Crafting a seamless marketing strategy with the RACE funnel


In my twenty years of marketing experience, I've learned that a strategy's effectiveness depends on execution, not just its creation. I've seen my fair share of strategies that look great on paper but leave you lost in translation when it comes to bringing them to life. 

That's why several years ago I started loosely applying RACE funnel originally created for digital marketing strategies to encompass the entirety of marketing strategy. Over the years, during my career it has evolved from a mere model into a versatile framework that brings coherence and connectivity to wide range of marketing efforts.

In this article, I'll explain how the RACE funnel enhances marketing strategy by bridging the framework and its practical execution. I'll cover channel planning, content strategies, objectives, KPI metrics, and why I've found the RACE funnel such a handy tool crafting successful marketing strategies. 

Follow along to simplify your marketing efforts and achieve measurable results!

1. Expanding on channel planning with the RACE funnel

Marketing channel planning is more than just ticking boxes; it's about strategically aligning each marketing channel to create a cohesive and effective strategy. With the RACE funnel, each channel plays its part in the customer journey.

Channel planning - REACH 

the REACH phase of the RACE funnel, the strategy involves casting a wide net to maximize brand exposure across a diverse range of channels. This includes leveraging both digital and traditional mediums such as online advertising, social media, billboards, and print media. The objective is to create broad brand awareness and lay the groundwork for customer engagement. By utilizing a variety of channels, the aim is to reach potential customers wherever they are, laying the foundation for further interaction in the subsequent phases of the funnelE

Channel planning - ACTIVATE 

Moving into the ACTIVATE phase, the focus narrows to more targeted and interactive channels. Here, I employ direct communication tools like personalized email campaigns, targeted social media interactions, and influencer collaborations to engage the audience more deeply. The intent is to transform initial awareness into active interest and engagement. This phase is crucial for building a connection with the audience, using content and interactions that resonate personally and encourage the audience to explore further, setting the stage for the conversion process.

Channel planning - CONVERT 

In the CONVERT phase, the channel strategy becomes even more specific, aiming to guide potential customers towards making a purchase. This is where targeted retargeting campaigns, persuasive calls-to-action on the website, and strategic partnerships play a pivotal role. The focus is on converting the engaged audience into actual customers through direct and compelling marketing tactics. Efforts in this phase are designed to capitalize on the interest generated in previous stages, turning engagement into tangible business results such as sales or sign-ups.

Channel planning - ENGAGE 

In the ENGAGE phase, the strategy shifts to deepening customer relationships. This involves using channels like loyalty programs, personalized emails, and community platforms to foster ongoing engagement. The focus is on transforming customers into brand advocates, emphasizing their connection with the brand's values. Key elements include interactive customer service and user-generated content, aiming to make customers feel valued, thereby nurturing brand loyalty and encouraging repeat business.

  • PRO TIP: In your journey through the RACE Funnel, prioritizing marketing activities efficiently across the channels and considering their business impacts is essential. For valuable insights and practical strategies, I recommend exploring my blog post about prioritizing marketing activities effectively. Currently the content is only in Finnish language but I'll translate it soon.  

2. Deep dive into content planning with the RACE Funnel

Content planning - REACH 

Content planning within the RACE funnel consistently combines creativity and analytical thinking. Just like in channel planning, in the early REACH stage, it's all about grabbing attention. Think vibrant visuals, captivating headlines, and content that sparks curiosity or emotion.

From the messaging hierarchy standpoint, this level encompasses key elements like the mission statement, positioning statement, and brand promise, including slogans or taglines

Content planning - ACTIVATE 

As we move deeper into ACTIVATE, the content becomes more informative and engaging. Here, I focus on storytelling, case studies, or interactive content like quizzes or polls that invite the audience to engage more deeply. In terms of the messaging hierarchy, this is the stage where elaborating on the value proposition in greater detail becomes crucial

Content planning - CONVERT 

When we reach the CONVERT phase, the content becomes more persuasive and action-oriented. This is the hierarchy stage where detailed proof of points, product information, testimonials, and strong calls-to-action come into play.

Content planning - ENGAGE 

And finally in the ENGAGE stage, the messaging hierarchy centers on reinforcing the relationship and community ties. This involves sharing customer success stories, highlighting the benefits of loyalty programs, and presenting exclusive offers that resonate on a more personal level. The aim here is to communicate a sense of belonging and appreciation, ensuring that messages not only retain but also deepen the customer's connection to the brand.

3. Further thoughts on objectives setting and KPI planning with the RACE funnel

Objective setting and KPI planning - REACH 

In setting objectives for each stage of the RACE funnel, I always aim for precision and relevance. For example, in the REACH phase, it's not just about increasing brand or company awareness; it's about understanding that awareness always contributes to the overall business goals. 

For most small and mid-sized businesses, especially those with limited marketing budgets, increasing company or brand awareness is many times the primary marketing objective: Increasing awareness often serves as a precursor to achieving broader marketing goals.

Overall website unique visitors is a universally applicable KPI

When measuring company or brand awareness, I prefer a straightforward approach and in most cases I set increasing the website unique visitors one of the main KPIs.  While the visitor increase may not be a direct metric of awareness, it is a great metric to serve as a reliable indicator of how your brand awareness is evolving.

