Is the Marketing Funnel Dead?

Debbie Qaqish
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Key Takeaways

​What? In today’s engagement economy, the traditional marketing funnel, based on silos doing separate jobs, is dead.

So what? B2B marketers must ditch product-centric strategies and adopt a holistic, customer-focused approach to attracting and retaining buyers.

Now what? It’s time to embrace a revenue-first approach to marketing and use the customer life cycle as the foundation for marketing programs, alignment and technology.

​Oct. 17, 2017

As companies begin to pivot away from product-centric strategies to embrace customer-focused strategies, B-to-B marketers need to reimagine the funnel

Nothing is more sacred in B-to-B marketing than the funnel. It has become the standard of measurement, performance and contribution from B-to-B marketers. Whether you depict the funnel vertically or horizontally, it has become the mantra of marketers today.

But, what if what we think is right is actually wrong? What if the old way of thinking is holding the CMO back from a seat at the table? As companies begin to pivot away from product-centric strategies to embrace customer-focused strategies, B-to-B marketers need to reimagine the funnel. Rather than a funnel that ends with delivering an MQL to sales, the customer engagement economy now requires a holistic view of the customer journey or customer life cycle.

So often, marketers focus most of their effort and spend on the top of the funnel while the rest of the customer journey is neglected. While net new acquisition is the most difficult business to develop, marketers must take a portfolio approach to how they invest marketing dollars. If you are getting a great return on an area of spend, then double down. If ROI is not there, cut your losses. This portfolio approach to marketing investment is well-served in the new view of the funnel.

The chart below represents a holistic view of the customer journey. The left side of the model has a dual dimension: a first-time buyer and a repeat buyer. The right side of the model represents moving a client from onboarding to loyalty and advocacy. With this new view, think about evaluating each aspect of the journey for communication opportunities. Rather than blindly spending money and resources at the top of the funnel, you are now looking for the best return on spend across this entire life cycle. If the sales team expects marketing to adopt a revenue-first mindset, this is the view that marketing should maximize.

Where can you invest marketing dollars and resources to get the best return? Imagine you have developed a customer life cycle similar to the one modeled here. Imagine you have data that points out the best opportunities for marketing spend in terms of ROI along all points of this model. Your program and campaign priorities for 2018 might include:

  • Nurture campaigns for a certain type of opportunity created.

  • Onboarding programs.

  • Adoption programs.

  • Upsell/cross-sell programs.

  • Renewal programs.

While working on net new business is important, you can’t ignore opportunities in other places of the customer journey. And, if you are measured on your ability to drive growth and revenue, taking a holistic approach to the customer journey just makes sense.

One Way to Create Ultimate Alignment

It is amazing that we still have an overwhelming lack of alignment between marketing and other parts of the organization. These silo mindsets are created based on what each group is measured on and responsible for. It’s time to change this conversation from a turf battle to a how and who is best to engage with the customer at every point on the customer journey. Again, just look at the customer journey model. What would happen if you walked around to every part of the company that interacts along this journey and had an open dialog about how to do this holistically, as one team with one coordinated voice to inspire the customer?

The way to create ultimate alignment across functions is to place the customer at the center of the relationship and to create that one shared view of the customer journey. I’ve seen this magic happen in organizations that have adopted a serious customer-focused strategy driven from the top down. Moving from an organizational structure that works in silos to one that works in a collaborative framework with the customer at the center is the only sustainable way to create alignment.

Martech Aligns Around the Customer

For the past two years, the MarTech Conference has held an award ceremony called the Stackies. Each entrant to the contest presents a pictorial description of their marketing stack. From the very beginning, companies have imagined their MarTech stack with the customer at the center. At the Boston event in September, two notable companies depicted their MarTech Stackie based on the customer relationship – Cisco and Microsoft.

Imagine taking your customer journey map and using it to not only design campaigns with the best ROI, but as the decision criteria for what kind of technology is needed to meet goals. How else can you figure out what to do with the multiple technologies you probably have? Using the customer journey as the foundation for your Martech strategy just makes sense.

Next Steps

The next steps may be quite a challenge for you to execute, but you must persevere:

  1. Map the entire customer journey/life cycle in collaboration with all stakeholders.

  2. Define roles and responsibilities for each customer-facing part of your organization.

  3. Align messaging and key actions.

  4. Assess opportunity points for marketing programs. Calculate different ROIs based on these points.

  5. Create your 2018 programs.

It is time for marketing to move away from the top-of-the funnel mentality to one that encompasses the entire customer life cycle. Look at opportunities at every point of the customer life cycle and, commit resources and time to those points with the highest ROI. Are you ready to make this bold move?

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Author Bio:

Debbie Qaqish
Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of <a href="" target="_blank">The Pedowitz Group</a>. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.
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