And What To Do Instead?
The sales funnel has had it’s time to shine – but as the digital marketing landscape shifts, funnels fall short of the human experience your potential customers are looking for.
The marketing funnel emerged as a tool that recognized that not everyone who is exposed to your product is ready to buy. That might make perfect sense to you, and chances are, your marketing strategy is probably built around a cascade of events that are supposed to edge your lead to opening their wallet. The problem isn’t in the funnel itself – it’s in the shifting expectations around marketing.
A big part of marketing funnels is segmentation – we create marketing personas (hopefully test them) and on that basis “personalize” and automate our marketing to feed certain types of content to certain types of people. Segmentation, however, does not build relationships. And relationships are how we think of ourselves, relative to brands.
Almost a decade ago, the latest and greatest shift in marketing was to thinking of branding as a relationship. With the rise of social media, the most innovative brands understood the importance of having some kind of relationship with their customer. Brands started talking to people on Twitter, customer services became front of mind, brands started throwing around words like personality and tone.
Fast forward to now. Instead of thinking of your brand’s relationship with the customer, imagine if the brand is the relationship.
It’s helpful to think about this with some examples.
Alexa – Amazon has taken the manufacturer/buyer relationship and changed the dynamic into family member/family member.
Airbnb has changed the host/guest relationship that dominated the hospitality industry and turned it into a neighbour/neighbour dynamic.
Nike – Nike’s running community platform has turned manufacturer/buyer relationship into friend/friend relationship.
What to Do if You’re Not Nike
I get it – this sounds great…in theory. But not every brand has the resources to create large-scale platforms…most brands barely have a branding line item in their operating budgets. However, there are some key common principles that emerge from the idea that a brand = relationship that any business, big or small, can adopt. I call them the 3 “-als.”
Reciproc-al. Relationships that are effective are those where inputs generate outputs. When you put in time or effort into a relationship, you hope to get something back. That alone, however, is a transaction. You hope to get something back continuously, so you continue to give.
As a business, you can work on building reciprocal relationships by improving your customer service and focusing on the content you are putting out on social media.
Symmetric-al. Symmetrical relationships are effective because the two parties feel like they are on the same level. In the examples above, the relationships that were previously sitting on different perches, one above another, were levelled to two equal dynamics.
What helps with creating symmetrical relationships is having a common purpose with your users. When you are both trying to achieve the same thing, you can find common ground. So instead of expert/novice, change your consulting dynamic into partner/partner and buy into everything that comes with it.
Person-al. The final -al is probably one of the most important. Personalization will be the signature move of emerging technologies over the next decade. From AI digital “fitting rooms” to e-commerce merchants offering personalized, low-volume products, we are moving in a direction that is putting names to faces.
The anonymous crowd at the end of the loudspeaker is starting to get nametags. Look for affordable ways to personalize your products and services that make the user feel like what you are offering is of value uniquely to them. From setting up product suggestions in your Shopify store to changing how you manage accounts, there are opportunities to inject a little bit of humanity into your brand – take advantage of them.
The Bottom Line
Segmentation isn’t dead. But if you have any intention to get ahead, or even to remain relevant in the next decade, you need to start thinking about social facets and relationships that define your brand and connect you to the shared purpose you share with your users. Food for thought.