Tuesday 2¢: Has the Funnel Kicked the Brand Bucket?

Is the marketing funnel really dead? Ummm.. well, I have an idea about buckets and waterslides…

There seems to be a lot of shade being thrown over the idea of a marketing funnel, that digital has changed consumer behaviour, that our robot marketing automation overlords have brainwashed us as marketers into the process that they like and that out there in the real world, it’s anarchy as customers are no longer conforming to consumer world order. 

Is the funnel really dead? I mean, that would be great and all, it would fit what I like to do with these weekly rants, and many people suggest it is, but… 

Brand Bucket

It could be the shape that puts people off, as for most of us, it’s not really a funnel; it’s more like a big bucket with a narrowing pipe poking out the bottom. 

In a typical funnel model of awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, loyalty and advocacy, that bucket is awareness. It’s where all our investment in brand building is doing its work and maybe education around the problem you solve.

I say it’s bucket shaped as you probably have a huge number of people that could buy your product or influence a decision made to buy it, but how many of them are in the market right now looking to buy? It’s a tiny proportion, but you must keep that bucket stocked with investment in brand awareness.  

Does a strong brand trump the funnel? 

Many of us have a story that goes something like this: A business has a need, CEO/Executive Decision Maker recalls a brand and has a strong recall/affinity, makes a decision, and a purchase is made. 

I have one of those stories myself, where a CEO of a small company chose Hubspot simply because of his emotional feeling for the brand and not based on his company’s requirements or budget, seemingly skipping through the funnel going direct from awareness to purchase.  

Personally, I think these stories don’t argue against the funnel but demonstrate how important it is to have as many people in the bucket engaged with the brand for the moment that they are ready to buy. 

If they have a strong brand affinity, the funnel isn’t something to push someone down, but a waterslide, and the consideration and preference steps flash by in a blur. 

A Waterslide is Still a Funnel

This story is not to say that this CEO didn’t skip those funnel stages, they still happened. 

The CEO in my story is an intelligent man, while he was in the awareness bucket, he’d clearly considered when he would have a business ready for marketing automation and, through some research, had considered a preference maybe a long time before he would appear in a sales funnel as he was not ready to buy. 

And, let’s face it, most B2B buying processes don’t feature a benevolent executive dictator decision-maker who reads your name in an inflight magazine (OK, a cool post on LinkedIn) that they slap down in front of the team and say, “get me these guys”, there are a bunch of people in that bucket we need to encourage down the waterslide to our way of thinking. 

A Brand-Buttered Waterslide

I am not always sure where these little Tuesday things are going to go, but I seem to have wound up with a brand-buttered waterslide, or at least in my mind.

And, another post about the importance of investing in the brand, as the idea here is that we keep as many potential buyers in the bucket as we can, keeping them in our ecosystem, ready to slide down that waterslide when their time is right. And that’s not something that will show up in our short term tactical MQL, SQL and Opportunity machine. 

(I wrote more on this long and short-term thinking on CMSWire recently in In Marketing, Resist the Temptation to Go Short )

So, has the funnel kicked the brand bucket? Well, I am not even sure what the title means, it just sounded cool, but I think not.

The image was created using A.I. through NightCafe Creator

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