The Sales Funnel is not a one way funnel -web analytics data now confirms

The Sales Funnel is the holy grail of marketing
and ultimately sales and business itself. And now it turns out that the sales
funnel is not a one way funnel like funnels are. A funnel has a wide mouth
where the liquid is poured in and it comes out from the stem of the funnel
safely into a bottle or container like a gas tank with a narrow mouth. Gravity
is central to the idea of the sales funnel. If you have lots of leads and have
great qualifying mechanisms, you keep whittling down those leads to prospects,
warm prospects and that wonderful "closed" sale leading to lifetime
customer value and satisfaction.  Along with gravity, a central assumption
of the sales funnel is that the liquid (customer)has no mind of its own and
just flows downwards if you follow the right sales techniques and
principles.  Well, the idea of the one way sales funnel might be wrong.
Web analytics data as discussed
in an earlier post
now seems to open up a perennial question. There is a
lot of back and forth between customer and selling firm and the funnel may not
be one way, after all. 

The Marketing Science
Institute's research priorities for 2012-14
points to this huge shift in
its "Priority 2:  Rethinking the Journey to Purchase and Beyond,
Whether Conceptualized as a Funnel or a More Iterative Process

The iteration
was not easy to see  in collected data earlier. If someone bought a car brand and you did
a survey, you might learn that that an important role model preferred the car
brand, the customer had a bad experience with the previous brand, there was a
great deal offered…. and so on. But all this if a) you surveyed b) the survey
was well designed and c) the customer actually participated. In fact, the last
one about participation could be most challenging.

No longer is
actual customer data so hard to gather. As explained in a previous post, every
visit to the website before the visitor places an order or fills up a contact
form can be tracked. So you know things like how many times the individual
visited the website, through direct visits or through organic search, AdWords,
social media or banners before "converting." And this does not count
any offline interactions like visiting the retail store, talking with a
co-worker at the water cooler or any discussions with visiting family over the
Columbus Day week end today. It also excludes anyone who decides to call in
their order and does not use the web ordering system.

Given that the
Sales Funnel has ruled our thinking for so long, it is ironic that the one way
nature of the sales funnel is being challenged by the mere availability
of data via free sources like Google Analytics
. People do go back and forth
on the funnel, one more way that the Internet is changing business. Contact StratoServe.