It was back in the 1980s when the foundations for digital marketing were first laid down, with the advent of the computer and primitive desktop publishing software. 

This concept has evolved at an exponential rate during the subsequent 30 years or more, however, with digital marketing having now become an obsession for businesses across the globe.

This is borne out by the numbers, with advertisers in the UK expected to spend £14.73 billion on digital ad formats this year alone. Not only will this represent an 11.2% increase in 2018’s figures, but it’s also important to note that digital marketing now accounts for a staggering 66.4% of the total ad spend in the UK.

One of the main appeals of digital media is that it’s immensely measurable, but this can lose brands to lose sight of how top-of-funnel marketing helps them to build awareness and generate leads in the first place. Make no mistake; not all marketing needs to be measurable, and with this in mind channels such as out-of-home (OOH) advertising can offer immense value to brands in the digital age.

Bottom vs. Top-of-Funnel Marketing – What you Need to Know

The best marketing campaigns are structured and well-integrated, in order to create an identifiable customer journey and assisted conversions that utilise various channels.

This requires an organised approach to targeting customers and creating content, however, which is why advertisers often refer to the top, middle and bottom of the marketing and sales funnel. 

In simple terms, this breaks down the typical customer journey into small and manageable steps, from building brand awareness and familiarity at the top of the funnel to converting leads into sales and direct purchases at the bottom.

So, whilst marketers publish content at the top of the funnel in a bid to build brand awareness amongst as large a target market as possible, they rely on tools that accelerate the conversion process and create confidence in their customer’s ultimate buying decisions.

At this stage, it’s easy to understand why marketers are so preoccupied with bottom-funnel marketing. After all, this impacts directly on a business’s bottom line and the ROI in can expect from its marketing spend, whilst it’s also relatively easy to measure the effectiveness of your campaign and your estimated customer acquisition costs.

However, there’s an inherent and obvious danger of focusing solely on bottom-funnel marketing, particularly if you understand the importance of brand awareness and how this impacts on conversion rates further down the line.

This will certainly impact on a brand’s exposure and its scalability, and to understand why you only need to look at the most prominent example of bottom-funnel channels and tactics.

From the provision of free trials and detailed Q & A sessions for target customers to live demonstrations for increased customer interactions, these tactics all rely on having access to an engaged audience having previously built consumer relationships over a period of time.

marketing funnel

So, without top-of-funnel marketing techniques aimed at building awareness and reaching as large a target market as possible, you’ll have a much smaller pool of potential customers to convert once they’ve reached the end of their journey.

At the same time, it’s important to note that many of the goals associated with bottom-funnel marketing also rely heavily on top-of-funnel content creation and channels. 

For example, if you’re precise aim is to nurture customers and provide them with the necessary confidence to make an informed purchase decision, you’ll first need to build brand awareness, drive recognition and reinforce the values that enable you to stand apart from your competitors in the marketplace.

Other prominent objectives of bottom-funnel marketing include accelerating the deal cycle and positioning your brand as being superior to direct competitors, and neither of these can be achieved unless customers are familiar with your business’s value proposition or the key differentiators that ultimately encourage them to convert.

So, whilst you can’t overlook the importance of bottom-funnel marketing (either in terms of its measurability or the role that it plays in converting customers), there’s no doubt that top-of-funnel marketing comes first and remains integral if you’re to create effective campaigns and boost sales conversion rates over time.

Why Modern Marketers can Learn a Great Deal from OOH Media

The obsession with digital media is undoubtedly creating something of a disconnect for brands, many of whom continue to underestimate the impact of top-of-funnel marketing despite that fact that 76% of businesses consider brand awareness to be a key performance indicator for them.

For those brands who do invest in top-of-funnel marketing as part of a structured and integrated advertising campaign, however, there’s an obvious focus on OOH media and cost-effective channels such as billboards.

In fact, billboards have arguably superseded television as the go-to marketing channel for building brand awareness, thanks to a combination of declining viewing figures and the negligible ROI delivered by the latter. 

It’s believed that TV is particularly ineffective when building awareness amongst customers aged between 16 and 34, with the number of linear ads seen by the demographic having declined by 20% in the year ending March 2019.

Aside from this, however, what else makes OOH media such an effective builder of brand awareness, and what can today’s generation of marketers learn from this?

Billboards Offer Optimal Exposure for your Brand

Exposure is always the main objective with top-of-funnel marketing, as you look to reach as large an audience as possible and raising awareness about the brand.

OOH media (and especially traditional billboards) are ideally placed to help you achieve this objective, and there are various statistics that seem to bear this out. It’s estimated that the average consumer spends up to 70% of their time out of the home, for example, whilst the ability of billboards to blend naturally into their surrounding environment creates a non-intrusive medium that consumers actively want to engage with.

billboard

Studies from America have also suggested that an estimated 71% of citizens interact with the messages on roadside billboards that they encounter each day, hinting at a far higher level of engagement than any digital marketing channel.

OK, we hear you ask, but why prioritise traditional billboards over digital alternatives? Well, aside from the cost (we’ll have a little more on this later), traditional ads offer a far higher rate of exposure for the duration of your booking.

The reason for this is simple; as traditional billboards feature a single ad for as long as the booking dictates. Conversely, digital ads often feature up to six sponsored messages per minute, creating a scenario where your particular adverts will only be seen for 10 seconds at a time.

This helps to drive a larger number of potential customers further down the funnel, by building a sense of awareness and familiarity around your brand.

Billboard Campaigns can be Measured in Some Respects

Whilst marketers may eschew OOH media in the belief that it’s not measurable, this assertion is not wholly accurate. 

Although it’s certainly harder to track the impact of OOH campaigns with great accuracy, there are ways in which you can measure performance and gain important feedback.

Even on a fundamental level, you can measure the effectiveness of specific billboards campaigns simply by selecting a metric such as sales and reviewing this before, during and at the completion of the booking. Whilst there are other factors that may impact on sales, this will offer you an insight into whether the investment was worthwhile.

Traffic data can also be used to measure the reach of a campaign and the number of impressions generated, as it tracks the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic through a particular road or geographical areas. 

This can be used to calculate ad exposure depending on the precise location of the billboard, with data sets such as leisure activity participation and road traffic counts often proving to be particularly insightful. 

Billboards are Affordable and Offer an Improved ROI

Whilst some digital marketers may still be deterred by the lack of accurate measurability associated with OOH advertising, the cost, exposure and reach of ad channels such as billboards should more than compensate for this uncertainty.

Aside from representing a much-needed investment in top-of-funnel marketing and brand exposure, billboard campaigns are also commercially viable thanks to their relatively low cost.

This is particularly true in the case of traditional and paper billboards, which can be sourced for as little as £21 per day even in strategic and high-traffic locations. 

This is incredibly affordable in the current climate, whilst it also offers a viable medium to small and local business owners who are looking to promote themselves within a carefully defined budget.

This low cost also improves an already exceptional ROI, as brands are able to spend less on affording themselves exposure without compromising the number of target customers at the bottom of the marketing funnel.

So, in conjunction with an effective bottom-funnel marketing strategy to convert these customers, billboard advertising can generate huge returns for your business and genuinely improve its bottom line.

The Last Word

It’s easy to see why modern marketers are obsessed with the concept of digital marketing and media, as its accessibility and measurability remain extremely appealing to businesses.

However, it’s important not to underestimate the impact of integrated campaigns and OOH channels such as billboards, which represent excellent top-funnel marketing techniques and are ideal for the purpose of building brand awareness.