How to balance short- and long-term marketing

Published Jun 13 2024 9 minute read Last updated Jun 18 2024
balanced marketing strategies
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

We often think of marketing funnels as having distinct tops and bottoms. While true, it doesn't fully describe how consumers learn about products and decide which items they want to purchase.

Let's deviate from the funnel analogy for a second and conceptualize marketing as a trail in the forest. The traditional view expects all hikers to start at the trailhead and continue to the end.

While that scenario certainly happens a lot, it doesn't consider every option hikers might take to reach the trail's end. Some people will follow other trails in the area to reach the destination. They didn't start at the trailhead you expected. Instead, they entered your trail somewhere between the beginning and ending.

A smaller number of people will find the trail and reach its end completely by accident. They might have been totally lost, wandering around the woods for hours before they stumbled on the trail and used it to find safety. What a relief!

Using this analogy, it becomes obvious that potential customers come into your marketing funnel at different points. Some will already know exactly what they want. Others have no idea a product like yours even exists. Plenty will fall somewhere in the middle.

Since you can never pinpoint precisely where the customer journey will begin, you need a full-funnel marketing strategy that considers all potential customers and moves them toward finalizing purchases.

What is full-funnel marketing?

Full-funnel marketing integrates top-of-funnel (ToFu), middle-of-funnel (MoFu) and bottom-of-funnel (BoFu) strategies into a strategy that meets potential customers where they are in the buyer's journey.

A full-funnel marketing approach anticipates diverse levels of awareness among consumers. Regardless of where someone enters the marketing funnel, the full-funnel marketing strategy will move them toward the conversion stage.

Related reading: Understanding the ToFu, Mofu and BoFu model

The full length of the marketing and sales funnels will apply to consumers who've never encountered your brand. For these uninformed consumers:

  • The top of the funnel fosters brand awareness. Its goal is to introduce people to your brand rather than convert them into customers.
  • The middle of the funnel speaks to consumers in the consideration stage. They know about your brand, but they're weighing their options before making a purchase.
  • The bottom of the funnel focuses on customer acquisition. At this point in the sales funnel, you need to prompt buyers to commit. Landing pages with strong calls to action are essential in this phase.

While it's important to consider every stage of the funnel as an individual phase with unique goals, a full-funnel strategy integrates them into a coherent marketing funnel. No matter where someone enters the funnel, they will get moved toward the bottom.

Going back to the trail analogy, you can think of the full-funnel strategy as a well-maintained route with clear markers leading the way. Whether you start at the trailhead or stumble on the trail without any plans, you can follow it to the end.

Short-term vs. long-term marketing

For the most part, short-term and long-term marketing strategies have different goals—there's arguably some overlap because both approaches can improve brand building.

That's pretty much where the overlap ends, especially since short-term and long-term marketing campaigns have different goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Short-term marketing

Examples of short-term marketing strategies include:

With short-term marketing, you want to make a sale as soon as possible. Hopefully, right now. There are plenty of reasons a business might want to do this.

Benefits of short-term marketing strategies

Short-term marketing can:

  • Encourage consumers to buy products before releasing newer models
  • Clear warehouses to make room for new products
  • Raise money they can use to fund research and development for future products
  • Grow revenues quickly to keep companies in business as they pivot to new strategies

Potential challenges with short-term marketing strategies

Short-term marketing strategies can also have downsides. Ideally, a full-funnel marketing strategy can overcome some of these challenges, but you'll need to get creative and consider how to keep your target audience engaged long after they buy.

Some of the potential downsides of short-term marketing include:

  • Reduced brand visibility—when you don't commit to a long-term strategy, your marketing efforts can evaporate quickly.
  • Money—expect to spend a lot on paid advertising that converts shoppers quickly. An effective PPC campaign can easily cost thousands of dollars per month. To make matters worse, the ads disappear when you stop paying for them. You don't really get opportunities to build customer loyalty.
  • Unchecked expectations—short-term marketing that does its job will increase sales numbers and revenues quickly. Don't expect those numbers to continue unless you keep pouring money into ads. And make sure anyone you report to understands this limitation of short-term marketing.

Building short-term marketing into a full-funnel marketing strategy

How can you counter the unwanted effects of short-term advertising? By adding them to your full-funnel marketing strategy. That way, short-term options don't exist in vacuums. Instead, they now play a role in boosting sales while participating in other aspects of the customer journey.

