Is the "Marketing Funnel" a Thing of the Past?

Is the traditional "marketing funnel" model still relevant? Read on to discover if it's time to retire this classic framework and explore alternative approaches to modern marketing.

Marketing Funnel: Noun Otherwise known as the “Purchasing Funnel” or “Sales Funnel”, this is a consumer-focused model that illustrates the customer journey toward the purchase of a good or service.

If you are unfamiliar with it, here’s the basic idea. I promise after a quick explanation I’ll jump into what the future may hold for the marketing funnel. (Feel free to jump ahead if you’re familiar with the idea already)!

Step 1: Awareness

At this step, you have put information regarding a product or service out into the consumer atmosphere. Perhaps through organic search traffic or with a killer paid ad strategy, consumers are seeing what you want them to see. Nothing too exciting yet, but they know you are there, and who you are!

Step 2: Interest

After seeing your ad or website, the customer is now intrigued. They may follow through by clicking on a Facebook banner, or may download a white paper on your site. Your customer isn’t quite ready to bite the bullet yet, but there’s interest in what you’re offering!

Step 3: Desire

After downloading the white paper or clicking on that Facebook Ad, your customer now feels that your product or service is just what they are looking for. Perhaps they will inquire about a product trial, or request pricing.

Step 4: Action

Finally, your customer has reached the bottom of the funnel. They like what they see, they are happy with the price, and they are ready to purchase. Congratulations, you’ve won their business!

Of course, not every transaction will be that simple. But, you get the idea of what the marketing funnel is and how it works. Why the funnel shape? Well, you’ll have a greater volume of customers at the top who know that you exist, than you will customers at the bottom who are willing to do business with you!

So, what does the future hold for the marketing funnel?

The easiest way to address this question is to take a look at the biggest flaw in the marketing funnel concept: the fact that it’s a numbers game, and that once you figure out how many customers you need at the top to generate the revenue you want at the bottom, then all is good, right?

Wrong. So many companies look at it this way, and sure, while “number of customers in, vs number of customers out” is a great metric to measure – your customers aren’t numbers.

How many times have you googled something and then 5 minutes later seen an ad for that very thing you googled on your Facebook? Sure, it may remind you to purchase that product, but did you feel better about that brand? Did it make you want to recommend it to your friends? Likely not.

The idea behind the funnel makes sense and is absolutely here to stay: that more customers will know that you exist than the number who will be willing to spend money on your product or service. However, the idea that we can just fill the top of the funnel with customers day in and day out to keep cranking out revenue just isn’t a sustainable practice. Why? There are only so many customers in the world, and new competitors pop up every day!

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is to build a marketing strategy that is so much more than a funnel and a bunch of conversion rates. Ideally, you’ll build a brand so strong that your happy customers will do the selling for you! By all means, pay attention to your metrics, but why not think outside the box a little and break from the status quo – the results may just surprise you.

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