Using Whole-Funnel Marketing to Generate Better Business

Stephen Taylor, Sojern VP, and managing director, international, asks how adtech can be employed further up the classical marketing funnel.

As marketers, we love to divide the purchase funnel into our own areas of expertise, and to put specific channels and methods in silos – as if our customers actually thought that way! Of course our world of programmatic has also been seen as synonymous with last-click retargeting activities. However, the most productive and successful marketers think about the funnel as a whole, and how real-time data – proprietary as well as external vertical data – can be used programmatically, all the way through the funnel to increases results and performance.


The key to using programmatic throughout the purchase funnel is undoubtedly having access to, and being able to, deploy high-quality data. In the huge travel sector, for example, we find that direct intent data is significantly more powerful than ‘lookalike’ modeling. Knowing that someone is actively searching for flights, and/or has booked flights, to Paris for a particular weekend is key for a hotel group seeking to engage new travellers. Not only does such data indicate who to engage with, it also suggests how and when to engage, which is critical when thinking about the whole funnel.


By analysing key data, we can begin to see clearly when a traveller is in research or consideration mode, versus booking mode. Someone at the research stage, who is searching for a number of flights for Mediterranean destinations, can be targeted with the relevant video ad from a local Tourism Board, or a major hotel group with multiple properties across the region. The more clear the destination intention becomes, the greater the specificity of the ad.

The average person on the internet watches over 20 hours of online video per month. This is a rich branding opportunity, but with the ability to interact with the viewer, inserting call-to-action opportunities, and with the right data, you can engage with the traveller before they make the big decision.


Prospecting is a mid-funnel action that cries out for very specific audience targeting. This is the opportunity, in real-time, to get in front of high-potential, active, new customers. Using the example above, the instant the traveller has booked their flight to Nice, they can now be served a specific Nice hotel ad from the hotel group; and enhance likely response through hyper-relevant, customised messaging, using data attributes like destination, length of stay, and number of people in the party. Such highly targeted messaging, to potential customers the advertiser hasn’t seen before, directly drives incremental bookings and ancillary revenue at optimal cost.

Smart Retargeting

Yes of course, at the bottom of the funnel, there is retargeting. However, by using knowledge gained in the upper funnel activities – the route to your site that the customer took in the first place – together with other external data, or deeper proprietary data, this becomes Smart retargeting. The first key point here is only targeting those who are unlikely to convert unless they are retargeted. Secondly, the challenge is to find a relevant message that is more powerful than simply selling them what they didn’t buy on the first visit. For travel brands, loyalty scheme data can be important here – brand loyalists may not need retargeting, but others could be offered upgrades, enhanced points etc.

Since the importance lies in having one-to-one conversations, there is no such thing as an average customer. Deep and rich real-time data enables us to do that; making that shift from the segment to the individual. By using this data throughout the funnel, and integrating everything through branding, prospecting, to smart retargeting, we can drive ever more targeted and efficient display advertising.