You’ve heard of top-, middle- and bottom-of funnel—the traditional stages of the buyer journey. But what about the deep funnel? Or the dark funnel?
Deep and dark funnels are two stages that are critical to understanding your buyer journey today. If you don't know where prospects look for answers, what kind of information they look for, and how they find solutions, you’re leaving the door open for your competitors to win their business.
This post will help you learn the difference between dark and deep funnel so you can develop a strategy to reach and engage buyers at the earliest stages of the journey.
The Difference Between Dark Funnel and Deep Funnel
Today, pulling prospects into the top of the funnel is too late. You need to cut in line ahead of your competition by connecting with your audience much, much earlier.
At that early point, your customers are in the dark funnel. Dark funnel refers to the part of the buyer journey that’s outside of the typical funnel and is not easily tracked or measured.
This is where it all begins. With so much information online, buyers can easily do their own research. Companies have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions.
In fact, Gartner research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of the time meeting with potential suppliers. When buyers are comparing multiple suppliers, that drops to only 5% or 6%. That’s why influencing their decision-making process from its earliest point is critical.
“The key difference between the dark funnel and the deep funnel is that the dark funnel is more exploratory, while the deep funnel is more intentional.”
Dark funnel includes channels such as social media, industry publications, and word-of-mouth. Buyers may engage with these channels early in their research process before they are ready to be contacted by sales.
There are many possible dark funnel touchpoints, including:
- Events (e.g., trade shows, conferences, meetups, networking groups)
- PR (e.g., press mentions, awards)
- Third-party sites (e.g., blogs, review sites, comparison sites)
- User-generated content (e.g., social media posts, forums, blog comments)
- Media (e.g., podcasts, photos, videos)
On the other hand, deep funnel refers to the later stages of the customer journey, when buyers are more actively researching and evaluating solutions. This includes channels such as comparison websites, product demos, and case studies.
Buyers may engage with these channels as they narrow down their options and prepare to make a purchase decision. Deep funnel touchpoints include:
- Product demos
- Free trials
- Comparison websites
- Customer reviews
- Email marketing campaigns
- Social media engagement
The key difference between the dark funnel and the deep funnel is that, generally, the dark funnel is more exploratory, while the deep funnel is more intentional and includes transactions closer to a purchase decision.
4 Key Differences Between Dark Funnel and Deep Funnel
Reaching Buyers Early in the Funnel
Marketers and sales teams can use a variety of strategies to reach buyers in both the dark funnel and the deep funnel.
For example, marketers can use social media and content marketing in the dark funnel to create awareness and educate buyers. Sales teams can use outbound sales and account-based marketing to reach buyers in the deep funnel and close deals.
By understanding the difference between the dark funnel and the deep funnel, marketers and sales teams can develop more effective strategies to reach and engage buyers throughout their customer journey.
Whether to Prioritize Dark or Deep Funnel
You may ask whether it’s better for companies to focus on the dark funnel or the deep funnel. This depends on your goals and resources.
The dark funnel is the early stages of the customer journey, when buyers are just starting to become aware of their needs and are gathering information. Companies that focus on the dark funnel are more likely to build brand awareness and generate leads in the long term.
However, companies that focus only on the dark funnel may need to wait longer to see a return on their investment, as they are targeting buyers who are not yet ready to make a purchase decision.
The deep funnel is the later stages of the customer journey, when buyers are more actively researching and evaluating solutions. Companies that focus on the deep funnel are more likely to close deals in the short term, as they are targeting buyers who are already close to making a purchase decision.
However, companies that focus only on the deep funnel are missing out on opportunities to reach buyers earlier in the customer journey and build relationships with them.
The best approach for most companies is to focus on both the deep funnel and the dark funnel. This will allow them to reach buyers at all stages of the customer journey and increase their chances of closing deals.
Here are some tips for companies that want to focus on both the deep funnel and the dark funnel:
- Use a variety of marketing channels to reach buyers at all stages of the customer journey. This includes social media, email marketing, content marketing, and paid advertising.
- Create targeted content for each stage of the customer journey. For example, you might create educational content for buyers in the dark funnel and product comparison guides for buyers in the deep funnel.
- Use marketing automation to nurture leads through the sales funnel. This will help you to stay in touch with leads and move them closer to making a purchase decision.
