Is the Sales Funnel Obsolete?

15 09 2009

SM Sales Funnel

There has been a lot of blogging on how Social Media makes the Sales Funnel obsolete.  I would like to argue that it does not, but Social Media does require that we think about the Sales Funnel in a very different light.

The Traditional Sales Funnel

The traditional funnel has the following stages that potential customers pass through in a nice linear fashion.  This has been useful to marketeers because it helps them to think about what they need to do to assist the sales process along at every stage.  The classic steps in the model are:

  • Awareness: gain awareness of product and brand
  • Evaluation: give target customers tools and information to evaluate the product
  • Engagement: get customers engaged with the actual product or service
  • Conversion: get a commitment or sale from the customer
  • Loyalty: build brand loyalty with the customer

Social Media and the Sales Funnel

With Social Media, a number of things change about the sales funnel:

  • Selling and rapidly moving on to the next customer is a bad idea in this world.  The goal is repeat sales, engaged customers, and an enduring two-way relationship with customers, not “drive-by selling.”
  • Loyalty is no longer the endpoint.  The ultimate goal is to get your customers to be enthusiastic recommenders of your brand and product or service (Advocacy).  Advocacy happens at all stages of the process when you are doing social media marketing right. (See The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld.)
  • Evaluation also goes on at all stages of the funnel in an iterative fashion.  Customers are always checking with peers, contacts, blogs etc. for the latest information at all steps in the process.  Even after purchasing the product, customers are checking for the experiences of their industry peers.

Social Media Sales Funnel

All of this is in the context of much bigger changes brought about by Social Media:

  • Marketing is no longer messaging at customers.  It is a two way conversation and a relationship.
  • Marketing is not about interrupting people with messages.  It is about delivering genuinely useful information in a timely manner.
  • Marketing is no longer about one-way communication.  It is a two way communication with a very real opportunity for vendors to listen.
  • Brand Reputation is Everything:  companies who deliver poor products or who don’t listen to their customers will suffer immediately as Social Media increases the velocity of negative reviews.   (See United Breaks Guitars, 5.4 million views and counting.)

For more on this subject see:  Your Sales Pipeline is Probably Broken

Comments on the Social Media Sales Funnel are welcomed.  This is my first pass at a visual for this and it is a work in process.  The circular arrows are meant to suggest the iterative nature of Advocacy and Evaluation across all of the steps in the process.  Let me know if this works for you.

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