For most brands, it takes multiple touchpoints throughout the buyer journey before an individual finally makes that purchase or becomes a lead.
With all of the information readily available, consumers now spend time sourcing recommendations, researching, reading reviews and even watching videos prior to making purchases.
As marketers, this is something that needs to be accounted for when putting together your digital marketing strategy and planning out your paid media campaigns (specifically paid search, display & YouTube) within Google Ads (formerly AdWords).
The Funnel (COLD vs. WARM vs. HOT)
When planning your digital marketing strategy and mapping out your campaigns the most effective way to do so is to think of the purchase funnel. This will help to ensure you have an integrated paid media strategy. You want to guarantee you are reaching your target audience at each level of the funnel (top vs. middle vs. bottom) while serving them the most relevant messaging, content and user experience. Another common description from top to bottom is Awareness vs. Consideration vs. Purchase.
Top of funnel (cold traffic) includes individuals who have never been to your website and are not current customers. These individuals are in the awareness phase. Middle (warm traffic) includes individuals who have visited your website but have not purchased from you in the past or are in the consideration phase. And finally bottom (hot traffic) are your current customers who have already made a purchase on your website or even in-store.
Ask yourself… Is your current paid media strategy covering all of these levels of the funnel? Or are you too focused on one layer?
Targeting Options and Audiences
Let’s begin with top of the funnel or cold traffic. The focus of these campaigns should be to introduce new customers to your brand and build the brand awareness or brand recall. Channels like YouTube, Google Display Network (GDN) and even nonbrand search are great options for this introduction. Depending on the industry, it may make sense to lean more heavily on YouTube or display as these can be very cost effective tactics, with much lower CPCs (cost per click) than nonbrand search.
YouTube and Display cold targeting options are similar and can be customized based on your target audience:
– Interests – Predetermined categories in Google that individuals are have shown interest in.
– Topics – Target based on the topic of the content the user is viewing.
– Keyword contextual – Target based on keywords within the content on the page.
– Placement – Select specific websites or videos within the Display or YouTube networks.
– Affinity & Custom Affinity – Select custom words or phrases that might interest your ideal customers.
– Intent & Custom Intent – Select custom words or phrases related to the types of people who are most likely to engage with your site.
– In-Market – Target individuals who are looking to make a purchase or have made a purchase for a predetermined set of categories.
– Similar Audiences – Target users with interests related to the users in your remarketing lists, including site visitors or converters.
Beyond all of those options, you can layer on demographics (age/sex) as well as device and location.
Middle of funnel or warm traffic is where you will use your remarketing lists. These can be used as targeting for YouTube or Display or applied to your search campaigns for RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads). These campaigns are meant to nurture past site visitors and build that brand affinity. Past converters and customer email lists should be excluded. Depending on the total volume of site visitors, audiences can be broken out based on pages visited, time on site, or how recent the visit was. The more site visitors the more granular you will be able to get.
Tip: if you build the audiences out within Google Analytics you’ll be able to utilize traffic coming from other marketing initiatives, like Paid Social or Email.
Bottom of funnel or hot traffic is similar to middle, however, you will be applying your customer email lists or any audiences that includes past converters. If this audience is large enough it is important to break these out based on how recent the purchase was. For example last 30 days, last 60 days, or last 90 days.
One of the most important things to consider is your messaging. It needs to speak to the individual at each level of the funnel while maintaining a consistent brand voice.
For example, top of funnel campaigns within the GDN/YouTube should not be pushing a “shop now” message. These individuals haven’t shown any interest yet and may have never heard of your product or brand. Instead, consider the target audience and the need… they may not know it yet but they need your product. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- How well known is your brand?
- Why would someone buy your product?
- What problem does your product solve?
- What sets your product apart from competitors?
Another thing to consider is the type of targeting you are using for this audience. If your cold targeting is for athletes or men/women, make sure that message speaks directly to that individual and their interests. The more you can customize the more engagement you will receive.
