There has never been a better time for businesses to optimise each stage of the sales and marketing process. Covid-19 has rapidly sped up online migration with people working from home, on furlough, or simply unable to work. With this new shift in consumer behaviour likely to continue in a post-COVID-19 world, businesses are under increasing pressure to adopt a digital strategy when targeting consumers.

Lockdown is a prime example of the importance of adopting an agile marketing strategy. Traditional forms of marketing, like advertising billboards and adverts on the sides of buses, proved ineffective in a world where everyone was confined to the four walls of their homes. They simply were not achieving their intended audience reach, leading businesses to adopt a ‘digitise or get left behind’ approach when it came to their marketing strategy.

Consumers are spending more time online than ever before. And whilst this behaviour was initially forced through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that this will become a longer lasting habit. Sales funnels that traditionally started with offline branding adverts and moved to online performance campaigns, now need to adapt if they are to survive and prevent drowning in the sea of brands that have already suffered from not digitising.

The importance of tracking

Performance marketing has always differentiated itself from branding with its more tracking-focused approach. Because of this, one of the biggest gulfs between these two marketing tactics lies in their physical presence: performance being online and brand being offline. Until now…

Tracking is essential when it comes to understanding how customers interact with companies before a purchase is made. Simply tracking first click and last click, which tend to be the most popular attribution models, neglects other aspects of the journey which influence the sale. By adopting a linear approach, all touchpoints in the customer’s journey are given equal credit allowing for better insight into how the campaign is performing from a full funnel perspective.

The rise of the online marketplace

With more consumers embracing online opportunities, businesses have needed to embrace e-commerce opportunities in order to continue to drive sales. Direct To Consumer (DTC) marketplaces are a great way of allowing businesses to open up additional revenue streams, and even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic stood out as one of the top-rising retail trends. 

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce marketplaces, DTC offers a more effective way of building engagement with customers, resulting in better data-driven feedback and contributing towards more accurate forecasting. It is also fundamental when it comes to building brand loyalty through personalisation and customer reviews, as well as allowing end-to-end control of the customer experience.

Why brand and performance marketing need to work together

Historically many businesses have had a stronger focus on brand marketing, sometimes unknowingly at the expense of their performance marketing. The challenge lies in aligning brand and performance marketing when the two operate at different ends of the sales funnel. This is where adopting a full-funnel approach, identifying Lifetime Value (LTV) adverts and keywords are beneficial in encouraging repeat custom. By optimising a marketing campaign it is possible to identify which elements are producing the best results, and generating high-value customers. It is these performance-orientated metrics which are so valuable in being able to offer a personalised experience.

Building brand awareness and generating leads 

The first step is acknowledging the value of the top of funnel (TOFU) brand building activity and generating qualified leads. Whilst its primary focus is on increasing awareness and audience reach, rather than revenue, it’s important to remember that brand drives performance.

Brand recognition is also key in influencing a sale. A potential customer is less likely to invest in a product they are unfamiliar with, particularly if there is a well-known and recognised comparable alternative.

Strong content marketing through blog posts, or PPC marketing such as Google or Facebook adverts, which link back to relevant landing pages on the website help to encourage customer engagement. Repeated exposure to the same brand creates familiarity, keeping a brand front-of-mind during the research process before a purchase is made.

Having a greater understanding of customer behaviour at the beginning of the journey can lead to greater efficiencies further down the funnel. It also allows for branding to be measured in a more data driven manner than before. By measuring the traffic generated by individual ads, you can see clearer which brand messages work better than others.

How to improve the evaluation process

The middle of funnel (MOFU) is where the customer will spend time researching and considering their potential purchase, through a variety of different touchpoints. For example, a potential customer searching to buy a red dress via a search engine is more likely to click on an advert if it is number one in the ranks. Once visiting the website, it’s likely they will continue to visit other websites whilst going about their day. Through remarketing, a second advert for the same red dress may appear on their social network, encouraging clicks again, leading to a purchase. Two touchpoints. One sale. 

It is at this stage of the funnel where online and offline marketing techniques can work hand-in-hand in terms of offering an all-round experience. For example, if a campaign’s objective is to drive more footfall to a particular store, this can be carried out by targeting users within a certain radius of a store, showing them where their nearest location is, and highlighting any particular sales. 

Conversion to sale

The bottom of funnel (BOFU) is a two stage process – both the sale itself and then the aftersales. Again PPC marketing and SEO are techniques that can be applied here, as well as remarketing. Targeting less ‘informational’ keywords that potential customers search for in the discovery phase, such as “where to buy a mobile phone”, and targeting more ‘transactional’ keywords that users search for when they are ready to buy, such as “buy mobile phone now”, is a good way to grab users at the bottom of the funnel. 

Performance marketing will by nature remain sales-centric, focusing on short-term revenue as part of the conversion process, and so also forms part of the bottom of the funnel process. Therefore, revenue and ROI are the metrics used to determine success instead of traffic. 

Why brand and performance marketing need to be aligned

Ultimately, the online migration was always going to happen, but Covid-19 has made it imminent. What it has highlighted is that brand and performance marketing should not be treated as separate elements of a marketing campaign, rather they should be seen as being interdependent upon each other. A balance that is essential when it comes to business growth.

Adopting a full funnel approach allows an online presence to be considered at all three stages of the funnel – top, middle and bottom – increasing the chances of a sale to be achieved, by creating cohesion across all activity at every point the customer will come into contact with your company.