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There is a lot of debate about the marketing flow – from who owns it, whether it is marketing or sales, to whether it remains relevant in today’s buying process.

Here, explain what you need to know about the marketing stream and dive into the recent changes and increasing challenges for marketers. Poor compare B2C and B2B funnel usage, breaking the hype around marketing vs. discussion of sales ownership, explain how the funnel can be turned to generate more leads and explore non-linear approaches to the funnel.

Let’s first establish a basic flow framework so that we can better address these issues.

What is marketing flow?

A marketing funnel is a visualization for understanding the process of converting leads to customers, understood from a marketing (and sales) perspective. The idea is that, like a funnel, marketers cast a wide net to attract as many leads as possible and then slowly nurture potential customers with a buying decision, narrowing down these candidates at every stage of the funnel.

Ideally, this marketing funnel would actually be a marketing cylinder and all your potential customers would turn into customers. While this is not a reality for businesses, it is part of the marketer to turn as many customers into customers as possible, helping to make the funnel more cylindrical.

It is important to note that there is no agreed upon version of the funnel; some have many “stages,” while others have several, with different names and actions that the business and consumer take for each. In the following diagrams, we have made an effort to extract the most common and relevant stages, provisions and funnel actions, so this information is useful for as many merchants as possible.

Phases and conversions of the conversion funnel

Bad takes you through phase through phase, so you fully understand how it works.

awareness: Notification is the highest stage of marketing flow. Potential buyers engage in this phase through marketing campaigns and consumer research and discovery. Trust and thought leadership is established with events, advertising, fairs, content (blog posts, infographics, etc.), webinars, direct mail, viral campaigns, social media, search, media mentions, and more. Lead generation happens here as information is collected and guides are drawn into the lead management system to cultivate further flow.

interest: Once leads are generated, they move on to the occupation phase where they learn more about the company, its products and all the useful information and research it provides. Here is an opportunity for brands to develop relationships with people in their flagship database and introduce their positioning. Marketers can nurture leads through email, industry-targeted content, and brands, classes, newsletters, and more.

consideration: In the consideration phase, potential customers are changed to qualified customers and considered as potential customers. Sellers can send potential customers more information about products and offers through automated email campaigns, while continuing to nurture them with targeted content, case studies, free trials, and more.

intention: To get to the intent phase, prospects must indicate that they are interested in buying a product brand. This can happen in a survey, after a product demonstration, or when a product is placed in a shopping cart on an e-commerce site. This is an opportunity for marketers to give a clear reason why their product is the best choice for the customer.

Gradeing: In the evaluation phase, customers make the final decision on whether or not to purchase a brand product or service. Usually marketing and sales work closely together to nurture the decision-making process and convince the customer that their brand product is the best choice.

shopping: You came here! This is the last stage in the marketing funnel, in which the potential man has made the decision to buy and convert into a customer. This is where sales takes care of the purchase transaction. A positive customer experience can lead to referrals supplying the top marketing flow, and the process begins anew.

How is the marketing funnel different for B2C and B2B brands?

To better understand how marketing funnel differs for B2C and B2B brands, see the modified diagrams below that describe B2C and B2B consumer actions and conversions at each funnel stage.

Key differences between B2C and B2B marketing funnels:

  • Most B2C consumers navigate through the flow on their own or with a small group of trusted advisors (usually friends and family), while B2B consumers typically have a larger, departmental purchasing group. The average B2B buying group is 5.4 people.
  • B2C consumers can never directly interact with a representative business, especially on e-commerce websites, while B2B consumers typically interact with a sales representative at the lower end of the funnel.

Nonlinear flows

Some experts argue that marketing flow is no longer relevant because the buying process is no longer linear.

Leades come into the funnel at different stages. Sometimes this happens because they are knowledgeable and already know that they want to buy the brand product, so they jump in the intent phase. This could happen because they followed their education and jumped in interest or consideration.

As access to information has increased as technological advances (meaning the rise of the Internet), customers are increasingly exploring their own research and depending on digital content, keep them informed about products. In fact, CEB reports that B2B customers independently exceed 57 percent of the funnel, before encountering a sales rep.

One of the alternatives to the marketing funnel is McKinsey’s journey of consumer decision making, which uses a circular model to show how the buying process fuels and highlight the pivot or touch parts.


However, some experts also doubt this approach. “Brands can put the decision at the center of the journey, but customers are happy,” Mark Bonchek and Cara France wrote in a Harvard Business Review article.

There is still a perfect model, so marketers will continue to use the customer decision path and marketing flow, so they remain relevant.

Marketing Vs. Sales: Funnel ownership

There is a heated debate in the marketing and sales worlds about who the funnel really is.

One party claims that consumers have assumed more responsibility for the flow as consumers become more dependent on digital content to inform their purchasing decisions as they continue to nurture prospects through the buying process. See the diagram below to see how funnel ownership in marketing and sales has changed.

However, there are even some who see the flow split vertically and sales and marketing own the entire flow. They claim that sales people are increasingly thinking that leaders increase awareness through output. In this scenario, both marketing and sales would work to nurture leads and prospects from buy to awareness.

Turning the Funnel: Marketing and Customer Experience

An increasingly common practice of marketing, sales and customer service and experience managers is “switching the flow” into the customer experience flow. This stream outlines the process of turning customers into attorneys, who in turn complement the top of the marketing funnel, raising awareness and generating leads. Here’s our customer experience flow chart:

Customer benefits for benefits streams

We have distilled the most important stages of the user experience flow and described them below.

Repeat: After the customer makes a purchase, the next step is to make them a repeat buyer. This means improving retention and nurturing customers for more and bigger purchases. Sellers continue to bottom the funnel activity to encourage repeat consumer action.

Fidelity: In the loyalty phase, customers develop a preference for the brand, begin to identify with it and personalize the products. This is where engagement is key, and marketers can help nurture this personal brand connection through community development, engagement, and information sharing.

reference: Once a customer is loyal to a brand, they are more likely to provide business referrals and recommend brand products.

advocacy: Turning customers into lawyers is the ultimate development for nurturing current clients. Evangelism in the form of writing product reviews, posting products on social media and more can help you increase your marketing funnel. Having an external recommendation that is unrelated to the brand can greatly affect your prospects. Marketers can work on developing their communities to better support advocates, ask them to participate in case studies, or engage them in consumer-generated content on social media.

The ultimate goals are to increase the number and size of purchases, and to increase awareness and recommendations to drive marketing flow.

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