The Subservient Marketing Funnel


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The traditional way of creating sales used by individuals and even by large organizations is a natural sales progression commonly called a marketing funnel. I have written many times about this and summarized it in this recent post, Kill the Sales and Marketing Funnel. There are many adaptions to this model but typically begins with an attraction phase that ultimately produces a sales and many times continued into an upsell or repeat sales cycle. The popularity of the tool is that it gives you a well-defined step by step approach or a sequence of tasks necessary to execute in transitioning a prospect to a customer to an advocate.

Most improvement consultants will look at this cycle and go thru a process called value stream mapping or process mapping and help you to determine how you may remove waste or improve the process. This step by step approach is a logical reaction that if we only do it better, it will work. The pushback to this is that most situations are different and follow an irregular path to the end result, a sale. I believe this may be the primary reason that the continuous improvement methodology has been resisted in the sales and marketing arena.

This approach also requires that good ideas happen at the beginning of the marketing cycle and that a customer is segmented and merged into the “proper” funnel. The problem with this approach is that better ideas are created during this process and the prospect needs ultimately change unless we can convince them that are product/service that may have been the best idea to begin with is the best or flexible to be the best throughout the entire cycle. It is a process that lives little adaptability because we have been selling and marketing based on the attributes of the product and any change on our part is a reflection that our product may just not be “good enough”. Better ideas that are formulated during the process are viewed as a threat and must be countered. As a result, the best training that sales people can receive may be in argumentation or debate.

Many cottage industries have even appeared for preparing adequate sales documentation to provide tangible proof for the customer that your product/service has been the correct choice all along. This proof also is internally provided in terms of sales reports, proposals and other documentation to justify the time and efforts of sales and marketing. I was told many years ago that one of the goals of an attorney was to create as much paper as they could in an agreement. The more there is the better chance of a contradiction and as a result a misunderstanding. I wonder if that statement has any merit here?

Sounds counterproductive?
Are you up for a challenge?
Are you ready to develop a Subservient Sales Culture?
Are you ready to develop a Subservient Marketing Culture?

I use a model based on The Pillars of the Lean Marketing House for a method to visualize the customers’ learning cycle. The Pillars are differentiated by observing the marketing funnel not as a series of tasks but rather as a knowledge creation opportunity with the customer. But before you begin teaching the customer what they need to know, start thinking of this process a little differently. Think of it as you being the pupil rather than the teacher. Think about you having that “aha” moment or that moment when you “get it” versus when your customer gets it.

The argument to this approach is that you may believe that you will invest too much time and resources in an unqualified customer. I believe there has been a fundamental change in the buying practices of consumers and the result being that target marketing in the traditional sense is a misnomer. Quit looking at trying to fill you funnel with “qualified” prospects.

Instead participate in communities and discussions that highlight your knowledge, developing an ever expanding network of touch points that allow prospects to self-serve information and to locate you. Think of ways for trials or templates of your organizations best practices to be used that will allow prospects to move into a more collaborative arrangement. As this happens, greater human interaction occurs but typically as a result of the customer qualifying themselves.

Example: This can be done both on-line and off-line. It is not a model that is only for online products. An offline example is in the equipment business where a contractor may win a bid and by being an active participation at the bid letting the need of a certain piece of equipment was discovered. Rather than trying to sell a piece of equipment, you may lease or rent one in the short term with the idea of selling in the long term.

Diagram Idea was generated from The New Edge in Knowledge: How Knowledge Management Is Changing the Way We Do Business.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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