If so, we could plant a billboard along the road leading them to the middle of the funnel (MOFU) for a demo or trial. Instead, we are left to do our best to guess where they are, using lead-scoring formulas based on engagement and downloads or intent-based data from ABM or other third-party solutions. These are still educated guesses, as every prospect follows their own customer journey. During this “dark funnel” phase, prospects wander and visit internet touchpoints on their own, looking for information to answer their burning questions and find potential solutions to their pain point. Marketers often cannot track or attribute to these touchpoints, making it challenging to determine “what’s working”.
Don’t be a Dark Funnel Denier
As marketers, we need to accept the existence of the dark funnel. We need to educate the c-suite that not all marketing efforts can deliver direct attribution and that no matter how hard we try, we cannot control the entirety of the individual customer journey.
But that doesn’t mean we cannot influence or attract prospects. In fact, just the opposite.
Get them to Trial
In the consideration stage, the job of your marketing is to provide practical resources that help the prospect feel comfortable with your solution—so comfortable that they’re willing to take a trial—whether your trial is a demo, a 30-day test period, or a sample. It’s also your job at this stage to start to separate the lookers from the prospects.
Case in point: as marketers, we download a lot of reports. We are suckers for a good survey on what motivates consumers. And we love data. Typically, we have no interest in a product, only the information, because it serves a different purpose.
That’s what’s happening at the top of your funnel. So you need to separate data junkies like us from those who are researching with the intent to purchase. How? By starting to provide helpful resources that appeal to buyers, not to researchers.
What kind of resources would make a prospect know, like, and trust you at this stage?
Creating an authentic review of your business vs. your biggest competitors can help you attract your ICP while also driving organic traffic. In an interview with Nathan Latka, Co-founder Rafael Masson of B2B SaaS Missive specifically built its customer base by creating “honest” review comparisons to key competitors, which he believed helped their Google rankings. “We’re not for everyone. So if we’re honest in the reviews, we will attract the right customers, and those who need something else will go elsewhere. “Masson’s results support findings from a Marketing Sherpa study, indicating that 71% of respondents used comparison charts to evaluate products or services.
Case studies are an effective marketing tool because they offer a compelling way to demonstrate the value of a product or service to potential customers. Case studies:
- Provide social proof of the effectiveness of a product or service by showing real-world examples of how it has helped other businesses, which helps potential customers feel more confident about working with your company.
- Showcase expertise in a particular area by demonstrating how you solved a specific problem for a customer to help build trust and establish your company as a thought leader in your industry.
- Address objections or concerns that potential customers may have about your product or service. By showcasing how you helped a customer overcome a similar challenge, you can help ease concerns and build confidence in your offering.
- Engage potential customers by telling a relevant story and providing a real-world example of how a product or service can help a business. Such stories help potential customers feel more emotionally invested in your offering and more likely to take action.
Quizzes and Assessments
When done right, these engaging, interactive tools offer valuable, personalized insights to prospects more willing to provide contact information in exchange for the results. When you provide helpful information, the prospect is more likely to begin to trust your brand while becoming more open to further engagement.
Interactive assessments can be a great way to engage with potential customers and provide value during the consideration stage of the customer journey. Examples include:
- ROI calculator: A ROI (return on investment) calculator can help potential customers determine the financial benefits of using your product or service.
- Skills assessment: A skills assessment can help potential customers determine their proficiency in a particular area and identify areas for improvement. Imagine a marketing agency offering an assessment that helps businesses determine their level of digital marketing expertise.
- Risk assessment: A risk assessment can help potential customers identify potential risks and vulnerabilities in their business and provide recommendations for mitigation. For example, a cybersecurity company could create an assessment that helps businesses determine their level of risk for a cyberattack.
- Industry benchmarking: An industry benchmarking assessment can help potential customers compare their business performance to others in their industry.
- Customized solutions: An assessment that provides customized solutions can help potential customers identify the best products or services to meet their needs. For example, a software company could create an assessment that helps businesses determine which features and integrations they specifically need to optimize their workflow.
Studies from MarketingProfs to Aberdeen Group supported the belief that interactive quizzes and assessments increased leads and conversions. The creative possibilities are virtually endless. The key is to create assessments that provide value and help potential customers make informed decisions about your product or service.
Interactive Assessment Examples
Hubspot offers many free assessment tools, including the Website Grader®, which scores your website and offers ways to improve it. Hubspot likely figures that if you’re running the Website Grader, you might be an SMB interested in their suite of products.
Targeting SMBs that could become international shipping clients, FedEx offers an interactive assessment to determine your business’ “international readiness”.
We launched The Scale Trail Game assessment for Sage Intacct because we knew that their ideal customer persona experiences growing pains as they attempt to scale. We took a lighthearted, Oregon Trail-style approach to the journey. Prospects answered real-life questions about hypothetical scenarios that best reflected the strengths of the solution we were promoting. At the end of the assessment, prospects would discover how ready they were to face the scaling challenges and were invited to take a product demo.
