Villing & Company

The Fallacy of the Funnel: Revisiting Conventional Marketing Wisdom

The problem with conventional wisdom is that it becomes gospel. It is accepted on faith rather than evidence. Even though time passes and times change, people don't question its continuing relevance.

Such is the case with the classic marketing funnel. The marketing funnel has been as sacred as the four "P"s of marketing for a century. But now some of the industry's foremost thought leaders including Forrester Research are starting to question the relevance of the funnel in light of the rapidly evolving marketing environment.

The problem with the funnel is it is still based on the notion that marketing messages need to be pushed out to prospective buyers rather than allowing what is now a more frequent pull process to occur whereby customers discover and engage with brands through their own initiative. Don't misunderstand. As marketers, frequently there is still a need to expose customers to our messages. But once we have done so, customers have clearly demonstrated they would much prefer to advance the process on their own terms.

The other problem with the funnel is that it acts like a stop sign rather than a round-about. When a purchase is made, the process doesn't end. In some ways, it is just beginning. The customer who is rewarded with a positive experience not only is positioned to become loyal to the brand, but also has the potential to turn into a champion of the brand, encouraging his or her peers to try the product or service as well.

While the concept of customer life cycle is, of itself, not all that new, in the context of this more circular marketing model, it takes on new relevance. The potential value of a customer relationship far exceeds the initial transaction or even the amount of revenue generated over the life span of the relationship. Properly cultivated, the value of the relationship can grow exponentially and continue growing well into the future.

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Villing & Company

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