Hi. What is the funnel process, and what’s the difference between a good funnel process and a great funnel process? Today we’re going to take a look at five sites that offer answers to that, and then we’ll offer our own views on what a great funnel process looks like.

It starts with the premise that everything that we do in marketing, and frankly, in sales, is about moving the buyer from somewhere to somewhere, and you need to know what the ‘somewheres’ are. Where are you now, and where am I trying to get you to next?

  • All about the buyer, not the seller
  • A logical progression for them
  • Tied to your specific sales objectives
  • From name to closed sale
  • Engineered backwards for each stage
  • Brought life through your tactics
  • Iterative, so you can recycle leaked prospects

Let me share with you the sites that I looked at today and argue why we need to change the funnel process as I just explained.

Our first site’s from MaRS. MaRS has specified the stages in the sales funnel. I don’t want to disrespect what they’ve done, but it’s pretty basic stuff. I also have an issue with it. They go from lead to prospect to qualified prospect to committed and transacted. That’s all about you as a salesperson or a marketer. Your funnel’s full of buyers. Surely the stages are buyer stages, not seller stages. It sort of doesn’t matter whether you think they’ve qualified. What really matters is whether they’ve agreed that there’s a gap or they haven’t agreed there’s a gap. It’s a good starter, but it’s pretty basic – I would argue also a little outdated.

Next article is RingDNA. They’ve argued I think a good change, and that is that it’s definitely about the buyer, not about the seller. Awareness, interest, evaluation, decision, purchase. They’ve gone then into re-evaluation and repurchase. I think that’s an accurate description of maybe a customer journey or customer funnel, but really, if you think about the funnel metaphor, it’s about lots in the top, a few in the bottom. The reality is that re-evaluation, we should be looking to get customers to buy again and again and again, and so there are really going to be multiple funnels at the bottom. I think it’s cleaner to stop at purchase and then consider there might be a second funnel that has a slightly different shape for repeat purchases. Having said that, I like that they’ve gone to buyer stages rather than to seller stages. They’re really only attempting to define a few common phrases here, and that’s a useful contribution, particularly because they made it about the buyer.

Our third is from MindTools. I’m not so much interested in the names that they’ve given to the stages, because, again, they’ve kind of gone back to seller stages, so I’m going to ignore that. I want to talk about the numbering. Really what they’re talking about here is how many buyers do you have at each stage, and how many do you need to achieve each month, each progression? I think that’s a good contribution, a good addition to the thinking.

Our fourth is from Kissmetrics. This is a little off-topic if you follow the flow of the first three ones, but two things. Firstly, I get why it’s in funnel process, because they are talking about funnel process, but in a very different context. Secondly, it’s a really good article. Kissmetrics, doing a good job, guys, generally, and this article certainly no exception. Basically, what it walks you through is how to set up conversion funnels in Google Analytics. We all need to know how to do that. It’s a great article if you’ve not set them up before. What they talk about is goals, which is an end that you want to reach online. What’s the best point that you can reach online, and what’s the process leading up to that online?

A very well-written article, and I think useful in the specific context of that part of the journey that can be managed online. Obviously, I’m going to argue that there’s a lot of the journey that can’t be managed online, so I’d like to see the funnel process more end-to-end, but in regards to the online part of that, this is a good funnel process description. I do recommend you have a read of it and apply what they’re showing us about conversion funnels in analytics if you haven’t already. Good start.

Final one I’m including here because it was shared a lot, 415 times on LinkedIn, 318 times on Twitter, never on Pinterest, 7 times on Google Plus. Really, who’s bothering with Google Plus anymore? It’s in our stats, but it just seems to have fallen by the wayside, or just didn’t ever really get up. LinkedIn and Twitter, very important. Lots of follows, so obviously lots of people love it. It’s really arguing that the sales process or the funnel process is more like a pinball machine. I get a bit sick of these articles. There’s quite a lot of them floating around. They started about three years ago, saying the funnel’s dead. The funnel’s not dead, it’s just got complicated to track it. The fact that it looks weird to you just means that you’re not tracking it properly.

However, if we forgive them their way too cute metaphor, they’re actually making a valid point. That is, buyers enter the funnel, and then they come back out again; they enter the funnel, and they come back out again. If that’s the point, then I would agree. It’s just the slightly too cute argument about the pinball, and also this notion that the funnel’s not there anymore. It is. Absolutely the funnel is there. You can look at any business and you can find any stage where they’ve got many in the top, a few in the bottom, the funnel stage is in between. All that’s changed is that buyers go in funnels, they leak, and they come back in again at some later time again. All that we need to do is get really good at tracking.

Kind of interesting, but not the one I’m going to recommend that you read. Interestingly, they’re all good, but the one I’m going to refer you to the most is actually the one that’s talking about a very narrow construct of funnel process, just because it’s a great article on Google Analytics.

Let’s take a look at the essence of what those five sites are saying before I offer my own view on that. I’ll do it in some chronology, because I think there was a logical build there. A funnel process has distinct stages. Buyer stages are even better than seller stages. Think about how many. The process of the funnel applies to individual tactics like AdWords or web visits to the same extent that it applies end-to-end, the logic does, and you need to handle recycling.

Let me reframe that from my own perspective. What I just gave you was the synthesis of those five articles. Now let me give you my spin. Everything that we do in marketing and in sales is about moving the buyer from somewhere to somewhere. That means we need to know where the ‘somewheres’ are. “Where are you now, and where am I trying to get you to?” The funnel process needs to honour the fact that we’re trying to move buyers through their journey.

The great funnel process really is all about the buyer and not the seller. That’s tip one. Tip two:It’s a logical progression for them. Think about it from their perspective, not yours. It’s not about proposal sale, it’s about understanding the offer, believing the offer, then accepting the offer. Think about it from their perspective and build clear logic. Tie it to specific sales objectives. That is, how many sales do you need to achieve at the bottom of your funnel? Tip four: Make it from name to closed sale, end-to-end. If you think about that point three and that tip four, tip five is logical: Engineer it backwards. If you know how many sales you need at the end and you have an end-to-end funnel process, then you’re going to be able to work out how many you need at each prior stage. Bring each stage to life through individual tactics that move a buyer from somewhere to somewhere in the required quantity. Finally, make it iterative so you can recycle leaked prospects.

Hope you enjoyed that. That’s all for this week. If you have got value out of this, then the odds are really good that you’d enjoy getting an update. Make sure you’re the first to hear about it. The way to do that is to subscribe at align.me/blog, or at youtube.com/alignmeb2b, either of those. What’ll happen is you will get a short e-mail letting you know as soon as we’re posted. A blog comes out every week pretty religiously. Every now and then we have a small drift, but it’s been every week for the last little while, and we try to honour that. If you have already but you’ve got a colleague who hasn’t, then can I invite you, implore you, plead with you to invite them? The more you help us, the more we can help more people to build great B2B marketing engines. Share it. Either share them one of those thinks that I just gave you, or share them this particular article if that’s how you want to do it. I’d be very grateful if you would share it.

Finally, if you’ve done both of those, let me know what you would like us to cover. Send an e-mail to [email protected] and let me know what topics you’d like covered. I’m getting some great suggestions, and I’m trying to honour those suggestions in each of these weekly video blogs or vlogs. There are the three calls to action, kind of in sequence. Look after yourself first, your mates second, and then me third, if you would be so kind. That’s it for this week. We’ve got lots more lined up for next week. Can’t wait. Until then, may your funnel be full and always flowing.

Our thanks this week to: