Mar 16, 2024

The Dark Funnel: What you don't know can impact you

In the world of marketing, we often focus on the traditional funnel that includes stages like awareness, interest, decision, and action. However, there’s a parallel universe.

What is the dark funnel?

The dark funnel is a term that encapsulates all the customer touch points that escape the purview of traditional analytics. These are the interactions that you won’t find in your Google Analytics dashboard or your CRM but are instrumental in shaping the customer’s journey.


  1. Word-of-mouth: Sarah tells her friend Mark about a cool new software she’s using at work. Mark checks it out and eventually becomes a customer. This interaction is part of the dark funnel because it’s not easily trackable.
  2. Social media shares: Emily shares a blog post from your website on her private Facebook feed. Her friend Jake reads it, visits your website, and makes a purchase. This is a dark funnel activity because Emily’s share is not publicly trackable.
  3. Private messaging: Professionals in a private Slack channel discuss project management tools. One recommends your tool, and two others decide to try it. This recommendation and the subsequent actions are part of the dark funnel.
  4. Offline interactions: Anna recommends your service to her friend Bob during a coffee meet-up. Bob later becomes a customer but never interacts with any of your tracked marketing channels. This is another example of a dark funnel activity.

Activities that increase the dark funnel

Certain activities can serve as catalysts for dark funnel interactions. Understanding these can help you appreciate the scope of the dark funnel.

  1. Events: Hosting or participating in events like trade shows or webinars can lead to conversations and recommendations that are part of the dark funnel. According to a hypothetical study by EventMarketer, 72% of attendees at trade shows recommend products or services to a colleague or connection within six months.
  2. Brand awareness campaigns: These campaigns often lead to word-of-mouth and social sharing, which are hard to track. According to a hypothetical report by Nielsen, brand awareness activities can increase dark funnel interactions by up to 40%.
  3. Public relations: Positive news coverage can lead to discussions in private forums, social shares, and word-of-mouth recommendations that contribute to the dark funnel.
  4. Influencer collaborations: While some influencer activity can be tracked, much of the discussion it generates happens in private messages or offline, contributing to the dark funnel.

Tools to navigate the dark funnel

While the dark funnel is elusive, certain tools like Account-Based Marketing (ABM) platforms can offer some insights. Tools like Demandbase or Terminus can help you target specific accounts more effectively, which can indirectly shed light on dark funnel activities.

Why it matters

Missed opportunities

If you’re not considering the dark funnel, you’re potentially missing out on a wide range of customer interactions that could be vital for your business.

Incomplete data

Your analytics tools are only giving you part of the story. The dark funnel accounts for interactions that are just as influential but not as easily measured.

Competitive advantage

Understanding that a dark funnel exists can offer you a more holistic view of how customers are interacting with your brand, even if you can’t measure it precisely.


The dark funnel is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of marketing. While it may not be easily measurable, its impact on customer decisions is significant. Acknowledging its existence and understanding the activities that contribute to it can provide you with a more comprehensive view of your customer’s journey, thereby allowing you to make more informed marketing decisions.

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