The imagery of a funnel is often used to describe the process that targets go through for marketing and sales.  But it’s not very accurate.  A funnel is technically used to control the flow of something.  Eventually, everything that goes into the top of the funnel will flow out the bottom.  While I applaud the optimism that every target will become a sale, that’s just not realistic.

A better analogy would be a sieve.  Or a funnel that someone poked a lot of holes in.  What happens in reality is this – you send out a marketing campaign and you get some people to respond.  Those people are going to be at varying stages in the buying cycle, or maybe not even in the buying cycle at all.  They may be at an early stage or they may just be browsing around thinking about future products and services.  Or just keeping up on what’s going on in the marketplace.  They may be your competitors or students.  There are going to be lots of people in that first group who you just don’t want to waste your time on.  So your next marketing materials or sales interaction will ideally start to weed out the people who are going to be good prospects vs. those that aren’t.  You get a little leakage out of the funnel or sieve.  Each subsequent conversation should weed out a few more of your original leads until you get down to the very best targets who are highly likely to purchase your product or service.

If you don’t have a leaky funnel, you probably aren’t doing a good job at narrowing in on the best targets for your sales team.  Your sales team has very limited time to interact with your targets, so you want them spending their time on the very best ones that are likely to buy.  If you are just sending them every lead you get, they are probably spending way too much time chasing bad leads and are likely to resent you in the process.  Your job in marketing is to make sales more efficient and help pinpoint the right leads for them to go after.

You won’t always get it right.  Sometimes you will filter out someone who will go buy from your competitor and sometimes you will keep someone in the funnel who shouldn’t be there.  But that’s okay – this is an iterative process.  By doing this over and over again and measuring every step of the way, you’ll figure out how to improve your funnel and just where to poke the holes to make it work well.

So next time you get a conversion rate of less than 100% from one stage of your funnel to the next, applaud your success in helping focus in on the right leads and just keep measuring everything.

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