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What You Need to Know About The Marketing Funnel

Every successful advertising campaign is founded in sound strategic thinking. There are several different models that you need to understand—and understand how they’ve changed—before starting any campaign.

Use broad awareness channels to get the attention of customers. Your goal is to reach the greatest number of qualified consumers that you can afford, because as they travel down the funnel, more and more will fall away in the process. The middle of the funnel is where consumers consider your brand and build a preference for you or someone else. And finally, the bottom of the funnel is where a consumer is ready to take action. Making this process frictionless creates more conversions. 

Strategists have tinkered with the marketing funnel ever since Elias St. Elmo Lewis invented it in 1898. But whatever the customer journey is now, it’s a lot more complicated. Today, the marketing funnel looks less like a funnel and more like a strawberry—bulging in the middle.

“Every single attribution model is flawed. They all presume somehow decisions can be attributed to one thing. More likely a thousand.”

—Tom Goodwin, Strategist

Ideally, after the sale you have an ongoing campaign in place (like a loyalty program) that turns satisfied customers into repeat customers and evangelists for your brand. You’ll want to deploy different advertising campaigns in different segments of the marketing funnel for maximum impact. ​

People don’t move through the funnel in a linear manner anymore. The customer journey is a zigzag path. In the middle of the funnel, consumers will be introduced to more options. During this active evaluation phase, you win them over or lose them to the competition with a stronger digital presence. Influence here is critical. 

It’s why digital budgets have been going up for years. Brands must be well represented where your customers are evaluating you. This extends well beyond your website. Digital marketing has swollen the middle of the funnel.

In a recent Nielsen survey, American respondents said they often research products online (63%) and look up reviews (63%). The takeaway for retailers is that they can’t afford to ignore their consumers online. Browsing and research are extremely important to consumers, who often do the research legwork online before going to their local retail outlet.


Consumers are far more proactive than they were just a few years ago. They are looking for information that will sway their opinion. Google suggests there are 10 different touchpoints before consumers make a major buying decision.

Be sure the answers to their questions are easily found online. Use SEO to make your assets easier to be found in search results, so consumers don’t need to look hard. If the competition’s information is easier to find, they could easily steal your leads away. After spending the lion’s share of your budget on broad awareness, it’s easy to lose a qualified lead as they assess your brand’s digital footprint. And that’s why digital influence is more important than ever.​

What You Need to Know About Brand Life Cycles

Everett Rogers created the Diffusion of Innovation Model in 1962. It explains how products gain momentum, which then spreads through different groups. Brand Life Cycle models have a similar-looking graph. The latter describes what is happening in the brand, and the former describes what is happening with consumers. For that reason, we tend to favor the Diffusion of Innovation Model to develop language and concepts for customer marketing.

The Diffusion of Innovation model is old, over 50 years old. Digital distribution has created scenarios in which brands never face the Chasm. How do you market an Early Adopter brand when the go-to-market strategy is to be bought out by a Late Majority/Early Majority company trying to reinvigorate growth? Anyone remember the dot-com bubble? If your plan is to get bought by Microsoft, you’ll never have to face the Chasm because Microsoft will carry you across it. Remember when Facebook bought Instagram?​

A great product or service and competent marketing will get most brands through the early stages. The first two groups of Innovators and Early Adopters are filled with self-starters. They want in early. However, the Early Majority has the potential of making a fortune for the brand. In order to get to the Promised Land, you have to cross the Chasm. Geoffrey Moore wrote the book Crossing the Chasm in 1991, detailing how it’s done.​

The Early Majority is filled with pragmatists. They do not like change. Most do not move unless they are in pain. However, pragmatists are willing to consider disruptive approaches. So offer a solution to an intractable problem. If you can convert a few key influencers, momentum will build. As the Early Majority starts to research, they will begin to align themselves with their peers.

Moore uses the metaphor of a pin being toppled at a bowling alley. One falls. It collides with another. Momentum builds. Moore describes this as a tornado that turns into a revolution.


  • Everyone appears to be doing it

  • It’s a stampede

  • No one wants to be left behind

How do you market an Innovator brand that disrupts (reinvents) the business models for an entire category like news or the sharing economy? After redefining the category, you are immediately tasked with grabbing as much market share as fast as possible and then defending it like an Early Majority brand. Uber and Lyft are currently locked in this struggle. But if you are Uber or Lyft, you will never face the Chasm because you’ve redefined the category on your terms.

"...adoption is so high that the brand is profitable with only 5% of users paying."

And what about freemium models, where brands give away most of the product for free and offer premium features for those who pay? Think of Pandora and now Microsoft Office. Because these products appeal to a majority in every segment, adoption is so high that the brand is profitable with only 5% of users paying. Again, where’s the Chasm?

Marketing strategy

Models from 100, 50, and even 25 years ago are good starting points. They need to be updated to address digital disruption, but they are very helpful when trying to develop language and concepts that appeal to consumers at different stages in the growth of a brand.

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