Time to Bury the Sales Funnel?

The well-known sales funnel was introduced before Queen Elizabeth’s mother was born. Perhaps we should bury the sales funnel and apply a model that is aligned with modern buying behavior? Content marketing speaker and author Drew Davis has created “The Loop,” a solid alternative to the sales funnel. Learn more about how The Loop works and how you can use it in your marketing initiatives in this interview with Davis.

Is today’s marketing evolving so fast that we don’t have time to create and adapt new theories and models?

While thinking about that question I have a few facts to support that statement.

The concept of a marketing mix that later evolved to The Four Ps can be tracked back to Harvard University in the 40s. At that time commercial TV and radio were far from mainstream.

The sales funnel, which usually is visualized through the AIDA model, can be dated back to 1898, when E. St. Elmo Lewis introduced the idea. Color photography had been recently invented and Queen Elizabeth’s mother was not born yet.

The original theories have been remixed and developed massively since that time. For example, we now have 7 Ps instead of 4. The AIDA model has more steps, so key factors like customer loyalty and ambassadorship can be included.

Are there any good alternatives to the sales funnel?

We are desperately trying to make an uber-complex marketing ecosystem easier to understand by using conceptual models based on the glory days of monochrome movies. But wouldn’t it be better to expand our way of understanding marketing by using theories that are aligned with how we buy things today?

Many people have asked that question. Fewer have suggested alternatives to the sales funnel and even fewer of those alternatives are actually useful. However, one concept, “The Loop,” does a good job structuring the buyer’s journey in a simple way.

Drew Davis introducing The Loop

Drew Davis, the creator of The Loop, is one of the highest rated content marketing speakers in the world and was one of the guys who introduced me to this discipline more than 10 years ago. Drew even wrote the foreword to my book, Content Marketing Bogen.

The Loop takes into account that awareness is not simply a matter of someone watching an ad, as was the case when the sales funnel was first introduced. Today, there are hundreds of different means of getting the attention of a potential client.

When does the buying process begin?

In The Loop, every active buying process has a “moment of inspiration.” Someone, who hopefully ends up as your customer, is in an unexpected situation and asks a so-called “trigger question.” That question is related to how the unexpected situation can be solved.

The potential client may already know the answer — and if that answer equals the name of your brand or company, congratulations: you’ve succeeded in your marketing. Most of the time that is not the case, though, and that’s when the potential client’s own research begins. The client looks for answers on Google, which The Loop regards as the center of the universe in the buyer’s journey.

The Loop may sound complicated when you read about it. It’s much easier to grasp when Drew Davis explains the context himself. Jump to 1:05 in this video if you are impatient.

So to sum up: Your primary job in marketing is to obtain or keep the position as the customer’s primary brand. That is done by answering the customer’s “trigger questions” and creating “moments of commitment,” where the potential customer exchanges money, data, or time for knowledge or products that can solve a challenge.

How The Loop works in content marketing

Content marketing plays a key role when the potential customer needs knowledge. Companies that understand the situations that lead to trigger questions can help their target audience by providing useful or inspiring content that answers those questions. That is especially important in long sales cycles where customers have many questions related to the product. In the example from the video, the moment of inspiration comes from realizing that you have bad breath, and the product is the answer to the customer’s trigger question. In that situation content marketing is less relevant — a good discount in a convenience store could be sufficient.

During the past 2 to 3 years Drew Davis has developed and improved The Loop, and will be launching a new book about it in winter 2020. The model is not yet set in concrete — there’s still room for adjustments. In this interview, I challenged Drew by asking him some critical questions about The Loop. As a bonus you can find out what happened when Drew signed up for 140 free trials of various softwares to measure the level of communication flow. You can also hear what Siri thinks about measuring marketing results.

I believe that The Loop is a worthy alternative to the sales funnel, which I’m ready to bury. The Loop does a much better job representing the modern buyer’s journey, in which customers are in full control and look for the best solution to their questions by educating themselves online.

Do you agree, or do you think the old sales funnel will survive? I’m curious to know.

If you have any questions about The Loop you are most welcome to ask them in the comments. Drew Davis is reading along.

I help creating measurable marketing strategies and remarkable content marketing.