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If we asked for an apple, and we get an orange, are we supposed to be happy because it’s a fruit? Similarly, as a B2B tech marketer, we ask for leads and instead get a funnel. Are we supposed to be happy?
The B2B tech marketing funnel is considered the holy grail for a whole gamut of marketers and especially tech marketers who swear by it. It’s like a sacred book of scriptures handed over from one generation for more than a century. Tech marketers believe that if we shout at their prospects through a megaphone (which incidentally looks like a funnel from a different angle), the leads will literally appear at the end of the funnel or the pipeline or the tunnel, irrespective of what you call it, with a glimmering dollar sign on their chest.
But it doesn’t work like that. Why not? Simply because there is no gravity. So let’s fix that. Let’s make the funnel horizontal.
Does that fix everything? Not yet. Any veteran B2B tech marketer can tell us that prospects do not follow a linear path through the funnel, entering from the top as a potential lead and exiting at the bottom. Why does this happen?
Sometimes, the light that we see at the end of the funnel is the front of an oncoming train. Allow me to propose a theory – The String Universe of Multiple Funnels.
The premise of this theory is that your potential lead is not only interacting with your content or funnel but also with those of tech journals and publications, research organizations and our competition’s funnel. Your prospect is making a buying journey, not in a void, but in multiple funnels floating in the tech marketing universe.
This is why, even though we are driving leads from the top of the funnel, guiding them to the middle of the funnel, and nurturing them to the end of the funnel, sometimes they don’t come out with a glimmering dollar sign on their chest. You can credit (or blame) The String Universe of Multiple Funnels.
But let’s get back to the funnel. We are still working with this perfectly cute AIDA model. The marketing funnel as we know it is based on the AIDA model which was first suggested by E. St. Elmo Lewis, an advertising and marketing guru, in 1898. That was 118 years ago. Lewis rightly proposed that attracting the customer follows a linear path beginning with creating Awareness, generating Interest, which leads to Desire and finally leading to Action.
There is nothing wrong with AIDA. However, as a B2B tech marketer, when was the last we heard of someone who had a strong desire for a cloud solution or datacenter? B2B tech marketing needs to be a little more complex than AIDA, and that complexity is natural.
We assume that leads follow a linear thought process from awareness, interest, desire and action, and that’s how we should guide the potential customer. However, customers today are as likely to enter the funnel in the middle or bottom and not just at the top. Ironically, they are most likely to leave at any stage too. So, how are we going to deal with it?
Everything starts from a trigger – that some technology intervention is required. It is not a B2C decision, where our prospect has a strong desire to purchase the newest phone or gadget because of peer pressure or simply because it looks cool. So, we have a trigger. And then, there is early learning after which our prospect scopes the solution. Sometimes, this trigger may be at a tech conference or a publication.
So, we have a trigger, early learning, scoping (to see if it suits their requirement), budgeting, detailed learning (diving into the depth and exploring the complexities), comparative analysis of service providers (it is still interchangeable with the budget, because different technology vendors have different pricing) and after ALL OF THIS, we can finally have some action!
Right, So, let’s look at the funnel once again! Shall we?