- Measure the results of your marketing campaigns so that you can see what is working and what is not. This will help you to refine your approach over time.
By following these tips, companies can focus on both the deep funnel and the dark funnel to reach more buyers and close more deals.
Challenges of Measuring Sales and Marketing Impact
Marketers can use a wide variety of dark and deep funnel touchpoints to reach and engage potential buyers, but measuring the impact of these activities is a persistent challenge. There are three main challenges for B2B sales and marketing organizations:
Attribution: It can be difficult to attribute conversions to specific funnel activities, as there are often multiple touchpoints involved in the customer journey, some of which are not easily measured.
Data silos: Marketing and sales data is often siloed, making it difficult to track leads from initial touchpoints all the way through the funnel to closed deals.
Long sales cycles: The sales cycle for complex B2B products can be long, making it difficult to measure the impact of funnel activities on revenue in the short term.
Despite these challenges, it is critical for marketing teams to measure the impact of the funnel on pipeline opportunities and revenue. By doing so, you can identify the most effective deep funnel strategies and improve the overall effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
7 Ways to Measure Deep Funnel Impact
Sales and marketing teams can more easily control the path of deep funnel activities to drive revenue. In this post, we’ll focus on measuring the impact of the deep funnel on pipeline opportunities.
Measurement is essential for understanding the effectiveness of marketing efforts and identifying areas for improvement. Here are seven methods for measuring the impact of the deep funnel:
Attribution modeling: Full-funnel attribution modeling (also known as marketing mix modeling) helps marketers understand how different touchpoints contribute to conversions. By assigning credit to each touchpoint, marketers can see which deep funnel activities are most effective at driving unified funnel pipeline opportunities and revenue.
Lead scoring: Lead scoring helps marketers prioritize leads based on their likelihood of converting. By tracking the engagement of leads with deep funnel content, marketers can identify leads that are most likely to become customers.
Closed-loop reporting: Closed-loop reporting connects marketing activities to sales outcomes. By tracking leads from the deep funnel all the way through to closed deals, marketers can measure the impact of their efforts on revenue.
Cohort analysis: Cohort analysis helps marketers track the behavior of groups of leads over time. By comparing the behavior of leads who engage with deep funnel content to those who do not, marketers can measure the impact of deep funnel activities on pipeline opportunities and revenue.
A/B testing: A/B testing allows marketers to test different versions of deep funnel content to see which is most effective at driving conversions. By comparing the results of different versions, marketers can identify the most effective deep funnel strategies.
Multi-touch attribution: Multi-touch attribution assigns credit to multiple touchpoints along the customer journey. This is a more complex approach than traditional attribution modeling, but it can provide a more accurate picture of the impact of deep funnel activities.
Customer journey analytics: Customer journey analytics tracks the behavior of customers across all channels. This can help marketers identify the deep funnel activities that are most effective at moving customers through the sales funnel.
How AI Helps Marketers Reach the Dark Funnel
Tools that leverage artificial intelligence are proliferating, enabling marketers to roll out new types of initiatives at scale. Here are some specific ways AI can be used to reach buyers in the dark funnel:
Identifying dark funnel signals: AI can be used to identify signals that indicate that a buyer is in the dark funnel. For example, AI can be used to track social media engagement, website behavior, and email opens to identify buyers who are interested in the company's products or services, but who have not yet taken any formal action.
Targeting dark funnel audiences: Once AI has identified dark funnel signals, marketers can use AI to target buyers who are showing these signals. This can be done through paid advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Nurturing dark funnel leads: AI can be used to nurture dark funnel leads through personalized content and offers. This can help to move buyers from the dark funnel to the deep funnel.
Here are some specific examples of how AI is being used to reach the dark funnel:
A B2B software company is using AI to identify dark funnel leads on LinkedIn. The company is targeting leads who follow relevant industry publications and who have visited the company's website. The company is then sending these leads personalized email campaigns with educational content and product demos.
A consumer goods company is using AI to track social media engagement for its new product launch. The company is identifying dark funnel leads by tracking users who are engaging with the company's social media content, but who have not yet visited the company's website. The company is then sending these targeted ads on social media.
An e-commerce company is using AI to identify dark funnel leads on its website. The company is tracking users who have abandoned their shopping carts, then sending these leads personalized email campaigns with abandoned cart reminders and discounts.
