Media & Marketing


Carlos Barge

For about as long as people have been selling products, they’ve been thinking about where to find customers and how to reach them. The classic sales and marketing funnels date back to the late 1800s and provide a simple metaphor to think about the path a customer takes on the way to purchase.

The sales funnel in the figure is a common example of how a funnel can map the journey a person takes from prospect to customer. It can also be used as a starting point in building a journey map.

For about as long as people have been selling products, they’ve been thinking about where to find customers and how to reach them.

Funnels show that people move from becoming aware of a product or company to becoming interested to eventually making a purchase. They provide some clear stages for understanding the customer journey and targeting marketing, advertising, and sales efforts accordingly. For example, it doesn’t make much sense to talk about pricing when people don’t want or haven’t heard of your product.

Just about every marketing organization has or should have a funnel. In fact, the funnel concept of AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action) was at the center of a famous scene with Alec Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glenn Ross.

Organizations likely have different names for each of the stages. The table shows some popular examples of marketing and sales funnels your organization might use. Despite some minor differences, funnels generally share a similar pattern of customer behavior:

a) Contemplate a purchase.
b) Narrow down on a choice.
c) Purchase the chosen product.
d) Experience post-purchase effects.

It’s a theme you’ll use with the customer journey map you create as well. The table compares different types of marketing funnels to illustrate their similarities.

The marketing funnel is a linear process as the metaphor suggests. People start at the large end of the funnel and then make their way through the stages. The narrowing of the funnel conveys the smaller percentage of people who make their way through.

Lean marketing is based on the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which promotes the concept of iterative product design, development and launch. Startups need to identify their “minimum viable product” or MVP, and get it out into the market as quickly as possible, in order to start gathering feedback from customers as quickly as possible.

Marketing can and should be managed in a similar fashion. Wherever reasonable, campaigns should be gotten out the door quickly, with minimum fuss. The days of perfectionism are numbered, since what truly matters is not how pretty the signs are, but how good the product market fit is. Take, for example, running an online ad campaign. Typically you would identify keywords, write some ad copy, create landing pages, and then go live. But creating landing pages can take a lot of time. Depending on how your Web site is run, you may need to work with an outside designer, and possibly even a Web developer. Would you rather wait the 1-2 weeks it could take to get the landing page up and running?

For about as long as people have been selling products, they’ve been thinking about where to find customers and how to reach them.

Why not start with running some experimental ads, leading to the relevant product page on your Web site. During those two weeks you are working on the landing pages, you will gain invaluable feedback by analyzing the conversion of your ad copy, and your keywords. You can then use this information you’ve gained in creating better converting copy for your landing pages.

While it may seem strange to approach a marketing event like a trade show in a “lean” approach, since everything needs to be done in advance, there are still ways to treat a marketing event in experimental modes. For example you can use the event for gathering customer or prospect feedback. You can make changes during the event based on how people respond to your displays and pitch.

Lean Marketing is about being agile, about viewing each campaign or marketing activity as one step in the ever-improving progress towards customer acquisition and ultimately customer satisfaction.

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