Marketing pioneer and retailer, John Wanamaker, is often quoted as saying: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don't know which half.”
That's the classic marketing funnel. You have to start broad to get to that point where you make sales. But the customer journey, and therefore the marketing funnel, is no longer one-directional, it is increasingly complex and people can get stuck in an exploration loop.
AI tools can help simplify this journey and fuel business growth. It provides an opportunity to embrace a shift away from precision marketing towards a more predictive model, across the whole funnel.
This means analysing the needs of potential customers at the top of the funnel, using data to build relationships in the middle, and finally embracing modelling to boost sales at the bottom.
Traditional tools in the marketing mix here are paid search and SEO (search engine optimisation). AI and machine learning take precision tools like exact match and amplify them. They help find customers searching for the product or service you are offering, even if they’re not looking for your business specifically.
VodafoneZiggo is a Dutch company offering communication and entertainment services, with a clear goal: new customer acquisitions. That’s why the team employed broad match, an AI-powered keyword match tool that helped their ads appear when a customer searches for any variation of a term. That’s because, thanks to AI, it can understand people’s search queries on a deeper level and can identify intent.
“If someone searches "internet abonnement ziggo" (internet subscription ziggo) they can match to an ad with the keywords "ziggo tv internet pakket" (ziggo tv internet package), even though the two aren't exactly the same,” explains VodafoneZiggo’s Senior Paid Search Specialist, Johnny Jansen.
The results were impressive, with a 40% growth in conversions, effectively growing the number of new customers finding the company.
Key marketing takeaway: At the top of the funnel AI can help you more precisely identify potential customers by analysing data, such as consumer behaviours and search and keyword trends. It allows marketers to reach new customers, at speed.
One brand that has taken full advantage of these individualised experiences is Dutch streaming service Pathé Thuis.
“We already used automation to compare our content library to that of our competitors, so we know which movies and TV series are unique to our platform,” starts Anniek Pluijter, client strategy lead at IWB, the digital agency that worked on implementing the new process for Pathé Thuis. “That simply wouldn't be possible to do manually. We do this to help customers who are aware of Pathé Thuis and are considering the platform, to have a real reason to take that next step.”
IWB also began using AI-powered campaign type Performance Max to help Pathé Thuis stand out further from its competitors. They wanted to focus on advertising content that other streaming libraries don’t have — after all, that is their unique selling point.
“For example, when “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was released on the platform, we used Performance Max to find potential customers who regularly use Google Search to look for content in the animation genre by fueling the campaign with relevant first party data,” Pluijter continues. “And we made sure that we showed them the ad for this new movie. In the middle of the funnel, that means customers considering watching content with us, will see the most relevant movies to their taste.”
This strategy led to a 70% growth on previous years and a new record for the website.
Key marketing takeaway: In the mid-funnel you can use AI to find the most relevant leads, to build a relationship with them, and to create personalised advertisements to encourage people to consider making a purchase from, or use, your brand.
Epidemic Sound, a Swedish-born music technology company, wanted to ensure its advertising budget was being spent on the people most likely to convert.
They turned to Smart Bidding, powered by Google AI, which used the company’s first-party data to make accurate predictions about how different bid amounts would affect conversions.
They found that by using AI as an aggregator — one that not only knows your data, customers, and preferences, but also has its finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on in the market — they were able to predict customer behaviour more accurately.
Within four months Epidemic Sound was able to grow paid subscribers by 80%.
Key marketing takeaway: At the bottom of the funnel, AI is best used to predict customer behaviour and inform your marketing model what the right level of spend is to get the right customers.
As the marketing funnel shifts and transforms adapting to the new AI tools available, marketers can be part of the customer journey like never before. The modern marketer will lean into predictive marketing, finally getting closer to an understanding of where money is well spent — Wanamaker truly would be proud.