This blog post is Part 1 in a three-part series on the digital marketing funnel, including what it is, how to use it strategically and how companies are successfully implementing it.
Today modern marketers are familiar with the typical marketing funnel—awareness, nurture, convert and delight. But did you know that the idea of a sales funnel is not new—in fact, it’s 120 years old!
A Mr. E. St. Elmo created the first “purchase model” way back in 1898 in an effort to systematize the sales process and, ultimately, improve results. He developed a model that mapped a theoretical customer journey from the moment a product attracted a consumer’s attention to the point of action or purchase. His model has guided marketers and sales teams for nearly a century.
Clearly, the idea was genius and never died—it just took on new forms over the years as the marketing universe changed. The early model has been modified over the past decades by marketing consultants and academics to cater to the changing marketplace. Several variations on the theme have been created to accommodate the emerging modes of marketing—especially, digital marketing.
When it comes to marketing and sales models, the internet changed everything. The advent of the internet has led to major shifts in marketing strategy—not entirely upending, but greatly modifying and expanding the original AIDA model. This has given rise to the digital marketing funnel, a method that focuses on brand engagement, education and embracing the non-linear way in which internet-based customers experienced the act of shopping.
The basics of the modern digital marketing funnel include four key stages (similar to AIDA): attract, nurture, convert and delight. However, to accommodate the many different kinds of marketing projects required to compete in today’s fierce online marketing battleground, the funnel steps have expanded. Numbers vary, but these 10 steps often comprise well-oiled digital marketing funnels. The first six stages take place before and up to the point of sale. The last four occur after the point of sale. Here’s a brief overview:
As high-impact as the new digital marketing sales funnel is, some marketing industry experts are talking about a whole new approach to digital marketing. Instead of the funnel as we know it—wide on top and narrow on the bottom—they are advocating we “flip the funnel” to accommodate a new approach to marketing called Account-Based Marketing (ABM).
The ABM strategy begins with identifying and targeting best-fit accounts. Marketers then serve personalized messaging to all of the decision-makers at the accounts. The idea is based on the notion that individuals rarely make purchasing decisions on their own anymore. Instead, a team of often seven to 20 people are involved in the decision-making process. This means marketers have to reach all the decision makers within a particular company. To support this approach, marketers have identified five stages in the ABM model:
Part 2 in this three-part blog post series will look at how to set up a powerful digital marketing campaign strategy.