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Sales funnel is outdated.

In fact, it’s long overdue.

A bold statement? Yes, but when you look at the facts, obviously.

A sales funnel helps you anticipate anything about customers: not their mentality, not navigating a customer journey, not when they can make a purchase.

Modern buyers are too unpredictable. They have WAYS, WAY more information at their fingertips that affects the way they buy and buy.

In a recent Think with Google article, Lisa Gevelber, Google’s Vice President of Marketing for America, discusses these new consumer behaviors and puts them in context:

People remember that when they could not learn, do or buy things when they needed a product, they reached for a device in their pocket.

She named three new customer behaviors / types:

  • A “well advised” consumer – Customers want to make the right decisions, no matter how small, and use their smartphones to inform themselves.
  • Consumer “here” – Customers expect mobile experiences, including shopping, to be tailored to their physical location.
  • The “present” of consumers – Customers want purchasing power regardless of time or place.

But how do they fit into the old marketing ladder?

New types of customer: (1) well advised; (2) right here; (3) current consumers. @ThinkwithGoogle #Lisa Gevelber Click to Tweet

The answer is no longer cut and dried. The sales funnel is too rigid to accommodate the modern customer journey and too cool to represent the nurturing attitude of content marketing. Why we need a more fluid, holistic model.

Get into the marketing lifecycle.

From sales funnel to life cycle marketing: (short) history

Before I get into the concept of the marketing lifecycle and why it works, it goes back in history. The concept of marketing phases originated with the AIDA model – consciousness, interest, desire, action – Developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898.

As early as 1904, the model was shown as a graph, and each phase influenced and led to the next phase. Here’s what it looked like in the January-June Salesmanship edition of 1904: A Journal:

The idea of ​​a “funnel” came about around 1924 when William Townsend wrote about it in his book Bond Salesmanship:

The seller should visualize the whole problem of developing sales steps as forcing a broad and general notion of facts through a funnel that gives a specific and favorable consideration of a single fact …

Not surprisingly, this doesn’t sound like what we have to do today to win sales. That may have succeeded almost 100 years ago, but the question remains:

Why in the post-internet world do you rely on a century-old sales model?

Why in the post-internet world do you rely on a century-old sales model? @JuliaEMcCoy Click to Tweet

Image source

Relying on a sales funnel may have something to do with heavy skills vs. soft skills.

What the hell am I talking about? Dale Carnegie’s updated book, How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. digs into this. Here’s the gist:

Soft skills include those that are difficult to quantify, such as empathy, kindness, etc. Back, hard skills such as aggression, agility and assertiveness are measurable (SEE results using heavy skills – maybe because they make you scary like an angry gorilla) – and still why them bosses still love it.

But in the end, only hard skills are bad for business. A study of failed CEOs found their businesses sank because they only had hard work and no soft skills.

Measure your customers’ kindness, including how you treat them (listening, leaving them space to think, building relationships – all soft skills). You can measure tactical pressures (reading speed on prevailing emails, closing speed for repeated sales calls). The sales funnel aligns with this approach. Finally, heavy skills force your potential through the funnel (or should I say “compression forced”?)

Soft skills have developed a gel with a funnel for sale. But they do gels with a marketing lifecycle.

Get into the marketing lifecycle

A good time for a new sales model, which aligns with content marketing, soft skills and real customer journey in the internet age.

The marketing lifecycle aligns with #contentmarketing, soft skills and real customer journey, @JuliaEMcCoy says. Click to Tweet

This is the basic life cycle scheme I came up with after brainstorming, researching and working with my team.

The idea of ​​a marketing lifecycle is not new, but rather new than the sales funnel. Ardath Albee, who has been a pioneer in our industry for many years, spoke on the Marketo blog about “life cycle marketing”.

She talks about the transition from “buying travel funnels” to “fully managing the customer lifecycle.”

The difference is clear. The funnel focuses on incorporating your looks into storytellers and shortlisters, which neglects their freedom of choice and even their personal quirks – both of which are affected by the huge rabbit hole known as the Internet, including:

  • Online Communities and Forums
  • Third-party reviews
  • Social media
  • Chat online via email or chat (thoughts of peers and suggestions of peers)
  • Search
  • Content and Resources

Imagine, for example, that your customer is in a phase of interest and intent and finds competing content that more specifically meets their information needs. The buyer loses interest in you but is still aware of your brand. Oops – the customer just jumped a step back into their marketing lifecycle scheme.

Is this type of trip planned on the sales funnel? Not.

So, why the marketing lifecycle?

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How the marketing lifecycle works and why it’s more relevant to today’s customer

Conversation in marketing circles begins, from Mark Schaefer’s latest blog posts on trust to LinkedIn conversations with executives and marketing teams, about how lean, cool sales tactics in marketing are failing. This includes the overly aggressive sales funnel mentality. Everything goes directly the opposite of how shoppers choose to buy online.

Conversely, if you think of our customers as to where they land in the marketing lifecycle, you give them space to be human. Instead of a rigid map, the marketing lifecycle is more than a series of open paths. Customers can constantly move from one stage to another, as they often do in real life – sometimes even backwards or skipping the whole stage.

