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Any marketer or salesperson worth his or her salt is well-acquainted with the “marketing funnel” (sometimes called the “purchase funnel”), a system for categorizing leads based on where they stand in the buying process and delivering content or calls-to-action accordingly. What you say to someone unacquainted with your brand is, of course, very different from the messages you would send to someone with 15 of your items in his abandoned shopping cart. But, even for marketers who are thoroughly familiar with the funnel, it’s not always obvious how to apply that type of thinking to social ad campaigns.
At Nanigans, we believe that the “conversion funnel” is the central paradigm that all marketers should use to make decisions about their ad campaigns. Here are the four stages of the conversion funnel as they relate to social media advertising — and how to optimize your efforts to get the most bang for your marketing buck.
Awareness is the first stage in the funnel: getting your brand in front of potential customers. At this point, your job is to discern where the most promising potential customers are and then figure out how to reach them with an introductory campaign.
First, figure out who would be most likely to respond to this type of campaign. The best place to start is to scope out your current customers. How old are they? What are their interests? Where do they spend their time online? We suggest that you examine personas in your target audience to answer these questions, then check your referral and search traffic. Once you’ve built targeting segments for this section of the funnel, test them out with Broad Category and Precise Interest targeting. You can also explore advanced targeting options with Partner Categories. Judging your targeting experiments on engagement will provide you with the guidance you’ll need for the next part of the funnel.
With acquisition, your goal is to get customers to register for your site, or download your app. At this point you should have a good idea of who your ideal customers are, and they should be aware of your brand.
Select your most engaged targeting segments for an acquisition campaign, and iterate on them by creating and testing similar segments using Lookalike Audiences. Be sure to create discrete targets without interest overlap in order to maintain clean divisions between your segments. Then, determine what a successful acquisition looks like for your brand. Does it mean a registration? A download? These metrics tend to be the primary focus of most acquisition campaigns, and with good reason. For companies looking to extract long-term value from their marketing efforts, it’s key to source and extract a steady stream of new users and paying customers. An acquisition campaign can help you make that happen.
Stage 3 is where you convince your proven audience — the people who have already taken an action that indicates interest — to make a first purchase. It’s the point when you convert active, non-paying users to paying users.
An activation campaign, by definition, will focus on an audience you have already cultivated. In most cases, this audience has registered for your service, joined your email list, downloaded your app or otherwise opted in to your experience. Because you’re targeting people who have already taken action and demonstrated clear interest in your brand, you can create a Custom Audience (or several) to provide naturally effective targeting toward your desired customers. The ROI on activation campaigns built this way is generally high; marketers are often more limited by the amount of money they’re able to spend due to audience size constraints, than by the performance of their ads serving this audience.
The retention stage of the funnel is in some ways similar to activation. The key difference: you’re reaching users who have made at least one purchase or those who have not made a purchase in a while.
Similar tactics to the activation stage apply, but retention campaigns actually feed the upper part of the funnel from the very bottom. Sometimes even your best customers, ones who have gone all the way through the funnel, will fall out. That doesn’t mean you should ignore them and give up on their repeat business. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity to remind them of why they were drawn to your brand in the first place, and convince them to re-enter the funnel. Remember that example of 15 abandoned items in the shopping cart? You can use Website Custom Audiences to target user behavior on your site and encourage a return visit. If executed effectively, a re-engagement campaign can be a huge — and often neglected — method to boost your bottom line/ROI.
When applying the conversion funnel concept to your social ad campaigns, you should work backwards. Think about your long-term objectives. Are you looking to lower cost per acquisition or increase overall ROI? The success of every campaign depends on how clearly you’ve defined your success criteria. Without a firm understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, tinkering with the levers and knobs of optimization will only lead to muddied results and performance that can’t be easily unraveled or reproduced. A solid understanding of the conversion funnel is a great first step to converting your goals into results that will be reproducible in the long term.