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8/27/2018 Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel

MARKETING

Marketing Can No Longer Rely


on the Funnel
by Mark Bonchek and Cara France
MAY 07, 2014

One of the central concepts of marketing and sales is the funnel — through which companies are
supposed to systematically move prospects from awareness through consideration to purchase.

But consumers are now more informed, connected, and empowered than ever. Does the funnel
still work in a digital, social, mobile age?

We asked some of the leading marketers in the world — from companies like Google, Intuit,
Sephora, SAP, Twitter, and Visa — to assess the relevance of the marketing funnel.  What we
found says as much about the future of business as it does about the future of marketing.

According to these marketers, the primary problem with the funnel is that the buying process is
no longer linear. Prospects don’t just enter at the top of the funnel; instead, they come in at any
stage. Furthermore, they often jump stages, stay in a stage indefinitely, or move back and forth
between them.

For example, consider items that come recommended on an e-commerce site. With a click you
can add them to your cart, moving straight from awareness through consideration to purchase in
only a few seconds. The same holds true on items discovered in a Tweet, Facebook post, or
Pinterest board.

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8/27/2018 Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel
In both B2B and B2C businesses, customers are doing their own research both online and with
their colleagues and friends. Prospects are walking themselves through the funnel, then walking
in the door ready to buy.

As an example, Julie Bornstein, CMO at Sephora, has seen social media change how people buy
beauty products. Recommendations from friends have always been important, but now these
recommendations spread “quicker, faster, and further” at every stage in the funnel. The decision
on what to buy increasingly comes from advocates who share their experience in a way that pulls
in new customers and informs their purchase decision. Sephora’s response has been to bring all
the stages of the funnel together into a single place, creating its own online community where
people can ask questions of experts and each other about brands, products, and techniques.

One popular alternative to the funnel is the Customer Decision Journey popularized by
McKinsey. A key advantage of this model is that it’s circular, rather than linear. Prospects don’t
come in the top and out the bottom, but move through an ongoing set of touchpoints before,
during, and after a purchase.

The Customer Decision Journey is an improvement over the traditional funnel, but some
marketers see it as incomplete. The problem is in the name itself. Brands may put the decision at
the center of the journey, but customers don’t. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, believes that for
customers, “the pivot is the experience, not the purchase.” The Customer Decision Journey might
be circular, but if the focus is still on the transaction, it is just a funnel eating its own tail.

One of the most critical weaknesses of the Customer Decision Journey is the connection between
purchase and advocacy. Almost every marketer we spoke to described how social media has
disconnected advocacy from purchase. “You no longer have to be a customer to be an advocate.
The new social currency is sharing what’s cool in the moment,” says Joel Lunenfeld, VP of Global
Brand Marketing at Twitter.

In today’s marketing landscape, people can experience a brand in many ways other than
purchase and usage of a product. These include live events, content marketing, social media, and
word-of-mouth. Consider all the members of the Nike+ running community who don’t own Nike
products or the half million fans of Tesla’s Facebook page who don’t own a Tesla. Or consider
companies where employees use their own devices or download their own software until IT

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purchases the enterprise version for the entire company. In today’s digital age, advocates aren’t
necessarily customers. Marketers who think that advocacy comes after purchase are missing the
new world of social influence.

Antonio Lucio, Chief Brand Officer at Visa, believes the solution is to shift the focus from the
transaction to the relationship.  After exploring the Customer Decision Journey, his team
developed what they call a Customer Engagement Journey.  In this model, transactions occur in
the context of the relationship rather relationships in the context of the transaction.

As an example, consider a real world journey of a family’s trip from the U.S. to Mexico. Visa has
mapped out the entire experience, from where the family gets ideas on where to go
(TripAdvisor), to how they gather input from friends (Facebook), to how they pay for their cab
(cash from an ATM) or hotel (credit card), to how they share photos of their trip with friends back
home (Instagram). Only a few of these situations are opportunities for transactions, but they are
all opportunities for relationship. “When you change from decision to engagement,” Antonio
says, “you change the entire model.”

Market trends suggest the mismatch will only widen between customers’ actual experiences and
the models of the funnel or Customer Decision Journey.  One key trend is the integration of
marketing into the product itself.  The funnel presumes that marketing is separate from the
product.  But for digital products like games, entertainment, and software-as-a-service, the
marketing is built right into the product.  Examples include the iTunes store and Salesforce’s App
Exchange.

Caroline Donahue, CMO at Intuit, oversees numerous web-based products for which “the product
and the marketing become one thing.”  The funnel changes because “with cross-sell and up-sell,
you move from awareness to action instantaneously.” Instead of a Customer Decision Journey,
her approach might best be described as a User Experience Journey into which opportunities for
transactions are thoughtfully embedded.

Google shares a similar view, taking the fusion of product and marketing one step further. Arjan
Dijk, the company’s Vice President for Global Small Business Marketing, believes products should
be designed to market themselves. For Google, the question is not “how can we market this
product?” but “which products deserve marketing?” Marketing isn’t about “pushing people’s
thoughts and actions. It’s about amplification, helping what’s already happening grow faster.”
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So where do we go from here?  The funnel and Customer Decision Journey aren’t going away. 
They are useful models, and will continue to be helpful in certain contexts.  But marketing today
requires a new mental map to navigate a changing landscape. We need a model that informs
marketers how to enable and empower, not just persuade and promote.  There are a variety of
alternatives including journey, orbit, relationship, and experience.

Whatever model you choose, what’s most important is that it addresses: first, the multi-
dimensional nature of social influence; second, non-linear paths to purchase; third, the role of
advocates who aren’t customers; and fourth, the shift to ongoing relationships beyond individual
transactions.

Mark Bonchek is the Founder and CEO (Chief Epiphany Ofcer) of Shift Thinking. He works
with leaders and organizations to update their thinking for a digital age. Sign up for the Shift
newsletter and follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkBonchek.

Cara France is CEO of The Sage Group, a rm providing marketing and consulting talent to
San Francisco Bay area companies, and founder of Marketers that Matter. Follow her on Twitter
@SageCEO.

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https://hbr.org/2014/05/marketing-can-no-longer-rely-on-the-funnel P O S T 4/5
8/27/2018 Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel

61 COMMENTS

Pramod Yograj Patil 6 months ago


It is a very good article, here is opinion

Prevention is better than cure is a most popular and old proverb related to our health and healthy life it also
applies to Funnel. Ideally, instead of cleaning up the funnel, we should stop the bad leads entering the pipe.
Moreover, this we can achieve if there is human touch/evaluator of the opportunity at rst very rst contact. This
can be accomplished with the help of this excellent tool.
https://www.eggerzkg.eu/en/services/software/sofortlivedemo/instantdemo-and-instantpresentation.html
This tool helps to connect with the customer within seconds and understand the real interest level, possible
hurdles, and solutions.

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