Why it’s time to abandon the marketing funnel

While the marketing funnel provides a measurement for success, it can also be misused. Here's why it might be time to abandon this model

Adam Bennington

by Adam Bennington

December 8, 2021

Account-Based Growth

Changing the way you think about customers will transform your marketing effort

Cheerful bearded proud ceo in white shirt laughing while pointing on glass wall with colorful stickers and discussing solution with colleagues.Positive caucasian colleagues collaborating in office

The linear customer dilemma 

The marketing funnel was first developed in 1898 to understand how businesses could convert a physical visitor into a customer.

There have been many iterations of this model and it is still being redeveloped by leading organisations such as Salesforce and HubSpot.

While the funnel provides marketing teams with a measurement for success, it can also be misused, given its mass-marketing focus. For example, “I must get 100 people into the “awareness” stage, therefore I must send 100,000 thousand emails because I have a 0.001% click-through-rate on average.” We have all unsubscribed from mass company emails that were sent as a result of this approach.

Marketers with this funnel mindset think of paying customers as a data point – not as thinking, feeling beings. This is a mistake. Salesforce found that 80% of customers now consider their experience of a company to be as important as its products.

It’s not that the funnel is unimportant or ineffective; it is a useful tool for mass marketing. We should, however, move away from this mass marketing approach and focus more on our customers than we have in the past.

The customer journey as an alternative

Many of our clients at Momentum have realised that the funnel is too basic and that their customer interactions are highly complex. They need our sophisticated marketing insight to map out their customers’ experiences.

Understanding the customer journey lets a sales rep figure out the best ways to interact with prospects and marketers map out the most effective outlets to reach them.

Customer journeys should reflect the complexities of enterprise buying, involve all departments of an organisation, and be updated frequently to reflect organisational changes.

Whilst this is a complex process to map in B2B interactions, the process does one important thing for clients: it helps you see the process in the way that your customers experience it.

You should use this tool if your organisation has:

  1. A simple value proposition
  1. A maximum of three* clear persona profiles for prospects/customers
  1. A tangible product rather than a professional service
  1. A maximum of three* departments involved in the overall customer journey from start to finish

Mapping a customer journey when you have more than this is a lengthy, complex task that can turn out to be futile.

The most successful organisations are those that co-create products and services and integrate customers into their core processes.

A Gartner study

So, what should we do?

According to the Spring 2021 Momentum Customer Buying Index survey of over 2,000 enterprise CxOs, just under two-thirds of decision makers said that vendors’ understanding of their company is “essential” or “very important” to the buying process.

This is a call to arms for B2B marketers to stop focusing on your marketing KPIs and funnel metrics, and instead obsess over your customers’ needs and your relationships with them.

Now more than ever your customers’ needs are changing and at a moment’s notice. Uncovering unmet needs is critical for sustainable growth. It pushes boundaries and can help stretch a company into a new category with new solutions.

Why not go one step further and focus on shared value. A Gartner study of 1,500 global CEOs concluded that “the most successful organisations are those that co-create products and services and integrate customers into their core processes”.

This isn’t possible for all your customers, so focus on your key accounts. Design high-profile interactions and make investment in reaching your key audiences with a tailored message.

What do your individual customers care about? What is their strategy? What solutions will help them reach their organisational goals? These are crucial questions to answer.

Discover more about key account insight here.

Find inspiration, expertise and creativity to help you grow your most valuable customers by joining our ABM community and receiving the latest news, views and insights from our team of experts at Momentum, sign up here.

The marketing funnel was first developed in 1898 to understand how businesses could convert a physical visitor into a customer. While the funnel provides marketing teams with a measurement for success, it can also be misused, given its mass-marketing focus. Momentum’s Tom Stevenson explains why it’s time to abandon the marketing funnel.

Related Resources

Account-Based Growth

How to maintain your customer focus through change

Microsoft's Sydne Mullings offers her advice on managing change, using data to your advantage, and keeping your eyes firmly on the customer

Account-Based Growth

How do I introduce ABM into my B2B strategy?

With crowded channels and digital spaces, cutting through the noise is as important as the share of your voice in the market. ABM could be the answer

Account-Based Growth

Key Account Management: How to get it right

Find out how to implement a successful program in the hybrid working world and avoid the common pitfalls that can stifle growth