A couple of years ago, what was considered a niche term is now well-known thinking in the tech world.
Every marketer is now implementing some kind of funnel even if they are not aware of it.
In fact, the most simple version of a funnel is something that anyone who has ever worked on customer acquisition would agree on. It aims to generate customer awareness, get the prospect to consider making a purchase, close, retain and ideally refer new customers.
It's something that even Mad Men advertisers in the 60s were doing with their Samsonite campaign. They created large banners on the streets with a clear marketing message in phase one: 'Silhouette is you...slender, fast-paced, daringly elegant.'
Before phase one finished, they launched ads on large national networks with the largest audience of middle-class/bourgeois customers.
Some would say that in today's growth marketing world, it has become much more complicated than that. They would also say that we shouldn't think in terms of funnel anymore but that each company should create its own flywheel or growth loop.
The point of this article is not to argue about marketing funnels, though.
We will show you what most major operations think in terms of funnels. It's not even a choice sometimes: it's the key to survival.
1 - Special units in most armies
Suppose you've ever been curious about how special units operate, you will probably know that achieving the objective is not an easy task.
Well-trained special units are constantly dismantling their final objective into several milestones that can be achieved through many different paths.
For each milestone, several paths or theories allow them to be prepared for most situations in advance.
Identifying and segmenting these paths allow them to minimise risk and have a clearer view of how they can consistently achieve their objective.
Let's make it visual, and for the sake of this example, let's assume the following:
- A unit needs to reach objective A.
- Objective A is located on another side of the city.
- They have three ways to achieve it. They may or may not encounter enemies on their way.
Each way is a possibility. To make a decision on which path to follow, they are going to analyse which one presents the lesser risk. So there will be the following hypothesis; 'if there are enemies on route 1, can we escape?'
Based on the information they have, this unit will measure and decide the best way to reach Objective A.
By the process of elimination, we can improve our decision-making process. Whether you are comparing information or data, we can apply the funnel approach to various situations.
2 - Surgeons and Doctors
Even in a situation where someone's life is at stake, doctors also need to gather as much information on a patient to make a diagnosis.
This is why tests and exams are made so that medical practitioners better understand what is actually going on.
Let us illustrate how the if/then/else condition apply in this sector.
A patient presents a series of symptoms which overall are known of 2 different diseases. Each of the illnesses requires specific tests. Based on these results, doctors will know which illness the patient is actually experiencing.
If the test results for the first one come back positive, then we'll know how to treat it. If they come back negative, then we will run the tests for the second disease.
By understanding the situation, we can deal with it accordingly.
Yes, the if/then/else statement is also used in programming for conditional statements to handle making decisions. Some might argue that life is full of if/then/else expressions. All decisions to be made by human beings can be boiled down to this statement format.
3 - Criminal Lawyers
We are all 'wired' to decide on something following a specific event. Say somebody commits a crime. What will happen following the offence?
A lawyer will start defending their client once the crime has been completed. They don't prevent it from happening. Therefore, a criminal lawyer's job begins once an event occurs, if you think about it. In a marketing funnel, we'd call it the "trigger".
Throughout the trial, their whole strategy will be built and adapted to a series of if and then. Suppose you have watched any lawyer-focused tv series, like Suits or The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. You will be able to glimpse into how lawyers build a defence strategy.
A defence lawyer will gather as much information as possible to create this strategy.
From the convicted person's narrative and what they recall from the events, the defence's approach will also rely on external factors:
- The reliability of the witnesses for the prosecution
- The reliability of the defence witnesses
- The community's attitudes towards the crime
Additionally, lawyers rely heavily on conditions that will be updated as data and new information is unsealed. The evidence used by the prosecution and the jury's identity and personal history, lawyers, cannot uncover all the possible outcomes before the trial. As strong as a defence strategy can be, if/then and else are used throughout their whole mission.
Funnels aren't merely a tool used by marketing and sales teams. At some point or depending on the decisions to be made, we all inadvertently explore this approach.
Whether you are breaking out the pros and cons list to make a decision, there's no significant difference in the approach these teams will take between a funnel and a flywheel.
The essence of both concepts revolves around the same core principles, onboarding new customers and avoiding churn. For both a funnel or flywheel to function effectively, the more in sync your teams are, the better your business's overall performance is.