The Decline of Marketing Funnels

The Decline of Marketing Funnels: What’s Next?

It’s a basic concept, the sales funnel. It’s one that’s held tried and true for decades. But it seems things are turning on their heads – literally – lately. Some would agree that the traditional sales funnel model has been dead for years, but many just haven’t decided to accept it just yet.

Marketing Funnel Recap

Your marketing funnel is a metaphor for the work involved in selling your product or service. It’s the process of taking people through several stages from catching their attention to closing a sale. In the case of good marketing, it takes them through post-sale customer follow-up, too.

Your funnel would include operational plans to increase visibility, engage the potential customer, give that customer one-on-one attention that demonstrates how their needs or desires will be solved, close the deal, and follow-up.

It’s been a very effective tool to date in aiding marketers and researchers on the quest to most efficient. But the way we communicate, interact, and live our lives now has been changing and evolving drastically.

The Decline of the Marketing Funnel

It’s becoming increasingly more apparent that the rise of digital and mobile technology is actually leading to the collapse of the marketing funnel. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg addressed a tech conference in Germany September 2018, noting “It used to take time to go from research to discovery to awareness all the way to a purchase. But now you have digital and mobile that is happening faster than ever.” That holds true for the largest brands all the way down to the small corner shop and non-profits.

How we communicate and how we process that communication happens lightening fast, so decisions are being made much more quickly. That means how you work on your brand and the way you communicate who you are has never been more important.

In addition, the funnel was an imperfect model. Traditionally, the sales funnel relies on the theory that someone comes into the top of the funnel and sales fall out the bottom in a linear format. More likely, we might start at the top, leave, jump levels, come back, leave again, come back at the beginning and at some point make a purchase. It’s tough to sit down and expect your customers are going to follow the map you lay out for them.

As John Hall told Forbes, “Too many companies see customers as gatekeepers to wallets; meanwhile, customers feel ignored at best – and insulted at worst – when the journey ends.”

Because of today’s technology and the freedom it allows, some experts are saying that up to 90% of the customer journey is now self-directed. Marketers have the power to influence the customer’s journey, but not to dictate or control it.

Instead, the focus needs to shift towards making sure that your customers can find you at any stage, get what they are looking for, and find more to help bridge them on towards their next stage in the journey.  

Focus on the Relationship Instead of the Purchase

With networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest easily accessible, the traditional sales funnel winds up looking more like a pretzel with twists, turns, and overlaps all over the place.

In order to grow in this digital world, Sandberg says brands need to focus on three areas:

With the marketing landscape the way it is today, people will experience a brand in many other ways than just purchasing and using a product. That could include live events, content marketing, social media, and word-of-mouth. Transactions are occuring in the context of the relationship instead of the converse: relationships in the context of the transaction.

Consider the 1.5 million fans on Tesla Motor’s Facebook page, most of whom don’t even (and probably won’t ever) own a Tesla. What about all of the members of the Nike+ running community who run in Newbalance shoes. These people admire what the companies have been able to build and the values they stand for. That all feeds back into the brand itself and creates the customer experience.

This is the digital age where everyone’s thoughts and actions are visible. Brand advocates don’t have to necessarily be customers. Harvard Business Review likens marketers who think that advocacy comes after purchase are missing the world of social influence.  

It’s a focus on the human side of marketing. Instead of following the risk of oversaturating the market with off-the-shelf tools that gather data and create ineffective content, focus on the human side of things. Marketing has a great power to inspire audiences. Instead of continuing to adopt newer technology, Hamid Ghanadan, founder of the Linus Group, predicts we’ll embrace a deeper understanding of human behavior that will foster more meaningful relationships.

For help focusing on deeper relationships with your customers, turn to Clock Tower Insight.