Is it possible to have a favorite marketing funnel? I guess so, because mine is the RACE framework. It was created by Dr. Dave Chaffey, cofounder of Smart Insights, in 2010. The goal was to create a framework that shows how to create and implement a successful digital marketing plan. It can be used by any size business in either the B2B or B2C space, making it super versatile.
RACE stands for reach, act, convert, and engage. (There’s an additional stage—plan—at the beginning, but PRACE just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) Each stage relates to a different part of the customer journey and identifies the marketing activities needed. The framework helps marketers plan their digital marketing efforts and optimize them using data. Optimization relies on the feedback from key performance indicators (KPIs) at each stage.
The reason this is my favorite marketing funnel is pretty simple. It’s action-oriented and provides tactics that any marketer can use on a business’ website and social media channels. It also emphasizes building relationships with customers while guiding them on their journey. Relationship building is my favorite part of interacting with customers, so I find the RACE framework really valuable.
Stage 0: Plan
During the planning stage, you’re creating the overall digital marketing strategy. The RACE framework focuses on inbound marketing efforts—the content you create and publish—as opposed to outbound campaigns. The planning stage is when you create your branded content for each stage of the funnel and decide the channels you’ll publish on. This is also the time to select the KPIs that matter most to you. You’ll use these to measure your success and optimize your strategy by making tweaks to it.
Stage 1: Reach
The top of the funnel is where you want to increase your audience’s awareness of your brand and its products or services. At this stage, the buyer is exploring their options in the market—they might not even know they have a problem that needs solving.
The best strategy is to use a mix of paid, owned, and earned media to reach your audience in different places. (Check out this awesome chart that Smart Insights created to show the different applications of paid, owned, and earned media for different marketing channels!)
As you publish your content in various ways and promote it on various channels, make sure you draw people back to the place where all your content lives. For most businesses, this is your website with a blog. For others, it could be a YouTube channel if most of your content is in video. Wherever it is, you want to lead people to your gold mine and have them fall down the rabbit hole.
Some KPIs you can monitor in this stage include the number of unique visitors to your website, the number of followers on a particular channel, and impressions of a paid ad.
Stage 2: Act
The next step down the funnel is for encouraging customers to take the next step. This is their decisionmaking stage, and you should aim to narrow down their choices and show how your business is the best option. Your content should be relevant to their pain points, inspire them to use your business’ solution, and enable them to make their decision. Ideally, this stage is creating solid leads for your business.
Some KPIs for this stage include the number of leads, your lead conversion rate (if they skip straight to purchase), the amount of time spent on your website, and social media engagement via shares, comments, and likes.
Stage 3: Convert
We’ve reached the most-analyzed part of the funnel: the purchase point. Buyers have made their decision and are moving forward with your products or services. One key aspect of the RACE framework is that even though it’s built for digital marketing, it still tracks offline sales as well as online activity.
A tip for converting your audience to paying customers is to leverage marketing automation tools. You can deploy sophisticated email sequences, retargeting campaigns, abandoned cart messaging, and more. The power of your database can be used to ensure the right audience is converting, leading to satisfied customers.
KPIs for this stage are pretty obvious: sales (both online and offline) and revenue. You can also calculate the average order value to see if your audience is converting on higher-value options.
Stage 4: Engage
This final step of the funnel is my favorite, favorite part! Engaging customers long-term and building loyalty is one of my points of pride in my business. I firmly believe that if I treat my customers like the golden people they are, they will not only return to me and request my services again but also advocate for me in the form of referrals.
Customer advocacy doesn’t just mean referrals, though. Any time one of my happy customers comments on a social media post or gives me a testimonial, they are bolstering my social proof. As we know, social proof pretty much drives all business these days. People trust other people, even if they don’t know them—which is why online reviews can make or break a company’s reputation.
At this stage, KPIs you can use include the number of repeat purchases, the lifetime value of each customer, and customer satisfaction or NPS.
I’ve Got Work to Do…
Writing out this post made me realize that I haven’t applied the RACE framework to my own digital marketing strategy in a while. I have not been as consistent about posting as I should be, and it’s hurting my reach. However, I am killing it at the customer engagement stage, if I may say so!
What do you think? Do you like the RACE framework? What areas can you improve your digital marketing strategy? I’d love to hear from you!