Ideally, you get more than quick conversions. As part of a comprehensive marketing strategy, short-term approaches can help improve brand visibility, build connections with valuable customers, expose shoppers to more of your products and encourage repeat business.

Reaching these goals requires a deeper understanding of how short-term strategies can contribute to long-term efforts. 

Long-term marketing

Examples of long-term marketing strategies include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing (blog posts, infographics, ebooks, podcasts, etc.)
  • Brand marketing that increases awareness and trust in your company
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Influencer marketing

Long-term marketing primarily depends on building relationships. When done well, those relationships foster trust and authority, making your brand the top choice for consumers.

Benefits of long-term marketing

Long-term marketing takes more time to get results, but you often get a higher return on investment (ROI) when you use the strategies to build consumer relationships.

Some of the benefits you could get from long-term marketing include:

  • Better brand recognition: More exposure to your brand increases awareness of your products and services.
  • Industry authority: Content marketing, podcasts, ebooks and other long-form marketing efforts help build authority within your industry, making your brand the go-to option for many clients and customers.
  • Trustworthiness: Do you prefer spending money with a brand you've never heard of or one you're very familiar with? Most people need multiple exposures to your brand before they'll consider buying. Long-term marketing builds trustworthiness through frequent exposure.
  • Lower churn rates: Long-term marketing efforts help develop customer loyalty, which in turn can lower churn rates. That's good because acquiring new customers costs a lot more than reengaging existing customers.

Potential challenges of long-term marketing

Of course, all strategies have their potential challenges. Some of the downsides of long-term marketing might include:

  • Long conversion cycles: The longer it takes to convert people into customers, the longer your business has to wait to start making money.
  • Effort: It takes a lot of effort to write blog posts, produce podcasts and build relationships with influencers. While you can outsource some of these tasks, you still have to monitor KPIs throughout each campaign.
  • Delayed financial returns: Some businesses simply don't have enough cash to wait for long-term marketing strategies to get results. If you need to start generating revenue now, long-term marketing will feel like a painful process.
  • Perceived job performance: Not everyone in your organization will understand that long-term marketing takes time to get results. Unfortunately, this could mean that some of the people you report to might question your decisions. Stay ahead of this issue by tempering expectations and emphasizing the KPIs that show your campaign is moving in the right direction.

Adding long-term marketing into your full-funnel strategy

Finding innovative ways to add long-term marketing to your full-funnel strategy can help counteract these negatives.

Many marketers choose to combine short-term and long-term strategies into their full-funnel marketing strategy. That way, you get immediate benefits while you lay the groundwork for future conversions.

Once your long-term strategies start producing results, you might decide to shift your focus to them and invest less in short-term strategies. That choice, however, will depend on factors like your budget and business goals.

Benefits of a full-funnel strategy

Full funnel strategies are made to catch consumers at all stages of the customer journey. Some of them know where they're going. Others stumbled upon your trail while wandering in the forest.

That all sounds great, but what are the actual benefits of focusing on full-funnel marketing instead of using a traditional sales funnel that assumes everyone starts at the awareness phase?

Perhaps most importantly, you—and consumers—get a catch-all strategy that understands how digital channels have changed shopping behaviors. (The average American spends about eight hours per day consuming digital media—and over four hours consuming traditional media.)

This approach further benefits businesses by:

  • Improving brand awareness through consistent marketing messages at all stages of the funnel
  • Relying on lead generation techniques that nurture qualified leads
  • Boosting conversion rates that grow revenues
  • Growing customer lifetime value (CLV) with more opportunities to target return customers for repeat business

How to build a full-funnel approach

Creating a full-funnel marketing strategy doesn't mean ignoring the phases found in traditional marketing funnels. Many marketers find that it helps to break the funnel into top, middle and bottom segments. After  understanding the target audience’s needs at each stage, they can reapproach the campaign and incorporate critical elements throughout the buying journey.

When building a full-funnel approach, look for opportunities to connect your short-term and long-term tactics. They don't have to stand alone!

To create an effective full-funnel strategy, you should start by:

  • Mapping the customer journey so you have a better understanding of where people enter your funnel
  • Setting KPIs so you can adjust your marketing strategies as needed
  • Creating short-term and long-term content that matches anticipated needs
  • Collecting data so you can tweak your content to get better results

Keep in mind that you will always make adjustments after your campaign starts and you begin collecting data. That doesn't mean the initial steps are all guesses, though.

