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RACE: The 4 Stages of the Digital Marketing Funnel

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

Every marketing campaign needs a strategy.

The problem for most beginners is that they don’t know how to start building a strategy or even have an idea of how to structure it.

That’s where the RACE Planning Model comes in.

What is the RACE Planning Model?

RACE is a practical planning framework for marketing. It gives marketers a more structured way of planning and managing their activities.

Developed by Smart Insights’ Dave Chaffey, it’s also an acronym for the 4 stages of the marketing funnel: Reach, Act, Convert, and Engage.

For the purposes of our discussion, we’ll talk about RACE with a focus on digital marketing strategy. However, note that RACE wasn’t designed solely for that.

Chaffey himself noted that RACE allows the integration of both digital and traditional marketing methods. Hence, bear in mind that it can be used to structure your overall funnel marketing strategy both online and offline.

What are the stages of the RACE Planning Model?

The RACE mnemonic summarises the key online marketing activities that need to be managed as part of digital marketing.

Breaking it down shows you the stages of the model and demonstrates that RACE covers the full customer lifecycle or marketing funnel.

Note that we added another, prefacing stage to the sequence, by the way, which we’ll explain later.

Each stage is its own ongoing process. It aims to move leads down the pipeline, with your customers starting as strangers and ending up as advocates for your business/brand.

As for the added stage (“Plan”), RACE was designed to include that as the preliminary step, Chaffey also states. This is when you lay out the bones of your digital marketing strategy and goals.

To make that stage simpler, consult our guide to The Marketing Flow, which takes you through what you need to know about marketing strategy development.

After that, you can progress through the stages of RACE.


Buyer Stage: Exploration

This is the “Awareness Stage”. It’s where you focus on activities that build awareness of your brand and drive traffic to your webpage or social media accounts.

As such, traffic-driving objectives can be set from this, with KPIs like unique visitors to your website. You can also use KPIs like fans or followers on social media at this stage.

A good technique here is to maximise reach over time to create multiple interactions with your audience. To do this, you generally have to use different paid, owned and earned media touchpoints to grow your audience.

For example, you can reach people using blogs, social media, search engines (through keywords), and more.


Buyer Stage: Decision Making

It may be called “Act”, but this stage is actually about interaction. In fact, the stage used to be named “Interact”.

Why the change, then? Chaffey chose to rename it after being advised that “RACE” sounded more dynamic than “RICE”.

At any rate, this stage is mostly about encouraging interactions with the people you’ve reached.

The goal of that interaction? To generate leads or encourage people to take the next step in the customer journey.

This stage can thus take a lot of forms. It can be in things like landing pages, calls to action, and even sharing of content via social media (this can overlap with the Engage stage, which we’ll discuss later).

This tells you that this stage is where you truly think about your critical tactics for sending people down your lead funnel stages.

As such, key measures here are related to lead generation or participation of some sort: lead conversion rates, time on page, social media engagement statistics, etc.


Buyer Stage: Purchase

This is the easiest stage to understand. It’s all about conversion to sale or getting your audience to take that final next step to become paying customers.

This applies whether the payment is taken through online e-commerce transactions or offline channels, by the way. In either case, it’s the final goal in the conversion funnel that ultimately drives online business revenue.

Obviously, at this stage, you measure things like sales, revenue, and order value averages.


Buyer Stage: Advocacy

The final stage, Engage, is designed to encourage repeat business. This stage is where you focus on developing long-term relationships with first-time buyers.

It’s the equivalent of the Multiplying Traffic stage in our own Marketing Flow, where you build customer loyalty to drive repeat purchases and potential advocacy.

What this reveals is that even if we call this the final stage of RACE, it’s not the end of the marketing process.

Instead, it keeps it going as your customer-advocates now help drive your Reach further. That sends more people down the funnel once again!

Hence the value of this stage. Fortunately, there are many ways to go about engaging customers in a bid to win their loyalty.

Businesses can use communications either online or offline, across their sites, via their social presence, email, and even direct interactions. All of these channels can be used to boost customer lifetime value.

Use RACE to plot out your digital marketing strategy

By now, you should have realised the advantages of using RACE for your marketing. It’s action-oriented, customer-focused, multi-channel, and comprehensive.

And at the core, it’s as logical as it is straightforward.

That being said, there’s no shame in still having questions or concerns about its application to your business’s marketing. There are still a lot of details to flesh out in a marketing plan, even given the RACE framework as a skeleton of sorts.

To that end, you can talk to us about how we can help. We’ll set aside some time for you and figure out what you might need for your marketing strategy.

So, don’t hesitate: contact us for a chat about your digital marketing needs!


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