We hear the concept of a ‘funnel’ being referred to regularly in both a marketing and sales context. It [obviously] refers to how a business (or process) takes an audience in its broadest sense, applies a series of offers and treatments to them and then enhanced commercial engagements drop out from the bottom.

On the surface this makes sense. As a business, you want enhanced commercial engagements with the right audience. But I just don’t think the funnel is the right analogy for the point in mind – at least not for everyone.

My kids love gardening. Well, they love playing in the garden and with the gardening tools. And, of course, with water. I can think of few that don’t. So watching them play in this way at the weekend got me thinking about the whole ‘funnel of excellence’ thing.

If you take a watering can without a sprinkler rose and pour, it dispatches water pretty much in the way that a funnel does. You quickly over-saturate a small patch of ground and create a big muddy splodge. The seeds you’re hoping to nurture probably get washed away, or at best drowned. But when you use a rose, you get broader coverage of a larger area, and allow more to flourish.

The same happens with sales funnels. Everyone dropping out of the bottom – post treatment – gets treated more or less the same. The force of the messages they’re subjected to can also be arguably too fierce, so they get scared off or don’t always mature into the optimal customer engagement they might have otherwise.

And then I think about what we’re doing with customer interaction, next best action, real-time decisioning, predictive science and the committed pursuit of the ‘segment of 1’: we’re working to nurture and flourish as many appropriate commercial opportunities as we can. But at the pace they want to and in the way they want – on an individual level, with care and attention from the provider.

Just like a watering can?

The funnel is dead. Long live the watering can!

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Rob Mcleod

Head of Digital and Customer Experience at Comet Global Consulting

Rob leads the Digital and Customer Experience function within the Strategy and Insights practice at Comet and is Principal Consultant at Standard Life. He is passionate about positive customer experiences and committed to using insight to drive value and effective ROI through the marketing process. Rob has extensive cross-sector experience, including Financial Services, Travel and Tourism, FMCG and Media, with over 15 years working at the forefront of strategic communications consultancy, digital and integrated marketing.