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Your sales funnel doesn't work: here's why


The world has shifted dramatically in the last 20 years. The sales funnel was designed for the old world of business, not the new world. Your sales funnel isn’t working like it used to, because it’s not designed for today's customers. To see the success we want, rethinking the marketing and sales funnel is something we have to tackle. One way to rethink it is with the Customer Obsessed Filter.

How customers have changed

In the old world the organisation held the information. As the customer we heard what the organisations wanted us to hear. We saw adverts that told us what they wanted us to know. We spoke to sales people who answered our questions.

These old cigarette adverts illustrate it at the extreme...


Now we look to our peers to learn more. We read reviews from apparent experts, we then read reviews from actual customers. If we have questions we ask other customers either via Google searches, forums or review sites.

The marketing and sales funnel was designed for the old world, where the companies and sales people held all the information and as an organisation we had control over our customers’ journey with us.

If you hold onto this concept, hoping it will carry on working if you can just fix something. I have bad news - you’re hoping in vain. The world has changed and it’s only going to keep on changing.


How’s the filter different to the funnel?

From the surface, the funnel and filter look very similar, when you dig deeper you’ll notice significant differences.

In the real world funnels are designed to transfer liquid efficiently from one container to another. Looking at it another way, to force something from one place to another. They work well, are efficient and are a good analogy of the typical function of marketing and sales working to transfer an audience into customers for an organisation. It also helps that the number of potential customers at each stage of the process, tends to represent a funnel when communicated visually.

They worked so well that for years we've been getting pretty drunk on them as businesses:

Image source giphy

The filter is different to the funnel as it is designed to filter the right things through to the next stage and keep the wrong things out. The shape of the filter is very similar to the funnel, however rather than trying to force and encourage as much through at each stage, its job is to encourage the right fit customers through and keep the wrong fit out.

When you combine this with nurturing and education, it also works to transform the wrong fits into the right fits over time.

In current times, where we have much less control over our customers’ journey with us, a filter is a more appropriate analogy than the funnel.

You can also watch a video of the rest of this blog post here:

Reversing our thinking for Customer Obsession

We’re all human beings, so it is natural that our thoughts and ideas start with ourselves. We have personal and business goals that we want to achieve. However, when we take the Customer Obsessed approach, we need to reverse this thinking.

Here’s the usual approach:


Now let's approach it with a Customer Obsessed approach. Start by making a note of the business goal that you want to achieve, then forget it.

It’s time to reverse our thinking

  • Reverse your thinking and bring who you are helping to mind
  • When you’ve defined who you are helping and how you are helping them, think about how you can help them more
  • When you have identified how you can help them more, work out how you can help more of them
  • Then when you’ve identified how you can help more of them, work out how you can increase the value that they receive
  • How many of these customers do you need to help to achieve your goal?


Building your customer obsessed filter

There are different stages that your potential customers will go through, from having never heard of your organisation, to knowing it, trusting it, buying from you and ideally becoming a raving fan.

When your aim is to build a loyal and engaged customer base who are true fans of your organisation, follow these steps to build your funnel.


Question to ask yourself

Help new people

How can we help new people?

Help them again

How can we help them again

Help them regularly

How can we help them regularly (weekly/monthly)?

Help them identify the specific problems you support with

How can we help them identify and understand a problem that we solve?

Help them understand their options to fix this problem

What are the different ways that they can solve their problem? How can we help them understand these better?

Help them understand if your solution is right for them

Help them understand if your option is right for them

Help them buy from you

How can we help them with their purchase questions?

Help them as a customer

How can we help them as a paying customer?



Common ways to help at each stage

Help new people

Online content like blog posts and videos

Help them again

Signposting related content and remarketing related content

Help them regularly

Subscriptions to your newsletter, social channels or content series

Help them identify the specific problems you support with

An offer or tool

Help them understand their options to fix this problem

Email nurture series

Help them understand if your solution is right for them

Case studies / free trial / free sample

Help them buy from you

Frequently asked questions. Free consultation call.

Help them as a customer

Onboarding and customer success service

Similarities and differences to the marketing funnel

If you’ve ever built a marketing and sales funnel, I’m sure at least some of these stages look familiar.

The difference with the Customer Obsessed Filter is that we are helping potential customers self identify at each stage of the funnel and then we’re helping them further.

By helping potential customers at each stage and supporting them to self identify whether they are ready for further help, there is no pressure on taking the next step which makes the experience more enjoyable.

By removing the sales pressure, we create a better environment for trust to be built.

The more trust we build, the stronger long term relationships we’ll nurture.


A great user experience and calls to action still apply

When we use the filter approach it’s important that we take the pressure off the sale, nevertheless, it’s still really important that we create a great user experience and use clear calls to action (CTAs) to signpost the next steps that potential customers can take when they’re ready.

Follow best practice for subscriptions and email marketing. We only want people to sign-up if they really want to hear from us regularly. Remember a highly engaged database, is significantly more valuable than an unengaged database.


Encourage action from low engagement contacts

Create high value offers once a month or once a quarter to distribute to all contacts in your database. These offers will encourage contacts who don’t have the time to engage with your regular communications to raise their hand if they are ready for more support.

Once a month or once a quarter shouldn’t be too much contact to annoy people, but it is enough to encourage action from contacts who are ready. The secondary benefit is that it helps to keep your contact database clean. If contacts’ emails bounce because they’ve changed company you can clean them from your contacts database. You can also review unsubscribes, to decide if they should still be kept in your database.

Steps you can take to implement your Customer Obsessed Filter

  1. Review the reversed approach above and run through it for your organisation
  2. Work through the filter table above and design the filter for your customers
  3. Calculate the numbers for each stage, including conversion rates
  4. Understand if the numbers are going to achieve your business goals, if they aren’t work through the process again, understanding how you can increase value at each stage

The more value you provide, the higher the demand that will be created.

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