target them is going to be different. The bottom funnel signals, such as site visits or product views, are not happening yet. For finding prospects who are in the mid-funnel or near market , offline profile data is the key. Bottom funnel signals come from “what” the user is doing, whereas mid-funnel signals come from “who” the user is – such as lifestyle profile, interests, past purchases, etc.

Second, separate the wheat from the chaff

But to tackle the mid–funnel, you’ll also have to change how you use data.

The mid-funnel encompasses tens of millions of possible customers. Marketing to all of them is neither financially realistic for most brands, nor a sound strategy. Not all mid-funnel consumers are worth spending money to reach. The challenge is how to identify the great prospects, versus the good or even bad.

Thankfully, recent advances in predictive and lookalike modeling, coupled with the scale of audience targeting and programmatic, now make it possible to identify and target only the best mid-funnel prospects.

With the latest technology, data scientists are creating custom algorithms that accurately predict who is likely to be a great prospect and who is not. This technique combines many of the key attributes of a brand’s best customers to find online prospects with the same profile.

It’s a much more custom and accurate approach, compared to basic demographic targeting or off-the-shelf segments or clusters which tend to mix in the great with the so-so.

Third, rethink how you evaluate success

Now that brands have a way to target likely prospects in the mid-funnel shoppers, let’s talk about how to be successful.

Mid-funnel prospects have not raised their hands for your products yet. In fact, many have not even started the consideration process. Their timeline to purchase is much longer. Unfortunately, many of the current measurement and attribution systems that rely on online pixel fires to track sales miss more than 80% of the sales impact from mid-funnel campaigns. There has to be a better way.

Rather than measuring your mid-funnel campaign over a typical 3 to 7 day conversion look back window, you’ll need a longer time line (30 days or more) since prospects are just beginning to consider a purchase.

The reality is some time during this longer period, cookie data starts to crumble. In addition, consumers are using cookie-free mobile devices along with other channels for product research, so your measurement must include cross-channel, sales to both online and offline

Fourth, an integrated solution that puts all the elements together

Finally, the cornerstone of this strategy is knowing how to put the pieces together.
When integrating independently-designed components into a single solution, inefficiencies arise. And, great audiences become less effective if you can only reach a small portion of people.

Further, optimizing a mid-funnel campaign is significantly different from bottom funnel optimization, because of the longer path to purchase. The expertise of the people optimizing your campaign will impact the end results. So will having the right success metrics and a way to accurately measure the results.

An integrated end-to-end solution can provide a better opportunity for success, but “integrated” doesn’t mean black box. Your solution should include both performance and transparency.

2015 is going to be a great year for digital. Now that many companies have developed effective bottom funnel strategies, the leaders are going to apply an integrated mid-funnel strategy to accelerate their business growth while others will sit on the sidelines.

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