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The Easiest Way To Explain the Marketing Process

Many marketers have been taught the concept of the marketing funnel. The idea being that you bring leads into the top of the large opening in a funnel and push the ones that become customers through the small end. The problem I’ve always had with that is all the focus is on the chase. I happen to think that real payoff in marketing comes from expanding and focusing your thinking on how to turn a lead into an advocate for your business.

Long ago I started using the concept of The Marketing Hourglasssm. The top half indeed resembles the funnel concept, but the expanding bottom half, to my way of thinking, adds the necessary focus on the total customer experience that ultimately leads to referrals and marketing momentum.

I use the diagram below in workshops to explain the logical path a lead should follow to participate in your fully developed Marketing Hourglass. This concept is one of the key elements of the overall Duct Tape Marketing system, but I could conduct entire workshops around this one slide as it seems to be the easiest way to explain the marketing process in simple and practical terms. At a recent workshop an attendee came up to me and said about this diagram, “I’m an engineer by trade and this marketing stuff never made sense to me, now it finally does.” – I guess that’s the ultimate test.

hourglass

The Marketing Hourglass – (click to enlarge)

When you overlay my definition of marketing – “getting someone who has a need to know, like, and trust you” with the intentional act of turning know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat, and refer you get the entire logical path for moving someone from initial awareness to advocate.

The key is to systematically develop touchpoints, processes and product/service offerings for each of the 7 phases of the hourglass.

1. Know – Your ads, article, and referred leads
2. Like – Your web site, reception, and email newsletter
3. Trust – Your marketing kit, white papers, and sales presentations
4. Try – Webinars, evaluations, and nurturing activities
5. Buy – Fulfillment, new customer kit, delivery, and financial arrangements
6. Repeat – Post customer survey, cross sell presentations, and quarterly events
7. Refer – Results reviews, partner introductions, peer 2 peer webinars, and community building

Far too many businesses attempt to go from Know to Buy and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to trust, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.

In order to start your thinking about the hourglass concept and gaps you may have ponder these questions:

  • What is your free or trial offering?
  • What is your starter offering?
  • What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?
  • What is your core offering?
  • What are your add-ons to increase value?
  • What is your members only offering?
  • What are your strategic partner pairings?
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  • MLDina

    The hourglass analogy is perfect to describe the marketing and customer retention process. Once you get new customers, they shouldn't just fall into a pile to be forgotten about until you start a new promotion; you should maintain your customer base and grow your list of fans and advocates.

  • http://www.freshpeel.com Chris Wilson

    Great analogy John. The visual really makes this simple to comprehend.

    I have one question though. Do you think customers/potential customers ever skip any of these steps? Are there products or services in which all of these steps aren't necessary or barely happen at all?

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks Chris – do I think people skip any of these? Sure there are no absolutes, but I also find that if you don't have these in place or customers skip through them because their golf buddy says, “you're it” – it can lead to a bad customer, because part of the process is that they come to know, like and trust the way you do it and that's why they are willing to pay a premium – so even if you could get people to skip many of these steps, I've found that you don't want them to because it's how you train them to be great customers.

  • http://www.freshpeel.com Chris Wilson

    That's a great point John. It's about laying the foundation for a long term relationship, not a one time sale. I think we can too easily forget that.

  • http://twitter.com/todd_allison Todd Allison

    This is a great way to think about it. Most people do try to skip right from know to buy. Their marketing messages should not try to get people to know you and buy all at the same time – messages should be crafted to move people down the funnel.

    A customer must know you before they like you, and like you before they trust you. This to me is all about giving the right messaging at the right stage of the funnel.

  • http://redcort.com/timeclock Keith DeLong

    We use a similar set of concepts calling it a pipe instead of an hourglass. Once the segments were understood and refined, we added a key additional question: “How do we facilitate movement from one segment to another?”

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Keith – definitely a key point – how to move people along.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Dave Evans has a similar hourglass approach (though he doesn't use that excellent term). He breaks the “Repeat/Refer” portion of yours into three distinct goals, what I call “conversions”:

    * Get them to use it (follow up email maybe)
    * Get them to form an opinion about it (let them see what others think)
    * Give them a way to Talk about it. (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Reviews, Ratings, email)

    These goals can apply to the purchase of shoes and the delivery of a white paper.

    Brian Massey
    The Conversion Scientist

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com davinabrewer

    I like the hourglass metaphor too. Just curious, from your graphic, where do you the taper, the tight squeeze before things expand towards the bottom? IMO there may be 2:
    1) The first between Know/Like when folks are kicking the tires, deciding if your product is right for them or if they are ready to move on and
    2) The tight squeeze is around the Try/Buy juncture, when actually money/time/commitment is involved.

    I'll certainly keep this image, and your smart questions in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com davinabrewer

    I like the hourglass metaphor too. Just curious, from your graphic, where do you the taper, the tight squeeze before things expand towards the bottom? IMO there may be 2:
    1) The first between Know/Like when folks are kicking the tires, deciding if your product is right for them or if they are ready to move on and
    2) The tight squeeze is around the Try/Buy juncture, when actually money/time/commitment is involved.

