How to Build Your Own Dark Funnel Without Paying for Tools

How to Build Your Own Dark Funnel Without Paying for Tools

What is the dark funnel? How can you unlock it using predictive analysis?


  1. What is the Dark Funnel?
  2. Challenges of engaging Dark Funnel buyers?
  3. Prioritizing outreach using predictive analytics?
  4. Sales and marketing collaborating on engagement?
  5. Dark Funnel's impact on sales cycle?
  6. Measuring the success of Dark Funnel?
  7. Content marketing role and targeting methods?
  8. Account-based marketing for Dark Funnel?

What is the dark funnel?

Doing marketing is like communicating something to people you don’t know in person. It is the art of speaking their words. Last year I worked for a software company, where I didn’t know much about what the “buyer journey” meant. Within the marketing team, we just happened to be pushing content, that we saw could potentially resonate with our buyer persona

The reality was, we’ve never talked with a single one of them, our customers. We’ve just operated from the basis of certain qualifiers like “Company Size”, “Industry”, and “Role”. The goal was to produce a pipeline out of it. The issue was we didn’t know if that was going to work. We’ve just pushed content and hoped for someone to search us, magically read our content, and then convert. We’ve pushed content, but the rest was history, imaginary. We had no idea who these people were. 

What is the dark funnel? It is everything that went into the marketing strategy, that we didn’t know about. It is the information that we are not able to track. It was the real interactions of people, where our marketing had some effect in it, that turned somehow into closed deals. Some examples of the dark funnel are referrals. But others are not so obvious, like a slack meeting message from one team member to the other recommending your product.

The dark funnel represents a headache for CMOs, every day. It is like fighting an invisible monster. The challenge relies on the lack of visibility into the buyer’s interests, and behavior.

Best practices for dark funnel content marketing

1. Intent

Answering what people are really looking for is going to get you clicks for the keywords you are looking to rank for. Find the ANSWER. Use the resources that are available on the internet.

Some advice:

  • Most of the time they are looking to answer: “What is [keyword]”
  • Answer the search in the 1st paragraph - as concisely and fast as possible.

To answer the question you can acknowledge your customer's pain points, past experience, and industry expertise. 

Answer passive and active intent

Covering all sides of the user intent is equally as important, as not covering it at all. This includes answering not only the initial query but also additional questions that users may have related to their search, providing them with a more comprehensive and satisfying experience. 

Example: Someone looking for a CRM solution for their small business is not only looking for one question: 

  • "What are the features of the CRM? Is it affordable for a small business? How easy is it to use? Does it integrate with other tools we already use? 
  • Can we customize it to our needs? Is there a trial period or a money-back guarantee? How good is the customer support? Are there any hidden costs? What alternatives are available for small businesses?"

In the example given, the user searching for a CRM solution that suits their company size has a range of additional questions related to the CRM's type, price, customization, customer support, and alternatives, which should be answered as part of providing a complete answer to their search query.

 2. Subject matter experts

The main issue I see with software companies, big-sized to small ones, is that their content sucks. The reason is that people writing this normally are not the most qualified ones. They just write a fixated amount of text. It doesn’t make sense. The solution should be an applicative one. Where readers actually implement your advice. Or at least, it should respond very well to the central question of the topic that is been written.

Some ways to create value:

  • Use someone who is very knowledgeable about the topic
  • Use research papers to support statements, and bring thoughtful evidence
  • Write the article to explain, not for the sake of content (only)
  • Try to understand how could your content be the last source of information for someone landing on it - meaning the only answer among other pieces

3. Content that matters

You can think of content as a product. It is the tool to bring more users, which could be built as a product. It is all about the experience. Google ranks content based on the satisfaction, and readability of what you write or publish. The content itself could generate returns or results for real people. So does the product.

  • Create a series of engaging webinars 
  • Create a course
  • Create a youtube playlist
  • Teach something for free that would be gated otherwise
  • Use past experiences to create advice
  • Figure out how to solve your customer's pain points informationally, not only technologically

4. Hyper-personalized content

You think of content as messaging. One example is Amazon. They create personalized content in their emails for people to buy more products. Same with Netflix. Hundreds of millions of customers read emails that are tied to their latest activity. The approach of content marketing is one of creating value for a real customer. Not for imaginary ones. Content to whom pays the bill month-per-month. At some point,  content marketing is the development of customer experience.  AI, Data, and Analysis should come into place. Where we give the audience the most awesome experience, based on their past behavior. Moreover, we’re being aware of their buyer intent. 

  • Talk about specific use cases in your solution to understand it
  • Use third-party to first-party databases to make data-driven decisions on what content to produce - You can even identify website visitors with companies, isn’t that powerful?
  • ABM involves creating hyper-personalized content and targeting high-value accounts with personalized messaging to build relationships and increase engagement

How can sales and marketing collaborate on engagement?

Disconnected teams result in leads passing through the pipeline undetected, which is why collaboration is crucially important.

Pain points understanding

By getting more feedback, and sales being closer to their customers, they provide a deeper dive into the inner workings of their daily issues, and what they are dealing with. As a result, marketing teams have a much better performance with marketing campaigns by knowing better what challenges to target. 

Customer experience

Marketing interns can provide a plethora of interesting customer feedback to sales:

  • Did sales set realistic implementation expectations? 
  • What's your preferred engagement method with the account executive? 
  • Were responses to the sales process timely?

Sales reps can understand current customers better. Customers can prefer to communicate via email because they are busy with work. This would be an example of a preferred engagement method.  

Leveraging content

Companies like Oracle send content to their sales reps to advocate for their content. Sales nurture content distribution. As salespeople speak can convert the marketing message by using VoC (Voice of the Customer).

Closing the gap

It means influencing metrics like exchanging content. Interacting with customers, impacting sales leads, and monitoring potential business prospects. Assessing the connection between these activities and sales performance.s

From a financial perspective. Sales can increase productivity. And marketing teams can gain a greater reach.

Improving lead quality

Marketing teams could become aware of lead scoring. They understand what value leads mean to sales reps. Who they want to convert. Marketing makes the company an industry leader. By driving awareness and setting the correct lead-scoring filters, sales can become content.

Increase your pipeline and generate demand now!

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