They Killed the Funnel. Now, They Want You To “Grow Better.”

HubSpot had a funeral for the funnel. I guess you’d call it a funnel-ral? Yeah, I know. Good one.

Inbound is the annual conference put on every year in the beautiful city of Boston by our friends at HubSpot. First off, they put on a rockin’ show. There are people everywhere, vendors galore, delicious food trucks, a million break out sessions for every type of person, great inspiring speakers, good tunes, etc. etc. etc.

Every year they talk about new developments in the platform and how everyone’s life is going to get a lot better. This year they did that, but they are also starting to realize that lead generation is only part of the pie. Finally! Yes! Thank you!

Here’s the deal.

Before the age of the internet, sales people were needed to be the mediator/educator between the consumer and the product or service. Once the internet took over, consumers were self-educating and approaching businesses already understanding what they wanted or needed. The sales person took on a new role in facilitating the sale at that point. HubSpot (and other marketing platforms) came into existence to help with the educating and nurturing process. It was all about lead generation through a new inbound (as opposed to outbound) methodology. Inbound marketing is about creating great content that you can use for SEO purposes, blogs, and email campaigns getting people to the point of reaching out themselves instead of sales people making cold calls or sending out mailers.

Here’s what happened, and this is what I’ve been saying for years. Some agencies and businesses are so focused on lead generation they forget about the most important part. The customer and their brand!

The New Flywheel

In this conference, they killed the funnel. They no longer believe in the funnel (kind of). It’s now a “flywheel.”

The idea is that the emphasis is put on the top of the funnel, the lead generation part (SEO, blogs, paid ads, social posts, etc.). It put less emphasis on the bottom of the funnel, the customer part. They call it the “delight” stage of the buyer journey. The stage where you are supposed to take care of your customer and make them feel like a million bucks.

Sure, we all kind of know this, but it gets looked over because we need more leads! You need those customers to continue to generate energy for the flywheel and keep it spinning. Right now, they see a lot of customers falling out the bottom of the funnel, never to be heard from again. This is not good business.

New HubSpot Stuff

HubSpot has introduced new “delight” features to their platform this year. Things like NPS (Net Promotor Score), support tickets, a knowledge center, live chat, and video capability with the goal of making it easier for your customers to do business with you. They want to get rid of the friction, or the “sharp corners” as they call them.

They call it “Grow Better.” That was the theme this year.

So, they are holding on to the lead generation idea, the growth. But they are now wanting you to do it “better.” Possibly implying agencies aren’t doing it “better” right now. In fact, I think they’re sucking at it. Not everyone, but some.

Here is what I take away from all of this.

They didn’t say it (though they should have), but it’s all about BRANDING!

They are trying to create a “delightful” experience, getting rid of friction, trying to make it easy to do business with businesses because it hurts your brand when your customers experience the opposite. Brand is everything! You can have all of the leads in the world, but if your brand sucks, no one will care what you have to sell.

I’ve had a strong belief over the past several years of being in the inbound space that a lot of companies are marketing at the expense of the brand. They are about pumping out the content, launching the ads, posting the social posts, making sure their SEO includes all the right words. They tend to forget that branding is much more than exposure.

Branding is how people feel about you when you’re not around!

How are people reacting to that message you posted? Or, to the new website design? How are people reacting to the way you are selling your product or service, or how you take care of your customers?

We MUST be mindful of this stuff.

So, yes, I think the theme is fine for this year. Did people get it beyond the new tools that were released to make sure we are providing “better” customer service? I don’t know. But, I did. We must create a brand that people want to fall in love with. Filling the top of the funnel with as many leads as possible is great. Just don’t forget about the people that have put their trust in you and your business. It’s much easier and sustainable as a business to keep the customers you have than to continuously find new ones to replace the ones you’ve ignored.

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Originally published at www.thoughtsofabrandstrategist.com.