Additional metrics I like to follow in achieving REACH goals are for example social media reach, advertising impressions, and brand mention volume.

Objective setting and KPI planning - ACTIVATE 

But as we move into ACTIVATE, the metrics become more detailed – repeat visits on website, engagement rates on different platforms, the effectiveness of engagement initiatives like contests or webinars, and the growth of the email lists. In ACTIVATE stage we might also talk about metrics such as CTR, CPC, open rate, engagement rate etc.

These metrics provide a deeper understanding of how well your audience is responding to your interactive marketing efforts (materials, visuals, messaging etc.), allowing you to improve all those activities.

However I view the ACTIVATE level as a supportive stage when it comes to setting and measuring objectives. All the metrics mentioned in this stage are valuable for marketing professionals to enhance their strategies and optimize their campaigns, however these metrics often do not capture the interest of company executives who are focused on broader business goals.

Objective setting and KPI planning - CONVERT 

The CONVERT phase is where the effectiveness of the entire marketing strategy is tested, with the ultimate goal of turning interest into action. These are the objectives internal stakeholders in your company are most interested of.

In this phase, the objectives become sharply focused on conversion and real action, a key stage for both B2B and B2C marketers, each with their distinct approaches.

For B2B marketers, the focus transitions to establishing objectives that revolve around nurturing interaction and engagement, aiming not only to capture the attention of potential customers but also to transform them from faceless audience members into identifiable individuals

Particularly in B2B KPI metric, I prioritize tracking the number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), as they are key indicators of conversion progress. Additionally, I might also monitor the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and the Return on Investment (ROI) of various marketing initiatives to gauge their overall efficiency and effectiveness.

In contrast, for B2C marketers, the CONVERT phase often links more directly to immediate sales especially when we speak about rather simple products and services. However, the complexity of the products or services being marketed often leads to B2C marketing adopting characteristics similar to B2B marketing. 

Objective setting - ENGAGE 

Finally in the ENGAGE phase, the focus shifts to cultivating long-term relationships. The metrics revolve around customer retention rates, loyalty, advocacy Net Promoter Score (NPS), repeat purchase rates, and overall customer lifetime value (CLV). 

Reflecting this, I always establish objectives and metrics for the ENGAGEMENT phase in close cooperation with sales and other commercial stakeholders within the company. This approach ensures that our engagement strategies are aligned with overall business goals and that they effectively address the needs and expectations of our customers from multiple perspectives.

It's important to note that marketing alone cannot be solely responsible for fostering engagement, as it often depends on various factors beyond marketing, including product quality, customer service, and overall user experience.
  • Pro tip:
    Even though there are numerous objectives and metrics to choose from, in many cases just two are enough:
    1. Unique website visitors for understanding brand/company awarenes
    2. Number of MQLs and/or SQLs in B2B marketing and direct sales in B2C marketing.

    Rest of the especially activity goals and metrics are best in optimizing activit

4. Why choose RACE over other funnels?

The abundance of marketing funnels and frameworks can be overwhelming so don't be too hard on yourself or on the RACE model. 

The essence of any RACE or any model isn't in their specific stages but in their approach: They serve as a flexible framework, aligning with various aspects of the customer journey. 

They are designed to streamline complex strategies, offering a way to organize and implement marketing efforts in a more structured yet customizable manner. 

The stages of RACE can be renamed and adapted to fit the unique needs of your strategy, making it a practical tool for your unique marketing objectives.

Reflecting on my 20+ years of marketing experience, I see the RACE funnel as a very practical approach to any marketing strategy as it simplifies the strategy process making it structured and actionable. It also ensures you're covering all aspects, both broad and detailed.

So, how do you think the RACE funnel fits into your overall strategy? 

Does it help bring clarity to your marketing efforts? 

I'd really much appreciate any feedback!

Hale Okkonen


What is a RACE marketing strategy? 

A RACE marketing strategy is a comprehensive framework that guides the entire marketing process. It stands for Reach, Activate, Convert, and Engage, each representing a phase in the marketing funnel, focusing on different aspects from brand exposure to customer relationship building. 

What is the RACE funnel in digital marketing? 

In digital marketing, the RACE funnel is a strategic model used to plan and manage marketing activities. It encompasses four stages: Reach (expanding brand awareness), Activate (increasing engagement), Convert (driving purchases), and Engage (building long-term relationships), aligning each stage with specific digital strategies. 

What is the RACE model used for? 

The RACE model is used to structure and optimize marketing strategies. Each phase—Reach, Activate, Convert, and Engage—targets specific goals, from generating awareness to fostering loyalty. It's a versatile tool for planning and measuring the effectiveness of various marketing initiatives across the customer journey. 

What are the advantages of the RACE model? 

The RACE model offers a structured approach to marketing, ensuring comprehensive coverage of the customer journey. It aids in setting clear objectives for each stage, aligning marketing activities with business goals, and providing a framework for measuring effectiveness, thus enhancing decision-making and strategic planning.

While I have utilized Chat GPT-4 for assistance in writing this article, particularly for crafting fluent English given that my native language is Finnish, the article would not have come to fruition without my 20 years of background experience in numerous marketing roles.