August 10, 2023
Case Study

Marketing Funnel Optimization Case Studies: Digital strategy from Waze, a metaverse agency, and a VC advisory firm


A marketing funnel is a step-by-step approach to finding, engaging, and ultimately converting your ideal customer.

In today’s article, we show you how your peers have optimized each step. Read on to get ideas to grow your funnel.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

To give you ideas for optimizing your own sale and marketing funnel, in this article we explore three stages of the marketing funnel:

  • Awareness – Read how Waze used influencer marketing to build brand awareness
  • Engagement – Read how a marketing agency used gamification to foster more engagement in the metaverse.
  • Intent – Read how a VC advisory service got higher-intent leads by changing its CTA.

Read below to get ideas from your fellow marketers, and if you’d like a guided, tool-based methodology for building your own SuperFunnel, you can join the AI Guild from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa).

Quick Case Study #1: Waze shifts from a traditional brand campaign to influencer marketing, grows likeliness to use by 15 points

You’ve probably heard of Waze. The company started in 2006 as FreeMap Israel before rebranding, going viral, and getting purchased by Google in 2013 for $1.3 billion.

Classic product-led growth.

But now the brand has started marketing with intention. Let’s take a look at a specific example with results from Waze in the United Kingdom.

BEFORE – Traditional brand campaign focused on summer travel

The first time Waze had intentionally spent marketing dollars in the UK was in 2021. All growth until that point had been organic. Its first brand campaign kicked off in summer 2021, which was an integrated approach covering many channels (OOH, radio, digital, social, PR). While they saw reasonable results, they knew they needed to do more testing and wanted to test new timings.

Creative Sample #1: Out-of-home ad for Waze

Creative Sample #1: Out-of-home ad for Waze

While summer road trips are important to their growth, they know more frequent, weekly trips are why people stick around and use Waze. Commuters quickly became a focal point and, combined with the return to "normalcy" after Covid, they set out to capture the return-to-work moment after the summer holidays. 

AFTER – Influencer marketing campaign focused on the daily commute

In addition to changing the focus from summer travel to daily commute, the team also wanted to get back to Waze’s roots, so to speak. As mentioned, Waze globally has benefitted from strong organic growth driven by word of mouth. People feel compelled to speak about and recommend Waze to friends and family.

“Word of mouth has been a major growth driver for Waze in the past, so we knew influencers were an interesting test,” said Domenic Boni, Global Consumer Marketing Manager, Waze. “Influencers are skilled at building trusted communities.”

They commissioned 12 creators to post Instagram Reels and Stories on Instagram. The concept was to convey in a fun, personal, and irreverent way that Waze is the go-to when it comes to making daily commutes bearable.

To maximize the reach and impact of the program, they also amplified a select number of Reels and Stories.

Creative Sample #2: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

Creative Sample #2: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

Creative Sample #3: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

Creative Sample #3: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

Creative Sample #4: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

Creative Sample #4: Instagram post from influencer about Waze

RESULTS – Influencers increase likeliness to use Waze, with an additional lift from paid amplification of organic posts

“Waze had never experimented with influencers in the UK. What we found was influencers were such a great way to reach communities online and allow others (with more credibility and trust within the communities we cared about) to talk about Waze on our behalf. This helped us land our key messages in an effective and authentic way,” Boni said.

To learn from the campaign, the team used a measurement program that focused on three groups:

  • Exposed Organic – 100 people were recruited from an audience of individuals that were within the sphere of influence of one of the creators.
  • Exposed Amplified – 100 people were recruited from the same audience that was used to boost the creators’ posts.
  • Control – This group of 200 people was modeled after the two exposed groups. They were not connected to the influencers or part of the paid audience.

“Reach and frequency are just numbers in isolation. There is no context behind them,” said Gary Zucker, co-founder, Group RFZ (Waze’s measurement agency).

“It’s not necessarily that reach and engagement are dead as influencer marketing metrics, but they’re waning because it’s basically impossible to derive a clear, actionable story from them,” concurred Adam Rossow, Co-founder, Group RFZ.

Once in the survey, the exposed groups were shown a recreated Instagram feed with a variety of posts, including the post of one of the influencers. The control group was not shown the recreated Instagram feed.

The amplified portion generally had the higher absolute ratings, even though the individuals in this group were not followers of the creators. For example, the brand lift study showed the following results, as compared to the control:

  • 15-point lift in likeliness to use Waze in the next month among the organic group (40% versus 25%)
  • 19-point lift in likeliness to use Waze in the next month among the amplified group (44% versus 25%)

Influencers with smaller, tighter-knit follower communities outperformed the ‘bigger’ ones. Micro influencers had greater engagement and influence within their following, making the Waze endorsement more authentic and attractive.

“Micro influencers with a more engaged following outperformed those with larger follower numbers, signaling that more personal recommendations were right for Waze. We've taken these learnings into other media channels and build messaging that feels local and neighborly to ensure we are building trust with drivers,” Boni said. Based on this discovery, the team now focuses on hyperlocal messaging, even in paid media. The team contextualizes messaging based on what people can relate to in their local communities.

