Fruit & Funnels
Yes, there is a connection! If you're a small business and your marketing consists only of digital PPC activity, it's likely you'll only be focusing on the final stages of the purchasing process, or ‘activation’, without paying attention to the earlier stages. It may be effective as it limits wastage by focusing on customers who are buying right now. However it can be seen as taking the fruit from the tree, without watering it. You know that can't be right, certainly not for the long-term! What about the earlier stages in the buyer's purchasing process, where they’re doing their research? Or even prior to that, when they’re not even looking?
Now consider a funnel. Think of the shape of it: wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Think of it as your customers' purchasing journey, or sales process. You may have seen it in Google Analytics, as a visual display of where your visitors are dropping out of the process and abandoning their journey, with a large number at the top, dropout along the way, and a smaller number at the bottom. Whilst that's a perfect indicator of campaign return on investment (ROI) within say Google Ads, it only provides a limited perspective, but try rolling the funnel concept out to the wider marketing strategy and it'll help you to consider overall activity planning, spend, the customer relationship and effectiveness of activity.
Simply put, instant "now" purchases are made at the bottom of the funnel and conversely, brand - and trust-building are built at the top of it, where naturally more opportunities fit in. As progress is made down the funnel, things get more serious and the audience will drop off, leaving only those that become customers.
The various stages down the funnel are as effective as the marketing applied during the customer's journey throughout the product purchase process. There may be greater or fewer steps within your specific funnel, and this process can take days, weeks, months or even years, depending on what the customer is buying (think consumer electrics, to cars, or new lashes to new accountant). For some products it's important to be present at every stage in the customer's purchasing journey, especially those with a longer lead time and of higher price, where more research is conducted. There's also the role that "positioning" plays in customers' minds, which is where a brand and/or product is positioned in their mental shopping list, e.g. if you like cola, you'll generally be deciding between Coke and Pepsi.
For the small to medium enterprise (SME) with limited ad spend, it's obvious that whatever the activity, more acute evidence of return on ad spend (ROAS) is essential. Yet to place media spend at the bottom of the sales funnel - e.g. Google Ads or Facebook campaigning, where the instant or impulse purchase is made may end up merely of short-term benefit. This is because it misses the branding or trust-building stage - a vital part of the purchasing process - and whilst it could provide short-term gain, may end up costing more and be less effective in the long-term.
For a more solid marketing strategy, multiple "touchpoints" are essential to the marketing activity any business undertakes. The more a brand follows the target consumer around, or is presented to them, the more likely their engagement, provided they are the correct target audience.
Yet how is it possible to bring a target audience higher up the funnel that will ultimately find their way to the bottom of the funnel and buy? By choosing the correct media mix for the job, communicating to a wider number of eyes and ears, consistently.
It figures that the higher up the funnel the more wastage there is, but this is where the brand-building comes in. And to bring in some predictable performance, the activity requires consideration of how to connect up the available media and bring them together under a consistent, creative message, relevant to the target audience. And the rule that's often cited is "60:40" (it's a general rule of thumb, not absolute rule, in my book), where more effort is put into branding than marketing. This requires thinking: about how to generate brand awareness, education, brand positioning and recall, not just product, product, product (especially if that product or service isn't unique).
Regarding cost-effectiveness, the funnel process becomes a fairly easy process to assess as it's a summary of the whole picture and subtracting the numbers within each stage to give you a much better understanding of where each stage contributes towards the overall process and where to concentrate any adjustments.
It's also worth considering, if you're successfully digitally-marketing a product at the bottom of the funnel, you can look to chase awareness up the funnel, to ever-widen the awareness, so it works at both ends.