Escaping the sales funnel

It’s time to escape the sales funnel.

The traditional sales funnel measures quarterly results in a quantifiable manner. It doesn’t capture qualitative share of mind or share of voice very well, which is how momentum builds when you are mining the support of trusted peers.

If you’ve done your marketing right until this point, you have company assets: evergreen content and endless thought leadership tagged for SEO online, backlinks to your site, social media engagement (note I didn’t just say following), connection through media platforms with reach and clout to your target customer, and an owned permission-based list that eagerly anticipates and opens your content on a regular basis.

With these in place, you have momentum. Creating this momentum however takes time and is a longer-term play.

When you own the conversation within your community, your customers, those who already “know, like and trust” you, are doing your marketing for you.

By contrast, the funnel craves constant feeding, and is driven by quarterly results. Often companies advocating this approach appear initially successful, but over time become a commodity, making differentiation increasingly more difficult, and the loss of delighted customer advocacy even more challenging. They also need to constantly feed the funnel to survive.

Where would you rather play?

While you’re considering that, I’d like to add another layer to the conversation… I was reading a Harvard Business Review article this week, courtesy of a share from one of my readers in Australia. It was called, “Replacing the Sales Funnel with the Flywheel”. The article introduces the concept of “The Flywheel” as a metaphor for my favoured longer play approach. Conceptually the flywheel captures, stores and releases energy. In a business context, that would be the effort to capture and keep customers, and the loss of energy to the process when a dissatisfied person leaves, since advocacy of current customers is so important in word of mouth, mouse and mobile.

But it was the notion of removing “friction” from the customer process that I found fascinating in the article – making the customer experience easier and lighter, not making a better product necessarily.

Framed from that perspective, it’s not about WHAT you sell, but HOW you sell it.

Think about HOW, not WHAT successful new companies sell these days (razors), Netfix (entertainment), Uber (transportation), Amazon (everything), and (furniture). For the most part, these businesses are not selling anything that new, but HOW they are selling it is key. They have completely removed any previous existing friction in the customer experience, making it “lighter” and exceedingly “easier” then competitors.

Are these companies out there feeding funnels to get new customers? No. They are the conversation, and they’ve earned that position through momentum building media efforts, and a network of delighted customers. That’s not to say they aren’t automating processes, but the automation is likely to be much further along the journey of engagement as a method to make the customer experience lighter, not a method to churn and burn prospects up front.

You can read the HBR article here:

So that’s what I want you to ponder this week. The funnel is a “yesterday approach” for today’s marketing. Now it’s all about nurturing a community with leadership, being part of the conversation, and removing all friction from the customer experience.





Mary Charleson

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