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Sales Funnel vs. Sales Ladder: Why I Hate The Concept of a 'Sales Funnel'

Marketers love lingo, and one of the phrases marketers really like is this: the "sales funnel." Aristotle taught us long ago that metaphors matter... How we think about a problem conceptually will guide our actions.

Sales Ladder vs. Sales Funnel - See Them Jump
So think about the concept of a "sales funnel." What does it imply? It implies that your customers are passive little marbles that can be "driven" down the "sales funnel" as if the "gravity" of your marketing pushed them along. So we start thinking about customers as "passive" rather than "active" and we act accordingly.  

Lazy: as if we can "drive traffic" to our website (another phrase I really hate).

Are customers really passive? Can you "drive traffic?"

So think about yourself on the Web for a moment.  Are you passive? Are you "driven" to a website "as if" you were a marble?  Or are you active: reading, scanning, clicking, thinking, clicking back when you find something you do not like... being skeptical before you fill in that feedback form to get that free download?

Which is it: passive or active?  Are you (or your customers) stupid or smart?

Sales Ladder is a Better Metaphor

That's why I like to think of my customers as pro-active participants in the Web endeavor. They actively scan. They actively search. They actively share (on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). And they are skeptical.

Like salmon swimming upstream, they have a goal in mind. They want to find something, buy something, learn something. But they are anything but passive!  Anything but stupid!

And if the sales ladder I build is too steep (just as if the fish ladder is too steep), they can't (or won't) jump up. So I think of something interesting (and free) for step one, something interesting (and non-threatening) for step two and so on and so forth.

A sales ladder is a better way to think than a sales funnel.

Stop that Sloppy Marketer

Next time a marketer says "sales funnel," please stop them and ask them if they think customers are truly passive like marbles. Sloppy thinking creates sloppy marketing.


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