Your Marketing Framework is Not a Funnel: It’s an Hourglass

Sometimes, when a new client comes to us, they have few (if any) ideas about what to do for their marketing. But with other clients, the problem is too many ideas being thrown around at once. How do you organize all those ideas and make them into a cohesive marketing framework?

There is a tool we use in our Marketing Physical that can help: The Marketing Framework Hourglass. Not only is this tool great for companies getting serious about their marketing, it is also a good way to diagnose where your existing marketing efforts are weak and need to be shored up to achieve results consistent with your marketing goals.

And it is incredibly simple to understand and use…once you are willing to drop some assumptions about what marketing should look like.

The Marketing Framework Hourglass

Think of the steps a prospect might go through before becoming a client of yours. They might see an advertisement with your name on it. They might look up products or services like yours online. They might watch a demo video, subscribe to a newsletter, or even visit a trade show booth. How does all of this activity eventually “gel” into a single intent to buy from you?

All of these steps can be viewed as different stages reflecting the mindset of your clients:

Think about the steps above (or, if it helps, think about the things your client might do) and how they move the client through each of these stages:

Unaware: Clients start off unaware of your company or brand. They might not even be aware that they need your company or brand—indeed, they might be only vaguely aware of what their problem is, and how it can be solved.

Notice: The client has now taken note of your company, and perhaps their need for your product or service. This could be a quick notice of an advertisement, or something more sustained. They might not be ready to buy at this stage…yet. But they are willing to learn more.

Connect: Once a client is willing to connect, the relationship-building truly begins. This can happen through content, online communities, or face-to-face meetings. If all goes well here—if the client feels like your company or brand is trustworthy, and truly believes that your product or service will address their needs—they will soon be ready to buy.

Partner: The client has decided that your company is the right fit for them. This is the stage where business is transacted, which might include onboarding, continued education, and ongoing customer service, depending on the complexity of the offer. These are crucial, as the partnership stage is where clients will see if the business truly is who they say they are. They want to feel that the picture painted in previous stages reflects how the company actually does business. If there is a match, the relationship will continue to solidify.

Grow: Your job is not done once a prospect becomes a paying client. You will want to grow the book of business from that client. This usually involves unearthing additional needs and up-selling or cross-selling the client.

Advocate: There are many ways to leverage a happy client! Testimonials and case studies, for example, can help highlight your clients’ positive experiences. But nothing beats a client sharing their experiences on their own, through either reviews or word-of-mouth referrals. A single satisfied client can easily bring in two or three new prospects a year. And, in one study reported by the American Marketing Association, customers who were referred to a business generated higher margins and were more loyal than non-referred customers, resulting in a customer lifetime value that was 16% to 25% higher. In short: Satisfied customers turn into more, and more profitable, customers over time!

One final note: As you explore the hourglass concept, feel free to get more detailed, breaking down these broad stages into finer and finer sub-stages based on your clients’ own customer journeys. (In fact, this is a great exercise to do with your sales team.) Once you get into the nitty-gritty details, every company’s hourglass will look a little different; for example, a company with field sales representatives will look different than a company with an e-commerce product. Starting off simple is fine…but you will get even more clarity as you dig into the hourglass and make it your own.

Marketing Tactics Move Prospects and Clients through the Hourglass

Prospects, and eventually clients, will naturally move through the hourglass as the result of your marketing efforts. For example, if you wanted to move more people from a given stage to another, you might consider the following marketing tactics:

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

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 opportunities

Likewise, if your current marketing efforts are not generating the results you had hoped for, it is probably because your prospects and clients are getting “stuck” at one of these stages. A good look at your data might reveal where the bottleneck is. Or, you might have an idea by looking at the above tactics: It might be obvious, for example, that all your marketing efforts are aimed at getting prospects to notice you, but none are aimed at getting connection or partnership going.

Most Marketing Campaigns Fail Because Marketing is Not a Funnel

Most discussions of marketing plans talk about a marketing funnel. But if you think of marketing as an hourglass, you realize that the funnel is only half the story. Coming alongside clients, partnering with them, growing their spend, and eventually turning them into advocates is just as important as getting new clients in the door…and they are all steps that require marketing (or at least, the need to mesh with the overall marketing plan).

In short: Don’t ignore the bottom half of the hourglass.

It’s often repeated that the cost of acquiring new customers is four to five times higher than the cost of retaining existing customers. Now imagine if you didn’t just retain those customers, but started growing them? And after growing them, you turned them into two more customers? This is why we picture the Marketing Framework as an hourglass: Toward the bottom, you are not losing prospects as they become (dis)qualified, but rather building a bigger book of business as customers stay and grow.

Start with Your Own Diagnosis

If these examples are enough to get you started with your own framework for your own business, go for it! We use it here ourselves at Pace Marketing, and it is always a useful and illuminated tool. That said, it can be hard getting started if you are not used to thinking like a marketer, or if you and your team just have too many ideas in the mix. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, we highly recommend taking our Marketing Physical. The Marketing Physical includes the Marketing Framework Hourglass and other tools, designed to diagnose your marketing and prescribe next steps to get it into peak condition. You can schedule an initial Marketing Physical consultation right now!

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