3 Reasons Why the Traditional Marketing Funnel is Broken (and what to do about it)

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In this post I shared some research showing that almost 60% of companies distributing content don’t really have a content strategy.

Usually, when something is harder than it should be, it’s because the approach is not in alignment with the reality of the situation. 

The world has changed a lot in the last couple of years. More changes are on the way. I believe we’ve outgrown the traditional marketing funnel and that is part of the reason content strategy is harder than it has to be. My goal is to give you some research-based ideas for a new, more successful approach.

Typically, experts present a marketing funnel like those below.

These are actual examples from big-time companies. They are wrong, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Reason 1: Are We Ghosting Trust?

The main reason those funnels are oh-so-wrong is that they downplay or omit the most crucial part of a happy Customer For Life, which is TRUST.

Trust is the opportunity of the moment for brands. Don’t feel bad if you have been busy and missed the memo.

Global communications firm Edelman has tracked trust with survey data for decades. Core findings from their 2022 Trust Barometer✎ EditSign✎ EditSign include:

  • Between government, media, and business, people trust businesses the most.
  • The public feels that governments and the media fuel a cycle of distrust.

The report says:

Across every single issue, by a huge margin, people want more business engagement, not less. For example, on climate change, 52% say business is not doing enough, while only 9% say it is overstepping.
The role and expectation for business have never been clearer, and business must recognize that its societal role is here to stay.

The key to remember is — trust is an emotional response. We all know someone who is an expert in their field, but we don’t trust them or want to do business with them.

You could simplify your funnel (and your life) and say, “Our goal with the funnel is to build trust with customers using shared values.”

We cover exactly how to do that in this post with my big reveal of the updated funnel. But first lets look at the second reason.

Reason 2 — Emotion and Facts — Not Either-Or

A second reason those funnels are wrong is that they downplay emotion’s role in the purchase decision process.

The popular idea is that right-brain emotional content is needed for attraction, and left-brain facts and figures are needed for conversion. Left-brain learning about products can pique interest and build confidence, but it’s the right brain that decides whether to pull out the wallet or not.

In addition, the truth is we now know that both sides of the brain work together, rather than handing off the baton while making decisions.

In terms of content, the middle of the funnel needs a more nuanced approach that educates folks about benefits while still building trust with emotional content.

Reason 3 — Loyalty ASAP, not last

From the moment a fan is aware of your brand, you should be seeding loyalty. You can’t disregard loyalty as something to be nurtured after the sale.

In funnel #2, they don’t even mention loyalty. Apparently, the funnel (and customer) drops off into oblivion after the conversion (aka $ale).

Geez, no wonder brands are struggling.

Practical, profitable content marketing builds trust with large loyal followings that may or may not be customers. What brands are you loyal to that you have not spent one dime with yet?

Research from Bain & Company showed that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. You can read more about the value of focusing on keeping loyal customers in this Harvard Business Review article.

Which brings us back to the main point — what is the highest predictor of brand loyalty? TRUST.

So now we know that:

  • The shortcut to attracting new customers, and keeping existing ones happy, is trust.
  • Emotions matter.
  • We should be seeding loyalty sooner rather than later.

Now, let’s look at a new version of the content marketing funnel designed to attract, engage and create customers for life (CFLs) in this post.

Thanks for reading!

This is an excerpt from my complete Customer for Life (CFL) Trust Content Marketing Report. If you would like to access a copy of the whole report, which cites additional resources and tips, you can do so here.

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