Most B2B marketers continue to consider webinars a highly effective tool because they offer a range of benefits that can help businesses engage with potential customers and generate leads. Their most significant benefits include:
- Education and thought leadership: Webinars offer an opportunity to educate potential customers on a particular topic, establish your company as an industry thought leader, and help build trust and credibility with potential customers.
- Lead generation: Webinars traditionally drive leads by requiring participants to provide their contact information in exchange for access.
- Engagement: Webinars offer a highly engaging format that can help businesses capture the attention of potential customers and keep them engaged for an extended period of time. It also provides a forum for delivering a more comprehensive presentation, as many potential customers likely need more information before making a purchase decision.
- Interactive: Webinars allow participants to ask burning questions and engage with the presenter and other participants.
- Cost-effective: Compared to trade shows, conferences, or other in-person events, webinars can be a cost-effective marketing tool because they can be delivered online. Effective webinars can also be created once and delivered on-demand as an evergreen presentation or as a hybrid with live sales rep interaction.
- According to a recent Demand Gen Report, 67% of surveyed B2B buyers engaged in a webinar in the last year (up 10% from 2021), and 40% of the respondents consider webinars the most valuable content source.
Third-Party Analyst Reports
According to a 2020 TrustRadius report on B2B software buyers, 49% rely on analyst reports to evaluate and select vendors, and 39% say that analyst reports are more credible than vendor-produced content. Third-party analyst reports provide credibility, valuable insights, and an unbiased perspective that potential clients find trustworthy. B2B buyers and their buying committees are tasked with making significant investments; they must be confident in their decision. Third-party analyst reports can be amazingly effective for B2B audiences in the consideration stage because they independently assess a company’s products or services. These reports deliver:
- Credibility, trust, and validation by offering an objective, unbiased assessment of a company’s products or services. Such validation can help build credibility and establish trust with potential customers who may be skeptical of marketing claims from the brand. According to Demand Gen Report, 44% of B2B buyers say that unbiased reviews from industry analysts significantly impact their decision-making.
- Comparison. Most reports often compare a company’s products or services to their competitors, providing valuable insights to potential customers.
- Expertise. The deep expertise of third-party analysts in a particular industry or technology helps provide valuable insights and perspective to potential customers, so they can make informed decisions and choose the best solution for their needs.
Because third-party analysts like Forrester, Gartner, IDC, Aberdeen Group, and Frost & Sullivan are highly respected by business professionals, using their analyst reports as marketing collateral effectively promotes your company’s products or services.
Generating Interest and Consideration through events and gamification
Concepts beyond content can deliver results at every stage of the customer journey. Consider modifying your TOFU branding activities, such as trade show booths, conferences, and sponsorship events, with bolt-on engagement activities to deliver more than just attention to your brand name.
Create your own small event. Watch it deliver big results
Dunn-Edwards paint wanted to connect with Hispanic paint contractors, but didn’t have the budget for a significant sponsorship as a regional brand. We delivered a successful, under-the-radar solution by creating their own soccer tournament with an adult Mexican soccer recreation league in San Diego. Copa Dunn-Edwards allowed local reps to fully engage with contractors whose passion was playing soccer on the weekends. From free tournament entries with purchase to branded team jerseys for winners and a Spanish-language TV feature, this local grassroots tournament exceeded expectations.
Experiencing your WOW factor
When the “surprise” element of Magic Nursery’s large dolls wasn’t translating in ad testing, Mattel asked us to create an in-store event to help support the launch. The USP was that you didn’t know your doll’s details until you opened the package and dissolved the wrapped welcome kit in water. There you’d find a birth certificate and a new baby outfit. We created “baby shower” events with mini versions of the welcome home kit that kids could dissolve in water at the event. In August and September, we held 1500 events at retail locations like Walmart, Toys "R" Us, and Target. The response was phenomenal; one Walmart store sold 80 dolls (at $40 each) during the 2-hour event. By December, Magic Nursery became the #1 doll in the category and the darling of the toy industry.
During the consideration stage, your prospects are already aware of a problem or need they have. They are now actively researching and evaluating potential solutions and vendors that can address their issues. In the consideration stage, those prospects typically seek more in-depth information about various products, services, or solutions to help them solve their problem or primary pain point. They compare different offerings, assess the pros and cons, and determine which options best align with their specific needs, budget, and preferences. The consideration stage is your opportunity to:
- Educate. Share USEFUL information to help prospects understand the solutions available and how they can address their needs.
- Engage. Establish a relationship through whatever means you have available to show that your brand is interested in helping them find the best solution for their problem (even if it’s not yours).
- Overcome objections. Create content that proactively identifies and addresses common concerns or barriers to adopting your product or service.
- Showcase your expertise. Build credibility and trust through case studies, success stories, testimonials, and third-party endorsements.
- Direct to the trial stage. Help show your consideration prospects what’s next by guiding them to the next stage—trying out your product or service.
- Effectively engaging potential customers during the consideration stage increases the likelihood of conversion in the decision stage because you’ve already begun to position your brand as a trusted resource and a preferred solution.