The New Marketing Funnel is Not a Marketing Funnel, It’s an Emotional Experience


Victoria Rudi


Frameworks are crucial to your marketing strategy, and your marketing strategy is imperative to articulating your budget and action plan. But what if you use the wrong framework to design your marketing strategy? What if you’ve built an entire strategy based on a marketing funnel that no longer works? 

You wouldn’t be the only one, as most marketers use variations of the same old marketing funnel. This funnel has served marketers well throughout the years, which is why most companies still use it. However, times are changing, and the impact of this B2B marketing funnel is decreasing.

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The Reason Your Old Marketing Funnel No Longer Works

Let’s revisit the old marketing funnel. Although it has multiple variations, it usually includes the following stages: 

  • Awareness. This stage focuses on exposing your brand to more people. 
  • Consideration. A stage centered on convincing people to consider your product or service as an option to solve a problem they have.  
  • Decision. The moment when people take the desired action, such as purchasing your product. 
  • Evangelism. This final stage combines loyalty and advocacy. Loyalty involves client engagement and persuading people to keep choosing your product. Advocacy refers to having customers promote your brand.

This digital marketing funnel has become obsolete.

It looks actionable and well articulated, but it misses an important detail: a human focus. The traditional B2B and B2C marketing funnels are corporate-centered; they’re more attuned to a company’s sales cycle than to people’s experiences of searching and purchasing a solution. 

The old marketing funnel treats future customers as faceless leads instead of humans with feelings. This wouldn’t be a problem if it involved frameworks. But most companies (likely yours included) build their marketing strategies around a concept that ignores people’s needs, interests, and frustrations. 

Marketing teams worldwide end up investing resources and massive effort into low-impact actions that lead to negative consequences such as: 

  • Low-quality lead pipeline 
  • Lack of user engagement 
  • Fewer sales 
  • Low upsell or cross-sell rates
  • Customers having no interest in being part of a brand community
  • No raving fans ready to promote your brand

After all, when a company doesn’t care about you, why should you care about it? So, you need to make people feel you care about them when building your strategy.

Image of smiling marketers sitting at a table together with laptops, building engagement strategy

Drive Connections Not Lead Numbers 

To succeed, you need to replace the “C” in “B2C” and the second “B” from “B2B” with “H” for “humans.”

As Dave Gerhardt, marketer and ex-CMO at Drift, noted, whether you’re in the B2C or B2B industry, you’re constantly engaging and selling to people. 

Screenshot of Tweet from Dave Gerhardt about the difference between B2C and B2B.

People’s buying habits are changing as well. As Daphna Andrews, senior digital strategy consultant at Gorilla Group, a Wunderman Thompson Company, argues, “The B2B customer wants to engage with a business they regard as a trusted advisor in making complex purchase decisions online while addressing their unique needs and motivations.” 

In other words, engagement marketing, or relationship marketing, has become crucial to buyers’ experiences. 

People don’t care about transactional engagement anymore; they want transformational experiences. They want to interact with brands that listen to, understand, and meet their needs. 

Instead of trying to make a corporate-centered funnel work, it’s better to embrace the change and shift to a human-centered one.

See if you’re an engagement marketing pro. Take the assessment.

Introducing the Human-to-Human Marketing Funnel

The Human-to-Human Marketing Funnel is based on engagement marketing, which features a framework for building meaningful connections with audiences (leads, prospects, and clients) through a two-way communication channel. 

The old model treats audiences as passive recipients of a company’s marketing messages and campaigns. The new model puts audiences at the center of their buying experience, highlighting the emotional stage that guides buyers toward their desired outcome. 