Quick Case Study #2: Metaverse agency increases average visit time in its Decentraland plot 32% by adding gamification

When you think of the metaverse, you may think of the next iteration of the internet. But shared 3D virtual spaces are available today and have attracted 400 million monthly active users (according to Metaversed). They skew young, too young to market to – 51% is aged 13 and under.

But there are still 52 million that are over 18, and the younger cohort is just a few years away. So let’s take a look at a project a metaverse agency ran to test out the effectiveness of different features.

BEFORE – Metaverse space in Decentraland

The team created a dancefloor space with music in the background in Decentraland. They had a variety of genre-based playlists and shuffled between rock, techno, R&B, and rap music on different days. The dancefloor was created on the second floor.

The building had a modern style – a glass exterior with modern-looking interior furnishings. On the ground floor there was a reception area with a big logo. On the right, there was a staircase. The second floor was intended to be the dancefloor and social space.  On the top floor there was a link to their website to get a free NFT.

Creative Sample #5: Free NFT event in Decentraland for metaverse agency

Creative Sample #5: Free NFT event in Decentraland for metaverse agency

To be able to apply what they learned to performance marketing client projects, the team wanted to create something that mimicked a transaction. Since Decentraland users are not their target audience, they had nothing to sell them.

The way they solved this was to create a cumbersome process for the users to complete a survey. In this way, the users would need to intentionally jump through hoops to get the value (a free NFT). They had the users trade another resource (time) instead of money to make a “transaction.”

Once a user saw the free NFT in the space, they could click on a link that would take them to the agency’s website which would ask them to join the agency’s Discord. “Once they were on our Discord chat, they would receive a detailed survey which would take them about five minutes to fill out,” said Mario Ramić, CEO, Takeaway Reality. Only when they have done all of this would they receive the NFT.

AFTER – Adding gamification

After two weeks, the team added a gamified experience – a simple memory game. They added a link to the game on the top floor which would lead the users to the website where the simple memory game was hosted.

Creative Sample #6: Memory game added to metaverse experience

Creative Sample #6: Memory game added to metaverse experience

The leaderboard system incentivized users to play multiple times and get on top of the leaderboard. “The connection between our game and the user’s Decentraland profiles was not implemented due to its complexity. We would usually advise clients to create reward systems, but in this specific case we wanted to focus more on seeing how the option of just playing a game by itself might impact the results,” said Marko Franjić, Chief Technology Officer, Takeaway Reality.

The entire process took five weeks, from planning to deployment. In June 2022, they deployed it on Decentraland and marketed it only within the Decentraland platform.

RESULTS – Gamification increases time spent in the experience

Within the first week, the team had 872 users visit their plot. As time went on, the footfall increased with every week. They had 10,000 total visitors in two months, a number the team was happy with considering Decentraland has around 60,000 monthly active users, according to the platform.

The team minted 3,596 apparel item NFTs.

The first two weeks before the game there were 1,785 users with average time spent in the experience of five minutes and one second. After the game was added, there were 8,320 users for the following six weeks with an average time spent in the experience of six minutes and 38 seconds, a 32% increase in time spent in the experience.

In the survey, 92% of users said they were very satisfied and 5% of users said they were satisfied. When asked which feature was the most important to them, they said:

  1. Gamification
  2. Socialization
  3. Avatar customization and NFTs
  4. Dance floor
  5. Music

Socialization and avatars/NFTs were equally important at around 30% of the votes combined. “With the development of technology places like Roblox, Fortnite and Decentraland, [the metaverse] could become the Gen Z social hubs,” Ramić said.

Gamification was the most important element as it got just below 50% of the votes. “Gamification is everything. From that day, we tried to gamify everything and the more we tried the more successful our experiences became. Gamification worked great for us even in simple use cases, such as one we created with Microsoft,” Ramić said.

After the team closed down the metaverse experience, they left the game online for another week or so. There was still some website traffic to the game. This means people either saved the link somewhere or bookmarked it. It wasn’t a large amount, no more than 20 users, but it reaffirmed the value of the game for the team.

Asked to provide advice to other marketers about gamification, Franjić said, “One of the most common mistakes when gamifying marketing specifically is to overcomplicate the games. For example, creating complex levels, environments and XP (experience points) systems makes sense if a user is interacting with your website/app often, but is counterproductive if you want to just quickly grab their attention with a simple game.”

He added, “Another good recommendation is to add incentives for users to play the games. For example, a fast-food company might give out the chance to win a free burger if a certain high score is reached. Also, making the incentives feel truly earned helps. For example, you only get the burger if you get a score over 100.”

Quick Case Study #3: Why VC advisory services firm was glad to see its CPC increase from $0.30 to $2.48

Now, let’s take a look at a marketing funnel built by Zendog Labs to attract companies pitching venture capital firms:

Step #1: “Meta Instant Form ads are fantastic because, after iOS 14, instant forms are the best solution for Meta to know who clicked on your ad and submitted their information,” said Rafael Sarim Oezdemir, Founder & CEO, Zendog Labs. Everything happens inside their app with no need to go to a landing page. Using these ads, Zendog’s cost per lead was between $5 and 10 for “a ticket size that was many magnitudes greater than that.” (“By the way, LinkedIn calls instant form ads ‘lead generation ads’, and the advertising strategy is getting more popular across social platforms,” he said.)

