From top to bottom: converting from the upper funnel


By Andrew Witkin, founder and president, StickerYou

The toughest part of attracting new clients to a business is initially getting them in the door or onto a website. According to Marketo, 96 percent of first-time visitors to a site won’t buy at that time. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ever make a purchase. Once consumers are interested in a product the chances of conversion at a later date are much higher. This is the fundamental importance of upper-funnel marketing: getting a brand in front of as many people as possible, with the understanding that this raises conversion rates at all points along the marketing funnel.

What is upper-funnel marketing?

In marketing, the visualization of a funnel is often used to understand the stages of a buyer’s journey, from when they first become aware of your product (at the top) to when they actually make a purchase (at the bottom, also known as lower funnel). In order to make that transition from a prospective buyer to an actual buyer, you need to move them from becoming aware of your product, to evaluating your product and considering its merits, to conversion, when they take the plunge and make the purchase. According to research from MaCorr Research Solutions, 48% of customers consider the first purchase or beginning of service as the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty and trust. That’s almost half.

For any of that to happen, of course, they need to start at the top of the funnel and become aware of your product in the first place. None of it can happen without that initial step.

At the top of the funnel, you want to get your product’s messaging out to as wide an audience as possible. The more people know about your product, the more prospective conversions you can make. Focus on maximizing engagement with new audiences, those who aren’t already aware of your product. 

Here are some tips to do that effectively.

Know your audience

At the top of the funnel you are reaching out to your broadest audience — but that doesn’t mean you want to target just anyone and everyone. You still need a very clear idea of who your target customers are, and how to extend your reach as far as possible within this target market. 

Take the time to figure out the demographics, lifestyles, income brackets of the desired customer base. Draw up specific profiles of characters that represent the range of people to reach. Give them names, ages, lifestyles, backgrounds, incomes, hobbies. Think about why they’re using your product and what they gain from it. What social media platforms are your target characters on? What kinds of online content do they engage with? What hashtags might they come across? If they’re mainly not online, what magazines are they reading? What TV channels are they likely to watch? This way, when you start putting your message out there, you can think about whether your characters would be interested in the way you’re marketing your product, what they would get out of it, and what channels are best used to reach the people you’re seeking out.

Perfect the message

Upper funnel marketing is all about first impressions. When your target customer first hears about your product, they should understand right away what it’s all about and the need it would fill in their lives. Messaging needs to be crystal clear, to you and everyone else that comes across it. If they get it right away and get why it would be personally useful to them, they’re much more likely to stick around to learn more. 

Make sure you can explain what your product is about, who needs it and why in one sentence, and make sure it’s clear and concrete enough for anyone who hears it to understand it too. This will help you create much more concrete marketing initiatives and increase your chances of piquing the interest of potential customers.

Spread the message and measure results

You know who your target audience is. You know the message you want to tell them. So now you need to get that message out there to as many of your target audience members as possible.

Upper funnel marketing initiatives are often the most challenging to put together and the most difficult to measure the results of. By nature, they are less reliant on concrete assets (such as blogs, newsletters or social media posts), and more reliant on initiatives that drive interest and generate buzz. But just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There is always a way to measure at least some part of an upper-funnel campaign. Prepare to think outside of the box and get creative.

For example, at StickerYou, we recently opened a retail location, StickerYou: The Store, in Toronto, Canada. This is part of an upper funnel marketing initiative in which we aim to raise brand awareness, and drive traffic to our online store where we sell custom stickers, labels, decals, temporary tattoos and iron-on transfers

In order to measure effectiveness, we are eschewing the traditional retail model that only looks at ROI on retail sales as the measure of success. If we consider the exterior and interior branding as brand awareness initiatives, this allows us to consider pass-by traffic and in-store visits as impressions. By measuring these impressions and comparing them against online ad spend, we are able to construct a framework to measure the results of the initiative.

Whatever your campaign looks like, whether it’s a pop-up, a unique event, an interactive engagement or anything else, find a way to measure it. It will be worth it.

By curating the right message to the right audience and creating a framework to measure upper funnel marketing results, you’ll generate brand awareness and useful info to build a solid base from which to construct future experiential campaigns.

Andrew Witkin
As the founder and president of StickerYou, Andrew Witkin believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel.