People

The New Marketing Funnel

(Jointly authored with Rosetta‘s Director of Social Media, Gargi Patel)

The world has changed. We are in the midst of an unprecedented shift of power to the consumer fueled by the virtual megaphone handed to them through social media outlets. When a customer is angry or has a bad experience with a product or service, the old rule of thumb was that they told an average of 10 people about it. In today’s world some could easily be telling 10,000 (or more!). On the flip side, happy customers can be telling many more than the old average of 3 people about their good experience. Marketing executives just need to design initiatives that enable and activate them to do so. That shift can be represented through adapting one of every marketer’s favorite marketing conceptual frameworks, the funnel.

Infusing Engagement into the Marketing Funnel

With the expansion of the marketer’s toolbox to include social media, marketing is no longer about pushing out one way communications. The marketing world is no longer defined solely by impressions; it’s now a world of interactions. Today’s marketing includes the customer’s voice throughout the process, whether it’s intentional or not. Customers will talk online and comment on a brand’s marketing campaigns, products, services, and even how a company treats employees. It’s not enough to think about how companies communicate outwards; it’s just as important to think about how customers can communicate back, with each other, and arguably most importantly, with new prospects.

Rethinking The Funnel

A few years ago, Forrester Research published a report on “engagement” and suggested that the marketing funnel has become much more complex in today’s environment.  (See image.  Former Forrester analyst Brian Haven wrote about the complexities impacting the funnel in 2007).  While the influencing factors are more complicated, the same simple, visual framework as the traditional marketing funnel can be leveraged to show this complexity. The design needs to account for engagement throughout the process rather than looking at it through a lens of static messages we push out.

For example, traditionally, marketers look to create awareness by placing carefully planned messages across appropriate media outlets. Today, customers can create and spread their own messages about a brand through user-generated content and social networks. Traditionally, marketers would hope to influence customers in the “consideration” phase through strategic promotions and sales tactics. Today, user-generated ratings and reviews are frequently enough to convince a customer to make the purchase. Building loyalty is no longer just about loyalty points programs for repeat purchase or sending regular emails to customers. Building loyalty now means entering into a dialogue with them and letting customers participate in more meaningful ways than static customer feedback surveys or a constant barrage of emails announcing special promotions.

Extending the Marketing Funnel

The old marketing funnel generally followed some version of this pattern:

  • Awareness > Research/Consideration > Purchase / Conversion

With the widespread adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the 1990’s, marketers began focusing more on loyalty or customer retention and brought the funnel one level deeper. The customer’s voice was considered important, but only in the context of customer service and a closed feedback loop. The old thinking was that sending customers regular emails would keep the brand top of mind and that special offers would keep customers from switching to competitors.

As mentioned before, today’s marketers will need to build a more authentic, deeper relationship with customers by truly engaging them to earn their loyalty—and this is how companies can begin to cultivate advocates.

Figure 2: The New Marketing Funnel

It’s time to extend the marketing funnel one level deeper to account for advocacy. There are two reasons that cultivating and enabling advocacy is critical in today’s world:

  1. People trust other people more than they trust companies. A recommendation from a friend or family member is still the single most important criteria in making a purchase decision and recommendations from strangers online also hold more weight than marketing messages.
  2. With the growing voice of the customer online and the “power” (virtual megaphone) handed to them through social media outlets, it’s important to help make sure the voice of happy customers is louder than that of the few unhappy customers.

Cultivating and enabling advocates will generate authentic word-of-mouth, bringing the best new customer prospects into the marketing funnel. The ROI on that? Priceless.  (Rosetta does in fact have a framework to measure ROI on advocacy programs.)

What do you think?  Is this old news?  Would this help you construct a framework to measure social media initiatives or sell the concept of driving advocacy to executives?  How would you change it?

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  • Adam,

    I think you’re right that brands need to factor in advocacy as part of the equation. Sites that have recommendations and ratings have been proven to increase conversions. Advocacy definitely does have an impact at many points in the purchase process. Instead of companies trying to generate awareness themselves, the smart ones are empowering their best customers and advocates to help them out in the process. I think some of the smart ones are already doing this, but it definitely can help most everyone else, too.

