Don’t call it a marketing funnel, it’s a mountain

I’ve always used the term “marketing funnel”, but I’ve never been able to get on board with it. The idea of a “marketing funnel” is exactly the type of idea that a consulting firm would come up with. it ignores the work that needs to be put into building out a strong B2B marketing strategy. I would even go so far as to say that it encourages bad strategy and laziness because it oversimplifies the process.

A couple of years ago I was working for a company. We needed lead intelligence software badly. When users signed up, we didn’t ask for much information upfront on our forms and we needed to augment our leads with data from 3rd parties. I was ready to buy that day! So I found two or three providers and filled out a demo request form. I remember one in particular. It took them a full day to get back to me and set up a call. I was fine that it took 24 hours (though slightly annoyed), but I was happy to have a call. We got on a call, I was expecting a demo, but I would say it was a shake down. The BDR spoke to me for 5 minutes, gave me no information and only asked me questions. I’m sure I was BANT qualified, but I was also angry. By the end of the call, I had learned nothing new about the company and then had to wait another week to talk to the person who would actually be able to sell me the product.

This is a process that I experience as a buyer way too often. This comes from a people who believe that there is a marketing and sales “funnel”. They assume no leaks, and that momentum is helping their leads become customers.

The climb is tough with different paths to the top.
  1. A funnel assumes gravity is on your side, there isn’t. Getting someone to buy your product is hard work, and your prospects may stop at any time. Sales & marketing teams are sherpas helping to guide people up the mountain.
  2. A funnel assumes a linear buying journey from top to bottom, its not. Your prospects will take different paths as they climb the mountain. No buying journey is the same.
  3. A funnel assumes a hose at the top. Optimizing the top of the funnel is half the battle.
  4. A funnel assumes no leaks, they always have leaks. Give them one bad experience and your prospects will drop off. Climbing a mountain is tough work. If you get 100 leads and 15 customers from those leads you have a great funnel, but it still has leaked 85%. As the sherpa you need to make sure every touch point is positive.
  5. A funnel assumes a single entry point. There are many entry points for leads. Users enter a the marketing mountain through Trials, Content, Demo Requests, events, Drift and much more. Each entry point should be treated differently. Each journey is unique.
  6. The view at the top (your product) had better be good or your customers won’t stay. The better the view, the more ambassadors you will get.
  7. You can upsell customers and get them to go to other peaks. Once you convert new customers, it is another journey to get to the next peak.

I dislike the whole idea of a funnel. It oversimplifies the customer journey and makes it seem easier than it really is. Marketing and sales teams need to focus on delighting prospects on their way to becoming customers. Modern teams provide value add through the content they provide, and the conversations they have. Instead of selling, modern teams are a value add so their customers are successful.

Thanks to Rob Long and Shaun Pinney for providing input.