BusinessFebruary 4, 2022Marketing 101: Understanding the Dark Funnel

Much of marketing can be trial and error, from the learning phase of Facebook’s advertising to making your own marketing campaign mistakes. Likewise, what many in the marketing industry fail to utilize–or even have any awareness of–is the dark funnel. Consumers are rapidly more tech-savvy; as many younger generations become adults and have their own money to spend, marketing professionals must keep up in a way that isn’t stunted. 

You need to be aware of every avenue in which a consumer finds their way to your storefront–digital or physical.

What is the Dark Funnel?

“Dark funnel” as a term was coined in 2006, and it deserves the notice of marketing professionals everywhere if they want to make an impact on their leads–or lack thereof. Of course, every marketer knows the typical sales funnel and how it works. However, if you want to get straight to the point without reading the rest of this blog, here’s a simple definition:

The dark funnel is what marketers don’t yet know about their potential leads. This is often when a lead is on the buyer’s journey in places you can’t track or predict, using anonymous web visits, researching through third parties, or faking form fill-outs. 

Sounds simple, right? You might assume that there must be no way to use this if you can’t track it. Hold your horses, though; there is!

Letting Go of Assumptions

Traditionally, marketing and sales teams work together to push potential customers deeper than the traditional funnel, where we cultivate offers and build that lead conversion. This is the buyer’s journey, where most businesses base their strategies. What about what you can’t track? The rise of digitization has made marketers lean too heavily on tracking, and that’s a problem!

Digital marketing will always have its place; it’s an extremely useful tool, but more significant insight into your consumers on a personal level is better than simple guesswork. Ultimately, the customer has all the control, and they have more tools than ever before to do a lot of their research on and offline.

Don’t Lose Hope

With assumptions tossed into the trash and a fresh take on marketing techniques, you can focus some of your effort on the deeper dive to knowing your less-easily-tracked consumer base. 


There is actually a silver lining to this dark funnel, and it’s the fact that the lead has done much of the work for you. In addition, consumers who are avidly researching a product or service are far more likely to engage with a potential company since they’re frequently more serious buyers than a person casually browsing.


There are plenty of ways to lift the veil over the dark funnel, such as learning to interpret necessary signals the customer is putting out. Exploring intent signals can help you reach a consumer sooner than your competitor might, but you want to do it within the realm of balance. A creepy, pushy marketer is far more likely to produce a consumer who advocates against using your products or services to friends and colleagues. 


With this in mind, here are a few ways you can fill those data gaps and unveil consumers in the dark funnel.


1. Connection is Key

Looking at historical data for your company, successes and losses based on past marketing techniques, is a good idea, sure. Some patterns are good to study, and some are best left swept aside, but when is the last time you actually asked your customers how they felt about your marketing, website, or apps?

  • An in-person conversation or interview with customers–assuming you have a brick-and-mortar store–could prove invaluable to learn what brought them there and why.
  • Surveys are an excellent digital tool to gain insight into the minds of consumers, asking questions around privacy, what led them to your service or product, and what they wish could’ve been different. 
  • Speak to your customers in personalized ways, with the preface that you’re looking to test and learn what they would like to see. Never be afraid to think creatively or experiment.


2. Strategic Focus on Your Audience

Dive deep into your zero and first-party data, explore the demographics, locations, and gaps, giving it a well-rounded review of your customers’ buyer cycle at individual or household levels. 

  • Look through third and second-party data, explore behavior signals, augment your strategies using this information. 
  • Consider partnering with a third-party data provider that can understand your business and customers while offering meaningful insights into what you should do. 


3. Customer-centric Channels & Data-driven Culture

You need to find the best channels to reach your customers effectively; we recommend you take an unbiased approach, leveraging consumer media and preferences data. 

  • You can use several third-party sources to find out what media channels your audience prefers, often giving you a good starting point. This can be online communities, organic social media engagement, or even podcasts.
  • Find out the KPIs and use that reporting for analysis within control groups to see how well your marketing efforts work within the dark funnel.
  • Monitor, test, and optimize your endeavor with high-quality reporting tools or by working with professionals who can help you drive customer engagement.

Marketing With Intent

To ensure that your marketing efforts are generating conversions within the dark funnel, you want to capture demand by finding where your target audience is and bringing your product or service to them in a way that feels organic. In the dark funnel, your audience will hopefully already be brand aware and in the process of looking for what you sell.

You as a business want to optimize your marketing and sales process, never sacrificing one aspect for another. Don’t focus too much on what your competitors are doing, and instead shift over to creating meaningful, high-quality content and pages. Some marketers would have you believe that consumers are easily manipulated, but that simply isn’t true! Customers can tell if you don’t put any thought into what you’re trying to sell them.

You need meaningful connections and more profound information from your consumers to understand why and how they came to your storefront–digital or physical. Likewise, we hope these explanations and tips will help you generate more conversions and give you new ways to explore marketing!

If You Need a Little Extra Help…

Optimize4Success is a full-service digital marketing agency that can help with lead generation and conversion beneath the veil of the dark funnel. You want to establish connections with customers since word-of-mouth is one of the best dark funnel marketing tactics out there, and it requires making a good impression on a lead-turned-convert!

We understand the nuances behind social media marketing, Facebook and Google ads, and even search engine optimization in a way that can give your business an edge over the competition. To learn more about what we do, drop us a line! Or simply explore our website for more helpful information.