The Danger In Managing To The Funnel

*This post first ran June 25, 2013 on ANNUITAS.com

B2B marketers have a love affair with the funnel. We have books about the funnel, blogs named about the funnel, personalities like my good friend the @Funnelholic … the list goes on. You would be hard pressed to sit through any marketing conference and not hear about the funnel. We are obsessed!

While the funnel has certainly made a big impact on B2B marketing and sales, there is an inherent danger in being too head over heels in love with the funnel.  In reality, the managing of the funnel in some organizations is having a negative impact on their effectiveness of connecting with their Buyers.

The danger stems from marketing and sales equating the traditional funnel with the very untraditional new buying process. To be clear, they are not the same anymore!

In a recent post on his B2B Digital Marketing Blog, Eric Wittlake frames the problem perfectly when he states, “It is called a complex sale for a reason, but B2B marketers keep trying to fit it into a simplistic measurement framework.” His supporting graphic drives home the point even further.

Sales Funnel

The point is that if marketers are truly going to align their content and Demand Generation programs to that of their Buyer’s purchase path, we need to think less in terms of the funnel and move to developing deep Buyer insights:

  • Why do they purchase?
  • What stages do they take to purchase?
  • What challenges and pain points are they trying to solve?
  • What are the trigger events that cause them to initiate a purchase?

The more you know about your Buyers and what drives them through their purchase decisions, the better you will be able to align.

I have never heard a Buyer state, “I am in the Sales Accepted Lead Stage of my Purchase Process” but this is often how sellers manage it.  I have met with many companies who have gone so far as to organize their marketing teams to match the stages of the funnel. Keep in mind, the Buyer does not care how you want to sell, they care about how they want to buy.

The funnel is useful as an internal measurement and baseline for marketing and sales to see their impact on revenue. However, be warned, those who equate their internal methodology with the purchase patterns of their Buyers do so at their own peril.

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo CEO/Principal, ANNUITAS