In the latest installment of the Qualt Q&A video series, WEVO’s Jenni Bruckman went across the pond [digitally] to chat with David Cooper, Marketing Manager at Fountain, a UK digital marketing agency and consultancy, to talk about how to approach successful full funnel optimization.
David’s background is in digital marketing, with experience stemming from both in-house marketing activity coordination for B2C, as well as an agency setting at Fountain. His extensive knowledge includes devising digital marketing strategies for companies as big as Gartner, and now Fountain.
David is always seeking to improve standards within the marketing industry, so he’s happy to share his vision and learnings from such a forward-thinking agency, like Fountain, which has won three Google Premier Partner Awards, including a Global one.
Watch their full conversation and read on for key takeaways.
How do you go about defining the marketing funnel?
David started out by using the comparison to the producer, director, and screenwriter, J. J. Abrams, noting that whether you love him or hate his divisiveness, he has a system of storytelling that is a great example of a marketing funnel.
He points out Abrams’ Mystery Box system; whereby each scene creates a mystery that viewers want to find out, so they keep watching. The next scene then answers that mystery but sets up a different mystery, so viewers keep watching. And so on, until the big reveal at the end.
“A marketing funnel is this – a system of getting your audience to keep engaged until they buy. Everyone watching can identify what this looks like for their own business, through recognizing what different activity works at each stage of their own marketing-sales funnel. Top of funnel activity sells in your middle of funnel activity, which sells in your bottom of funnel activity, which sells in your product. Some people call this the customer journey, but it’s the same thing.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
What does success look like for full-funnel optimization?
Like Abrams’ storytelling, David points out that a successfully optimised funnel makes sure top of funnel activity answers a question that your audience has, while posing a new problem that they now want answered. The middle of the funnel then needs to answer this, while posing a new problem your audience wants answering. The bottom of the funnel follows up by answering this with the product you’re selling, leading them to buy the product to get the answer to their problem.
“What I mean by posing and answering problems, is by creating content that offers genuine value that actually helps your audience. So, your ads shouldn’t just lead to a page selling your product, but a page that gives a free bit of info that will be helpful to your audience. Then, only once you’ve done this several times, and they know that you do in fact offer value to them, do you then sell your product. The final mystery’s answer.” -David Cooper, Fountain
David further explains how to use the conversion rates between the stages to see if it’s successful.
“The better your ads and content are at answering problems, the higher the conversion rates will be. So more people move from the top of your funnel to the bottom and ultimately purchase.”
How do you identify the growth opportunities at every stage of the marketing funnel?
Like all areas of marketing you need to use data. A gut feeling about what might or might not be working, is no longer good enough, because data can now show us exactly what is and exactly what isn’t working. In this case, a good segment of data to use is conversion rate.
“Conversion rate lets you know which stages of your funnel aren’t working and which are. If you have a 10% conversion rate from the top of your funnel to the middle, but a 0.1% from the middle to the bottom, you need to focus on improving the middle of your funnel, as it’s clearly not persuasive enough.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
And David says if you’ve correctly identified what activity is at which stages of your funnel, then you’ll know exactly which ads and content pieces are failing at converting and therefore need to be improved.
“Ultimately, it’s about using data to be outcomes focused, not activities focused. Loads of the agencies that I worked with when I was in-house were activities focused, just making sure ads got out, they looked cool, and were hitting massive audiences that brought in loads of traffic. But conversion rates from these masses of traffic to sales were terrible. They cost us loads, but generated no revenue. So, make sure that you follow the data. Start with the poorest outcome, then work back to identify the activities that are creating this poor outcome, and improve those activities.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
How do you help clients ensure their entire funnel can work harder?
David knows it’s not just about improving individual metrics but changing mindsets, behaviors and conversion potential. Although it’s important to talk about the marketing tactics used to hit marketing-specific goals (i.e.: conversion rates, being data-led and outcomes-focused, knowing what content and ads to offer), the big question to ask is: What is the point of all this?
“It sounds silly, doesn’t it? What’s the point of marketing? But being outcomes-focused doesn’t just mean the outcomes of that single campaign you’re working on, but the ultimate outcome of all your campaigns, all marketing activity, and all company activity – which is profit for your company.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
That’s generally speaking. But he notes the point is to look at your company’s business goals. Those are the goals that all activity, whether marketing or operations, sales or otherwise, should be working towards. If your marketing activity is not working to those goals, then why are you doing what you’re doing? There’s no point.
So, to make sure that the marketing aspect of the funnel is working properly, David says we need to figure out where it fits into the company’s business strategy and what wider business goals we need to work towards. This involves talking with boards of directors, sales teams, and CRM teams, as well as other agencies involved.
“Talk to the sales team, asking them what makes a quality lead, but also how many quality leads they got from the last campaign you did. If it wasn’t a lot, why was this? You may have generated 1,000 leads, but if not one of them were good quality and didn’t turn into a sale, there’s a problem. This information then leads to improved conversion rates throughout all areas of the funnel, not just marketing, such as sales or customer retention.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
How does a consistent methodology help ensure you hit your targets?
David says it’s more about the type of method than consistency. If you’re consistent with a methodology that doesn’t work, it won’t help ensure you hit your targets, it will ensure you don’t hit them. So, you need to make sure you’ve got a decent methodology.
“I can’t say there’s one ultimate, silver-bullet, marketing method to rule them all; it’s different for each sector, each platform, each company. What people need to do is test different things to see what works and what doesn’t. Then invest more in what works, and improve the things that don’t. The consistent methodology is testing. Consistently test, all the time.” -David Cooper, Fountain.
An example of this is different ads and landing page copy. Split test ads and landing pages 50-50, and see what works better and keep that, then alter the one that doesn’t work to something else, and split test 50-50 again with this new variant, and so on.
How do you take the risk out of marketing by continually closing the gap between what you predict will happen and what does?
First we identify the goals, not just marketing goals, but company goals.
Then we create a forecast for what we can achieve, using forecasting tools to give as much accuracy as possible; if the forecast looks good, we’ll help you out, if not, we’ll be honest. We actually turn away about 64% of people that engage us because the numbers don’t add up.
If we go for it, then before we turn any campaigns on, we make sure to have rigid tracking and measurement in place so that we can be outcomes focused, identifying exactly which ads generated what sales or leads or traffic.
Then throughout the campaign we continue to test and optimise, making sure we’re communicating with sales teams to make sure the entirety of the marketing-sales funnel is as optimized as possible.
“All of this is working to generate as much profit for our clients as possible, or whatever their business goals are, but it usually boils down to profit.”
So, bringing it all together, how do you make every touchpoint perform so your funnel delivers results that are greater than the sum of its parts?
Like J. J. Abrams’ Mystery Box, David wants people to focus on answering the problems that their audiences have. Then teeing up the next one. It’s all about selling in the next step, by offering genuine value to your audience for free.
“That’s all there is to it. You don’t need to sell your product at every stage of the funnel, you just need to sell in the next step.”