Content, Landing Pages & User Experience
Like your ad copy, your landing pages and the content included should vary based on the level of the funnel and types of targeting being used. Rather than driving cold traffic to a product or shop page, consider driving this traffic to a more informational page that speaks to each of the questions asked above. This type of content is important when customers are in the research phase. Consider capturing an email before going directly for the sale. Now that the potential customer has been to your site and knows your brand (warm or hot) then drive them deeper into your site and closer to that purchase.
Tip: if using Google Analytics review Bounce Rates and the Behavior Flow to see what landing pages consumers are visiting, the other interactions and where the drop-offs occur.
Tying it all Together
There is no standard customer journey or purchase timeline. It will likely include multiple touchpoints and multiple channels. Below are a few examples of different customers journeys using paid media:
Client 1 = Organic Food (CPG)
Target Audience = Foodies, consumers with dietary restrictions, health conscious
- 1st Touch = Prospecting on YouTube (cold)
- Targeting = Interests – Foodies, Cooking Enthusiasts
- Audience exclusions = prior site visitors and customer lists
- Creative = Recipe videos
- Message = Get the recipe
- Landing Page = Recipe
- 2nd Touch = Remarketing on GDN (warm or hot)
- Targeting = Specific recipe video viewers (example: Peanut Butter Cookies) or recipe page visitors
- Creative = Image ads featuring that recipe and the products it requires to make it
- Message = Shop Now
- Landing Page = Category or product specific
Client 2 = Local Gym or Fitness Center
Target Audience = Casual gym visitors, budget-conscious consumers
- 1st Touch = Nonbrand search (cold)
- Targeting = Nonbrand keywords (ie: gyms near me)
- Audience Exclusions = prior site visitors and customer lists
- Creative/Message = Get Your Free Trial
- Landing Page = Free Trial Sign-Up featuring amenities
- 2nd Touch = Remarketing on YouTube or GDN (warm)
- Targeting = Free trial email list (excluding individuals with memberships)
- Audience Exclusions = prior converters and current member lists
- Creative = Gym video featuring the newest equipment
- Message = Sign Up for a Full Membership
- Landing Page = Membership sign-up
Client 3 = Orthopedic Shoes
Target Audience = Seeking comfort in shoes and/or on feet for long periods of times due to career (teachers, flight attendants, nurses, etc.)
- 1st Touch = Prospecting on YouTube (cold)
- Targeting = Placements – Teacher focused YouTube channels
- Audience exclusions = priors site visitors and customer lists
- Creative = Featuring teachers in classroom
- Message = Comfort/Learn More
- Landing Page = Shoe technology page, explaining the health benefits
- 2nd Touch = Remarketing on YouTube (warm)
- Targeting = Specific video viewers (teachers)
- Audience exclusions = prior purchasers and customer lists
- Creative = 6-second bumper ad
- Message = Branding (they may not have visited your site yet)
- 3rd Touch = Brand Search (warm or hot)
- Targeting = Brand keywords
- Creative/Message = Shop Now for All Day Comfort
- Landing Page = Shop Page
Another way to tie your campaigns together and gain additional learnings is to apply all of your audiences to your search campaigns (RLSA). Not only will it allow you to make bid adjustments and assist with your automated rules, but it can help you gauge an impact on search volume. For example, if you run a cold prospecting campaign and apply that audience to your brand search campaign, it will allow you to see how many of those individuals are later searching for your brand and how that volume changes over time. If your audience list and search interest are large enough, it may make sense to apply the audiences to nonbrand search campaigns and exclude cold traffic entirely. This way you know all consumers coming to your website from nonbrand search have already been introduced to your brand.
And finally, it is important to consider how you can integrate your other marketing channels (Organic Social Media, Paid Social Media, SEO, Content Marketing, Public Relations) as well to provide a seamless customer journey and an integrated marketing strategy.