Step #2: “I added a link to my Calendly at the end of the instant form ad after someone submitted their contact information,” Oezdemir said. He was trying to shortcut the process of getting leads to set up a call, but as you’ll see below, this is a change he discovered after initially launching the funnel.

Step #3: “I used ClickSend to remind people about our call via text message,” Oezdemir said. Text messages proved to be much more effective at reaching people than email and it helped him reduce the no-show rate.

Step #4: “I used Pipedrive as my CRM, moving leads that enter my pipeline into nurture email campaigns automatically,” Oezdemir said. Leads that didn’t immediately book a call via Calendly would be set up for automatic email follow-ups via Pipedrive.

Step #5: “I used Zapier to automatically connect all the tools mentioned above. It really was the solution that made it all possible, so I’m very grateful for what the Zapier team has built,” Oezdemir said.

Step #6: After the call, if the company was a good fit to be a client, he used Pipedrive’s proposal features to send a proposal via email. It took three minutes or less to send out standardized proposals to clients.

Creative Sample #7: Instagram Reels ad

Creative Sample #7: Instagram Reels ad

Initially, nothing was working particularly well, he said, and he found the above funnel through trial and error. Let’s take a look at the key lessons he learned and changes he made.

BEFORE – No geographic ad targeting, asynchronous offer

His campaign was getting a CPM of $6.38, CTR of 2.14%, and CPC of $0.30.

But attractive metrics don’t necessarily mean the funnel is working.

In this case, it was the team’s worst campaign because geographic targeting was off.

“What happened is that I had allowed Meta to target countries like Egypt. Nothing against Egypt, but the GDP per capita in Egypt is too low to afford my services, hence also the low CPM. Plus, countries like Egypt are underserved by VCs, [so] founders jump on the opportunity to talk to someone like me,” Oezdemir said.

He also found that an asynchronous offer didn’t work well – reviewing the startup’s pitch deck and sending an on-demand review of it. “I had lots of leads not open their review, which was recorded in Loom,” Oezdemir said.

AFTER – Focused ad targeting, offer of a live call

He changed the ads to target just North America and select Western European markets.

This significantly increased the CPM. with an average CPM of $24.98. “On some days, it was much higher than that – think $50-75, Meta fluctuates widely,” Oezdemir said. But this brought him more of the right people, which made the sales process go smoother.

Another thing that made the sales process go smoother was changing the offer to a live 15-minute call. It took about the same amount of time as the pre-recorded video, but the call worked better because a relationship was established, questions and objections can be addressed, and there was interaction with the lead.

“I had major issues getting calls booked initially, hence I added my Calendly link right to the Instant Form ad on Meta,” Oezdemir said.

He also had major email deliverability issues, which led to no shows because leads would not receive the calendar invite. Adding text messages into the mix which brought no shows from 60% to close to 0%.

RESULTS – Higher lead acquisition costs, but better-quality leads

He has gotten 252 leads so far. With the new approach, costs increased – CPM went from $6.38 to $24.98 and CPC increased from $0.30 to $2.48. And the new offer decreased CTR from 2.14% to 1.01%.

However, the leads were much better in terms of ability to pay and prior knowledge of how to fundraise.

Moving forward, Oezdemir plans to make changes to his marketing funnel. “As a business owner, the only two KPIs I care about are revenue and CLTV:CAC. Revenue is obvious, and CLTV:CAC makes sure that I’m selling products and services profitably. The funnel made tons of revenue, but I found CTLV:CAC less appealing than I had hoped for because I was selling a one-off service,” Oezdemir said.

If he could do it over, he would shift the call later in the funnel and add more qualifying and nurturing into the early funnel – sell a valuable report for a low price point to test for willingness to pay before offering a call, and accept that he will lose some leads along the way for various reasons.

More strategically, he would sell a subscription-based service. “Funnels based on paid ads work a LOT better if you acquire once and sell multiple times. This is probably the secret for making online businesses work, and it applies to ecommerce, tech, and services,” Oezdemir said.

He also advocated for funnel building in general. “Most niches are super competitive, and most go-to-market tactics do not work, so you have to become creative and level up your game. In small- to mid-ticket B2B, funnels are probably one of the only effective GTM strategies, while stuff like cold email, cold social, paid social, and paid search all works extremely poorly. Give funnels a trial run at your own organization. Don’t expect it to be a quick fix and easy, though. It’ll take you ~2-3 months to make it work well enough,” he said.

Related resources

Marketing Funnel: 3 quick case studies to help you increase conversion

Optimize Your Marketing Funnel: Case studies spell out the three key steps

Funnel Analysis Case Studies: Training Facebook’s machine learning, adding WhatsApp CTA, reducing privacy anxiety (examples in 3 industries)

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