  • Adam,

    I think you’re right that brands need to factor in advocacy as part of the equation. Sites that have recommendations and ratings have been proven to increase conversions. Advocacy definitely does have an impact at many points in the purchase process. Instead of companies trying to generate awareness themselves, the smart ones are empowering their best customers and advocates to help them out in the process. I think some of the smart ones are already doing this, but it definitely can help most everyone else, too.

  • Adam – the timing of your post is interesting given the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the traditional marketing funnel. As a CMO myself, I am VERY familiar with the importance of creating awareness and then subsequently moving those prospective customers that have expressed interest in our brand down the funnel.

    What’s most serendipitous about your post is that I had the privilege of doing a podcast with big thinkers David Armano, Sr. Partner at Dachis Group and John Cass, author, blogger and former community manager for Forrester Research on tapping into the power of “social” to create awareness and engagement. I will be posting that podcast shortly but in the meantime, I’m going to share a post that David wrote back in ’07 that he alerted me to prior to our conversation titled The Marketing Spiral. Ironically, his post includes the same Forrester image that Brian Haven created demonstrating a new “maze-like” version of the funnel.

    Bottom line, the way marketing works is changing and I love that you and Gargi are pushing that change forward in your most excellent blog posts. Keep up the great work!

  • Adam – the timing of your post is interesting given the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the traditional marketing funnel. As a CMO myself, I am VERY familiar with the importance of creating awareness and then subsequently moving those prospective customers that have expressed interest in our brand down the funnel.

    What’s most serendipitous about your post is that I had the privilege of doing a podcast with big thinkers David Armano, Sr. Partner at Dachis Group and John Cass, author, blogger and former community manager for Forrester Research on tapping into the power of “social” to create awareness and engagement. I will be posting that podcast shortly but in the meantime, I’m going to share a post that David wrote back in ’07 that he alerted me to prior to our conversation titled The Marketing Spiral. Ironically, his post includes the same Forrester image that Brian Haven created demonstrating a new “maze-like” version of the funnel.

    Bottom line, the way marketing works is changing and I love that you and Gargi are pushing that change forward in your most excellent blog posts. Keep up the great work!

  • What I love about the advocacy funnel is that it gives us a framework for uniting all of the marketing silos together. As an advocacy-focused agency, we’re just starting to see this metric as the unifying point of integration across these disparate approaches to reach the consumer. Digital, traditional, social media, events, WOM can all be measured through the lens of advocacy. Well done Gargi and Adam!

    • Thanks Jen – your feedback in particular means a lot. Perhaps thoughts for a separate post, but I’m curious about ways to ultimate measure advocacy.

    • Thanks Jen – your feedback in particular means a lot. Perhaps thoughts for a separate post, but I’m curious about ways to ultimate measure advocacy.

  • What I love about the advocacy funnel is that it gives us a framework for uniting all of the marketing silos together. As an advocacy-focused agency, we’re just starting to see this metric as the unifying point of integration across these disparate approaches to reach the consumer. Digital, traditional, social media, events, WOM can all be measured through the lens of advocacy. Well done Gargi and Adam!

    • Thanks Jen – your feedback in particular means a lot. Perhaps thoughts for a separate post, but I’m curious about ways to ultimate measure advocacy.

  • Excellent points Adam. It’s amazing there are still companies and people who do not get this philosophy and way of life. What your sharing is old news, but with an evolutionary spin on it. The fact that the masses are now engaging with this process accelerates the need to be a part of the culture. I anticipate people may become somewhat disenchanted with the “paid” mouths who tout products, but there will continue the segment who buys because a “celeb” be it Hollywood or “Bloggywood” (k, I coined that one;) says it even when paid.

    There will continue to be independent thinkers who don’t just jump on the bandwagon because so and so says to. They’ll also continue to seek out voices of real people who don’t get paid for product pushing.

  • Excellent points Adam. It’s amazing there are still companies and people who do not get this philosophy and way of life. What your sharing is old news, but with an evolutionary spin on it. The fact that the masses are now engaging with this process accelerates the need to be a part of the culture. I anticipate people may become somewhat disenchanted with the “paid” mouths who tout products, but there will continue the segment who buys because a “celeb” be it Hollywood or “Bloggywood” (k, I coined that one;) says it even when paid.

    There will continue to be independent thinkers who don’t just jump on the bandwagon because so and so says to. They’ll also continue to seek out voices of real people who don’t get paid for product pushing.

