How To Forget The Funnel And Learn To Love Your Customers

If you spend your time thinking about marketing like me then firstly, what are we doing with our lives and, secondly, you’ve probably heard the term “marketing funnel” just a few times before.

I must admit I don’t like the term. It lacks feeling, it lacks humanity and to me it doesn’t sit well with social causes. It turns people into processes. It may just be a term, but I think words can shape the way we approach and think about the things we do. I really liked the notion put forward by John Haydon that we use the term planting instead of posting in reference to Facebook and I think that has some merit.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Marketing funnels. Well, what made me start thinking about this was a post by MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut about why he hates funnels. He managed to put into words some of my feelings about marketing funnels and clarified some of my own ideas about how should apply these marketing concepts.

In case you’re not familiar with the idea of the traditional marketing funnel, the idea is that you need a ton of website visitors, some of them become leads, some of them leave and never return, and the ones left at the bottom (usually having been bombarded with automated marketing materials) are your donors, customers, whatever you want to call them.

funnel_marketing-traditional

The reason I hate this is not just that it fails to treat donors as people we care about, but that it is just not that effective. But, as Ben explains, there is another way to recruit people. One that I think is far more successful.

funnel_customer-love

I think this is the most normal, most human, most sustainable way to developing a non-profit fundraising base.

Instead of pushing people through marketing funnels by optimising web pages, link building and targeting people with remarketing and adwords campaigns, the alternative approach involves developing relationships with existing supporters and recruiting donors through their networks. This seems a much more stable way of growing a network of supporters that has real long term benefit.

The idea makes a lot of sense, but it does lead to some asymmetrical thinking. One of the MailChimp examples that Ben talks about in his post is the way they use traditional advertising like radio ads and billboards to target the customers they already have. That’s right. They don’t use them to recruit more customers, but to engage with people who are already using their service.

This may seem a peculiar approach, but when I think about the traditional marketing funnel I think this is the most human, most sustainable way to run a non-profit.