Organisations are employing a variety of digital sales and marketing tools, channels, content and practices to generate awareness and traffic to their web assets, but the percentage of that traffic converted to contacts, prospects, leads and actual business is woeful.

Why is that, and what can we do?

This post presents the idea of an 'Engagement Zone' that integrates content access, next steps, calls-to-action and marketing automation into a custom conversion solution. 

Marketing’s expanding complexity and closer role with sales

Marketing has changed dramatically over the last five years, where prospects and customers need to be engaged on their terms with relevant content, engagement and respectful communication.

The role of marketing has also expanded and coexists more with sales than ever before, especially as 90% of all purchases are researched online and decision makers no longer want to talk to sales until they are 60-70% down the decision cycle.

The purchasing process has also changed significantly, and so must your ability to create and leverage your digital ‘assets’.

Marketing must attract and move prospects much deeper into the funnel than ever before, intelligently monitoring and engaging them with easily accessible content and automating more self-service until they are ready to connect with sales or business development.

Missed opportunity and need for funnel management

The diagram below shows how a mix of digital and traditional marketing creates traffic to a company’s prime online asset, its ‘master’ website.

Once the traffic has arrived (at the top of the sales and marketing funnel), today’s tools and techniques used to engage/capture/convert are limited and ineffective.

The discipline of digital funnel management is foreign to most companies, but is essential to generate strong ROI from marketing investments. Generating 25%, 50% even 100+% more business from digital traffic is absolutely possible with intelligently placed content and innovative conversion tactics/tools.

Funnel driven by demand generation and capture/conversion practices 

What limitations with online conversion strategies do we need to overcome?

  • Few automate the nurturing of prospects until they are qualified leads ready to be closed by sales, and most allow leads to slip through the net due to human mishandling
  • Few effectively enable access and distribution of marketing content at the right stage of the decision cycle.
  • Most websites are ‘leaky’, losing prospects that would like to take a next step but are not ready to contact sales, and have no other available call to action or engagement steps.
  • Few attempt to engage visitors/prospects at all stages of the funnel. Engaging only at the bottom ('ACTION' step) of the funnel via a phone number and 'Contact Us' form misses 80% of the opportunity to capture/nurture prospects until ready to close.    

Create an 'Engagement Zone'

One way to overcome these limitations is to create an 'Engagement Zone' that integrates content access, next steps, calls-to-action and marketing automation. 

This zone is so much more than a 'Contact Us' form as it should include all the possible options for connecting with your company, with the prime intention of allowing a visitor to select a next step or piece of content that will enable them to identify themselves to you. 

That is the lowest conversion stat of them all: just 2-3% of websites earn the respect of a visitor so they identify themselves and become a contact. Execute this effectively and a greater percentage of those contacts will be genuine and not

Rather than try to explain in words what an engagement zone is, let's look at a couple of real world examples. Click on the 'Take Action Now' orange button at and an engagement zone appears... 

There are seven menu options which provide ways for a visitor to take a next step and educate themselves more.

Another example is at where the zone is accessed via the 'Quick Info Access' green menu option...

This one has eight options for a visitor to engage. Tying marketing automation behind this type of engagement and capture solution ultimately creates more business out of the bottom of the funnel.  

It connects with visitors, prospects and leads no matter where they are in the funnel, as it can be designed to deliver content at the appropriate funnel stage. For example, you could have a menu option called 'Competitive Benchmark' for someone evaluating your product(s) or service(s).

Once you have your engagement zone in place, take the next step which really can supercharge your contact and lead generation. Engage people from any digital location, placing links to your zone directly in content delivered via:  

  • Company blog(s).
  • Thought leadership.
  • LinkedIn/Facebook.
  • Feeder/community sites.
  • Online ads/Adwords.
  • Emails/texts/QR codes (e.g. add links back to the zone from inside emails for next steps or additional content).
  • Links in current website (e.g. for a PDF download link on a product page, point back to the zone).
  • Links inside collateral.

An important point to note here: by bringing a visitor/prospect/customer into your zone, they are able to see other engagement options and may well connect in additional ways, increasing the acceleration down your funnel.

The idea of an engagement zone makes sense in many ways, so consider designing one for your organisation, and do let us know the improvement in your capture and conversion stats in the comments area below. 

Andy McCartney

Published 14 September, 2011 by Andy McCartney

Andy McCartney is Founder of and iMCCmarketing LLC, and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (8)

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Peter Johnston

This is a Meatball Sundae (read the book of the same name by Seth Godin) - attractive ideas from both old and new marketing cobbled together to create something which really isn't attractive.

The top part is effectively the Digital Footprint idea I covered in my webinar yesterday - buyer decisions start online and you have to have a footprint out there they can follow.

