Marketing channel funnel

Use the channel funnel and get better results from your marketing

Feb 7, 2017

I was speaking about marketing and sales to the owner of a large professional services company recently when the conversation came around to social media. Her business engages an external agency to handle social activity but she was not convinced this was money well spent.

“Social media is a waste of time. It doesn’t work for us.” She said.

I asked what else the company was doing. “We invest quite heavily in press and radio advertising. But here too I’m unsure if either is really helping increase our sales numbers.” This brought to mind the famous quote “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

The thought of not getting a tangible return on investment sends shivers down the spine of anyone who has ever been responsible for a marketing budget. But I believe their problem lay not in choosing the wrong channels but in expecting those they did choose to deliver results they were never going to.

Put yourself in their shoes and it’s easy to see what happened.

You are planning a marketing campaign. You have a great offer, and a powerful message and your sales team are ready to go. But with a myriad of media channels to choose from, where should you invest your budget? Which will give you the biggest bang for your buck?

You know you need a blend of digital and physical of channels but what is the right balance? Should you focus on traditional advertising or search? What about content marketing and PR? And where does social media fit in?

You decide to hedge your bets and spread your budget across a number of channels before launching the campaign. Only to be disappointed when it does not generate the results you’d hoped for.

When considering a marketing mix it’s important to understand what to expect from media channels and how each can contribute to achieving the results you need. In order to do this, you first need to consider how sales and marketing fit together.

Sales and marketing are fundamentally different activities. Marketing is about raising awareness and sales is about facilitating a transaction. Or in other words – one is telling a story and other is doing a deal. Where they are similar however is that both involve a customer journey.

I am sure most you will be familiar with the sales funnel. A simple model that describes the customer journey from initial awareness to taking action. Sales professionals use the funnel when identifying prospects and moving them towards closing. But it can also a useful tool when planning a marketing campaign. Mapping media channels onto the funnel will help you identify the role each plays in your customer journey.

There are three types of media channels – ‘paid’, ‘owned’ and ‘earned’. The particular channels you choose depends on who your audience is, where they are and, of course, the size of your budget, but if your campaign is to be effective, you will need to employ channels from all three types.


  • Traditional advertising (print, online, outdoor, TV, radio)
  • Search (PPC)
  • Online display advertising
  • Facebook advertising
  • Direct mail
  • PR


  • Website
  • Blog
  • Email marketing (database)
  • Social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube)
  • Landing pages
  • SMS
  • Mobile app


  • Mentions
  • Reviews
  • Likes
  • Follows
  • Retweets
  • World of mouth

There is a direct correlation between the type of media you choose and where your prospective customers are within in the funnel. Each then plays a part in moving them down from first becoming aware, to showing interest, to making a decision and eventually taking action. Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action (AIDA).

The diagram below illustrates what I mean:

Value from the media channel funnel

Top of the funnel
Top of the funnel activity is about raising awareness and sparking interest. This is where paid media comes in. This includes traditional advertising channels like TV, radio, print, outdoor and direct mail or digital advertising such as search (Pay Per Click), Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Display Network.

Every time you succeed in attracting someone’s attention it helps raise awareness of you and your offer, slowly building recognition and trust. It’s worth bearing in mind that each of us ignores the majority of the 3,000 or so marketing messages we see every day. So the number of people you will influence compared the amount who will, potentially, be exposed to your message will be relatively small. So you’ll need a strong, clear message with maximum exposure and a clear call to action. If you are going to cut through the noise.

Middle of the funnel
The middle of the funnel in about encouraging those who have shown an interest to engage with you further. This is the role of owned media such as your website, emails, blog, mobile app and social media pages.

For example, a prospect responds to your top of the funnel activity and visits your website. They are interested in what you have to offer and want to find out more. They have some questions you need to answer those questions with content and a user experience (UX) that encourages them to delve deeper.

As you build trust so you can incentivise people to engage further by signing up to your email list, following you on social media or receiving regular SMS messages. You can then reward those who do by keeping them up-to-date with your new products or services, providing insight, invitations to events or special offers.

Bottom of the funnel
Bottom of the funnel activity is for those prospects who are ready to make a buying decision. This is where your sales team people come in. Their job is to close the sale and turn prospects into customers.

Of course, it doesn’t end there.

You should aim to turn customers into advocates. Happy customers who’ll tell the world about your products or services. You can do this by celebrating your customers’ successes, thanking them for their purchase and rewarding them for their loyalty. Social media channels are perfect for this because they provide you with the opportunity to engage with people on a more personal level. Deliver value and you will receive validation. Such as likes, follows, re-tweets, positive reviews and word-of-mouth. All forms of earned media activity.

Each channel has its place in helping prospects get to know, like and trust you enough to buy from you. But remember channels do not work in isolation. To achieve meaningful results from your marketing activity you need a joined-up approach to guiding prospective customers on their journey through the channel funnel from unaware to advocates.

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