Monthly Archives: May 2014

Death of the Sales Funnel

Before discussing whether the well-known funnel-shaped sales model is of use to us any more, you might want to read my previous article on the sales funnel.

Hopefully I can guide you through a topic on which continuous debate has arisen…

Death is, well, a harsh word really, isn’t it? To say something is dead is to say something no longer exists in the way it used to; ‘it’ no longer has, seems to have, or expects to have life. Perhaps because it no longer seems to have force or relevance, or perhaps, in sales, because the funnel model is no longer yielding the theorised return originally expected of it, it can no longer be justified as a relevant or utilised model for today. Whilst it still exists enough for debate to be continually hinged upon it, what is it about the architecture of the sales funnel that makes it ‘dead’? Here’s a few factors which will hopefully shed some light on the topic:


It’s deceiving us

Yes it is, you see, it just makes everything seem far too easy; far too achievable. You only seem to need a flicker of interest from your identified market – a proportion of which seems to effortlessly tumble down into the funnel to make the inevitable purchase. We all know that it doesn’t work like that though; leads can appear, disappear and reappear at any given stage in the funnel and for a multitude of reasons; most of which we may never know, or ever be able to decipher. This could go on for months; one may enter the sales funnel at various points for different reasons but might not even buy a single thing. Why does this happen though? It could be due to…


To many distractions

Interruption, diversion, interference, confusion; whatever you call the break in attention that was necessary to aid a potential customer further down the funnel towards a sale – distractions happen all the time. You could be mid-way through a purchase but you change your mind because a friend says something else is better, or you’re in a retail park and about to buy the latest Android tablet but you spot the Apple Store across the way and think twice (despite the price!). It could even be as simple as the fire alarm going off because you left your cheese on toast under the grill for too long, you go off to flap at the alarm and sort everything out and by the time you come back your session has timed out or you can’t be bothered and you ‘leave it for another day’ – which turns into days, maybe weeks, maybe never! People are subject to constant distractions; of which it is impossible to list even the smallest percentage.


Tracking and reporting in a grey area

Buying patterns have altered dramatically over the last decade and are continually changing with the introduction of new technology and mobile commerce. What actually happens in between the point you gain that initial interest to the point of sale? This is about the lead’s behaviour – why do they disappear or reappear? How do marketers perceive the ‘way’ people make decisions about purchasing nowadays? The truth is we don’t know all the reasons people disappear or how they even decide to purchase because we can’t analyse information we don’t even know how to track. There are a multitude of ways to monitor various aspects of a campaign both online and offline, but can we tie everything together effectively enough? We may see that there’s a niche in the market for a service, or that a certain group of people might want something, you can follow the sales funnel model precisely but you don’t get constant feedback for everything you do and even if you did how would you analyse and manage that feedback before being able to take steps on improving what you’re doing?


A lack of engagement

The funnel is like a giant food processor full of holes – chuck everything in, blitz it up and you might be left with a few remnants of what originally went in.

To find out what happens in the customer decision journey, you would have to try and engage the customer as much as possible – from the initial stage to the point they either bought something or left the funnel – find a way to block those holes in the food processor. The results could leave you in a dilemma – you might find that a huge proportion of potential customers failed to make a sale because they realised they were hungry at the last second, or because they simply got a call from their partner. You can take steps to deal with the hunger and position your shops optimally, for example next to a food outlet, but how do you ‘help’ someone focus on buying your product, or even gather data which helps you to determine ‘when’ to help people focus. Is it even appropriate to try and find this kind of information out? How far do we go?

The online world has plenty of tools out there to help you see what’s going on, Google Analytics, for example, tells you how many people are visiting your site – which can look amazing if you’re getting thousands of hits a day, but if hardly anyone is buying – why are potential buyers dropping out? How can we track the entire customer journey? How do we truly begin to understand and accommodate the buyer’s habits, perception of available products or even ability to buy? If we could understand and accommodate these things, would our customers still buy from us?

In conclusion

Perhaps, though widely understood, the sales funnel theory was never detailed enough in the first place. I often imagine a new model to resemble a huge flowchart of yes/no questions, full of hundreds, maybe thousands of redirections – all attempting to ‘handle’ anyone in the originally identified market to buy a product – a kind of mental mind map of behaviour. The topic leaves me with many questions of my own:

  • Will we ever truly understand and be able to accommodate for all the variables?
  • Has the sales funnel become a scapegoat for an understanding of the customer journey that we may never be able to achieve?
  • Are we on some kind of quest for pure and ultimate knowledge about customers?
  • What can we ever realistically know about the customer journey?
  • Do I even really understand my own reasons for buying or avoiding certain products?
  • When do you actually, really join the sales funnel?
  • If the sales funnel really is dead, why do we still refer to it and even use it?

If you have the answers or would like to add to the conversation please leave your comment below!