But this is then bolted onto old ideas of annoying people until they purchase or go away.

I crunched stats yesterday from Sirius Decisions on Marketing Automation - for every thousand people in the top of the funnel, the average is 2.4 out. That's depressing - 998 people annoyed and less likely to purchase in future, just to get 2 sales.

The funnel is being misused in most companies as they haven't taken understood how to reorganise the sales team so it truly works with marketing (Take a look at IBM's Listening for Leads for ideas).

They thus have high pressure sales people lurking in the funnel to jump out and close you, rather than building engagement online.
Hence the Meatball Sundae.

It doesn't work. It annoys a lot of people. And it is based on fundamentally out of date thinking.

almost 7 years ago

Andrew Steel

Andrew Steel, Strategic Marketing Planner at Equator

In addition to Peter's points above, I would also suspect that the "engagement zone" is as likely to derail prospects who are ready to contact now by providing too much choice in what to do/look at, creating choice paralysis.

almost 7 years ago


Mary Beth Schoening

As for the comments above, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think Andy is right, more companies are in need of shifting thier thinking to a digital funnel approach and asking questions like "what tactics will get more of my target profile into the funnel" then "what tactics can I use to move them from awareness to interest" and so on. Sure there are old elements - the approach can be compared to direct mail "what copy/approach will get the recipient to simply open the envelope" then "what copy/approach will get the recipient to simply read the letter" "..take action" etc... However it is a systematic approach that requires a different way of thinking and it DOES have a different twist in a digital world. Different metrics, different infrastructure that can track cross channel, different interactive engagement options (behavioral remarketing, content syndication,interactive polls, etc...) I think there is also an element of choice which helps the consumer (I can choose to subscribe or unsubscribe, I can choose to click on a banner ad, I can choose a keyword to search on).

almost 7 years ago


Jim O, Social media guy at CSC

Really not feeling this article. A contact centre for existing customer complaints/support makes sense, but applying that concept to sales just doesn't feel natural. I would like to see some stats.

Peter - IBM's Listening for Leads - very useful material! Thanks for the heads up!

almost 7 years ago


Paul Markun

I got value out of the article as well as the comments,but I think it is naive to assume all salespeople are annoying and canot help the online enagagement process. Many salespeople can demo or discuss their offerings in ways that really zero in on customer needs, and the pros don't want to waste their time any more than you want yours wasted.

I absolutely agree the digital funnel can help people provide self service much farthur along in highly effective ways, but more complex evaluations can end up needing interacting with an expert, lest you make a misinformed quick evaluation.

I think it smart to offer engagement options that include remaining digital as well as reaching out to talk to an expert.

Paul Markun

almost 7 years ago



I think this is excellent, every sector and company have different ways of managing their leads and sales processes, but all use funnels of some type.

The more debate about this area the better and even better if you have debate in your organisation about the 'funnel'.

Most probably, the very fact that you have people internally engaged in this discussion will potentially generate change.

Nothing wrong with this approach and melding the old with the new. This is exactly how new ideas and new knowledge is formed (so said Ezra Pound anyhoo!) I have no issue with this approach.

Got me thinking, thank you!

almost 7 years ago

Andy McCartney

Andy McCartney, CEO at iMCCmarketing / TechMarketer.bizSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for comments, interesting angles.

A couple of follow on thoughts ... firstly this type of engagement mechanism is not for all organizations, depending on sales cycle, triggers and follow up resources. We are considering this type of solution for less sophisticated clients (usually non tech) whose website is not currently leading edge, where multiple self service engagement options are relevant.

Secondly the marketer designing the interface always has control of when a captured contact is passed to sales. Take a look at the 2 examples and you will see a rather novel idea - where a site visitor can select how and when they would like to be contacted. I agree that prematurely passing a contact to sales usually has a negative outcome, so design the back-end workflow to convert/alert sales at the appropriate step in the cycle.

I didn't create the 2 example sites, but I did talk to the designer and review their feedback. Overall these sites approximately doubled their capture rates and tripled their 'business sourced from digital'. That surprised me, as it denotes an increase in volume and quality of lead. Visitors also applauded the professional approach to having control over the interaction with that company, where no pushy sales folks entered the cycle until actually requested.

I am all for implementing respectful solutions that deliver tangible results, and will certainly keep this one in the toolbox!


almost 7 years ago


Emily Stone

I found this article really interesting as it highlighted what I strongly believe, which is sales and marketing need to work much more closely. Ultimately they want to achieve the same goal - increased revenues for the business at higher margins.

In my experience many companies do not get the concept that sales can actually be passed leads too early and do more harm than good, especially when sales come on too strong rather than focus on fostering a relationship first. There is also the benefit of reduced 'cost of sale' here as people are more expensive than a 'self service'model.

almost 7 years ago

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