    I'll certainly keep this image, and your smart questions in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com davinabrewer

    I like the hourglass metaphor too. Just curious, from your graphic, where do you the taper, the tight squeeze before things expand towards the bottom? IMO there may be 2:
    1) The first between Know/Like when folks are kicking the tires, deciding if your product is right for them or if they are ready to move on and
    2) The tight squeeze is around the Try/Buy juncture, when actually money/time/commitment is involved.

    I'll certainly keep this image, and your smart questions in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/adamds Adam Di Stefano

    John, the analogy of the hour glass is the perfect tool for explaining the entire marketing process. I feel like this is a concept I've been trying to distill for easy presentation for a long time, and this analogy really brings it home.

    The biggest issue most businesses face is that when they concentrate on only the top half (the funnel), they often end up sabotaging the bottom half of the hour glass. It's really easy to do that when you're not including the whole progression in your thought process.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Here's how I've tried to boil the issue down in a presentation format. My “hourglass” is on its side. This still-evolving presentation is focused on social media, but I think any media can be applied to it.

    http://budurl.com/SocConvRate

    I'd like your thoughts.

  • rachelmathews

    The hour glass model makes much more sense than the old funnel model – gives me more to aim for! Thanks for spelling it out!

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I suppose where you taper is a matter of individual businesses but in most cases somewhere between trust and buy – that's why I love the try phase so much – it can be an actual profit center or additional lead converter.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I suppose where you taper is a matter of individual businesses but in most cases somewhere between trust and buy – that's why I love the try phase so much – it can be an actual profit center or additional lead converter.

  • markallenroberts

    Great post,

    The key is to make sure you “chase” your market in a way that has continuity with your brand, unlike what Chase Bank did last month. You can read about it on my blog: http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/09/

    Mark Allen Roberts
    http://www.outbsolutions.com

  • LotusJumpAndrew

    great points and great questions for reflection. thanks for framing this up nicely with your hourglass.

  • http://www.safehomestrategies.com/ Apx Alarm665

    I like the way you present the post.Very clear and useful for a newbie like me. It really helped me a lot, will be referring a lot of friends about this. Thanks a bunch for sharing such a great and interesting post with us. Keep blogging.

  • rnbresearch

    I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting as well as very informative, i was need such type information, which you have submitted. I really thankful to you, this posting help a huge number of people. Great … Keep it up!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andee.sellman Andee Sellman

    Thanks for the great concept of the marketing hourglass.
    Really love the way you have simplified what can be a very complicated process

  • http://www.hoffmanmarcom.com/writing-white-papers.php White Paper Advocate

    As everyone else already said, great analogy of the hourglass to describe the marketing process. I was particularlly intrigued when you mentioned “far too many businesses attempt to go from Know to Buy and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to trust, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.” – I couldn't agree more. In your model, one great way trust can be delivered is through white papers. I think white papers are an often overlooked business tool that can be exponentially valuable in solidifying a company as an industry expert.

  • http://www.more-for-small-business.com/ Kris Bovay

    I have a number of clients in the business of developing and launching new products – so they've built in the 'trial' phase to their new product cycle. Other clients do very well through the buy cycle. Then many of them weaken: repeat and refer seems to be the challenge many face. As marketers, it's our job to help them move forward.

  • http://www.securitysystemsreview.com/ Apx Alarm

    Great post. The visual really makes this simple to comprehend. I think this is the great way to think about it. This post will definitely help the newbies as well as the experience holders must. Thanks a lot for sharing such a great and informative post with us. Keep blogging.

  • http://www.freeapxalarm.com/ Apx Alarm.3

    Wat to say… no words left. I would like to say thanks for sharing such a great and interesting post with us. Keep blogging.

  • http://www.creativebrandmarketing.co.uk xposure

    I like it. It fits in beautifully with the concept of branding. The idea of turning potential customers in to brand advocates.

  • http://www.4net-technologies.co.uk/ Managed Services

    Thanks for the great concept of the marketing hourglass.Really this is a nice post i hope all these information of this blog are so much useful for a newbie like me.Keep blogging.

  • http://www.cymphonix.com/ContentFilter.html Content Filtering

    Thanks for an insightful post. These tips are really helpful. Again thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.Keep up the good work.

  • Name

    Interesting diagram…but does it confuse marketing with sales? This seems like a sales funnel because it feel svery one way to me. Where is the reciprocation & dialogue with your consumers?

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I don't think it does as sales is a function of marketing, so yes, it includes sales as part of the marketing puzzle. Know, like and trust is never one way, so not sure what you're missing.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I don't think it does as sales is a function of marketing, so yes, it includes sales as part of the marketing puzzle. Know, like and trust is never one way, so not sure what you're missing.