Shelly Kramer
July 17, 2017

For Happy Customers, Look Beyond the Sales Funnel

For Happy Customers, Look Beyond the Sales Funnel

The Sales Funnel is good, but it isn’t everything! Shelly Kramer offers food for thought about what lies beyond the funnel. It is another in our “Great Articles You may have missed” series.

Quit Focusing on the Sales Funnel

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?

After The Sale

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

Customer Journey:The Buyer’s Perspective

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

Over To You

Have you been focusing only on the sales funnel? Do you instead concentrate on customer experience? Perhaps you have some hints of your own to share? Please leave your comments below.


This piece was originally titled “Want Real Leads? Quit Focusing on the Sales Funnel” and posted on V3B. It is republished here with permission.

About the author:

Shelly Kramer is the Co-CEO of V3 Broadsuite, a marketing agency specializing in the digital space. Also a Partner Digital. A 20+ year marketing veteran, she’s a brand strategist focused on delivering integrated marketing solutions and helping businesses leverage the web for growth and profitability. She’s an expert at content strategy and execution and tying social media to business initiatives.

Recognized by Forbes on a number of occasions, including as one of the Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Experts and Top 50 Social Media Influencers. She’s half marketer, half geek, with a propensity for numbers, producing results and a dash of quick repartee. Her blog has been recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 20 Best Marketing and Social Media Blogs and by PostRank as one of the Top 100 Most Engaging Social Media Blogs. Find her on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter


Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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