The death of the sales funnel
The perspective behind the mainstream approach to marketing and accordingly to digital marketing is to create attention, to create eyeballs to feed the sales funnel. That perspective is heavily biased towards the selling side. Its point of view starts with sellers, not buyers. Everybody knows the old saying in advertising: half of the money spent on advertising is wasted. We just don’t know which half. Google has radically reduced the amount of money wasted. But it too produces a lot of wasted expenses because of the inherent, systemic inefficiency of the sales funnel process transforming attention only marginally to leads, and leads only marginally to buyers. The high cost of this process is not normally questioned because the low-returns nature of sales and the sales funnel are taken for granted.
Digital marketing is really about reversing the sales funnel
Digital marketing could reverse the sales funnel and develop business, starting in a people-/context-centric way from the intentions of the buyers, and not from the intentions of the sellers. If you are present on Facebook and if you listen to what people say via Twitter, you hear buyers notifying the market of their intention to buy all the time. It is called demand-side advertising. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, there are still very few sellers who think that it is worthwhile to have a social media presence and to be attentive to this reverse advertising: the digital demand funnel. They are stuck with the sales paradigm of yesterday, the physical world.
But the digital demand funnel does matter. Markets are essentially digital networks of communication. The nodes of the network are people and the links between the nodes are conversations. This is where reputations are earned and reputations are lost. Brands are more about reputations earned in those live, everyday conversations than about the messages bought from advertising agencies to transmit brand promises.
Digital marketing succeeds best if the old ideas of attention are complemented with new ideas of participation. Every company today should know where the conversations that matter take place, and how to take part in a value-creating way. Digital marketing should not only be about creating company sites and marketing messages. It should be about participation in social media.
The challenge is to be where your customers are and to join the conversation.