  • This is eerily similar to a framework I’ve created for customer engagement, which considers both the traditional Sales Funnel of manufacturers and the Loyalty Pyramid of marketers. Called C.A.R.E. ™, Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, it is an objectives-based process that focuses on channels, voice, strategies, and metrics based on stage in the Customer Journey…I’ve been leveraging it for use in Content Marketing and Social Media.

    “Great minds”?!

    Best of luck with yours, Adam,

    Keith Wiegold
    ContentKeith

  • This is eerily similar to a framework I’ve created for customer engagement, which considers both the traditional Sales Funnel of manufacturers and the Loyalty Pyramid of marketers. Called C.A.R.E. ™, Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, it is an objectives-based process that focuses on channels, voice, strategies, and metrics based on stage in the Customer Journey…I’ve been leveraging it for use in Content Marketing and Social Media.

    “Great minds”?!

    Best of luck with yours, Adam,

    Keith Wiegold
    ContentKeith

  • This is eerily similar to a framework I’ve created for customer engagement, which considers both the traditional Sales Funnel of manufacturers and the Loyalty Pyramid of marketers. Called C.A.R.E. ™, Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, it is an objectives-based process that focuses on channels, voice, strategies, and metrics based on stage in the Customer Journey…I’ve been leveraging it for use in Content Marketing and Social Media.

    “Great minds”?!

    Best of luck with yours, Adam,

    Keith Wiegold
    ContentKeith

  • Two thoughts, Adam.

    Of course the Advocacy stage needs adding. Your delighted customers and clients must be trained to be your best salesmen. As my wording indicates, they sometimes have to be given some gentle correction, direction and encouragement, but there’s more of them than in your team, whoever you are, so get them prospecting for you!

    Secondly, the traditional funnel model is being turned upside down by Social Networking! By this I mean that the process starts at the narrow end of the funnel with you letting your contacts know what you do, who you do it to, and the good they get out of having you do it. As they tell all their friends, your messages get spread wider and wider by the ‘viral’ effect – if what you say is ‘interesting’ of course! Hence my analogy of the upturned funnel spreading your messages. After all, this is the way trumpets are constructed so that the whole concert hall can hear them, loud and clear!

    Hope this helps.

    David

  • Two thoughts, Adam.

    Of course the Advocacy stage needs adding. Your delighted customers and clients must be trained to be your best salesmen. As my wording indicates, they sometimes have to be given some gentle correction, direction and encouragement, but there’s more of them than in your team, whoever you are, so get them prospecting for you!

    Secondly, the traditional funnel model is being turned upside down by Social Networking! By this I mean that the process starts at the narrow end of the funnel with you letting your contacts know what you do, who you do it to, and the good they get out of having you do it. As they tell all their friends, your messages get spread wider and wider by the ‘viral’ effect – if what you say is ‘interesting’ of course! Hence my analogy of the upturned funnel spreading your messages. After all, this is the way trumpets are constructed so that the whole concert hall can hear them, loud and clear!

    Hope this helps.

    David

  • Adam – This is spot on but I’m wondering if the funnel is the right graphic… I think maybe the hour glass may be a better visual image because the purpose of driving customers toward advocacy is to get the trusted leverage that comes with that…so it is pulling some one into the point of the funnel so that you can explode that funnel back out. Just a thought 🙂

    • Funny, at the Search Engine Strategies conference this week Dave Evans showed a slide that had a sideways hourglass depicting social media marketing. You’re on to something here, Rachel. Gargi and I struggle to show how once you achieve advocacy, the leverage is applied throughout the funnel (making it wider?) – it makes the focus on advocacy that much more significant.

    • Funny, at the Search Engine Strategies conference this week Dave Evans showed a slide that had a sideways hourglass depicting social media marketing. You’re on to something here, Rachel. Gargi and I struggle to show how once you achieve advocacy, the leverage is applied throughout the funnel (making it wider?) – it makes the focus on advocacy that much more significant.

  • Adam – This is spot on but I’m wondering if the funnel is the right graphic… I think maybe the hour glass may be a better visual image because the purpose of driving customers toward advocacy is to get the trusted leverage that comes with that…so it is pulling some one into the point of the funnel so that you can explode that funnel back out. Just a thought 🙂

  • Adam – This is spot on but I’m wondering if the funnel is the right graphic… I think maybe the hour glass may be a better visual image because the purpose of driving customers toward advocacy is to get the trusted leverage that comes with that…so it is pulling some one into the point of the funnel so that you can explode that funnel back out. Just a thought 🙂

    • Funny, at the Search Engine Strategies conference this week Dave Evans showed a slide that had a sideways hourglass depicting social media marketing. You’re on to something here, Rachel. Gargi and I struggle to show how once you achieve advocacy, the leverage is applied throughout the funnel (making it wider?) – it makes the focus on advocacy that much more significant.

