Finding “Holes” in Your Marketing Framework

There are many ways to conceive of and organize marketing activities. One of our favorites is our marketing framework, which tracks customer journeys against marketing goals and tools in place. Whereas many marketing firms think of these journeys as forming a funnel, we think of them as being hourglass shaped, and so we sometimes refer to this framework as the “marketing hourglass.”

I’ve covered the details of this hourglass and its various stages in another article. But that article left a few questions unanswered: How can that funnel be used to find the “holes” in your marketing plan? And how does uncovering those holes set the marketing strategy for the quarter or year to come? This article provides a deeper dive that helps organizations answer some of those questions for themselves.

Customer Journeys Through the Marketing Framework

Every customer or client moves through the stages of the marketing framework: From unaware of your company or brand to someone who is aware, from aware to connected, from connected to partnership, and so on. But customers, unless highly motivated, do not naturally move through these stages by themselves. Moving to a new stage is the result of your organization’s marketing and sales efforts.

To review, here are some of the tactics that tend to move people from stage to stage:

Unaware→Notice: Local advertising (radio, tv, print, online), online advertising, targeting content with SEO

Notice→Connect: Email newsletters, tradeshow appearances, social media marketing

Connect→Partner: Online or in-person demos, case studies, buying guides, free assessments, introductory offers, sales presentations and proposals

Partner→Grow: Special deals, client appreciation events, more free assessments

Grow→Advocate: Asking for referrals, refer-a-friend programs, interviewing best clients for testimonials/case studies, key opinion leaders speaking


The higher the price on a product, the more complicated the customer journey can be, and the higher the need for marketing collateral such as brochures, case studies and white papers. The goal of outlining these stages is to identify the key milestones that signal transition to the next phase.

Just by looking at the list above, you might already have an idea of which stage is the “problem stage” for your organization—a stage where your prospects or customers are getting “stuck.” For example, if you are putting a lot of money toward moving prospects from the “unaware” to the “notice” stage but still not seeing the leads come in, it could be because you have not yet invested adequately in the connect or partner stages.

But let’s assume, for the sake of this exercise, that no one stage jumps out as the issue. How do you begin mapping out your own framework?

Start by Defining the Activities at Each Stage

Building a framework is pretty easy, but to make it even easier, you can click here to download a free tool from Pace Marketing.

Although we’ve defined the stages generally, you will want to think about how each stage applies to your own sales cycle. For example, what does the transition to partnership look like? How do you measure it? How do you track those who are at the notice stage? And so on.

At this point, you might realize that these stages can be further broken down into additional sub-stages. That’s OK. We recommend working with your sales team to get a good, clear grasp of what the stages look like in reality, because every organization is different. For example, the framework for a company with field sales representatives will look different from one that primarily sells an e-commerce product. The stages, the time spent in each stage, and how prospects move through the stages will be different—which means the marketing tactics needed will be different as well.

Mapping Your Customers and Prospects Against the Marketing Framework

Once your stages are well-defined, you can begin mapping where current prospects are in the framework. This can be a revealing exercise. Naturally, the number of prospects narrows as you move toward the center of the hourglass…but it should not go to zero before hitting the “partnership” phase. If no one is reaching that phase, then there is an issue or roadblock at a previous stage.

Likewise, pay attention to where customers are at the bottom half of the hourglass. If you are not growing your current clients, unearthing further needs and leveraging them for future opportunities, then your hourglass is looking more like a funnel—and you are probably leaving money on the table.

By looking at where your current prospects and clients are and comparing numbers, you can get a sense of the degree to which your marketing framework diverges from an ideal one:

Unaware(Potential Market): 10,000
Grow10% revenue increase0% revenue increase
Advocate10 referrals0 referrals

Thinking Through Customer Needs

So you can see where customers are getting stuck—this is where the “holes” are in your marketing framework. How do you diagnose what is going on?

To do that, you will need to think about customer need at each stage. What does the prospect or customer need when in the connect stage? The partner stage? The grow stage? Try to identify what they are trying to do, and what they think success looks like. This is where any market research or customer voice sessions you have executed would apply. 