Give Buyers Space to Be People – Following the Marketing Lifecycle, @JuliaEMcCoy says. Click to Tweet

Fortunately, each ongoing phase is mapped to the type of content that will bring them back. Targeted content marketing will continue to nurture your potential all the way through loyalty and through the marketing lifecycle in a continuous loop.

It is extremely important because, as Robert Rose writes, content marketing is the “heart” of any digital marketing strategy:

At B2B, the overall lead generation strategy focuses on custom interactive content that builds confidence in the long and complex journey of buying … to be organically common.

@Contentmarketing is the “heart” of every digital #marketing strategy, says @robert_rose. Click to Tweet

How can you relate content marketing to the marketing lifecycle and customer journey? Four phases were found:

1. Awareness

Potential potential hears first for you. Your content here should be more value focused, less promotional (potential buyers are easily turning off the sales pitch at this point).

Where are your leading cycles? Be aware of your brand

What will your potential customers complain about at this stage? High quality content that builds authority around your brand and domain and establishes a base level of trust

What type of content / activity will drive customer action?

  • High quality SEO blogs
  • Original research studies, case studies or pooled views
  • Brand Awareness Blogs (Creative Stories, Real Life Experiences, Entertainment Value Works)
  • Websites and site guides
  • Books published by a brand manager
  • Lead magnets and ebooks
  • Content, videos and copies on social media
  • Community around your brand and create intimacy with the content
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2. Interest and intention

Interest and intention represent two, usually separate, stages of the sales funnel (interest and desire). Problem with this: Smart online shoppers can switch from interest to desire at heart.

Too many brands say goodbye to potential buyers when it takes them just a moment to want to buy (or one good time coupon sent in an email). What triggers it most often? Real-time human conversations, whether via live chat, Skype calls, or over a good phone.

Once your leads are warm (thanks to mindfulness-focused content) getting into a conversation with your best sellers is easy. And these conversations have a drawback point, especially if you sweeten things up with a discount (with an expiration date attached).

According to GeoMarketing, customers exchange over two billion messages with businesses on Facebook every month. Whatever platform you use, if you can engage with potential clients one-on-one, they will have a better opportunity to move them around and want to buy.

Where are your leading cycles? Interested in your brand with potential to buy

What will your potential customers complain about at this stage? Conversational marketing, including live calls and chats, and deals (seasonal or client deals work well)

What type of content / activity will drive customer action?

  • Conversational marketing (e.g., live chat, messenger bots, and reserved calls with top team members)
  • Clear site navigation, strong CTAs and contact forms (i.e. make it easier for your team to contact you from your site)
  • Lead magnets and ebooks
  • Conductive Client Success Stories (white papers and case studies)
  • List creation (including exceptional email marketing)
  • Webinars
  • Redirect campaign
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3. Decision

The decision phase is the action phase. The desired action, of course, is sales. If your targeted content has worked well in other stages (meeting information needs, answering questions, building authority, building trust) and your product / service is strong, then this stage is worth it.

Where are your leading cycles? Thorough and ready to buy

What will your potential customers complain about at this stage? Work / product samples and pricing, good reviews from happy customers and sales calls for reservations

What type of content / activity will drive customer action?

  • Conversational marketing (tracking and answering customer questions)
    • A quick team on their feet to get back to customer questions (According to a Lead Connect survey, 78% of customers buy from the first brand to answer their questions.)
  • Positive reviews on major third party sites
  • Product demos if they make sense for your brand
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4. Faithfulness

The loyalty phase exists in the traditional sales funnel, but incredibly important for online longevity and profitability. Instead of spitting on their customers after a purchase, life cycle marketing keeps them in the loop. It’s about providing consistent value through content, touching the base with conversational marketing, and maintaining that relationship you’ve already built. This is how you earn loyal brand advocates.

Earn loyal brand advocates by delivering ongoing value through #content, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click to Tweet

Where are your leading cycles? Delighted, satisfied and ready to refer / recommend you

What will your potential customers complain about at this stage? Fantastic service and great products, friendly follow-up, resolution of possible dissatisfaction

What type of content / activity will drive customer action?

  • Regular monitoring
  • Thanksgiving gifts
  • Email marketing with content updates
  • Posting new products or offers
  • A combination of great service and great products

The marketing lifecycle is a better framework for a customer’s online journey

Which model would you prefer to be part of your marketing strategy: (1) one who is 120 years old and talks to buyers who personally make purchasing decisions, or (2) one who is directly related to the customer’s online journey, which fits into the heat content marketing and guide you what do you need to create to keep prospects in your circle?

Life-cycle marketing is not easy, but it provides a better way to serve your value-seeking customers and brands they can trust. Businesses that provide quality content and service at every stage will rise above and beyond and will ignite loyalty from their customers who will become loyal fans and advocates.

And better than everyone.

MANUALLY RELATED CONTENTS: Sample 11 Best B2B and B2C Content Marketing Ideas 2018

Whether recognizing the defects of the sales funnel or finding a better way for your content marketing to get what your audience needs, 2019 is a great learning opportunity. Sign up today for Content Marketing World this September for the best prices available. Use code BLOG100 to save an additional $ 100.

Cover image of Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute




Thanks for visiting our site. As a way of saying "thanks" here's a FREE course on how to make $688 a day online using FREE methods: 

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