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The Artist Formerly Known As The Marketing Funnel
The Egyptians had the pyramid. The Greeks had the circle. Prince had his funky love symbol. And marketers? Well, we have the funnel.
The marketing funnel is probably the most iconic shape in marketing analytics. A big bucket of prospects are poured into the top of the funnel. It narrows on the way down, as prospects bail or choose competitors. And then, at the very bottom — plop! — out pops a subset of those prospects as customers.
It looks like (and acts like) a kind of sausage-making machine.
Many marketing programs have been built around the funnel. Top of funnel lead generation. Middle of funnel lead nurturing. Bottom of funnel sales enablement. TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, respectively. A bevy of marketing metrics monitor the volume and velocity of prospects trickling through this tapering tube.
Yet despite its ubiquity, the funnel isn’t a particularly flattering shape for modern marketing.
It fails to take into consideration the powerful feedback loops between existing customers and newly arriving prospects that search and social media have wired up. It has no notion of repeat business or strengthening an existing customer’s account. It writes off people who end up choosing an alternative solution — when, in fact, those relationships still have value, too.
And, frankly, it’s kind of a negative metaphor. It excludes people as they fall off the toboggan on the way down. Successful customers are pushed to the bottom, where they tumble out into the void. Terms like TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU don’t exactly conjure the prettiest mental images, either.
Every Buyer Is A Winding Road
A better metaphor, which has been growing in popularity, is “the buyer’s journey.”
It’s less about a downward-sloping filter and more of a forward-moving progression. It’s more customer-centric, rather than marketer-centric. And it encompasses not just the run up to an initial purchase, but also the ongoing relationship with customers, who may grow to become advocates and influencers.
Put another way: there’s more to the marriage than the wedding day. (Admittedly, there are exceptions to that adage, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.)
I like the buyer’s journey much better than the funnel. It sounds more like karmic advancement and less like a frat party prop. As marketers, more than anyone, we can appreciate the power of positive language.
However, one advantage of the funnel was that it provided relatively well-defined stages to mark a buyer’s progression. That helped us match the right programs to the right people at the right time.
So doodling one evening (as I’ve been known to do), I sketched the above staged flow of the buyer’s journey to blend the best of both models.
5 Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey
To me, the buyer’s journey is all about forward momentum. So I drew a left-to-right arrow as the driving force of the journey. Like the funnel, it begins with three stages:
- Start of Journey (SOJO)
- Middle of Journey (MOJO)
- Conversion of Journey (COJO)
These align approximately with the top, middle and bottom of the funnel.
However, unlike the funnel, the third stage — conversion of journey — is not the end. A buyer who makes a purchase marks a transformative moment in his/her voyage, a conversion from a prospect to a customer. But the buyer’s odyssey continues, in one of two directions:
- Rejuvenation of Journey (ROJO) — if they become your customer
- Diversion of Journey (DOJO) — if they buy from a competitor instead
The rejuvenation path is a big part of the full life cycle of the buyer’s journey. First, for most businesses, a first-time customer has the potential to become a long-time customer. He or she may make repeat purchases, extend an ongoing service subscription, or expand into related products and services. That’s the first loop, from rejuvenation to follow-on conversions.
But second, with word-of-mouth amplified by search and social media, existing customers can have a tremendous influence on other buyers. Hence, the second loop from rejuvenation back into the start and middle stages of other buyers’ journeys.
While many companies divide prospect marketing and customer marketing into separate programs — they are, after all, different life cycle stages with different needs — I believe it’s important to keep the big picture feedback loop between these two groups in view. Happy post-purchase customers are extremely important to the success of new prospect marketing these days.
The diversion of a buyer’s journey happens when they convert — but convert by selecting a competitor. Unlike the traditional funnel, which would coldly say, “Fredo, you’re nothing to me now,” this more enlightened view of the buyer’s journey recognizes that there’s still value in the relationship.
At the very least, you would like former prospects to have a favorable view of your company. If they have the opportunity to influence other prospects, you’d prefer that they say, “Well, they weren’t the right fit for me, but I really liked them. You should consider them because…”
And at some point down the road, they may choose to defect from that competitor. If they’re dissatisfied with their previous choice, odds are, you’d love to be the white knight to the rescue.
That’s not to say that marketing to people in the DOJO stage is easy. It should probably be done with a light touch, ideally in a way that it’s still helpful to that audience, even if they remain with the competitor. But they deserve a place on the map.
What do you think of this way of visualizing the buyer’s journey?
Hey, if nothing else, at least it’s an opportunity to use “marketing MOJO” in a sentence.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.