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So you and your team have built marketing funnels. You have followed the so-called best marketing practice, but it is not delivering the returns you expect. let’s summarise (in our humble opinion) why not:

– You failed to define your audience.
– You use marketing funnels – Without question.
– You focus on exclusively on online marketing.
– Your content targeting is all wrong.
– You failed to focus enough on pre-trigger audiences.

So first let’s look at the problem with sales funnels. We will cover the other points in future posts.

One important point to note. What follows applies to small to medium-sized businesses. The conclusions we reach often do not apply to larger businesses, especially those with a strong brand. Why will become clear.

Audience and Plan

You should have goals and objectives for your business. You should know who your target customer groups are and why. Marketing then is simply a way of delivering on your objectives.

What are your priorities and what will you sell to which group of customers? Once you have built a plan you need to focus and remain consistent. Fail to do so and you will waste time and money. That is guaranteed.

The Marketing Funnel

The standard advice suggests marketers should move a target audience through a funnel using specific marketing tactics at each stage. The funnel shape suggests prospects will drop out at each stage. So you start with many prospects at the Awareness stage to deliver a few customers at the Action stage.

The AIDA funnel dates back to the late 19th century. It suggests a prospect must first be Aware of your brand. They need to be aware in general terms of your name and what you do.

The theory continues marketing should then attempt to generate Interest in your solution by highlighting its benefits. Further marketing effort persuades a proportion of prospects that they want (Desire) the solution. The final challenge is to push the prospect over the line by persuading them they need to take Action (to buy).

This simplistic model has developed over the years. There are now many versions of the marketing funnel. One example expands AIDA to Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation and Purchase steps.

Generating Content To Support The Funnel

The standard model assumes the prospect will fulfil their information needs (inbound marketing rather than outbound). Therefore, the aim is to deliver the right content to the right place at the right time throughout the different stages of the prospect’s journey (AIDA).

So, in theory, during the awareness stage, the prospect finds your carefully positioned content. That may be in the search results, in social channels, at an event or in print. They like what they see and go on to view more of your content.

You have now piqued the prospects interest and (ideally) you have captured their details (email). This enables you to deliver next stage content to them directly. Failing that (you hope) the prospect remembers the helpful information and returns to consume your next stage content.

The Problem With Marketing Funnels

There are many problems with marketing funnels, but the most obvious is:

– They are linear.
– They assume you can deliver content to the prospect.
– They assume the prospect remains engaged – Funnels leak.
– They are, by their very nature, simplifications.
– They disregard the trigger.

To illustrate the problems with the standard approach let’s take a look at a different model. Let’s use it to work through an example:

At first sight, this model again looks linear and in some cases, it can be. Let’s assume you run a financial adviser business. Bill is in his mid 50’s. At a neighbours barbecue, he gets talking to Bob. The conversation turns to retirement and Bob describes his plans. Bill realises he needs to start thinking about his retirement. This is the trigger. As a financial adviser you have little (if any) control over when (or if) this trigger occurs.

So Bill is off on his journey. He spends time on the internet and with his pension statements. He may talk to friends or family. He is in learner mode. Eventually, he knows what he would like to achieve and starts looking at the
options available to him. He has become a shopper. He then moves into buying mode. He is ready to compare and contrast suppliers and make his purchase. With the purchase complete (if everything goes well) he becomes a referrer. Bill is the prospect defined by the AIDA model.

The reality is few prospects follow Bill’s path. For example, Ben works in I.T for a pensions company. He already has a good understanding (because he is in the business) of what he wants to do. Something has already triggered his desire to move forward. He jumps right in at the buyer stage.

Brenda is different to Bill, she is not inclined to spend weeks researching all her options. She is happy to go with the recommendations or advice of friends or family. She jumps in at the shopper stage.

Ben is more likely to come in via Ads than organically. Brenda will have minimal online interaction. The standard model misses Ben, Brenda and the FOGS. It also neglects existing clients.

Even if all prospects were like Bill, the funnel leaks. It assumes the prospect will remain engaged and move dutifully from one step to the next. That is a huge assumption. More on that in the next post that focuses on content.

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