dark funnel

How to Identify Your Dark Funnel: Key Metrics to Track

What is a Dark Funnel and How is it Different from a Sales Funnel?

Unlike a conventional sales funnel, where customer paths are well illuminated and predictable, a dark funnel is not directly observable. It’s the unseen part of a customer’s journey, the underground passages where consumers discuss, research, and compare products or services beyond the marketer’s radar. 

These discussions can occur in various forms and places like private browsing, encrypted chats, social media DMs, offline word-of-mouth, untracked forums, and review sites. While you can’t directly see or measure them, they are influencing buying decisions. 

While it may sound intimidating, the dark funnel is not a cause for despair but an opportunity to understand why, how and when customers come to you. Let’s learn how to work with this new area.

Which Dark Funnel Metrics Should you Track?

Identifying your dark funnel can feel like trying to map a starless night sky. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds. With the right tools and key metrics, you can illuminate the hidden pathways your customers tread. 

Web Analytics 

You may wonder, how can web analytics help if we’re talking about ‘invisible’ traffic? While it’s true that you can’t track everything, certain indications can hint at a darker, unseen marketing funnel. For example, a surge in direct traffic could suggest a dark funnel at work. 

dark funnel metrics

Direct traffic is often a sign of users who already know your brand, bypassing search engines to visit your site directly. It’s the equivalent of taking a shortcut through the woods, instead of following the main road. But if there’s a sudden unexplained increase in this type of traffic, it might be due to untracked channels – the dark funnel.

Social Listening 

Consumers are not always silent spectators. They tweet, share, and discuss your products on various platforms. By ‘listening’ to these conversations with social listening tools, you can uncover a significant portion of your dark funnel. 

How can social listening unlock the potential of the dark funnel? Here are some strategies: 

  1. Monitor Brand Mentions: This is the most basic function of social listening. By keeping track of who’s mentioning your brand and where, you can get a sense of your brand’s visibility and reputation.
  2. Identify Influencers: Influencers play a crucial role in shaping opinions and driving sales. Through social listening, you can identify who these influencers are and engage with them to amplify your brand’s reach.
  3. Keep an Eye on Competitors: Social listening isn’t just about focusing on your own brand. Monitor your competitors, learn from their successes and mistakes, and refine your own strategies accordingly.

Customer Surveys 

Want to cut straight to the source? Conduct customer surveys. You’d be surprised at how many people discovered your brand through word-of-mouth, offline events, or other non-digital sources. 

Surveys are an excellent tool to unmask the dark funnel. By simply asking your customers how they found your brand, you tap directly into the obscured information the dark funnel hides. This could range from a friend’s recommendation to an advertisement on a podcast they regularly listen to. 

These findings can help you assess the effectiveness of your offline marketing strategies and identify potential areas that need improvement. This helps you comprehend your customer’s path and gives important information on the best use of your marketing funds for maximum ROI. 

By including customer surveys in your marketing toolbox, you stand a better chance at demystifying the dark funnel. However, remember to design your surveys carefully to ensure the collection of useful and meaningful data. Various tools like Zigpoll make building and managing customer surveys easy, even without programming experience.

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Attribution Modeling 

Attribution modeling can help you identify the touchpoints a customer has with your brand before making a purchase. This way, you can trace back the steps and reveal a part of your dark funnel. 

In the simplest terms, it’s a methodology marketers use to dissect and understand a customer’s journey towards making a purchase. It’s like a roadmap to your customer’s buying decision, helping you pinpoint the precise touchpoints that nudged them towards a purchase. 

Attribution Modeling Step-by-Step

  1. First, gather data about your customer’s interactions with your brand.

    This includes both online and offline touchpoints.

  2. Next, decide on an attribution model that suits your business goals.

    Types include first-touch, last-touch, and multi-touch models. Each attributes the customer’s conversion to various touchpoints.

    First-touch model attributes the conversion to the customer’s first point of contact with your brand, while last-touch model gives credit to the last interaction before the conversion.

    Multi-touch models, on the other hand, distribute the credit amongst various touchpoints. This decision is crucial because it significantly influences how you’ll interpret the data from your dark funnel.

  3. Then, apply the model to your data.

    Analyze the results, looking for patterns and insights.

  4. Finally, use these insights to refine your marketing strategy.

    You might need to shift your focus to different touchpoints, or reassess the effectiveness of certain marketing efforts.

UTM Parameters 

Last but not least, UTM parameters. These little snippets of code attached to your URLs can help track where your traffic is coming from, providing insights into your dark funnel. 

UTM parameters consist of five versions: source, medium, campaign, term, and content.

  1. Source: Tells you where the visitors are coming from.
  2. Medium: Tells you how they got to your site (like via email or social media).
  3. Campaign: Lets you identify which specific campaign brought them in.
  4. Term: Helps you track keywords for ad campaigns.
  5. Content: Differentiates similar content or links within the same ad.
UTM links

Successful Dark Funnel Campaigns: Examples

Dropbox referral program

Imagine getting extra storage space on Dropbox for every friend you bring on board. Sounds exciting, right? That’s exactly what Dropbox thought and, instead of using the usual marketing channels, they turned to the dark funnel.

They created a unique referral link for each user to share via email, social media, and personal channels. This led to a huge increase in sign-ups and user engagement.

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The company used a combination of email marketing and personalized landing pages to target potential hosts who had previously shown interest in renting out their homes. 

Airbnb sent them personalized emails with a unique link, directing users to a landing page tailored to their specific location and property. This strategy significantly increased conversion rates and the number of hosts on the platform. A true marketing success!

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The company used email marketing and retargeting ads for potential customers interested in their products. HubSpot emailed these individuals personalized messages with a link to a customized landing page.

Additionally, HubSpot used retargeting ads to follow these individuals around the web and remind them of the benefits of their products. This approach resulted in a higher conversion rate and a significant increase in sales for HubSpot.

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Red Dead Redemption 2

The game’s developer, Rockstar Games, used a dark funnel approach by creating a series of cryptic and mysterious teaser trailers that hinted at the game’s storyline and features. This generated a lot of buzz and anticipation among gamers, which ultimately led to the game’s successful launch and record-breaking sales.

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