Marketing funnel, Sales pipeline, Buyers Journey… whatever it’s called, there is a whole funnel process that everyone goes through when they are making a purchase decision.

The problem is, we often forget that it is a whole funnel and this negatively affects our business.

So, here are key things to remember when thinking about the funnel / pipeline / Buyers Journey, to ensure you’re adopting whole funnel thinking rather than getting stuck on just one or two parts of it.


1. Remember: All stages exist – accept it.

Whole funnel thinking begins with the acceptance that there is a whole process going on and that a stage can’t be missed out (click here for a reminder about what these stages mean).

Once you accept that all prospective clients have to go through each stage, it becomes easier to have joined up thinking.

For example, it transforms  a marketer from someone who thinks, ‘How can I increase brand awareness?’ to someone who thinks, ‘How can we increase brand awareness, which means people are interested enough to read our articles, and how do we then keep them in our funnel until they are ready to think about buying from us? What do we do with them once they have bought? How do we encourage and retain their loyalty – whatever loyalty might mean for our business.’

Accepting that all stages exist also leads to sensible conversations with colleagues about:

  • what you need to do at each stage (i.e. which marketing tactics to use)
  • who in the business looks after each stage (you might have to outsource some bits)
  • where the handovers are (how smooth are they?)
  • how to make all interactions with your business a seamless experience for the prospects and clients (does it feel like one journey for them or is it obvious it’s broken up?)
  • how long it takes for a prospect to go through the whole journey with your business – more on that in point 4!


2. Remember: Whatever the language, its the same process.

You say Lead, I say interested, you say Prospect, I say Considering… As the legends Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Amstrong sang, let’s call the whole thing off.

Instead of being hasty, remember, whether you’re using Sales Terms or Marketing Terms, we’re saying the same thing and describing the same process.

Sales Terminology is focussed from an internal point of view eg I choose to download the brochure so to the Sales Team I’m a Lead now.

Marketing Terminology looks at the actions the prospective buyers are taking and is more external looking eg I choose to download the brochure because I am at the ‘Interested’ stage of the Journey.

Same action, different way of looking at it. Understanding this is crucial to Whole Funnel Thinking as it allows us marketers to work better with our colleagues in Sales and Account Management when we realise we’re all wanting the same thing.


3. Remember: Figure out the role of Marketing

As a marketer, what are you responsible for in this funnel? Where do you hand it over? When / if do you take things back? And who is keeping an eye on the whole funnel, making sure it’s all running smoothly?

Our role as marketers is often to ‘pull’ people into our organisation’s funnel, keep them in there with our interesting and useful content, and get them as close to a purchase decision as possible for our business model.


In a purely digital business or those with a less complex purchase decision / sell, eg where sales are made online and with no or minimum people interaction, marketing takes on the role of ensuring the sale happens then encouraging the clients to remain loyal with a plan of great ongoing customer communications.

In a business with a more complex or considered purchase decision / sell, marketing’s role is to deliver good leads to the Sales / Business Development people, who then take these leads and convert them to customers. Customer Loyalty communications might come back to the Marketing Team or, if you are in a large enough business that might go to an Account Management role.


Us marketers need to clearly establish:

  • the stages we are responsible for
  • the handovers to other Teams
  • who is looking at the Whole Funnel still.

This is where small businesses can often fall down because people do a mixture of roles and tasks across the whole funnel, but there is no one person looking after the entire pipeline / funnel and making sure it’s all happening.

Whole Funnel thinking is crucial here as otherwise, leads / interested prospects can not get followed up or given the right level of information at the right time to keep them in your funnel – and they then disappear.


image of an hour glass with sand pouring through4. Remember: The Temporal length of your funnel

Whole Funnel thinking means understanding how long it takes for a person to journey through your entire funnel / pipeline. This allows marketers to be realistic about when goals can be achieved i.e. when a sale will be made.

For example, if from the minute a person becomes aware of your business to them becoming a client takes 3 months, your sales targets have to account for this temporal disturbance. Yes. I watch too much sci fi. But it’s a serious point. I meet marketers who are being put under pressure to deliver leads and sales quicker than is actually possible. If it takes your audience 3 months to decide, you might be able to short cut it by a bit but not by lots.

It’s only if when you understand the whole funnel that you can be realistic about how long the Buyers Journey takes to make.


5. Remember: It doesn’t end with a sale

So much is focussed on making that sale. When you adopt Whole Funnel thinking you realise that it doesn’t end with the sale. The next stage is Loyalty or Account Management.

Loyalty is so much more than repeat purchases and retention. Loyalty should never be an after thought. Once you have that customer, look after them so they come back.

And here’s the kicker when it comes to whole funnel thinking…there is no end point. It goes on forever because you want to retain your customers for, well, ever. And if anyone can figure out how to incorporate the infinity symbol (lright) and the Buyers Journey, let me know – because that is more realistic than a funnel with an end point as the symbol!


Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant with KMS Marketer and tutor in Marketing with the Oxford College of Marketing.

Contact her if you want to make sure your business is reaping the benefits from whole funnel thinking.





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