Content Strategy

Funnels, Hourglasses, or Loops: Targeting Customers-to-Be

Have we moved beyond marketing funnels?
Is the traditional marketing funnel dead? Or has it just morphed into a different shape?

Last week, I attended a half-day conference with the cringe-worthy name, “The B2B Funnelmentals Tour.” Presented by a marketing platform company, Bizo, the B2B-focused agenda was right up my alley.

The premise was simple: in a traditional marketing funnel, people at different phases of the buying cycle each need different types of content.

At the top of the funnel, your audience may or may know anything about you. They’re probably trying to learn about the market in general: who they players are, what’s involved, why they should care. Perhaps they’ve been issued a challenge from management, something to the tune of, “Go figure out if we need X.” At this stage, the content should be very high level, and focused on PR and brand awareness.

As you move down, your prospects are becoming exactly that: prospects who are actively comparing you to a small subset of competitors. They’ve either already engaged with your sales team or are on the verge of doing so. This is where thought leadership can really set you apart, as you can help prospects think about their business problem in new ways. Gated content can help here, as long as prospects have found enough valuable content already open on your site that they think it’s worth trading some contact information for more in-depth content. Good thought leadership can also help guide them through the selection process.

At the bottom of the funnel, your prospects have signed on the dotted line and become customers. But should it end there?

Tom Murphy at CMS reports, Yes the Marketing Funnel is Dead, and instead we should look at an hourglass of sorts. Beyond customer acquisition, companies should invest real money in customer support and keeping customers satisfied. This must go beyond putting out fires and become a place for revenue generation.

But there’s also the McKinsey Loyalty Loop. In the Loop, the sale is only the midpoint of a circuitous journey in which customers share their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with peers, colleagues, and the internet at large. Companies need to invest in ongoing nurturing to help customers’ continued satisfaction. With the Loop, customers periodically re-evaluate their purchase, either for another engagement or an up-sell, so satisfaction can directly help a company accelerate another sale.

Each model has its strengths, but as more and more sales involve a heavy digital evaluation component, I think the Loop has some real advantages, as it forces companies to keep an eye on customer engagement and satisfaction long after the sale.

What’s your preferred model?

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