Graphic showing the Emotional Buyer's Journey

The Human-to-Human Marketing Funnel has four stages: 

  1. Frustration (the old Awareness): This emotion stems from the need to solve a challenge immediately and the lack of knowledge about the solution. In other words, people find themselves experiencing a challenge, but don’t know how to overcome it. Understanding this emotional stage will help you craft the right marketing action plan to showcase and demonstrate how your audience can reach their desired outcome.
  2. Optimism (the old Consideration): After experiencing frustration and learning there’s a solution to their challenge, people enter the Optimism stage. That’s the moment to present the resources that’ll help them get to the desired outcome.
  3. Confidence (the old Decision): Once people feel optimistic about finding the right resources and solutions to their challenges, they’ll be open to seeing what the transformation looks like. Rather, they’ll be ready to purchase your product and reach their desired outcome. 
  4. Gratitude (the old Evangelism): Finally, once people achieve what they’ve expected, they’ll experience gratitude, leaving space for future interaction, customer engagement, and collaboration with the company that helped them obtain their desired outcome. 

As you can see from the names of the stages, we’re moving away from corporate- to emotion-centered terminology and understanding. 

Knowing a buyer’s emotional stages will help you design a high-ROI engagement strategy and identify the right actions to generate meaningful, long-lasting connections with your buyers. 

Group of marketeters smiling as two shake hands

Get Results With the Human-Centered Marketing Funnel

Most marketers today have mastered one-way communication with their audiences. Whether it’s email marketing, social media, content marketing, or website copy, they’re adept at pushing their message. But connecting, educating, and building authentic relationships with your audience requires you to leverage live marketing and two-way communication channels. Otherwise, customers will view your brand as expendable. 

Instead of focusing on pain points, research people’s desired outcomes and identify the internal drivers that motivate them. This will shift your attention toward helping people get where they want to go and becoming a crucial part of the solution they seek. 

In practice, there are many two-way communication and engagement marketing methods, including: 

  • Events 
  • Webinars
  • Educational programs
  • User communities
  • Programs for creators
  • And more

Each of these involves engaging, communicating, and connecting with leads, prospects, and customers at their respective emotional stage. 

Marketers working together, smiling and planing for stages in the emotional buyer's journeyy

Let’s take events and webinars as examples. Events and webinars are excellent marketing engagement platforms that generate positive results across the stages of the emotional buyer’s journey. 

If you design an event marketing strategy, you can adapt it to whichever stage you want to cover. Here’s what that would look like: 

  • Frustration. Attract leads by targeting the issues that trigger their emotional distress. You can run events and webinars that tackle a wide range of topics appealing to your frustrated audience. Subsequently, you could hold networking meetings with your attendees where you help them identify their desired outcome and gain knowledge regarding possible solutions. 
  • Optimism. At this stage, you can run events that teach your attendees how to achieve their desired outcome. Let’s say, for example, you’re targeting founders who experience burnout. Your event should focus on ways to relax and manage time and energy more efficiently, showing them what their desired outcome looks and feels like.This action may then result in a higher number of free trial users. 
  • Confidence. At this stage, you can run product-centered events focused on displaying how your product can bring founders to where they want to go. Later, you could hold networking sessions between your attendees and your sales reps. As a result, you may close sales at your events. Remember that at this stage, your audience is confident your solution is what they need, so they’ll be eager to purchase your product. 
  • Gratitude. Events are crucial to strengthening your connection with existing customers. Use them to reaffirm your commitment to your customers’ success by putting them in the spotlight: You can engage and listen to your customers’ feedback, present new updates, and discuss ways to achieve better results by using your product. This will allow you to cross-sell or upsell at your event, as well as provide the right context to engage your customers in your partnership or referral programs. 
Marketing woman sits at computer and smiles, gestures, to her webinar attendees

When you consider your audience’s emotional stage, you adopt the correct perspective to craft a powerful marketing strategy and action plan to connect and build meaningful connections with your current and future buyers. 

As a final note, if you want to give events and webinars a try, check out Demio, a webinar platform built by marketers, for marketers. Demio implements engagement marketing as its core philosophy, making the platform perfect for interacting and connecting with your audiences. 

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