Marketing Funnel Origins
The marketing funnel is one of the most widespread business concepts ever. Salesmen and marketers have been building their strategies according to the sales funnel for more than 100 years. (This concept was described in 1904 issue of Salesmanship: A Magazine.)
Diving into history, we can tell that the AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) model was invented more than 150 years ago! Although it was called AIDC (Conviction instead of Action), the concept is pretty much the same.
Matching your strategies with your marketing funnel is probably the only way to stop wandering in the woods and build a sustainable flow of sales. At every stage of your communication — you have to qualify which stage of the funnel client belongs to.
And this concept works! For more than 150 years! Although, one of the main disadvantages is that this approach matches the market we had more than 150 years ago.
Needless to say, it was reinterpreted several times in order to adapt to ever-changing markets. As primitive as it is, the AIDA concept describes basic stages person goes through before buying a product. This concept suggests that customer is a “gatekeeper to wallet”, so you have to push right buttons in the right moment to get your money.
Here’s a little bit more modern marketing funnel. It was slightly changed, allowing a customer to have a personal opinion to become a loyal buyer, then brand endorser. Now your gatekeepers can not only pay you, but they can also bring a friend!
The next trend that came after this one was marketing automation. So now we have realized that our customers are people and we would need to treat them like people. But this is extremely expensive in terms of time and money!
That is where automation comes to action. You are able to optimize your time expenses on the top stages of the funnel.
Although, it is not only about profits. Automation is the greatest concern in digital marketing now.
Why can’t I use Sales Funnel anymore?
This approach was used for so long, that customers have developed the whole counter-culture of mistrust to annoying salespeople. Try to recall the last time you were cold-called by a company that offers you something you don’t need.
There is no way this salesperson can lead you through the funnel because you will never enter the “Interest” or “Consideration” stage. You can only enter the “Awareness” stage to learn more about the company you want to leave a devastating review about.
“Right now, the marketing funnel as we know it accepts just about anyone and everyone, filters them through qualification processes, then spits them out at the end without much of a parting word. Too many companies see customers as gatekeepers to wallets; meanwhile, customers feel ignored at best — and insulted at worst — when the journey ends.” — John Hall
One more reason why Sales Funnel doesn’t work anymore is digitalization. Because it is now much easier for you to communicate with your audience — you have to take advantage of that!
You need to focus on building sustainable customer relations instead of landing a sale as fast as possible.
Avoid pushing your prospects into narrower and narrower stages, which grants an unpleasant buying experience (and shows you as a greedy jerk). Besides that, there are now much more factors that influence your customer’s decision. Some of them are:
- Discussion groups;
- Social media;
- P2P recommendations;
- Ability to make research;
- Content marketing.
What should I do instead?
First of all, you have to reinvent your client relations. Make sure it is not about a quick deal. Act like you need a lifetime client. Marketing Funnel mentality makes you act aggressively, thus ruining your clients’ experience.
Focus on creating humane relations, allowing your clients to act not only as your sponsors but as a partner. Use social media marketing, content marketing, and personalized email marketing to build sustainable communication. As soon as you are a friend to your client — you will always be provided with honest feedback and free P2P promotion. What’s not to adore?
Try Lifecycle instead of Funnel
Not so long time ago, Julia McCoy (CEO of Express Writers) wrote a detailed article about the Lifecycle approach.
As you can see, it covers four main stages:
- Awareness. Just like in a Funnel model, this stage means that lead has just got acquainted with you. At this point, it is best for you to showcase your values and tell why is your approach unique. It is important not to start selling right away, as it will ruin the first impression of your brand. Feel free to share some information about your achievements (be brief at this point, your goal is to showcase your expertise, not start bragging).
- Interest and intent. This part correlates with two separate stages of the Marketing Funnel — Interest and Desire. They are merged here because, in terms of digital sales, clients transfer from Interest to Desire rapidly. At this point, the most common mistake companies do is that they abandon the lead if it does not show direct desire. Instead, it is the best time to build a personal relationship. Have a call, chat in real-time, share some of your thoughts on how can you help your lead.
- Decision. Time to act! By the time a person is acquainted with your company, is aware of your expertise AND knows who stands behind the brand — you must know how exactly you can help them. Having this understanding — the best strategy would be to give a free trial or share a case study. Share some reviews from previous clients if they are relevant. Overall, this is the stage when you are free to push a little bit.
- Loyalty. Original Sales Funnel does not include this stage, although you can find them in more sophisticated versions. At this point, your client should be ensured that you are not only a professional but also a nice person to work with. The best strategy for you is to maintain friendly communication and share updates from your company’s life. Feel free to use Email Marketing to follow up, sharing some thank you gifts and referral coupons. Do not abandon your client even if you see one does not need your services at the moment. Proper communication can turn them into ambassadors of your brand.
Overall, the Lifecycle model is really agile, so you are free to choose pretty much every strategy you can think of. The main thing you need to change is your attitude. When you see your clients as humans, not moneybags — you can make them feel special, which is the most valuable thing you can do!
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