The funnel is instantly recognisable to anyone well-versed in sales or marketing, but does it really reflect the buying journeys of today? And is there a better way of visualising how modern buyers behave? We think there is.
The funnel assumes that everybody is going down the same slide, having the same experience, and ending up in the same pool. It’s linear, closed, generic, and it doesn’t come close to capturing the complexity of the modern buying journey.
Today’s buying environment isn’t just a single slide, it’s an entire water park. In the park you’ve got all kinds of people, doing different things in the ways that suit them.
Getting the right people to the right places
One of the biggest limitations of the funnel is that it doesn’t help you understand different prospect personas, how diverse their needs can be, and what they need from you during their buying journey. Everyone’s looking for a different experience, so the water park has a slide or a pool to suit everyone’s needs. From the breakneck diving boards favoured by decisive risk takers, to the shallow safety sought by unsure prospects. Some visitors like to move in groups, following the opinions and ideas of their peers. Others storm off alone, running, bombing and generally pushing the boundaries of what you can deliver.
Rules of engagement
Understanding and visualising these differences between prospects will help you decide how to best engage with them.
Some visitors will have read reviews of the park online. They don’t want you stepping in and trying to help them too much, it’s going to do more damage than good.
Your time is better spent focusing on the people wandering around between the slides overwhelmed by choice, relying on inflatables to help them, or checking the pool’s temperature.
Spot the non-buyers
At the water park, you’ve got people who aren’t up for riding your slides – but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them.
Using the funnel model, a lot of these people would probably be wrongfully labelled as prospects. Understanding who they are, and recognising that they’re not likely to become new buyers, is key to keeping your engagement efforts focused and efficient.
You’ve got influencers taking selfies and sharing them on social media, advocates who stick around in the pool splashing passers by to get them to join in, and time wasters lazing around on sun loungers with no intention of ever getting their feet wet.
Zoom out from the funnel and see the water park
Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be a water park. But the park is a good analogy because it demonstrates three key things that the funnel doesn’t:
No two buyers or buying journeys are identical
The process isn’t linear, it can be extremely long and convoluted
It’s all about the buyer – they’re in control
By taking a fresh approach, you can start to understand just how different customers and prospect needs can be, helping you see things from their point of view. And really, that’s what great buying experiences are all about.
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