new sales funnel on the web

Influencing Off Site Engagement, the Key to Earning More Leads

Up to 90% of your customers’ interactions with your brand are off site, meaning the engagement that matters most to your brand isn’t being tracked. 

While paid media, meaning the ads you run, and owned media, including your company website, social fan page and digital community, are all relatively straightforward to track and manage, earned media, meaning the content others create about your brand, is more elusive and in some sense more valuable because people don’t only want to hear about your brand from you anymore.

In a recent webinar, gShift and Acquisio, focused on what’s missing from SEO and PPC and what your business needs to focus on to gain that competitive edge in 2016. One of the highlights was this increased focus on off site engagement, and how it’s seemed to slip through the cracks for many businesses running SEO and PPC.

Paid, owned, and earned are becoming increasingly more earned. According to Nielsen, 92% of global consumers place more trust in earned media—defined as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family—than in all other forms of advertising. When it comes to what’s important for influencing prospects and attracting people to your brand, your brand needs to focus on what off-site content people are sharing, and work to track it as you do with paid and owned media.

Get to Know Your Off Site Engagement

off site engagement

Managing media used to be so easy. Before 2010, the whole focus was optimizing your brand website and there was no real use for social media when it came to selling your product or service. People came to your site to inform themselves, and they stayed on your site and converted. Social was just a place to connect with your friends, and didn’t have much impact on your conversion funnel.

Now, social is where your prospects go to inform themselves about your organize, people, products and services, and off site research, on forums and review websites, is critical when making a purchase decision. Your company website is really where people go to convert.

Marketing and off site engagement account for 67-09% of a customer’s digital interaction with brand content, according to Sirius Decisions & Forrester.

This is where we have the concept of the dark funnel comes in, where the bulk of client engagement happens beyond your company’s reach.

Your Prospects Are in the Dark Funnel

gShift invented the term the Dark Funnel to describe a reality in which so much off site engagement lies outside of your business’ control. In this case, you are left with no awareness of where the prospect is in their sales journey.

According to our poll in the webinar with gShift, only 22% of webinar attendees run off site tracking.

Myth of the sales funnel

traditional sales funnel

There is a myth, if not a fantasy, that the sales funnel is linear and that you control the buyer’s journey, moving them from awareness to consideration to conversion with your ads, landing pages, SEO content, and on your website’s conversion page where you can see everything.

Really, the prospect controls their own journey and owns their own sales funnel. Consumers rely on peer and social communities, it’s a chaotic scene that is much more like a web than a funnel.

new sales funnel web

There are fundamental gaps in the way most companies attribute engagement for lead scoring.  When everything was controlled on the website, one person touched three pieces of content (that your business created and tracked) and got a lead score of three. Today, someone with a lead score of three may actually deserve a ten, because they touched seven other areas of your brand, including social, off site or offline.

What you can do

The first option is sit around and wait for Google to develop off-site engagement tracking. Google filed a patent for something called, “onsite and offsite search ranking results,” which was published in September 2014. But there’s still a ways to go before anything is released. That means you’ll have to get creative and figure out how to track off site engagement on your own.

The real answer is influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing

The top way to track off site and even offline engagement and activity is through influencer marketing.

According to AdWeek, a study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth (aka influencer marketing) generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

The average business will make $6.50 for every $1.00 invested in influencer marketing, according to data from Tomoson.

influencer markeitng roi off site engagement

More data released by Tomoson reveals that marketers rated influencer marketing as their fastest-growing channel for acquiring customers online, and 22% say influencer marketing is their most cost effective acquisition channel.

influencer marketing off site engagement

But all that means nothing if you don’t know how to run a successful influencer marketing campaign.

Setting up an influencer marketing campaign

Step 1

The first step is discovering your audience, says Doug Batten for Business to Community. Ask yourself:

  • What does my target audience care about?
  • Where does my target audience hang out online? Vine? Reddit? Snapchat?
  • Who does my target audience listen to?
  • What is the buying journey for my target audience (how do they discover, evaluate, decide and purchase what I’m offering?)

Step 2

Build a list of advocates. Ideal advocates aren’t celebrities, but regular people in your target audience who are active in the industry and can make an impact.

Step 3

Engage with your advocates using the following strategies, according to Angela Stringfellow on the American Express Open Forum:

  • Use direct outreach campaigns to reach out
  • Target influencers with high-level content (blogs, ebooks, webinars) to encourage engagement
  • Get influencers to create content for your brand (blogs, ebooks, webinars)
  • Ask for quotes, testimonials, or other insights for marketing
  • Ask influencers for reviews of your products or services
  • Give back to your influencers, and promote their achievements with content or on social

Step 4

Track progress. And here’s where things get messy, taking us back to the issue of the dark funnel. You can get basic influencer data with website analytics, but the insight into what is happening off site will be limited, and as you know, that’s where the bulk of influencer marketing happens.

How to Track Influencer Marketing

There are solutions online to help with influencer marketing management and tracking. The first is one we use at Acquisio, called Influitive, an advocate marketing software that helps you drive referrals, references, reviews, word of mouth recommendations, and more, all while tracking all activity in one place.

Another option would be to use Smart URLs to track engagement from influencer marketing, through gShift. Smart URLs track clicks to identify and analyze the top influencers and marketing channels, engagement by geography, customer conversion paths and top performing content, as well as compare and contrast performance across various channels and campaigns.

You can also track progress at a campaign level, using different platform analytics. For example, let’s say most of your advocate activity happens on Twitter and advocates recommend your business to others via tweets, monitoring Twitter analytics is valuable.

Wherever your business has blind spots off line, whether it’s social or in forums or on review sites, make sure you implement ways to monitor and stay upto date with these areas (who doesn’t love a good Google alert?). An advocate marketing program is only as strong as your understanding of the results, and tracking growth off site will provide some much needed clarity into the confusing web that is your sales funnel.

For more information, watch the full webinar with Krista LaRiviere of gShift and David McIninch of Acquisio as they discuss using influencer marketing to get clarity into the holes in your sales funnel.

Jillian Zacchia

Jillian Zacchia

Jill is a professional writer, editor and social media procrastinator. With a degree in Literature and Communications from McGill, she started her journalism career writing about lifestyle and entertainment for teen magazines, and after dabbling with wedding and travel writing she began the transition towards content creation for start ups, marketing and tech companies.

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