Traditionally, hospitals do have a funnel. They touch many people in a community and offer many interrelated services. However, speed and scale are the coin of the realm in the internet economy. So it’s no surprise that new entrants in healthcare are aiming to take the healthcare funnel to a new level—to create a funnel that is exponentially broader, more attractive, and more engaging. For these new entrants, the funnel business model is deeply embedded in organizational culture, capabilities, and strategies. Virtually every major business decision these companies make has the goal of achieving a more active funnel. For hospitals to be a competitive force at the top of the funnel, they will need to have this same strategic orientation and discipline.
Much of this is steeped in buyer psychology. The best marketers in the world know that there is a psychological process that must occur for prospects to whip out those credit cards and turn into buyers or even hyper-active buyers. One such person whose perfected this process is Russell Brunson, an "underground entrepreneur" who founded a company called ClickFunnels, a sales funnel SaaS business that empowers marketers from around the world to build marketing automation without all the hassle.
Armed with extensive online information, a modern buyer requires different skills from a salesperson and frequently exhibits different behavior than buyers of the past. A modern buyer may get very excited about a purchase and spend a lot of time in the research phase and then abruptly stop, ending the sales process sometimes without any reason at all. Often, modern buyers want to reduce the friction of buying and using a product to make it easy for them to achieve the value.
Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.
As you can see, each color-coded section of the funnel pictured above corresponds to a stage in the buying process. The widest tier at the top of the funnel represents “awareness,” the point at which potential customers are beginning their information search. The second tier is “interest,” roughly corresponding to the evaluation of alternatives described in the purchase process above. And, finally, the third and fourth tiers, “desire” and “action,” are self-explanatory.
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
For different types of businesses, buyer needs at the problem/need recognition stage – top of the funnel (TOFU) – are different. If you’re running a consulting business, for example, then your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing) or disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting).
There are email warming sequences that include things like personalized value-driven stories, tutorials and even soft pushes to webinars, and of course product suggestions that happen over days or even weeks. The truth is that most prospects won't buy from your website at first glance, especially if they're only just becoming aware of you today. It takes time. Thus, the funnel is a multi-modality process, as there are a variety of relationship-building experiences and "touches" that occur through several stages.