The Ever-Mysterious Dark Funnel
If you know anything about marketing, the word ”funnel” comes up a lot. Sales funnel, marketing funnel, conversion funnel, funnel optimization, funnel metrics, top of funnel, middle of funnel, and on and on.
Then there’s the dark funnel. Welcome to a world where customers can roam free and undetected by the all-seeing eyes of marketers and their many campaigns. While the term may not have even existed a decade ago, it’s now everywhere.
But does that include ChatGPT? Get out the flashlight, we’re going exploring….
Step 1: Asking Basic Questions
Prompt: “In marketing, what is the dark funnel?”
Is ChatGPT in the dark about the dark funnel? Only one way to find out…
Side note: I tried, “what is the dark funnel” first, and ChatGPT had no idea what was going on. But if prefaced with “in marketing”, then it got it.
ChatGPT seemed a little unsure in the first response, but regrouped in the second.
The dark funnel is basically the untrackable parts of the customer journey that are not visible through traditional marketing channels. ChatGPT notes that this is not all bad though as it “presents an opportunity to connect with potential customers who may not have otherwise engaged with a brand.”
Prompt: “In the marketing world, when did the concept of the dark funnel begin?”
“Dark funnel” isn't going to be found in any 1980’s marketing textbooks, but how new is it?
This is an example of why it’s always a good idea to get multiple answers from ChatGPT. In the first response, ChatGPT said there was no specific date for when the term originated, but in the second response it not only provides a date (2016), but also an originator (blog post by BrightFunnel).
Prompt: “In marketing, what’s an example of the dark funnel?”
We’ve been given a basic definition of what the dark funnel is, but let’s see if we can get ChatGPT to be more specific.
Some examples of the dark funnel in action:
- Watching unboxing videos on YouTube
- Recommendations from family/friends
- Reading reviews
- Browsing a website, but not providing any contact information
Prompt: “In marketing, what are the pros and cons of the dark funnel?”
Beyond obvious downsides, such as it causing companies to lose control over the buying journey, what other challenges does the dark funnel present? Also, are any positives generated by it (for companies)?
ChatGPT brings up how quickly negative information regarding a company can spread, security breaches/data privacy concerns, and the challenge of deciphering which marketing strategies and campaigns are or aren’t working, as downsides.
On the plus side, the dark funnel can produce data that makes it easier to create more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns and increase brand awareness by having their product discussed in forums.
Step 2: Asking More Complex Questions
Prompt: “Does the dark funnel apply more to inbound marketing or outbound marketing?”
Is the dark funnel more of an issue for companies that reach out to customers in an unsolicited fashion, or does it pertain more to companies which create and distribute content with the intent of drawing people in?
ChatGPT didn’t pick a favorite here, citing that it can occur in both inbound and outbound marketing. In the second response, it got slightly more specific by noting that for inbound the dark funnel occurs during the consideration stage, while for outbound it can occur at any stage the prospect is not engaging with the brand or sales team.
Prompt: “What specific steps can marketers take to become more involved in the conversations taking place in the dark funnel?”
Remember those parties in high school that were only for the cool kids? That’s kind of what the dark funnel is, and marketing teams are like the uncool kids trying to sneak in. The question is, how can they do it?
ChatGPT came up with a few ways:
- Monitor social media/use social listening tools
- Participate in online communities
- Conduct customer research
- Incentives for referrals
Basically, companies need to be present where their customers are and be proactive in attracting them. The dark funnel probably can’t be eliminated, but it can be controlled to a certain extent.
Prompt: "If someone has no marketing background, what is a good metaphor for describing what the dark funnel is?”
My cool kids party example was pretty lame, I know ChatGPT can do better.
I’m going to give the first analogy a 9/10 and the second one a 6/10. The concept of going fishing and not being able to see or have access to certain fish is a good illustration of how prospects can essentially go undetected during the buying process if they do not leave their information on websites or interact directly with sales reps.
Step 3: Asking Fun Questions
Prompt: "Write a brief synopsis of a Quentin Tarantino film about dark funnel marketing.”
I’m not exactly expecting Pulp Fiction here, but “the dark funnel” just sounds like a movie he would make. Don’t disappoint me ChatGPT.
The good news: this sounds like a film I’d like to watch.
The bad news: this really has nothing whatsoever to do with dark funnel marketing. It’s almost like ChatGPT was just guessing at what the term might mean.
Prompt: "Write a conversation between a marketer and customer, but it's in the style of an over-the-top TV show police interrogation. The marketer wants to know why the customer didn’t get all of their information directly from them and their company.”
If ChatGPT does this right, I feel like it will be really good.
I love everything about this.
Prompt: "Write a stand up comedian bit about the dark funnel in marketing.”
I can just hear Jerry Seinfeld saying, “What’s the deal with the dark funnel?”
There is a 100% chance that I will whisper “They’re mine now” the next time a conversation about the dark funnel comes up.
The Final Word
The dark funnel is a newer term in the marketing world, but it seems to have a fairly solidified definition compared to other newer terms, such as RevOps. Despite this, ChatGPT does not always understand what the term means if you use it in isolation; to get more accurate responses, you often have to make it clear that the context is marketing. This is an example of why it’s good to double check any answers ChatGPT spits out, especially when it doesn't seem to have a firm understanding of what’s being asked.
Overall takeaway: if you're in the dark about the dark funnel, this may be a time when it’s better to search Google than to use ChatGPT.