Is there still a place for a marketing funnel?

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Lots of people have been writing about the marketing funnel’s demise for quite some time. It’s said to be out of date. It’s said to no longer reflect modern day life. It’s said to be out of touch with how the always-on, digitally connected consumer experiences life and brand interactions.

Spiders in the funnel

To a degree, all of these criticisms are valid. The shopper’s journey today is much more complex than when the first marketing and sales funnel was theorized by St. Elmo Louis back in 1898. There are infinite entry and exit points for the brand experience.

So, should we throw out the marketing funnel?

Unsurprisingly, the answer I’d put forth is no. Not because I believe that its outdated structure still applies to the customer journey, but because I believe the marketing and sales funnel still has structural relevance for the marketer. At the end of the day, we as marketers still need to be able to diagnose our general marketing and sales processes to understand what we could be doing better internally. Dusty though the funnel may be from a marketing technology perspective, it still provides a starting point for us to understand our organization’s processes.

Regardless of entry, regardless of discovery process, a prospective customer must still be in the general audience at some point. We still have to create content and engagement of this person.

Regardless of non-linear customer journey, they are or are not at some point a lead, in the sense that they are interested in potentially satisfying a need with your company. They may fall in and out of love with you, but that status is relatively binary. We still have to create content and engagement of someone who has raised their hand to learn more about us.

Regardless of how engaging you are socially, a prospect ultimately either will or will not buy from you. We still have to create content and engagement to help persuade them to choose us.

Unquestionably, the details about how a prospective customer moves from stage to stage in what is decidedly a non-linear journey are much more variable than they have ever been, but for the purposes of the content you’ll create, the service you’ll deliver, the engagement you’ll focus on, and the products and services you’ll deliver, the funnel is still relevant as a planning tool.

Do you agree? Disagree?

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