Unless you're a new brand, you can access data from previous campaigns to learn what went right and what went wrong. Use that information to create a plan to get you close to your target.

Just know that every campaign requires flexibility. You can't know every step of each person's entire customer journey. Furthermore, you can't know which messages will move them further down the funnel.

Applying full-funnel strategies to marketing channels

Full-funnel marketing strategies can work well in nearly all marketing channels. Brand managers should consider how they can adapt the following options to fit their full-funnel strategies.

Social media

Social media platforms are excellent places to develop your brand identity and connect with customers at different stages of the buying journey.

Use social media ads to grab the attention of customers who might benefit from your products. Clicks are expensive, but social media ads stand out and create opportunities to catch lifelong customers.

Your brand's social media account provides ample opportunities for long-term marketing. Use it to tell stories about your brand by:

  • Sharing insights into industry trends and consumer desires
  • Highlighting how you've helped consumers and other businesses thrive
  • Interacting with customers to create conversations that build trust
  • Keeping followers informed about upcoming products, events and deals

Video

Some of today's most popular platforms make it easy for people and businesses to share video content. In fact, more US adults have used YouTube than Facebook, and TikTok's audience has grown rapidly over the last few years.

Many video platforms allow you to advertise to your target audience, so you can use them to reach short-term goals. They're also critical to long-term strategies. Take advantage of video to:

  • Show potential buyers how your products work
  • Demonstrate industry authority and helpfulness
  • Increase dwell time on your website pages, which could improve your SEO efforts

Email

Email marketing is incredibly effective for building relationships and improving customer retention. Once you have someone's email address, you can use messages with short-term and long-term marketing goals. Some ways to use email include:

  • Reengaging customers with discount codes
  • Rewarding loyal customers with special offers and early access to new products
  • Segmenting lists to target specific audience members with enticing deals

Influencers

A growing number of low-quality ads have made people cautious about internet ads. The majority of US adults are at least somewhat bothered by irrelevant ads.

People do, however, trust the influencers they follow. They wouldn't follow those people if they didn't trust them!

Influencer marketing gives you a way to avoid this problem while benefiting from the trust online personalities have garnered with their audiences. Assuming that the influencer's content stays online, you could get short-term and long-term benefits from their promotions.

Content marketing

As long as people use search engines like Google, content marketing will remain a popular way to increase brand visibility and convert consumers into buyers.

Good content marketing can offer several long-term benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced brand reputation and authority
  • Improved search engine result rankings for reaching customers unfamiliar with your brand
  • Increased conversions by educating readers and pointing them to products that resolve pain points

Landing pages

Landing pages exist to convert readers into buyers. They should include meaningful information about products and services. They should also use strong calls to action (CTAs) that encourage people to convert.

Landing pages sit at the bottom of the funnel, but they can work as both short-term and long-term marketing strategies. How they function depends on whether a customer started near the top of the funnel or landed on the page through a search engine.

A full-funnel marketing strategy example

So, how should your full-funnel marketing strategies look? It's different for every organization—and every campaign.

Here's an example of what your full-funnel approach might look like.

Top of the funnel

The top of the funnel is for people who don't know your brand. It's all about building awareness. You're not trying to convert anyone.

Effective options include:

  • Publishing blog posts that create awareness of your brand and identify you as an expert
  • Working with influencers to establish a positive brand reputation
  • Publishing posts on someone else's website to reach new audiences

Middle of the funnel

The middle of the funnel primes consumers to become customers. You're not bombarding them with strong CTAs, but you are encouraging them to learn more about your products and think about how buying those products would benefit them.

Options for this stage include:

  • Webinars that demonstrate your knowledge and teach people about products
  • Email drip campaigns that educate consumers and provide meaningful advice
  • Customer testimonials that show how other people have benefitted from your services

Bottom of the funnel

The bottom of the funnel is all about getting people to become customers. While most people will reach the bottom of the funnel from the upper or middle layers, some will start at the bottom. That's an important consideration as you offer:

  • Live demos and free trials that let people experience your products
  • Landing pages that give readers a final nudge toward committing
  • Retargeted ads that use discounts and special offers to encourage conversions

Again, no funnel will look precisely the same. But that's part of full-funnel marketing's appeal. Each campaign gives you a new opportunity to attract potential customers in unique ways. Over time, this approach should lead to innovative concepts that resonate with your audience.

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