Hey marketer, let’s flip your funnel

Your brand tree was perfect, your content strategy rocked and you micro-influenced the hell out of Instagram. But you’re just not beating the competition. What’s going wrong? Chances are, you’ve got your thinking upside-down.

Question: what’s wrong with this picture?



Fig. 1 ah, the good old funnel.





Answer: nothing. And everything. This is just one example of the many funnel models. They all start with something like Reach, Attract or Awareness. They all end in a tiny triangle for sales or conversion.

As a media or direct marketing model, it’s fine. Send 100 people sales letters, and maybe 5 will buy something. Broad up top, narrow at the bottom. Makes sense.

Here’s the problem. This inverted pyramid is also an accurate reflection of many marketers’ process.

You spend most of your time, effort and money at the top. Building awareness, generating interest. Strategy meetings, brand positioning sessions, thematic campaign pitches. Relatively little attention is given to the end. You know, where the ROI is supposed to be.

The thinking: if you get the top right, great sales results should follow automatically. Ah, but  they don’t, do they? Now you’ve spent a lot of resources changing minds. But you’re not changing behaviour.

As the saying goes, a marathon is won in the last mile. More often, that’s where it’s lost. Most shopping decisions are made in-store. In that very small triangle at the bottom. But wait – wasn’t the end of the funnel the purpose of the whole thing?



Fig. 2

Let me flip that funnel for you.





As Covey said: start with the end in mind. If you plan a trip, you start with the destination and work back from there. Now apply that logic to your marketing strategy. Start your thinking with the first moment of truth, where people pick and buy your product. Or not.

What influences their behaviour? Habits? Laziness? Are they overwhelmed by choice? Swayed by what others seem to prefer? Are they looking for the very best? Or do they choose defensively, picking whatever feels least risky?

Insights and models from behavioural economics, combined with some research will answer those questions. And once we know, we can work our way up. And build a complete marketing strategy that delivers results.

Or maybe we can just solve the problem with some smart, cheap nudges at the point of purchase. Of course, you won’t get THAT advice from agencies specialized in content platforms or TV commercials.

Small adjustments in the amount of choice and the way it is presented have been known to have a major impact on sales. As have smart ways to present prices. In other words: You can change behaviour without changing minds first.

Then a change in brand perception can follow from that. It often will. Humans tend to act irrationally, on impulse. And then post-rationalize their choices. It’s human behaviour.

It’s also very human to hold on to habits and ways of working that have grown outdated. If you want better results though, it may be time to start by changing your own behaviour.