Time to Blow Up the Funnel?

Time for a paradigm shift among marketers. That’s Kathleen Schaub’s hypothesis, a hypothesis that’s already playing out in the marketing and sales world. Schaub, VP of IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, presented a compelling argument that it may be time to blow up the traditional funnel. But what do we replace it with? Here are some highlights from her B2BMX presentation.

First, digital disruption changes the business process — including the sales funnel. The funnel, basically a creation of 20th century sales and marketing processes doesn’t address the way buyers buy today. With the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s, we all know that the buyer took more control of the buying process. Able to be more self-sufficient, sales took a smaller part in the selling conversation, and marketing took more control of the funnel farther down. Yet the funnel has become a paradigm that constrains our thinking about the buying cycle.

One of the most interesting findings of IDC’s research is that customers hate the funnel. In fact, nearly 70% of Millennials are willing to switch to a different solution if they don’t like the marketing and sales process.

She went on to talk about where the most advanced B2B companies are moving. What they all have in common is that they are customer-centric. They are not so much rules-based but, rather, adaptive to the buyer’s journey.

Adaptive models have certain traits:

  • A shared mission between marketing and sales
  • Orchestrated collaboration with integrated processes rather than silos
  • User-centric focus
  • High-information model with a strong feedback mechanism from buyers
  • Guided, incremental, process—Do. Confirm. Adapt.

Schaub identified four emerging strategies:

Strategy 1: ABM. Account-based marketing, focusing on key accounts with marketing working collaboratively with sales, is big for a reason. It’s best when there is a long buying cycle, the solution cost is high, the solution complexity is high, and the sales model is account-based.

Strategy 2: Concierge Selling. One analogy Schaub used was sales as the race car driver and marketing as the pit crew. This model works best for a medium-length buying cycle, medium solution cost, medium to high solution complexity and a sales model that uses inside, territory-based sales or channel partners.

Strategy 3: Advanced Analytic Engagement. Schaub described this as the current analytics/metrics model on steroids. This model uses cognitive, predictive, and behavioral analytics to engage the buyer. This is best for a medium to short buying cycle, medium to low solution cost, medium to low solution complexity and an inside, territory-based or e-commerce model.

Strategy 4: Loyalty-First Marketing. In this model, you start by building a community and then monetizing the fan base. The example she gave from the B2C world is Red Bull that drives attendance at revenue-generating events and other non-product sales through its community. This strategy works with any length buying cycle, any solution cost, any solution complexity, and any sales model and taps into the emerging service and experience economy.

Schaub’s advice is to go slowly into these new strategies. Don’t abandon the funnel completely. You still need to measure.

Next, you must have all these modern marketing competencies:

  • Content marketing
  • Sales and channel enablement
  • Customer intelligence and analytics
  • Integrated digital and social engagement
  • Loyalty and advocacy

Finally, get rid of the silos—including the silos that exist within marketing. Create connective infrastructures. Share common data. Share content. And, yes, blow up the funnel.


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