The Dark Funnel

The Dark Funnel: The Importance of What You Can’t See

Uncover the potential of the dark funnel as we dig down into the untraceable areas of marketing and shine a light on the value that’s hidden beneath the surface.

The industry is moving at pace, and many companies are shifting from more traditional data capture methods such as content downloads and form fills, towards a more intent-based data approach. As shared in this video from Refine Labs, many companies that are making this transition are also adapting their marketing strategies and reshaping their approach to lead generation. They are shifting their emphasis to value-adding, easily accessible and consumable content such as videos and podcasts. They’re also utilising retargeting adverts and highly targeted Account Based Marketing execution to reach prospects in a more effective way.

Intent platforms can enable sales teams to focus their time on accounts that are demonstrating engagement around defined keywords and are good firmographic fits. But intent data can only go so far. It doesn’t necessarily indicate active buying intent. As more intent providers morph into ABM platforms, enabling you to manage your paid ad spend through the platform, it highlights those intent signals still need nurturing.  Online content impacts 90% of B2B purchase decisions, and buyers want increased convenience in the buyer journey. Marketers need to switch their focus, to make a lasting impact on their buyers, where it matters most to them.

Enter the ‘Dark Funnel’

A term coined and popularised by intent data providers, the Dark Funnel refers to all the different places where buyers are engaging and making decisions, that can’t be tracked or attributed by businesses.

One useful way to describe the Dark Funnel is through the iceberg analogy. On the top of the iceberg, or the part that we can see, are the trackable items. This includes elements that are visible in CRM systems, or that can be measured through attribution software and lead scoring. Examples include email marketing, paid social and content syndication, and these elements are commonly used to set KPIs. They are also commonly the primary method used to assess the impact and performance of marketing activity.

Now, we all know the phrase ‘that’s just the tip of the iceberg’, and it couldn’t ring truer when it comes to B2B marketing. As we look below the surface, we discover that what we see is only a fraction of the entire iceberg. And it’s the same with your marketing strategy. There’s a whole lot of activity taking place that is either harder to measure or simply not visible to companies.

This seemingly hidden realm of activity is what’s referred to as the ‘Dark Funnel’. It includes everything from industry publications, blogs and social media engagement to review platforms and word of mouth. But just because it can’t be measured, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, and certainly doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

It’s time to turn the light on…

With so much pressure on demonstrating value and ROI, it’s very easy to focus solely on activity you can measure. Marketers are often faced with the challenge of justifying why resource should be invested in areas that cannot be directly measured. But at a minimum, not optimising for the Dark Funnel can hinder your conversion quality and negatively impact your sales pipeline.

In actuality, a high proportion of B2B buyers are researching, discovering and evaluating products in places that businesses can’t track. Examples of ‘invisible’ influencing factors include online communities, organic social channels, podcasts, third party review sites and peer conversations.

We can’t see when one decision maker sends a text message to another asking which CRM they use. We can’t see direct messages on social media that ask for a recommendation. Likewise for private meetings where a colleague can guide someone’s product research toward a certain brand. But they are happening, and they are driving demand for your solutions. Brands need to focus on the activity that’s taking place in these areas, as that’s where the hard work is happening. In fact, by the point a buyer engages with your company, it’s increasingly likely they’ve already formed a buying decision.

To reach and influence prospects in the research stages of their buyer journey, a key shift needs to occur in how ‘value’ is perceived by key stakeholders. At the moment, value is focused primarily on revenue that is directly attributable to marketing activity. In actuality, the value drivers lie in the quality and relevancy of content and the channels being utilised to share it.

Let’s use the funnel to your advantage

Every company has its own unique ‘iceberg’ with both visible and dark elements. To truly optimise your marketing strategy, businesses need to embrace both elements to effectively reach their audiences. When executed appropriately, these ‘dark’ channels are some of the most impactful that a business can use today.

At Seeblue, we take an insight-first approach with our clients. This enables them to gain a holistic view of their industry and the real needs, both known and unknown, that they can solve. We start with research into key trends, challenges and opportunities, and the personas who are making purchase decisions. With this insight, we produce relevant, timely messaging and content that speaks directly to the heart of their target audience. The value here lies in helping to establish an emotional connection with a prospect, through producing content that they are genuinely interested in. This is crucial in building brand affinity. It also provides an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition, whilst boosting your brand’s thought-leadership authority.

We guide our clients to focus on the full scope of distribution channels, both non-attributable and attributable. This optimises their outreach. The aim is to ensure they are exactly where need to be, rather than where the best metrics are available. The advantage? Increased brand awareness and, by providing the information your prospects need, when they need it, improved conversion quality. Success is measured not in attribution data but in pipeline growth and sales velocity.

Want to know more? We recommend this short video from Chris Walker at Refine Labs ‘B2B Demand Gen | The Dark Funnel’ or discover more of our marketing insights here.

Author: Laura Gillespie, ABM Planning and Campaigns Manager, Seeblue Marketing

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