the marketing hourglass

May 3, 2009 ·

i got to thinking about the marketing funnel while writing another post and it occurred to me that there was something missing. that it didn't exactly capture the new reality of the new web 2.0 world.

the marketing funnel succinctly describes two interrealted continuums - from just a consumer to a customer and also the media used to get them there from broadcast to narrowcast. while this funnel is all nice and good, it leaves out one critical element - the consumer/customer. they should never be left out of the equation, especially now when they have so many tools at their disposal to impact brands and other people.

so i offer the marketing hourglass. maybe someone has thought this way already, but i haven't seen it. so i apologize if i'm just being a hack here, it was a new thought to me.




in this, the top half remains the same with whatever in-between stages you want to assign (i've seen many variations). what i thought was missing is the bottom part, the part that accounts for the consumer's active involvement in the process. what they initiate in the marketing of a product vs. that which the brand begats. this being both messaging points and conversion tactics.

i think it's fair to say that much of these social tools feed into the left side of the top funnel above, or were thought to reside there. that consumers are using these resources in determining how a brand fits a particular point in their need state. but i think it's important to call this out now because of the increasingly important role it is playing. 

this version distinguishes the control of the process that is shifting to the consumers. one of the main reasons to separate it is that the new web 2.0 world is often standalone. consumers are discovering and buying into brands without ever having seen corporate initiated marketing efforts. and that will only increase in prevalence.

the bottom funnel is much smaller than it's northern counterpart. that's because the process by which consumers market to each other is far shorter and also has access to fewer people. in this age of distrust with large companies, there is a lot more steps involved in overcoming the rather larger negative of monolithic corporations hungry for your money. but with consumers in charge, it's all about trust and influence. consumers have this, companies don't. so the words and actions of consumers carry far greater weight and leads others to adopt a brand quicker. 

you'll see how the consumer funnel is both distributive and procurative. it represents that this end of things simultaneously pushes out messages, but also serves the function of collecting consumers. the top funnel is all about the collection. the advertising and media served to move people through the consideration set. in the new model, consumers are making the messages to contribute to a community, to express themselves, and to serve their fellow man (or woman). this has the effect of also garnering new customers into the brand.

so what's the point, what's the take-away? what does it mean? mainly to spell it out, to crystalize the thought and show the value and importance of social media. to make the distinctions with the intent of having the full picture in decision making. it's also about showing the need for relevance with consumers. both ways into customerdom are valid, but this aims to exhibit how to form strategies to get them there and how to allocate resources. 

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