The Funnel Is Dead! Long Live the Funnel!

369 words, 1:50 minutes

Image from Broken Crown Records.

Image from Broken Crown Records.

No, this is not another one of those posts about how the very foundation of marketing is no longer relevant. It’s quite the opposite.

Marketing – the people and the function – has one simple task: Get people to feel, think and act differently than before they saw your message or offer.  That’s it.

But don’t confuse simple with easy. Competition, market forces, internal challenges, regulations, apathy, brand cacophony, media fragmentation, channel conflict – basically the whole world is stacked up against success. How do you know if you’ve succeeded? How do you measure performance? How do you determine marketing’s ROI?

It’s the funnel. Always has been.

It’s popular to talk and write about how the funnel is no longer relevant. Then, after stating the case, marketing strategists proceed to unleash new funnel models onto marketers. Maybe they turn the funnel on its side. Maybe it’s quadrants or circles or three dimensional graphs.

Also, along with the funnel, AIDA is dead. Remember AIDA? Awareness. Interest. Desire. Action. Now it’s completely different. How about Discern Understand Motivate Buy? Or Notice Observe Purchase Evangelize? Does it need to be more complex in a digital world? How about Understand Notice Navigate Engage Click Email Search Site Analyze Remarket Yes.

Nope, it doesn’t need to be more complex. That’s dumb and unnecessary.

It’s still about the funnel. Marketing automation systems emphasize this at a more granular level with terms like marketing qualified lead, sales accepted lead, sales qualified leads and closed deals. Measuring conversions at each of these points is the purpose of the funnel.

But today it’s all about the customer journey, right? Correct. But customer journey and the funnel are not mutually exclusive. The funnel is a more “scientific” approach to measuring your success. The journey is a narrative about how the customer gets through the funnel. Customers don’t operate on a straight path to conversion. This is why a marketer’s job is simple but not easy. And that’s why we need both.

So the funnel is here to stay, marketers. At least until the day when it is no longer necessary to measure the impact of marketing. And that will be a very dark day for marketers indeed.