For example, at Pace, we know that in the notice stage, a prospect will recognize the need for external resources to develop and launch marketing campaigns. If a marketing director already has the internal resources needed to execute important marketing projects, then she will not qualify as a prospect for our services. Once acquired as a customer and wowed by our services, the need would change to determining how Pace could help fill other gaps in her marketing program. Defining the need is crucial to putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. It is about understanding them and how they will benefit from your services. 

Once you understand the prospect or customer desires, you can begin to define the business goal around those needs for each stage. This is where you define how you, as a business, are going to respond to the desire in each stage. What is the goal for that stage? 

As an example, the unaware stage goal would be to build brand awareness while the connect stage would be to define the client’s desires and match those to existing products or services. Once a prospect becomes a client, the goals shift to ensuring a smooth onboarding process or highlighting customer success stories to drive referrals.

Identifying the Tools You Have

The next step in building your marketing framework is to consider the tools you already have. I love this step because, many times, clients have tools they need already! They have simply been sitting dormant and unused. It can be fun to unearth those tools and, with a little refresh, have them take on a whole new life in the marketing toolbox. 

So, to start, take an inventory of your organization’s existing tools. These can be things like:

  • Product brochures
  • Advertising commitments
  • Your company website
  • Email lists
  • Email marketing platforms/e-newsletters
  • LinkedIn accounts
  • Demo videos

Many of these tools will be relevant at multiple stages. For example, your search engine marketing tactics will apply to your unaware and notice stages. Your website will apply to connect, and beyond. I encourage you to take the time to dig through your files or collaborate with co-workers on this stage; it’s a good exercise to unearth old pieces and see if they fit in the framework or need to be abandoned. We often find in this step that a client has more tools available than they originally thought!

This step is crucial for diagnosing what is going on in those glaring holes identified above. For example, if there are no tools for the onboarding process, that is a huge opportunity to improve the marketing framework and retain clients.

Identifying the Tools You Need

Finally, we get to the place for new ideas, your Marketing Tools Wish List. This is a place where you and your team can brainstorm on how to fill the gaps in your marketing framework. What stages are weak and need more support? What stages need more attention based on the strengths and weaknesses of your organization or product?

Once you have your ideas on paper, that gives you the opportunity to review the feasibility, budget, and priorities around the new tools needed. Taking an agile approach, your marketing team can begin executing the creation of a few tools over the next two weeks and then revisit the list to prioritize the next, most vital needs.

Getting Help with Your Marketing Framework

Remember: A simple framework that gets used is better than a more complex or nuanced one that never gets off the ground. Don’t get stuck in the trap of doing “deep dives” and complex discovery that actually impede moving to the next step.

One way to do this is to outsource part of the process. It can be a huge advantage to have a marketing agency review your framework with you—especially because you can leverage their insight and experience in finding these holes in your own marketing. If this is something you would like to do with us, I strongly recommend signing up for our Marketing Physical. Fleshing out this framework is a key step of the physical!

Recent Posts

How to Get Started with Advertising (Online and Offline)

Advertising seems deceptively simple. A creative person creates an ad, and then you pay someone—a magazine, a radio station, Facebook, Google, a billboard owner—to run your ad. If that was all there is to it, getting started with advertising would be simple. But of course it isn’t that simple, because

Read More »

Finding “Holes” in Your Marketing Framework

There are many ways to conceive of and organize marketing activities. One of our favorites is our marketing framework, which tracks customer journeys against marketing goals and tools in place. Whereas many marketing firms think of these journeys as forming a funnel, we think of them as being hourglass shaped,

Read More »

How to Get Started: Social Media Marketing

It might be every social media manager’s dream to go viral. But honestly, in most cases, there is no overnight success. Building a strong social media presence requires planning, time, and consistency. For businesses to drive successful social media strategies, there must be a balance between thinking ahead and capturing

Read More »

We and selected third parties use cookies or similar technologies for technical purposes and, with your consent, for other purposes. You can consent to the use of such technologies by using the “Accept” button, by closing this notice, by scrolling this page, by interacting with any link or button outside of this notice or by continuing to browse otherwise.