hubspot funnel can increase leads and salesThe term “funnel” has been coined to describe sales and marketing models for many decades. It illustrates the concept that from many initial prospects you derive a few faithful customers. It is a fitting metaphor. In its crudest form, sales is purely a numbers game — the more prospects you engage, the greater your chance of gaining a customer. That is the rationale of broad-based advertising such as TV, newspapers, direct mail and even some online advertising and email campaigns — get your message in front of enough people and a percentage will respond. You then court those receptive prospects and try to nurture a customer relationship. The funnel model is intuitive and, when properly implemented, can be a very successful model.

Yet I feel the funnel model has two inadequacies that should not be ignored. In both cases you may argue that it has more to do with the application rather than a fundamental flaw with the model itself… and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree (it would depend on how belligerent you are). But, this is my blog so I get to control this part of the dialogue. (If you feel strongly enough about it you can leave a comment below.)

Don’t Just Lead Me On

Sales and marketing strategies have evolved dramatically, particularly over the past decade as the Internet has facilitated heaps of information and powerful tools for both businesses and consumers. Businesses can now be much more engaged with their markets and consumers are armed with more knowledge and clout than ever before. Consumers are researching and shopping online en masse, and now it seems like every online marketing firm is promoting the funnel concept. Inbound marketing tactics are proven to increase awareness, position your firm, strengthen your brand, and attract a large pool of leads. The tools are more sophisticated, but it is a perfect example of the funnel model.

Converting web traffic to leads is an important first step, however the next stage, converting leads to sales, is one that not all inbound marketing firms have mastered. Some young firms that are more excited about technology than business process see web metrics as the ultimate ROI. Certainly these are very important, but focusing solely on near-sighted objectives such website visits, click-throughs and even lead generation can be a waste of resources. Ultimately, to be successful you have to move past impressive website statistics to actually creating sales. The process must effectively address the second conversion of leads to sales, and many funnel models (in my estimation) either ignore this stage or deal with it inadequately.

It’s a Physical Thing

A funnel quite aptly illustrates a narrowing or nurturing process, but its very physicality ignores the cyclical nature of consumer behaviour and client relationships. (Yes, marketing and sales cycles have been around for many decades as well.) Assuming the sale has been made, the process of engaging, nurturing and fulfilling shouldn’t stop with the purchase. Ideally, it is an ongoing cycle committed to customer care and retention. (I appreciate that some models add in a cyclical aspect, perhaps that should be called the “funnel and scoop model.”)

The funnel provides a linear visual with the tip of the funnel being the finish line. Once you’ve courted a prospect through the process and earned their business, a similar process (but certainly not identical) should be implemented to nurture the customer and retain their business. This aspect is often lacking and again the funnel model can leave a relationship unfilled (no, I’m not touching that one).

So, can the funnel model work? Yes, both as a metaphor and a viable marketing/sales HootSuite funnel helps you to track leads effectivelystrategy. BUT, it can also channel efforts to a myopic strategy that rewards web activity rather than continuing the process to generate sales and nurture client relationships. To be truly successful it requires an integration of marketing and sales objectives and strategies, seeing the big picture and designing a process that accommodates that, and going beyond the traditional funnel to incorporate customer retention.

PROSAR Inbound is a HubSpot Certified Partner and a HootSuite Solution Partner; and we support a myriad of online marketing tactics, whether they be funnel or cyclical (and we’ve even come up with many a square idea of our own). We believe that a complementary and comprehensive approach with a focus on the end-results is best. What are your thoughts? How have you seen funnel model applied successfully, or not?