Dark funnel and how to activate it

What Is the Dark Funnel and How Can It Drive Your Revenue Engine?

Best practices for investing in and activating some dark funnel marketing tactics
Erik Newton
September 1, 2023

One of the most intriguing topics that has emerged recently is the concept of the "Dark Funnel." This approach to marketing is catalyzing the way businesses attract, engage, and convert potential customers, ultimately scaling their revenue engines in a dynamic and competitive landscape.

The Dark Funnel vs. The Light Funnel

The down economy marketing strategies have lurched toward what is known as the "Light Funnel." This funnel consists of the top and bottom segments, focusing on creating initial customer awareness and driving final conversions. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are finding themselves compelled to narrow their focus on these two extremes.

In contrast, the Dark Funnel is predominantly situated in the mid-funnel, a region where many marketing leads tend to stagnate and eventually wither away. This section of the funnel represents potential customers who have shown interest but have not yet made a commitment to purchase. Ignoring the Dark Funnel can lead to a downward spiral of diminishing conversion rates, lower yield, and reduced revenue, which can be catastrophic for any business.

At Hubilo, we prefer the name Fuzzy Funnel because we know it works even though the tracking data is less clear than the Light Funnel tracking. When I was at Netflix more than 10 years ago, I led a research project that assessed the contribution of each channel in a non-linear regression model. I was able to prove the value of hard-to-track channels like television ads, newspaper ads, and newspaper insert flyers by looking at the lift when and where done vs control period and locations. One interesting finding is that when attributed correctly the CPAs tended to cluster between $50 and $150. This meant that the market pricing of CPMs was naturally efficient. This is the Fuzzy Funnel at work helping lift all channels.

The Value of Investing in the Fuzzy Funnel

Investing in the Dark Funnel is not merely an option but a necessity for businesses looking to thrive in today's competitive landscape. Here are some compelling reasons why:

Enhanced Efficiency and Unit Economics: Mastering the Dark Funnel allows businesses to optimize their marketing efforts. By nurturing leads in the mid-funnel effectively, companies can improve conversion rates, reduce customer acquisition costs, and ultimately achieve better unit economics.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage: Those who excel in Dark Funnel marketing gain a significant competitive edge. While competitors may remain fixated on the Light Funnel, you can engage potential customers in a more meaningful way, building relationships and trust that translate into long-term loyalty.

Scaling Potential: The Dark Funnel can be the key to scaling a product or service into a category killer. It allows businesses to tap into a broader customer base, unlocking the potential for exponential growth.

Mastering the Dark Funnel

So, how can businesses master the Dark Funnel and leverage it to their advantage? Let's explore the marketing tactics that are crucial for success:

Research: High-value and applicable market research is the foundation of Dark Funnel marketing. Understand your audience's pain points, preferences, and behaviors in the mid-funnel. Utilize tools like benchmarks. surveys, focus groups, and social listening to gather valuable insights. Develop new findings and insights.

Thought Leadership and POVs: Establishing thought leadership is a powerful strategy within the Dark Funnel. Use your new unique research and create thought-provoking content that positions your brand as an industry expert. Share unique points of view (POVs) on industry trends to engage potential customers on a deeper level.

Public Relations: In the Dark Funnel, building a positive brand image and reputation is crucial. Invest in public relations to secure media coverage, feature articles, and guest appearances that showcase your expertise and trustworthiness.

Analyst Relations: Cultivating relationships with industry analysts can help your brand gain credibility in the mid-funnel. Analyst endorsements and reports can influence potential customers' decisions.

Customer Marketing: Don't underestimate the power of your existing customers in the Dark Funnel. Leverage customer reviews, testimonials, case studies, and success stories to build trust and credibility with potential customers.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): In the Dark Funnel, potential customers are actively seeking information. Optimize your content for search engines to ensure it's discoverable when these prospects are researching new solutions and evaluating final candidate solutions.


1. What Is the Dark Funnel and Why Should B2B Companies Care?

Answer: The Dark Funnel refers to the untracked and unattributed customer engagement activities that don't directly show up in traditional analytics platforms. For B2B tech companies, understanding the Dark Funnel is crucial for capturing a comprehensive view of the customer journey. This can help companies better understand their customers' needs, optimize marketing strategies, and improve lead nurturing processes.

2. How Can Dark Social Impact My B2B Sales Pipeline?

Answer: Dark Social channels like private messaging apps, email, and direct messages are common platforms where a lot of business discussions and referrals happen in the B2B space. If not tracked properly, this can lead to an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of how leads are really coming into your pipeline, which channels are most effective, and what content is really driving conversions.

3. Are There Tools to Track the Dark Funnel?

Answer: While the Dark Funnel is inherently challenging to track, there are advanced analytics tools and methodologies available that can offer more insight than traditional methods. These include multi-touch attribution models, UTM parameters for tracking shared links, and sophisticated CRM systems that integrate multiple data sources to provide a more holistic view of customer interactions.

4. How Does the Dark Funnel Affect Content Strategy?

Answer: In the B2B sector, a lot of content sharing happens through Dark Social channels, such as sharing whitepapers, case studies, or blog posts via email or messaging apps. If you're not accounting for the Dark Funnel, your content strategy may be guided by incomplete data. Understanding the impact of dark social can help you refine your content to what truly resonates with your target audience.

5. Can the Dark Funnel Metrics Be Integrated Into My Existing Analytics?

Answer: Yes, it is possible to integrate Dark Funnel metrics into your existing analytics setup, but it may require some customization and the use of additional tracking tools. One common approach is to use advanced tagging and event tracking to monitor how content is being shared and accessed. Another is to incorporate data from CRM systems, customer surveys, and other sources to provide a more complete picture of customer interactions.


In a world where traditional marketing strategies burn out channels and lead to diminishing returns, the Dark Funnel can be a secret weapon. CMOs and businesses that embrace this trend will find themselves better equipped to weather economic challenges, drive revenue growth, and establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

By mastering the Dark Funnel and implementing essential marketing tactics, such as research, thought leadership, public relations, analyst relations, customer marketing, and SEO, you can navigate the complexities of the mid-funnel with finesse. As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, those who dare to explore the Dark Funnel will be the ones to scale their products and services into category killers, positioning their businesses for enduring success in an ever-changing world.

Come hear Aware CMOΒ Kevin Bobowski and Hubilo CMOΒ Erik Newton discuss the Dark Funnel and how you can master it in a webinar on September 21. Register now.


Erik Newton

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