This led to some very interesting briefings and an enormous amount of thinking and debate. The upshot: It's time to bury the marketing funnel.
The marketing funnel, shown below on the left, is a simple and broad-ranging model, which is part of its appeal. However, it's from an earlier era and does a poor job of summarizing how we think about customers and marketing today. Luckily, the customer life cycle, shown below on the right, is as clear and usable as the funnel but provides a far better fit with marketing in the 21st century.
I could write an entire report about why the customer life cycle should replace the funnel — and in fact, I have — but here are just some of the reasons:
The role of marketing. At its worst, the funnel portrays marketing as a conveyer belt with the job of delivering a continuous supply of customers to the business. On the other hand, the customer life cycle portrays marketing as the function that is responsible for orchestrating the total brand experience.
The value of the customer. In the funnel, a prospect is a prospect, and a sale is a sale. It's a volume-based model. On the other hand, every customer group has its own life cycle, including its own lifetime value, and its own journey.
The words of "War," Edwin Starr's 1969 Motown classic, began ringing in my head this morning. It was brought on by a Harvard Business Review blog post by Steve W. Martin, "Why Sales and Marketing Are at Odds — or Even War." Within tech vendors, sales and marketing teams often fail to communicate or align go-to-market strategies. Forrester's sales enablement visionary Scott Santucci discussed the different languages of sales and marketing in his blog over two years ago. As for my own experience with sales and marketing:
A few years ago, I sat with the chief marketing officer and chief sales officer of a Fortune 100 tech vendor. The conversation didn't focus on customer problems, which should be the starting point for sales enablement professionals. The conversation didn't focus on sales efficiency issues such as sales cycle duration or win rates, which should be critical imperatives for all sales and marketing professionals. Each of these executives controlled massive budgets but neither one sincerely trusted the other. Their words were about aligning sales and marketing programs, but the real conversation, when read between the lines, was about control, boundaries, and politics. They were at war!