Say goodbye to the marketing funnel
It’s time to adapt to more complex customer behavior.
The funnel is dead, long live the funnel.
In recent years, the marketing funnel was everywhere. It was the number one metaphor in all marketing presentations (closely followed by management favorites like “the tip of the iceberg”). Every agency modelled their campaigns on this trickle-down way of thinking, and for years, this just seemed the best way of representing the buyer journey: linear, goal-oriented and simple.
But it’s pretty easy to punch holes in the traditional funnel. Changing media consumption, cross-channel campaigns and more complex consumer behaviour urge us to re-evaluate how we think about buyer journeys, funnels and lead nurturing.
The marketing funnel in a nutshell
So what happened?
The basics are still there. Leads need to be attracted and engaged, they need relevant content at relevant times and they need to be urged to act and decide. But it’s just not that linear anymore.
Leads enter the funnel at different points and they move through it in different ways. They read reviews, they watch a related YouTube video and get side-tracked, they return a month later through a hashtag, and they stay involved for a long time after the sale. They write reviews, make social media-posts or even buy some related products.
Trying to force leads down the path you set out for them just doesn’t always pay-off anymore. Anyone who has ever left a full shopping cart before completing the transaction knows that a barrage of e-mails with 5% discount won’t always do the trick.
How on earth do we make sense of this?
Instead of focusing on guiding leads along the set path towards clear-cut marketing goals, we need to offer them choices. They need to be able to take shortcuts and detours. They need more and new ways to engage with your offering, and we need to look beyond the traditional stages of pre-purchase and post-purchase.
Don’t get me wrong, getting leads to purchase is still key. But getting them to like what you’re doing, to share what you’re putting out there and to review what you offer is just as valuable. It may move others to engage or to buy and it will help you become and stay top-of-mind.
Silver linings, new opportunities.
So how do you translate these new insights into marketing practice? Does it mean you’ve lost control of buyer journeys for good? No. It still makes sense to define stages like awareness, interest, consideration, decision. They just don’t necessarily have to happen in that order.
In practice, it means we can finally let go of our obsession with getting prospects to enter our funnel through that gaping hole on the left. Opening up your funnel and allowing prospects to enter it at any stage, will create new opportunities. Taking an omni-channel approach to this, will also allow your prospects to engage when and how they want. And automation and lead scoring will allow you to take that approach one step further: personalizing the experience for every lead.
This holistic, omnichannel view will also allow you to remain on your customer’s radar, long after the sale. Keeping them on board; having them share, like and review, will turn them into brand ambassadors. And analyzing their engagement and feedback will allow you to optimize what you’re offering and how you’re putting it out there.
Keeping you on course.
As a marketing and communications agency, it’s up to us to keep you up to speed with the latest insights and to optimize the way you acquire leads and convert them into customers. The marketing funnel has been a tried, tested and adjusted way of doing that. But no idea is left unchallenged. We’re a strategy-oriented organization, so this is as crucial to our story as it is to yours. Opening up funnels at every stage, omni-channel marketing and thinking of new ways to keep customers, prospects and leads engaged, is what keeps us going.