Sales marketing strategy: Kill the funnel and embrace the loop

For years now, the prevailing marketing approach for businesses of all sizes has been focused on the customer funnel. While the various stages of the funnel may have different names depending on the source, the basic funnel elements are always the same starting with awareness and ending in action — typically the acquisition of a paying customer.

But Dusty DiMercurio, the Director of Content Marketing and Social Media at Autodesk, points out that creating customers is actually just one point along the continuous cycle of the customer journey. In his talk at ThinkContent New York 2018 , DiMercurio suggested that it’s time to ditch the funnel and start thinking about marketing as an infinite loop .

“The funnel is not a sales marketing strategy – it’s to fill the oil in your car. At Autodesk, we killed the funnel because it kept everyone too focused on the transaction. There’s an opportunity for us to rethink the way we frame interactions with our customers. How we can think about what our customers’ needs are along the myriad of touch points and use that for a framework for what kind of content we should be creating?” DiMercurio explains.

DiMercurio credits this change in Autodesk’s marketing framework for boosting their content program so successfully that their sales and support teams are implementing the loop strategy within their own programs. Read on to find out how the infinite loop picks up where the funnel left off, and continues as customers onboard, learn more about and adopt your products, embrace and promote your brand, and, eventually, become return customers.

Discover: raise awareness of your brand and common pain points in the industry or market

Just like the familiar “top-of-funnel”, the discovery stage is “all about attracting people who may not know who you are, or even the challenges they are facing in their business or industry,” DiMercurio explains. Marketing content at this stage should focus on risks and challenges while offering advice or even presenting some of the features your products provide that are helping to advance the industry and alleviate those pain points for customers.

Decide: help people research your products and highlight the solutions you offer

The decision phase is your opportunity to really articulate what your offering brings to the table. Marketing that highlights features, benefits and value proposition is key. “The decision phase is all about helping people research your products,” says DiMercurio, while also keeping in mind all of the different stakeholders involved in the purchase process from start to finish. Marketing content needs to be geared toward anyone who has a say in the purchase decision, from procurement to HR to management.

Buy: assist customers as they navigate product options and the purchase process

For Autodesk customers, there are many different solutions and complex software packages to choose from, so helping people figure out what they need to buy is really important. When crafting content for customers at this step, DiMercurio suggests keeping this question in mind: “What are some additional services that might help them get more value from their investment?”

Onboard: take your relationship with your customer to the next level

Guiding the customer experience in the early days as they get started with your product really sets the stage for an ongoing relationship. “Once the transaction happens, that’s where the real relationship starts,” says DiMercurio. Content that aids the deployment stage for your customers helps keep your brand in focus.

Master: show customers how they can maximize their investment

Crafting content that helps customers fully realize the value of your products or solutions doesn’t require the reinvention of the wheel. “Marketers tend to love to create new, but so much can be done in recycling,” says DiMercurio. He suggests reworking case studies used in the decide stage into solution workflows to demonstrate useful applications for your products.

Renew: check in with loyal customers to help support their ongoing needs

Regular check-ins provide opportunities to highlight new features or products that may be helpful for your customers.

DiMercurio illustrates these six stages as a looping infinity symbol, which really captures the distinctive difference between the loop and the funnel. Whereas the funnel only travels in one direction, the loop circles back to the customer, reflecting a truly continuous lifecycle.

Big name marketing campaigns are already embracing this strategy — Adobe comes to mind — and it’s worth considering how your current sales and content marketing programs can implement this approach. It’s time to stop funneling your customers through the acquisition process and start looping them into your brand.

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