6 Reasons Why the Marketing Funnel Fails

Gary DeAsi
Jul 18, 2016 · 8 min read

The Marketing Funnel is dead, but these 6 common mistakes that lead to its downfall still haunt digital marketers today.

Originally posted on Customer Journey Marketer Blog.

People have been using marketing funnel models for longer than we’ve been using flashlights, paper clips, or vacuum cleaners. In all that time, paper clips might be the only one that’s seen less innovation than the marketing funnel. Perhaps that explains the “unfinished business” keeping it’s ghosts still lurking in so many conference rooms today…

I am not the first to pronounce the marketing funnel dead. Dozens of people have posted obituaries on the late marketing and sales funnel. August 2011 was the earliest article I found on Google before giving up.

So why beat a dead horse?

Because the marketing funnel might be dead, but it’s ghosts continue to haunt us. In talking to a lot of Marketers about the customer journey, I frequently run into many of the same plagues that “killed” the marketing sales funnel still coming up in conversation and reeking havoc. So, I think it’s worth while to dust off the autopsy report and examine some of the important flaws that lead the funnel to extinction.

I will also admit that I sometimes fantasize about sticking buyer’s journey models right in the coffin along with the funnel. Not only do I dislike the word “buyer’s” to begin with due to it’s inherent lack of focus beyond the point of purchase and its narrow focus on the buyer, but “buyer’s journey” models also commonly share some of the very same fundamental flaws as the marketing funnel.

6 Reasons Why Traditional Marketing Funnels and Buyer’s Journey Models Fail

1. The idea that customer journeys are linear (they’re not)

2. Not acknowledging the fact that customers can enter the journey at any stage.

3. Lacking focus beyond the point-of-purchase.

4. Lacking granularity.

By simply thinking in terms of things like “TOFU, MOFU, BOFU,” you are:

a) Looking at the customer journey from a marketer’s POV as opposed to that of the customer.

b) Making the assumption that every customer randomly assigned to one of these buckets requires the same treatment.

With a more granular approach, it is much easier to make sure we covering all the bases and encompassing all scenarios, while maintaining a tighter handle on the specific objectives we need to accomplish to help our customers successfully navigate their journeys — the smaller battles that add up to winning the war.

5. Lacking a complete view of the entire journey.

With this model above we have a good example of an incomplete view of the journey. Whereas here we are seeing the journey begin in the awareness stage with the customer having a problem and pain points, in reality, many times customer journeys can begin before a customer even knows they have a problem. Ironically, this is probably even especially true for Hubspot more often than the average company due to their incredible reach and brand strength they’ve achieved largely through their content marketing. How many Hubspot customers do you think engaged with the brand at some point prior coming to them with a problem? Many if not most would be my guess. How many Hubspot customers might not have come to them with a problem in the first place if not for having already developed an awareness and positive perception of the brand?

If your significant other had met you and had a crush on you years before you were ready to start dating, would you not count that as a part of the story of how your relationship came to be?

Those of us of who didn’t pioneer inbound marketing and are aren’t quite averaging 15+ million web visits a quarter (33% organic, 31% via blog) like Hubspot just yet, we need to make sure we have a clear view of how wide we are casting our net to attract our target audiences and build brand awareness even before they have the problem, otherwise they won’t know to come to us when they do. Even better, perhaps we will be the ones to inform them of the problem. And even in Hubspot’s case, if it were me I would want a more granular understanding of the instruments driving all that traffic to see why more of those 60+ million web visitors a year are not converting.

And it’s not just at the “top.” As far as the customer journey spans, so must our models, in order to truly have end-to-end clarity of the life-cycle of the relationship.

6. Not accounting for external influences.

  • There may be 7–20 people involved in any given B2B purchasing decision(KnowledgeTree)
  • 72% of B2B buyers use social media to research solutions
    (Marketing Profs)
  • 90% of consumers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews(Ciceron)

The connected nature of the digital world makes it easier than ever for customers to consult peers, colleagues and often total strangers for input on a purchasing decision. This is another example that can cause a customer to skip from an early stage right to a more purchase ready stage, again underscoring the misconception of the customer journey being linear.

Stay Tuned for My Next Post: The Birth of a New Model

Customer Journey Marketer Blog

What customer journey models are you using? What advantages and disadvantages do you see?

Gary DeAsi

Written by

Unabashed Digital Marketing Geek. Beatles fan. Travel enthusiast. I LIVE for ideas. https://www.linkedin.com/in/garydeasi