Simple Ways to Improve Your Lead Generation Strategy

As we find ourselves marching on into 2014, now’s as good a time as any to take stock of the year’s marketing and advertising activities in terms of lead generation and success rates.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, lead generation refers to the generation of consumer interest or enquiry into business products or services via a range of day-to-day business activities such as: telemarketing, advertising, website optimisation and development, mail/email marketing campaigns and more.

Lead generation can be expensive depending on what route you take, but it needn’t be so: by carrying out marketing and advertising activities in-house, and paying close attention to the behaviour of your target audience, you can adapt your means in order to find the right leads for your business.

So, what can you do to boost your lead generation?

We’ve put together some information and tips below that may help.

Searching for leads can seem hard at first.

Searching for leads can seem hard at first.

Search Engine Optimisation

First and foremost, it’s essential to use a range of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategies, techniques and tactics to get your website as high up as possible on Google and other search engines.

There are a number of steps you can take to boost SEO: for example, make sure content is well-written and rich with keywords, add internal links and external links, list your business on local/ national directories, incorporate a site map, add image descriptions, and write unique and descriptive meta descriptions and page titles for each page on your website. Previously we’ve written more in-depth guides to SEO here, here and here.

Tips: Take a look at Google Adwords Keyword Planner to identify keywords and phrases people are using to search for your product or service. Use the findings to rework website content accordingly.

Optimising your website for search engines will help to increase the number of visitors to your website. In order to turn traffic into leads (and ultimately profits) be sure to feature compelling offers, effective calls-to-action and convincing lead nurturing campaigns on your website.


Web Forms

Web forms are one of the handiest tools you can use to capture leads in-house. They can be created yourself and placed on whatever landing page or channel you see fit.

Some of the most successful web forms include:

  • Newsletter subscription forms: these can be placed on your website, Facebook page, email signature, YouTube video descriptions and more.
  • File download forms: these forms are typically used on landing pages as main conversion points to urge users to download something of interest (e-book or whitepaper, badge and other resources).
  • Marketing surveys: well-crafted, friendly surveys are perfect for finding out more information about your audience. Be sure to incentivise your audience responsibly to draw users to the survey.

Most web forms, if created to suit your visitor’s intent, can sky rocket your lead gathering strategy, but be sure to test and monitor conversion rates and rework forms accordingly.



Business networking is a low-cost method of marketing widely used to build relationships, boost connections and raise visibility. It’s one of the most effective and cheapest forms of lead generation out there that has the scope to propel businesses to success. Please refer to our earlier post: Networking Made Easy to find out more.

Tip: Look at each invitation or event as an opportunity for lead generation; a chance to meet new contacts or make new sales.

Sales Lists

One of the quickest ways to assemble large sales lists is to buy it from a dedicated marketing companies who specialise in collecting and selling lists for certain business and consumer sectors. The obvious advantage is that you can access large databases almost instantly. However, it’s important to think about how many other companies have bought the list and emailed the names already. The names on the list will also be unqualified which means they’ll need to be verified and analysed to see if they are a good match for you.

Tips: Lists created in-house will always be of a higher quality (at some point or other the contacts will have interacted with your brand) and are much more likely to lead to higher conversion rates.

Mail/Email Marketing Campaigns

Well-crafted email marketing campaigns can boost lead generation and returns. Start by identifying your aims and objectives before you begin. Then, define your market audience and create powerful content that will interest and engage your audience. Track your results in order to develop future campaigns. To find out more about email marketing campaigns and how to track results, please refer to our earlier posts: Email Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide and 10 Tips to Boost Email Marketing Performance.


Telemarketing and Teleprospecting

Telemarketing and teleprospecting are two similar marketing methods used to generate sales leads. Telemarketing firms employ operators who read from a prepared script in order to try and sell a product or a service to the public over the phone, while teleprospecting employs trained operators – either in-house or from a third-party teleprospecting company – to contact targeted business prospects. Depending on the size and nature of your company, telemarketing and/or teleprospecting may be effective for generating leads and sales.


Advertise your Business

By advertising your business through traditional channels like trade publications, specialised online directories like ourselves or other targeted channels you know will reach your customers, you will generate enquires that even if they don’t initially convert to a sale can still become part of your prospects list and may eventually convert to sales.


Qualify Leads and Rank Them for Follow-up

One of the most important aspects of lead generation is to qualify the leads you’ve generated; lead quality drives revenue.

You can qualify leads by verifying that the contact information is accurate and confirming that the lead is part of your target audience. Put together a collection of qualifying questions: Who? Where? Why? For example:

  • Who has the most obvious need for your products or services?
  • Where do your ideal prospects live, work etc?
  • Why would the prospect be likely to buy your products or service?

Once you have verified your leads, prioritize the ones that are most likely to convert to sales. Base the order on the lead’s industry, geographic location and any recent ‘trigger events’ that might make potential customers more likely to buy.


To sum up

Lead generation does not have to break the bank; established marketing processes and focused execution have the power to grow and sustain a small business. Investigate the options available and test them for yourself to determine what works for your business: Test, test, test.