It’s A Marketing Hourglass, Not A Sales Funnel

Most business owners have heard of the sales funnel. You know – the idea that you start with a larger group of potential customers at the top of the funnel and use marketing tactics to move few through to the small end at the bottom where you can convert them turn them into customers. As useful as this concept is, it’s a somewhat incomplete way of thinking about marketing that doesn’t hold up in the modern business world.

The very simplicity of the concept is what has made it popular and the word “funnel” has become an iconic bit of sales and marketing jargon. What it doesn’t address how a customer journey aligns with your organisation’s sale expectations, and it leaves out what happens after a sale

The Sales Funnel Is Incomplete

The sales funnel can lend itself to a false sense that the buyer’s journey is more or less linear, and that your marketing and sales efforts can control how they move through the process. The truth is that much of the buyer’s journey now is typically anything but linear and often now includes a lengthy and complex evaluation process.

The marketing funnel also only focuses on the first part of the customer journey – up to the point of making a sale. In terms of the actual customer’s experience, there is usually plenty of focus on getting people’s attention, enticing them with your product or service offering and then converting them into a buyer.

But that’s just part of their overall journey. It’s as if, once a customer, they become the charge of the service department. Imagine, however, devoting the resources to make sure the delivery is even better than the sales process and that every step along the way is designed to create a raving lunatic who simply loves your brand.

If each customer touchpoint doesn’t compliment every other, you’re missing out on an opportunity to create and harvest value.

In our consulting engagements, we make liberal use of the marketing hourglass, which has seven related stages–Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. This approach devoted equal attention to educating, building trust, delivering excellent products and services, and mobilising your satisfied customers to actively refer you to their network.

Each point requires content and sales processes that encourage and support incremental movement along the path.

The marketing hourglass highlights the value in methodically building relationships with your clients – even long after the initial sale is complete.

Touchpoints and Customer Journeys Are Critical

To build an effective marketing hourglass for your business, you must start by understanding how you currently interact with potential clients and how they make purchasing decisions. Then, you can create a customer journey that expertly guides your audience through your marketing hourglass.

What are your customer touchpoints?
A touchpoint is any time a potential customer interacts with your business. Some of these interactions are well thought out and planned, others are accidental, and some don’t happen at all.

In today’s digital age, potential customers are inundated with ads and continually being courted by everyone from your competitors to that infamous Nigerian Prince. Your business needs to map out the many “touchpoints” and interactions with you are likely to have with prospects and customers, from the moment they become aware of your existence to the moment they are telling their friends about you.

These days you need a strategic approach to end-to-end customer experience. All too often, though, businesses are simply tempted to create an offer or sale seemingly designed to move a prospect directly from “Know” to “Buy” and are then astonished that the lack of positive response. In the travel and tourism industry, we are often trying to sell our “brown bananas” – unsold capacity in our operational season or region.

The thing is, the customers we want don’t really care that we need to sell our capacity or that we really think our offer is great. They’re just looking for value and often don’t respond well to the hard sell. See the above Nigerian Prince…

These “touchpoints” can include anything that adds depth and value to their experience with your company. Offer travel planning guides on your social media pages. Send welcome emails as soon as they sign up for your email list. Offer live online chat; create quality information that helps them prepare for their upcoming travels; make fun countdowns and creative ways to build their excitement for their holiday. Be creative and make them the hero of the journey – you be the guide.

What is your customer’s journey?
To build an effective marketing hourglass, you must understand their journey. What questions your potential customers are asking. What problems or pains are they trying to solve? What are the challenging parts of planning and booking the holiday of a lifetime that you can help eliminate?

Perhaps your potential customers are having trouble determining what holiday activities they can reasonably expect to accomplish and enjoy in one day. Maybe they are trying to decide between two hotels and need some assistance in understanding the pros and cons of each option.

Maybe it’s that it’s their only shot at making the most of an expensive and once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Probably it’s all of the above and more.

Your job of helping customers have a fantastic holiday begins the moment they decide they’d like to travel. To attract and serve your customers well, you must put yourself in their shoes and deeply understand their journey. That’s the job of any great guide.

Build your marketing hourglass

Once you are aware of the touchpoints and you understand your customer’s journey, you can begin to build your marketing hourglass. This information helps you structure your marketing hourglass with strategic touchpoints, campaigns, and processes that define excellent customer experience.

The marketing hourglass includes seven phases:

  1. Know: This is the point where potential customers become aware of your existence. Advertising, referrals, social media presence, and content that ranks well in search results are essential for this phase of the marketing hourglass.
  2. Like: Once potential customers become aware of your existence and you attracted them to your site, you must offer reasons to come back and learn more about you. What do you offer that allows people to relate to you?
  3. Trust: Reviews, testimonials, and success stories allow potential customers to trust you and your business. Trust is a significant factor as people make purchasing decisions. When people are making expensive purchases (like travelling), reviews and testimonials have a more significant impact on purchasing decisions. In one study, experts found that displaying reviews on landing pages and websites can increase conversions by up to 270%!
  4. Try: Once your audience is seriously considering your business, it’s time to offer them a taste of what it will be like to work with you. Shower them with trip planning guides, FAQ resources, sample itineraries, and other useful “how-to” information. This continues the trust-building process and lets them experience how excellent your customer service is.
  5. Buy: As they make the decision to purchase your products and services, it is crucial to maintain high-quality customer experience. Every detail matters, right down to the page where they must type in their credit card number. Look for ways to exceed their expectations and make the process easy–even enjoyable!
  6. Repeat: One of the easiest ways to get repeat business is to make sure your clients understand the value you offer. Create ways to help your travellers relive the best parts of their holiday long after they’re back to their usual routine. This adds more touchpoints between you and your clients and more value to your services. Look for places to offer up-sells and gather reviews or testimonials from them.
  7. Refer: Remember, the goal of the marketing hourglass is to turn satisfied customers into marketing agents and happy raving lunatics. This starts with an incredible experience. Then you need to help your lunatics introduce your business to their network through specific campaigns and processes.

Referrals rarely happen organically. Even your champion customers need a little help referring your amazing services. This is an opportunity to be creative and build structures to help your customers tell their own stories in a way that points to your business. Help them tell others, “This company helped me achieved my ideal holiday.” In that statement, they are the hero, and you are the trusty sidekick that everyone knows, loves, and wants to invite on their own expeditions.

With a well-structured marketing hourglass, your customers become one of the best parts of your marketing team, and your business becomes more customer-centric. Every tactic in your marketing strategy has a clear purpose, making your marketing efforts simpler and more effective.

If you’re not being methodically and maniacal enough about ever step in the process, you can bet there is a competitor who will.