Have you ever stood in a new business pitch and wanted to sneeze "bullshit" when you saw the old marketing funnel pop up? I think the most confusing explanations of the new marketing paradigm is this one Forrester put out a few years back.
The traditional funnel was built on four consumer behaviors: Awareness - Interest - Desire and Action.
If you’re like most marketers, you’ve been spending a lot of time and money trying to shovel more and more attention into the top of the funnel. After all, if you can expose your idea or product to enough people, you can afford to buy more attention, to run more ads, to put more people into the top. This method takes a ton of time and a ton more money.
What's wrong with the funnel?
If your a brand with a little money you have to be much more focused with the way that you spend your media dollars. All marketing including your CRM programs are created to get people to the purchase your product. I would argue that there is no linear path to loyalty. The one constant is continued choice.
It's out of date. Come on - people aren't predictable, linear, rational or sequential beings. They probably never were. Though the four steps make sense in theory from a sequential or even chronological standpoint, the buying game is very different in reality. In a word-of-mouth and word-of-mouse led world, the process of researching and buying is decidedly non-linear, and it's likely that some steps are skipped altogether in an always correcting, efficient and evolving marketplace.
It's lopsided or out of proportion. The reason why the funnel is wider at one end and narrower at the other is not only because of the number of people that are theoretically present at each step, but arguably because of the amount of money spent or available at each step. If you think about it, shouldn't we be spending more money against qualified prospective buyers, versus shots in the dark at bagging a random stranger? Of course we should.
It's oversimplified. There's a fine line between simplifying something complex down to a root or core state, and oversimplifying it to a fault. The marketing funnel does not factor in at least three critical components associated with the qualification process; and even more intriguing is that all three are consumer-driven or initiated, starkly contrasting against the incumbent steps which are all marketing-centric or oriented: Research, Trial, and Satisfaction.
Research: Search is just the tip of the iceberg - a portal into an aggressive and proactive due-diligence process. Consumers today are vociferous researchers; they will do what they can to make informed decisions that disintermediate marketing misdirection, hyperbole, overpromise and hype. They'll also spend increasing amounts of time talking with peers, colleagues, friends and family members, as well as interacting with newly formed "acquaintances" in the social networking and digital community arenas.
Trial: Try before you buy is a crucial solution to hesitation, inability to commit, or indecision. And just like search was the tip of the research iceberg, so too is couponing or sampling the tip of the trial step. Often times, trial is indirect or inferred; for example, a movie review today is independently and representatively vetted, endorsed and validated by a community of "me's" and "you's." When trial becomes an existential experience, there's no longer danger of seeing a bad movie.
Satisfaction: Interestingly enough (if we're using Wikipedia as the gold standard), this is the only missing component of A.I.D.A. that tends to make it into conversations about the consumer qualification process. Perhaps it's because it slots neatly into an acronym (A.I.D.A.S.), and who doesn't love the convenience of a neat-sounding acronym? Satisfaction is the one clue that the funnel is not quite done yet ...
Human beings have become increasingly unpredictable mammals. Expecting them to go through any kind of process (especially one we created for them) with a degree of standardization and/or certainty is a dangerous assumption to make. With incessant distractions, constantly new propositions and exciting ways of transacting with a company, it's no longer valid to bank on a predictable path to purchase. Instead, witness a more realistic behavior, mixed with accelerated, skipped and even repeated steps or pathways to purchase.
What happens to the chosen few that make it through to the other end of the funnel? They fall to their grisly deaths in the vertical drop of attrition. Put less grandiosely and more pragmatically: The funnel is purely an acquisition phase, and does not continue to retention. Perhaps if there were a bucket underneath, we'd be a little more reassured that there was some kind of safety net built into an incredibly costly (or risky) game of conquesting.
Even if the funnel were "closed" insofar that there was a destination or goal, it would still be incomplete; the end point would still be a dead end. The marketing funnel produces customers - but then does nothing with them. With so much effort extended to produce a priceless transaction, it is almost inconceivable that we all but abandon our intensity thereafter. Perhaps we're locked into a cruel version of Groundhog Day when we immediately are taken back to the beginning, only to have to repeat our entire marketing mating dance with (as history has shown us) barely any new lessons learned and diminishing success rates.