Introducing a New Framework to Replace
the Out-of-Date Sales Funnel.
If you’re thinking about marketing like a funnel, ask yourself … how much has marketing changed in the past 20 years? As you reflect on that, consider that the sales funnel framework is far more than 20 years old. And while it was great in the pre-Internet era, it fails in 2016. There’s now something better.
Twenty years ago the Internet exploded onto the scene. This started a big change in how buyers and sellers interact. Buyers used to have limited sources of information. They relied on marketers, salespeople and the trade in general for information and education.
But content bloomed and buyers gained the power of knowledge. They acquired new ways to filter information and ignore your marketing communications. They began researching vendors themselves and becoming more selective in who they’d even talk to. And change accelerated. It’s hard to fathom, but just ten years ago YouTube didn’t exist and the first iPhone was still three years away.
Now marketers find themselves in a difficult environment. In the age of the customer, marketing is more critical than ever, yet ROI is stagnating or even declining. Competition and substitutes are almost universally more prevalent. Buyers have more power, and platform and device proliferation is intensifying. Marketing is more complex and the marketer’s job is only going to get harder.
Everyone would rather “buy” versus being “sold” to. And today, buyers have the tools they need to do what they’ve always wanted to do. According to the Corporate Executive Board, B2B buyers are on average 57% of the way through their own purchase process before they contact any suppliers!
We already knew that two-thirds of new B2B relationships are buyer-initiated, but this statistic is even more enlightening. It means that not only do buyers filter sellers, but they do it until they’re very late in their journey!
Content marketing has been one answer to this trend, but this is reaching a limit. You see, the production of content continues to increase exponentially, but the ability for your audience to consume that content doesn’t. It’s getting harder and harder to have an impact. Content has to be better and it has to be presented in a more novel way. You can read more about this topic here. In short … content is still critical, but creativity is the new king.
What’s Wrong With the Old Funnel?
As we’ve worked to help our clients improve their marketing effectiveness, we found that the funnel framework wasn’t cutting it. Why? There are plenty of reasons:
It’s marketing-centric, not buyer-centric. Buyers have much more power now. The funnel was developed before they gained control. Today, if anything, buyers put sellers into a funnel.
It’s linear and isolated. In the time it takes a web page to load, buyers bop around between all the funnels—yours and all of your competitors’—and move up and down at will.
It’s overly acquisition-focused. Sometimes the most effective marketing dollars are spent on current customers. In the funnel model, once they pop out of the bottom as customers, they’re no longer important.
It kicks people out. The low cost of communications today means you don’t have to shun those who aren’t likely to buy. They can still be great referral sources, brand advocates or future customers when they move to another organization.
It misses the feedback between customers and prospects. Your prospects are listening to your customers for reviews, recommendations and experience. This should be considered and enhanced.
It ignores the value of strategic marketing. There’s nothing in the funnel about brand messaging or credibility. The harder buyers are filtering sellers, the more critical this becomes.
It assumes that more in equals more out. In the old days, you could make twice the cold calls and get twice the customers. It’s not that simple anymore.
It implies that gravity is on your side. It’s laughable. Today, you have to work harder than ever to keep people engaged and moving forward. There’s no force working for you. In fact, it’s the opposite.
A Better Model
As we saw these shortcomings, we searched for a better model. But the alternatives we found were either overly complicated or not applicable to B2B. Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel and Bottom of Funnel (affectionately named TOFU, MOFU and BOFU) offered improvements for sure, but they’re still lipstick on a pig, so to speak.
By combining our 20 years of experience with insights and data from working with hundreds of B2B organizations, we’ve developed an exciting new framework that we call The Revenue Tower™.
A More Realistic Playing Field
First, note that the Revenue Tower isn’t isolated and it doesn’t rely on gravity. Marketers have to attract and elevate. Creativity is king in getting people’s attention and getting them in for the first time, and then it’s a continual effort to keep them coming back and moving up. The tower doesn’t narrow either because it’s not about kicking people out. Marketing automation and CRM technologies help ensure that expensive resources are applied efficiently, and low-cost communications can keep your company on the radar of referral sources, brand advocates and future qualified prospects (and even future prospective employees).
Important New Sections
The basic top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel tactical sections remain, but to add clarity, we’ve renamed them initial engagement, ongoing engagement and sales enablement. At the very bottom, underground if you will, there’s a strategic messaging foundation. We’ve found unequivocally that a solid foundation creates better results so the framework reinforces that notion. Also, there’s a “showroom” section. These are the elements that impact perception, positioning and credibility, and help ensure prospects don’t filter your company out of consideration during that first 57% of their buying process.
Each section contains tactics that have been carefully identified and grouped together. As resources are always limited, the key is to select the priorities in each section.
At the top of the tower are the customer retention and growth tactics that are so painfully ignored by the funnel model. The rooftop is where your loyal customers enjoy the special treatment and exclusive benefits that they deserve. They’re the people leaning over the railing telling those below to come on up!
In our next issues, we’ll dive into the different sections of the tower, exploring the essential elements and groups of tactics that make up each one. If you can’t wait, however, and need to break ground on your tower sooner vs. later, give us a call or email me now.