By using AI to reach the dark funnel, marketers can identify and engage with buyers earlier in the customer journey. This can help to increase leads, conversions, and revenue.
How AI Helps Marketers Reach the Deep Funnel
AI can also help marketers reach the deep funnel. Here are some specific ways that AI can be used to reach buyers in the deep funnel:
Identifying buyer intent: AI can be used to identify buyer intent by analyzing website behavior, social media engagement, and other data sources. This can help marketers to target buyers who are actively researching and evaluating solutions.
Personalizing deep funnel content: AI can be used to personalize deep funnel content based on buyer intent, preferences, and other factors. This can help to provide buyers with the information they need to make a purchase decision.
Nurturing deep funnel leads: AI can be used to nurture deep funnel leads through personalized offers, case studies, and other content. This can help to move buyers from the consideration stage to the decision stage.
Here are some specific examples of how AI is being used to reach the deep funnel:
A B2B software company is using AI to personalize product demos for deep funnel leads. The company is using AI to analyze buyer intent and preferences to create custom demos that are tailored to each lead's needs.**
A consumer goods company is using AI to send personalized offers to deep funnel leads on its website. The company is using AI to track buyer behavior and identify leads who are interested in specific products or services. The company then sends these leads targeted offers based on their interests.
An e-commerce company is using AI to send personalized case studies to deep funnel leads. The company is using AI to identify leads who are interested in specific products or brands. The company then sends these leads case studies that showcase how other customers have used the company's products or services to achieve success.
Using AI to Optimize the Deep Funnel
By using AI to reach the deep funnel, marketers can engage with buyers at the most critical stage of the customer journey. This can help to increase conversions and revenue.
It is important to note that AI is not a silver bullet for reaching buyers in the deep funnel. However, it can be a powerful tool that can help marketers to be more efficient and effective in their targeting and nurturing efforts.
An AI software platform can help marketers reach and engage buyers in a number of ways, including:
Identify and prioritize the best leads: AI can analyze large amounts of data from multiple sources, such as customer demographics, website behavior, and social media engagement, to identify the leads that are most likely to convert. AI can also prioritize leads based on factors such as their stage in the sales funnel and their fit with the company's target market.
Create targeted audiences: AI can be used to create targeted audiences for marketing campaigns. This can be done by analyzing customer data, such as demographics, interests, and purchase history, to identify common patterns. AI can also be used to create lookalike audiences, which are audiences that are similar to the company's existing customers.
Recommend best marketing tactics: AI can recommend the best marketing tactics or “next best action” for each lead or audience segment. This can be done by analyzing the customer data, as well as the performance of previous marketing campaigns. AI can also recommend the best time and channel to reach each lead or audience segment.
Optimize marketing campaigns: AI can be used to optimize marketing campaigns in real time. This can be done by tracking the performance of campaigns and making adjustments as needed. AI can also be used to automate tasks such as bidding on paid ads and sending email campaigns.
Overall, an AI software platform can help marketers reach and engage buyers more effectively by automating tasks, providing insights, and recommending the best marketing tactics.
Using AI to Optimize Demand Generation
Here is an example of how AI software platform can optimize a demand generation campaign in five steps:
- You upload the company's marketing activity data and funnel data into the AI software platform (or the platform ingests the data from integrated CRM).
- AI analyzes the data to identify the best leads, audiences, and tactics for the demand generation campaign.
- AI recommends a target audience for the campaign. You review the recommendation and make any necessary changes.
- AI then recommends a marketing tactic for the campaign, such as a paid search campaign or an email campaign. You select the recommended tactic and configure the campaign settings.
- AI launches the campaign and optimizes it in real time. You monitor the campaign performance and make adjustments as needed.
Maximize Marketing Results With Deep Funnel Intelligence
RevSure Deep Funnel Attribution helps marketers in every industry gain full-funnel insight into every lead source, campaign, and channel. Our AI-powered solutions give you the key to decode the deep funnel and scale up your best-converting campaigns.
RevSure’s AI-powered Deep Funnel Attribution lets you:
- Gain true full-funnel attribution
- Learn the highest-converting channels and campaigns
- Deep-dive into each channel
- Understand common buyer paths
- See lead journeys by buying stage
- Optimize your next best marketing action
- Adjust your marketing mix across the full funnel
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