Want Real Leads? Quit Focusing on the Sales Funnel

Want Real Leads? Quit Focusing on the Sales Funnel

In Market Research by Shelly KramerLeave a Comment

Many companies today focus on the traditional sales funnel—they hunt, lure, and trap leads. Then, they close or otherwise convert—whether by making a sale, getting an email address, or enticing the lead to take another desired action. What’s next? They repeat the process with another lead. And another. And another. While the linear approach is valid in many ways—after all, you can’t ever convert if you don’t focus on efforts to identify, generate, and nurture leads (hint: try email marketing for that)—the process leaves far too much on the table. The bottom line? Stop focusing on the traditional sales funnel. To get real leads and gain more long-term customers, you need to focus on what happens outside (and after) the funnel. Here’s why.

Outside the Funnel is Where the Magic Happens

You want leads and you want them to convert, right? Of course you do. That’s business—and you’re not alone. HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 report found a whopping 70 percent of marketers said converting leads was their top priority. No surprise there.

But do you want real leads? Or are you too focused on pushing those that you have through the traditional funnel (see Figure 1) and then saying sayonara after they convert? What about those who duck out of your funnel midway through, never converting for one reason or another? Do you consider them lost causes and move onto the next prospect?

Adespresso by Hootsuite

Figure 1. Source: Adespresso by Hootsuite

You probably don’t have to closely examine Figure 1 because you’ve likely seen a version of it a gazillion times. The traditional sales funnel proceeds from awareness to action, and then it ends. There’s no post-conversion plan, no follow-up, no strategy to re-engage those who fall through the cracks.

The reality is that the path to purchase is a lot less linear than the traditional sales funnel makes it out to be. It’s a journey that can involve a number of devices, digital touchpoints, and interactions with your brand. Most importantly, it’s anything but a straight line. So why are we still basing our strategy off one?

Building real leads—i.e., the kind that grow real relationships, long-term customers, ongoing sales, satisfied customers, referrals, consumer advocacy, etc.—means paying attention to what happens in the gray area, especially after the sale. It means losing your obsession with the old way of looking at the sales funnel and start thinking about your sales and conversion process in a more holistic way.

I completely agree with Peter Boyle’s must-read column for the Daily Egg in which he brilliantly compares some of today’s marketing tactics with the slew of multi-level marketing (MLM) platforms that fill social newsfeeds. He goes on to write: “Understand that your customers are an audience, but an audience is only held together so long as you continue to serve them at every stage in their journey – that includes after they’ve purchased from you.”

He’s right. After the sale is where real customer relationships are made. But what does post-conversion interaction look like, exactly? Let’s take a look.

A Better Way

The best way to engage those in the gray area—and those going through the normal stages of the funnel, too—is to keep them interested. The best tool to accomplish that? Tailored content. I’ve written in the past about this [you can read that here: How to Develop Content for Different Stages of the Customer Journey], including post-purchase and dormancy. That’s important. Generating content that adds timely value to a consumer is a key ingredient in the recipe for delivering an excellent customer experience—which, we all know, is what differentiates winning brands from those struggling to stay relevant in our increasingly digital world.

The point is that customer service and retention shouldn’t be afterthoughts when it comes to your view of the sales funnel. Figure 2, for example, shows a more modern, broad business funnel that doesn’t just include actions-after-purchase, but it builds it as the foundation on which the entire structure stands.

Tyrell Cooper Business Solutions

Figure 2: Source: Tyrell Cooper Business Solutions

Figure 3 shows a map of the customer journey from the buyer’s perspective, and it’s relevant to this conversation for two reasons: First, the customer journey map and the sales funnel represent a similar process but from different perspectives, and marketers would be wise to align the two. Second, you’ll notice Figure 3 includes a “loyalty loop,” a distinct section for post-purchase experience/ongoing exposure, and is round—all of which showcase the opportunity for repeat business and cyclical interaction if brands continue to add value after the initial transaction has occurred.

McKinsey Report

Figure 3. Source: McKinsey

Continue the Conversation

There’s much more to discuss on this topic. Want to go deeper? Join me and my colleague/marketing whiz Shawn Elledge for the Growth Marketing Conference at the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco, CA on June 28 and 29, 2017. On June 28th from 2:00-6:00 PM, we will host a Hands On Workshop: The Ultimate Guide to B2B Lead Generation. The next day is packed with B2B case studies, networking opportunities, panels, keynote speakers, and much more. Attendees hail from companies like IBM, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Moz, Google, GoDaddy, Oracle, and others. Seats are limited—you don’t want to miss this one. Click here to learn more and/or reserve your seat and use code IMA30 for a 30% discount off the ticket price.

Additional Resources on This Topic

Disrupting the Sales Funnel and CMO Mindsets
Post-Purchase Emails: A Powerful Way to Hack Growth

Photo Credit: kathieblogankids Flickr via Compfight cc

This post was first published on V3Broadsuite.