Andrew Martin July 1, 2024

How the Traditional Linear Marketing Funnel is Evolving

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A sales funnel is a powerful tool for guiding your marketing efforts. It helps you see how potential customers make up their mind and choose your product or service, then you can use that understanding to target your marketing dollars for maximum effectiveness.

However, the marketing model that we’ve used in the past is changing because the modern marketplace is not what it once was. If you want to maximize your ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on ad spending) with digital marketing, you must understand how the marketing funnel is evolving in the digital world we now live in.

Understanding the Traditional Linear Marketing Funnel

marketing funnel infographic First, it’s important to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to the traditional linear marketing funnel. The traditional marketing funnel divides the sales process into a series of stages. These stages can go by different names, but the most common breakdown is:

  • Awareness: You make customers aware of your product or service through wide-reaching marketing campaigns.
  • Consideration: Customers are considering purchasing your product or service. You engage them with marketing information that addresses their pain points and promotes the advantages of your offerings.
  • Decision: Customers are ready to decide on your product or service, but might need additional inducement with final reassurance, special offers, or other coup-de-grâce techniques.

Note that these stages aren’t synonymous with customer “touches.” These are simply stages of the process of indeterminate length. For some products or services, customers might go through all the stages in a single contact with your business. For others, it might take dozens of contacts with a potential customer over a year or more to create a sale. Nonetheless, in both cases, the traditional funnel assumes that potential customers go through the same basic process.

In addition, some versions of the marketing funnel include additional stages:

  • Engagement: (Between Awareness and Consideration) Customers begin to understand how your product or service might solve their problems or pain points.
  • Validation: (After Decision) Customers decide if they’re happy with their purchase or not, including whether they’d recommend the product to friends and family.

The traditional linear marketing funnel still has some value. It helps you build marketing materials targeting customers at all stages of the funnel to improve your overall sales. However, there are increasing signs that the traditional funnel is not sufficiently rigorous to serve as the foundation for a digital marketing strategy anymore.

Evolution 1: Multidirectional Engagement

One of the biggest challenges to the traditional marketing funnel is that prospect engagement is not unidirectional or even bidirectional as in the past. Instead, prospects will engage with your brand in many ways. In the past, the majority of your product awareness might have come from ad campaigns targeting the largest audiences, such as TV commercials or billboards. Now, though, awareness can come from many different channels.

People might find your product in a Google search, either organically through your SEO efforts or via paid ads. They might see your product on social media. Word-of-mouth has always been important to sales, but the impact has expanded. Instead of one person speaking to dozens of friends and family members, even the least engaged social media user touches hundreds of accounts. Enthusiastic amateurs can reach thousands, and professional influencers sway millions. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.

When it comes to engagement or consideration, you used to have greater control over the information people saw about your product – they had to get it from you or a relatively small number of review sources. Now, though, people are more likely to seek out information from other sources. Social media is big here, too, with sites like Reddit and Pinterest being important decision-making resources. People will also look at independent review sites and other sources of research to get information about your product or service.

Even the decision-making process is complicated by the fact that you want to reach customers where they are. You can’t count on them to come to your store (physical or online). You may need to reach out to them, either on social media or via email to close a sale.

This transforms the sales funnel from a single directional flow into a web of interactions.

Evolution 2: Significance of Social Proof

social proof plays an integral role in digital marketing We’ve already mentioned how important social media is, but it’s important to stress what this does to the marketing funnel. As we noted, in the traditional marketing funnel, the validation stage is often an afterthought. It’s rarely even included in the strategies associated with your funnel.

However, the importance of social proof in sales means that businesses need to invest significantly into this stage of the sales process. They want customers to engage with their product after purchasing in order to help generate future sales from other leads.

This turns the linear marketing funnel into a kind of wheel, where the results of each purchase generate a plurality of leads for the new funnel. Depending on the type of product or service you’re offering, you might see the best ROI from marketing to people who are already customers.

Evolution 3: A Fragmented Audience

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the traditional linear funnel is that the modern audience is more fragmented than ever. It used to be that marketers could count on reaching millions of viewers who tuned in for “must-see TV” every week. This wasn’t just a way to reach those customers in the awareness phase, it created a conceptual framework that marketers and advertisers could latch onto to reach customers. People’s identities were mirrored and reinforced by the characters they watched on screen, so when targeting the audience of The Golden Girls, for example, you just had to decide if you were targeting a Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia, or Rose. Top 40 radio gave a similar benefit. You knew that everyone had heard “Macarena,” giving you a set of not just sounds, but also moods and styles to play with that you knew your audience would recognize and respond to.

Now, though, there’s little in the way of common cultural touchstones. The last of those went away with Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones. While there are still popular movies and shows, they have a fraction of the viewership, as theater audiences have shrunk and shows are scattered between streaming platforms. Music is even more fragmented, with so many people enjoying separate custom streaming channels rather than a few monolithic radio broadcasts.

In order to reach this fragmented audience, you can’t rely on just one marketing funnel. You need an array of marketing funnels that target the different mindsets of each segment of your audience.

Webolutions Can Help You Address the Evolving Nature of the Marketing Funnel

digital marketing agency At Webolutions, we are constantly evolving our marketing tactics to match changes in the marketing landscape. Instead of a traditional funnel, expect something much more complex, like a multidimensional spiral array.

How do we decide on the best way to reach your target audience? We utilize our exclusive Intrinsic Multiplier™ Approach. This helps us discover, define, and deliver a custom marketing plan designed to achieve success for your company. We’ll start with a Market Positioning Action Plan™, a guided discovery journey that reveals your true marketplace differentiation – the thing that sets you apart from your competitors and will make customers or clients want to choose you.

We’ll build this into a Brand Platform™ that outlines your unique brand messaging to ensure consistency throughout all your marketing efforts. We’ll then design a website that projects your unique value and contains content that targets each segment of your audience in ways that will turn them into paying customers or clients.

This is just the beginning. We use powerful tools like our TruAttribution ROI System™ to determine which aspects of your marketing strategy are yielding the best results so we can continuously improve. We also provide you with Real-Time Performance Intelligence Dashboards™ so you can see the results for yourself in an easy to view format.

Is your current marketing company stuck in the past? At Webolutions, we’re always evolving, and we want to help you grow your business smarter, faster and easier. Don’t keep throwing money into outdated methods. Our Intrinsic Multiplier™ Approach to marketing will help you achieve your success goals for years to come.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Webolutions serves clients nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.

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