Sunday, November 7, 2010

Funnel Vision

It's time to take a fresh look at your sales "funnel."

Only executivescomfortably behind the lines in the daily battle for market sharestill believe customers are gullible.

Direct-accountability salespeople know they're anything but.

Today's customers are self-educated.  And then some.

That's why Joseph Jaffe, in his recent book Flip the Funnel, insists the traditional metaphor of a sales funnel is passe.

Today's customers are "indefatigable researchers," Jaffe writes, who "will do what they can to make informed decisions that disintermediate marketing misdirection, hyperbole, overpromise and hype."

If customers are smarter than ever, what should marketers do?

In a 2009 article, "The Consumer Decision Journey," consultants at McKinsey & Company recommend marketers "look beyond funnel-inspired push marketing" and begin to cultivate customers while they're conducting their research.

"The epicenter of consumer-driven marketing is the Internet, crucial during the active-evaluation phase as consumers seek information, reviews, and recommendations," the authors state.

Wooing customers during the "decision journey" demands that marketers forego old-fashioned media advertising, according to the authors.

They must focus instead on building content-rich Websites and word-of-mouth advertising.

If you want your customer base to grow, Seth Godin famously says, you should turn the funnel sideways

Let customers use your funnel like a megaphone.  They'll broadcast their satisfaction to others.

That would take care of your word-of-mouth advertising.  

But what about your content?

That's where you need to turn the funnel upside down. 

You need to flip your funnel and fill it with tons of great content.  And make the content free and accessible.

So when customers on the decision journey find you, they'll find not a hypester, but a helpful, trusted advisor.
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