  • Thanks all for the comments. Two points are clear – 1) not enough emphasis is being put on advocacy in marketing programs, and 2) the “shape” of the funnel may be dated since the effect of advocacy can touch all other areas of the funnel (awareness, consideration and even purchase). Lots of food for thought, especially when thinking of practical applications… I really appreciate the response this has generated, thanks again.

  • Thanks all for the comments. Two points are clear – 1) not enough emphasis is being put on advocacy in marketing programs, and 2) the “shape” of the funnel may be dated since the effect of advocacy can touch all other areas of the funnel (awareness, consideration and even purchase). Lots of food for thought, especially when thinking of practical applications… I really appreciate the response this has generated, thanks again.

  • Okay, I’m getting a bit weirded out here — the C.A.R.E. ™ strategic process I’ve mentioned above is based on…you guessed it….an hourglass ‘journey’ which dilutes the number of prospects as they boil down to transaction, while inversely increasing the level of engagement as the (now) customers then increase loyalty and advocacy.

    Adam, let me know if you’d like to chat about the process in detail — I’d appreciate hearing your views….

    Keith Wiegold
    nutlug.wordpress.com

  • Okay, I’m getting a bit weirded out here — the C.A.R.E. ™ strategic process I’ve mentioned above is based on…you guessed it….an hourglass ‘journey’ which dilutes the number of prospects as they boil down to transaction, while inversely increasing the level of engagement as the (now) customers then increase loyalty and advocacy.

    Adam, let me know if you’d like to chat about the process in detail — I’d appreciate hearing your views….

    Keith Wiegold
    nutlug.wordpress.com

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  • I think your first few paragraphs speak volumes about the shift in marketing and the funnel changes that have occurred due to the emergence of social media. The idea that one person tells ten is now one per tells one thousand should validate the need for businesses to mandate ongoing social media campaigns.

  • I think your first few paragraphs speak volumes about the shift in marketing and the funnel changes that have occurred due to the emergence of social media. The idea that one person tells ten is now one per tells one thousand should validate the need for businesses to mandate ongoing social media campaigns.

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  • I would go so far as to say that the marketing funnel is obsolete… an outdated sales approach focused on deliverables, pre-determined as market share, with little viability in the current economy. I’m impressed with your website. It’s clean, easy to read, and easy to comprehend. I’m encouraged by your positive intention, though I’m wondering if a better strategy, as opposed to adding a layer, would be to re-define the “virtual megaphone” to resemble something similar to a negative algorithm… define a market, determine your best suit, deny your ‘competitive’ marketplace… a whisper, in a deluge of competitive screamers.

  • I would go so far as to say that the marketing funnel is obsolete… an outdated sales approach focused on deliverables, pre-determined as market share, with little viability in the current economy. I’m impressed with your website. It’s clean, easy to read, and easy to comprehend. I’m encouraged by your positive intention, though I’m wondering if a better strategy, as opposed to adding a layer, would be to re-define the “virtual megaphone” to resemble something similar to a negative algorithm… define a market, determine your best suit, deny your ‘competitive’ marketplace… a whisper, in a deluge of competitive screamers.

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  • SocialSteve

    Excellent job cover this important topic. I added some more commentary in a piece “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel” at http://bit.ly/dsPrq … worth checking it out.

    Best,
    Social Steve

  • SocialSteve

    Excellent job cover this important topic. I added some more commentary in a piece “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel” at http://bit.ly/dsPrq … worth checking it out.

    Best,
    Social Steve

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  • Great post Adam. There's certain online marketers that are teaching the future in marketing funnels. They know that most network marketers get it all wrong trying to fit so many pieces into the wrong puzzle. People are learning to map it out first and what the next steps are going to be. The marketing funnels now show exactly what the benefits are to get their solutions. Everythings so much easier when you have a plan first.

    Rick Salas
    http://ricksalasblog.com/marketing-funnel-mastery/

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