How The Evolution of the Marketing Funnel Changed Sales

Understanding the evolution of the marketing funnel is essential to understanding how to effectively nurture leads and improve sales, keep reading!

How The Evolution of the Marketing Funnel Changed Sales

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Both modern salespeople and marketers are familiar with the standard concept of the marketing /sales funnel. 

This concept is based on anticipating at which stage of the sales cycle a particular prospect is and determining what kind of content to share with them and what communication channels to use.

The process is linear: after receiving marketing messages from you, a potential customer becomes aware of your company’s presence and starts their buyer’s journey. 

As time passes and more of your content reaches them, that prospect starts to actively express interest in your product or service. 

If they establish that the product or service fits their needs, they start to desire it, moving on to action and the final phase of the journey – purchase.

The marketing funnel has been around since the days of the traditional, outbound marketing. However, due to the rise of new technologies and digital marketing, it has evolved and adjusted to the modern marketing landscape.

Read on to find more about the evolution of the marketing funnel and how it affected the sales process.

Why Is the Marketing Funnel Changing?

Before the emergence of mass and digital marketing, funnels were “sales only “and too narrow. The only way to land a customer was through sales conversations. 

Salespeople had extensive knowledge of their prospects and a remarkable ability to influence them. They were also capable of singling out qualified leads quickly.

The process also gave customers a highly personalized buying experience. They were able to make their choice based on rich information, that was, on the other hand, coming from the salesperson only.

However, there was a huge downside – this process was time-consuming for both sides, and the cost of converting a single customer was high.

But then, the mass media at first, and later on, the internet and digital marketing changed everything. 

The number of active internet users as of July 2020 was 4.57 billion, or 59% of the global population. Most of them are also smartphone owners, so they can search on the go, find products they need, gather information, compare features, and make a purchase independently.

Audio and voice technology, content marketing and storytelling, AI-powered tools, and big data all increased customer expectations. 

Besides getting to know a brand they’re interested in, customers now expect much more – they want brands to understand and even anticipate their needs.

The traditional linear funnel has become too narrow to comprehend and follow the complexity of the buyer’s journey and marketing and sales roles.

Marketing Vs. Sales

Marketers’ role in the old marketing funnel was limited to the awareness and interest stage, leaving the rest to salespeople. 

However, when it comes to modern marketing funnel, ownership is split between marketers and salespeople.

The shift can be seen in closer collaboration between marketing and sales teams when it comes to achieving the company’s objectives.

A sales research project by Really Simple Systems, a cloud CRM developer and vendor, has shown that 50% of sales professionals considered that their marketing and sales teams are integrated. A further 44% find that they have a constructive relationship.

After years of almost hostile debates, both departments concluded that sales and marketing are aspects of the same process and that only by aligning their strategies can they face the challenges of the modern marketplace.

Traditional Vs. Modern Marketing Funnel

The traditional marketing funnel consisted of four phases: awareness, interest, desire, and action. On the other hand, the modern marketing funnel can be best imagined in the shape of an hourglass, consisting of up to 10 phases, with the first six stages before and four after the actual purchase.

  1. Engagement. Companies are trying to increase their brand awareness, and it most commonly starts online on social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. When it comes to B2B, the most frequently used channel for this purpose is LinkedIn. Brands try to attract potential customers with the help of ads, social media posts, or useful, free content.
  2. Education. During this phase, brands educate their prospects, identify their problems, and offer practical solutions.
  3. Research. Prospects consume the content and learn about the brand, as well as its products or services. At this point, companies should provide relevant information, instead of overwhelming their potential customers with offers.
  4. Evaluation. As the customers may be comparing different ways to solve their problems, the brand should present a specific solution, highlight its unique value proposition, and describe its benefits to potential customers.
  5. Justification. All marketers’ efforts to convince their prospects may not result in making a sale due to inertia, different obstacles, or customers’ objections. This stage is all about overcoming such challenges. 
  6. Purchase. It’s time to seal the deal, and the sales team needs all the help from the marketers to address prospects’ product-related questions and potential dilemmas, remove friction, and wrap up the sale.
  7. Onboarding. During this phase, you need to deliver your promise and support your new customers in getting the most bang for their bucks.
  8. Retention. It’s not enough to land a sale. You need to make your customers happy so that they are encouraged to continue purchasing your products or services. It’s when marketing steps in through high-value, personalized communication.
  9. Expansion. To upsell and cross-sell your products and generate more revenue, you need to form a meaningful relationship with your customers and build trust and loyalty with them.
  10. Advocacy. Turn your happy customers into your brand advocates so that they gladly spread the word about your brand in their inner circles – friends, families, colleagues, etc.

How Has The Marketing Funnel Evolved, Exactly?

We can answer with a single word – the approach. 

The current context puts the customer and their needs at the center of all your activities.

As their expectations from your brand are rising, you need an army of marketing, sales, and customer support employees to meet and exceed them. 

That’s why you should use modern technology to your advantage and automate some of the menial or repetitive tasks.

Email outreach automation tools, for example, can be quite helpful across all the stages – to get in touch with your prospects, promote your products, land sales, and keep your customers. 

AI-powered chatbots can come in pretty handy as they can answer some frequently asked questions, thus allowing your support reps to focus on more complex queries.  

CRM software can help you with both sales and marketing tasks and allow you to build long-lasting relationships with your customers and make more sales.

Regardless of the funnel model you use, tailor your approach to each one of the segments of your target audience, and personalize it to fit your customers’ demands.