SMASH THE FUNNEL The Customer Journey Redefined for The Digital Age

An interview with Eric Keiles, about the book “SMASH THE FUNNEL The Customer Journey Redefined for The Digital Age” that he co-authored with Mike Lieberman.

The Customer Journey Redefined for The Digital Age

Your Sales Funnel Has a Fatal Flaw. It was invented over a century ago. No wonder it’s not working like it used to! You need a new sales funnel  to drive company revenue in an age when internet has changed buyer behavior so dramatically.


Why was this the right time for this book?

Right now we have a big problem going on in the marketplace where there’s tons of sales and marketing folks that just can’t hit their revenue targets and they’re not understanding why this obstacle to hitting that revenue target is there. The smashing of the funnel or getting rid of the old way of thinking about a sales funnel is a great way to open up a new way to think about how I can structure a buyer’s journey and make people flow through the system so that at the end of the day we get the sales that we’re looking for. So at the end of the day, we’re just trying to help sales and marketing people think differently about their sales marketing efforts.

What’s the big idea behind the book?

Well, I think the big idea behind the book is that the funnel, the top, middle and bottom funnel that we’ve all come to learn and use in sales and marketing was actually invented in the 1890s and 100 plus years later, people are still referring to it, even though the internet has changed buyer behavior so dramatically. All we’re trying to do is to get people to understand based upon that change in buyer behavior, here’s the way that you can now match up the way you sell and market to those folks.

Any examples of the new way of looking at things?

So the old funnel used to be top, middle and bottom. The top is where you tried to attract people. The middle is where folks were considering which one of the options they can go for and at the bottom they picked a company and now they’re trying to negotiate a deal. The problem with that is it’s very linear and it doesn’t take into account all the factors that people today use to make a decision. And I’ll give you a quick example.

Let’s say you wanted to buy a car before you would go from car dealer to car dealer doing your investigation. Then you would narrow it between a Ford and a Chevy. You would decide that you actually want a Chevy. You’d go in, negotiate the deal and sign the paperwork. But now you don’t even know all the models that are out there. Your brother-in-law is telling you about one car. You’re reading safety content about another car. You go into an agency and you realize that the monthly payment is more than your budget. Then something else happens and you drop out of the situation. Then your kid is going to now turn 16 and they get your car and you have to buy a new car and it’s this wild cyclone of information that is swirling around everybody, which makes it very difficult to make an easy decision.

So in Smash the Funnel, all we’ve done now is taken the three-step marketing funnel and we broke it in to eight steps. Pre-awareness at the top, so that you can give information to people who don’t even know you’re out there. Awareness if they’re looking for a solution to their problem. Education is all the content that you provide to educate people as to why you are the obvious choice. Consideration is hey, let me give you some content to compare us to other people. Evaluation is that process where I’m going through and asking questions and talking to folks about you. Then you have the rationalization, testimonials, case studies, referrals and things like that. Then you actually make a decision. And then there’s an opportunity there to even sell more to people as they go, as they become your customers and you follow with them in the customer service area.

So these eight little spinning areas enable people to jump around. We show you how to take people through and get to the end where they obviously start writing checks.

How do these steps apply to a business?

So let’s say your business needs new software and you’re going to spend $100,000 on software. Well, if you know you have a problem, maybe you talked to trusted advisors, maybe you talked to some consultants, but maybe you don’t even know you have a problem where some good content can poke at your emotion, realizing that your production line is slow or your systems are outdated.

So there’s this top of the funnel where it’s not just I’m looking to make a purchase, but I don’t even know what my options are out there. Then as you start to get into it, you research different software that you might utilize. But here’s the problem to business owners, sales and marketing people as well. The internet gives us this warm blanket of an amenity that we can do all this research out there without ever revealing ourselves to this software company that I’m interested. I could look at their website, I could look at user reviews. I can go to and see what their employees are saying about them from the inside without ever revealing who I am.

So now I’ve decided that I’m going to take advantage of some content. So I convert, I give my contact information in exchange for a free report, a white paper, a tip sheet. Now that company can start a conversation with me about why their software should be a good choice. But my colleague over on the other side of the country says, “Wait, you’re considering that software. We installed this one.” Now I jump out. Now I start my search on a new piece of software. And this is how this whole cyclone effect. If you think about Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as she’s trying to get into the basement, everything is swirling around, the trees are flying through the air and her little dog’s running around, and that’s the way people feel today when they buy something. There’s just so much information and they don’t want to make the wrong decision.

So for software companies or anybody selling anything, you really want to make sure that you can provide the information to take people from cyclone to cyclone in a very organized way so that at the end it results in a sale.

Does a vendor need to create content for each step?

That’s exactly right. And the content is different. It also depends upon the decision makers because they put out a recent report that says that decisions in B2B, a large ticket item purchases can range anywhere from four to seven decision-makers. Now, so the way I talk to a CIO is completely different than the way I talk to a purchasing agent. So I actually need parallel sets of content to make all those people feel safe in the decision making process. It gets to be quite complex.

How can I determine what type of content I need?

It’s not about the content, it’s about the buyer. So if you look at it from the perspective of persona. Let’s say I have two groups that I’m selling to, I’m selling one product to sales managers and I’m selling another product to IT people. While understanding the persona, we also have to understand what kind of content, how they like to receive their content and so forth.

So for IT people, they want data, they want charts, they want lots of content. But if I’m selling to a sales manager who’s not a technical kind of person, I want videos, I want infographics, I want webinars because well they receive their information in different ways, and then what I’m saying in that content, also make sure that I consider the persona because I want to poke at their emotions and make sure I’m plucking at their heartstrings so they know that I understand their problem and I can provide a solution. So that kind of strategy work is very important because if you want to get the results you’re looking for, you got to put in the hard work on the front end to produce the right content, right story, right offers and so forth.

What is the key takeaway from the book?

The takeaway is by far to think differently about how they structure the buyer’s journey. People now think about marketing on one side of the building and sales is on the other side of the building and they’re complaining about each other not living up to their obligations. But really the takeaway is that sales and marketing work together now. The alignment of that helps them all kind of pull on the rope in the same direction so that they’re getting what they want out of their energies.

And customer service often gets forgotten as a source of revenue as well. So if you put now sales marketing and customer services into a flywheel, our goal is to make sure that it’s organized and it starts to spin as quickly as possible so it throws off the revenue we’re looking for.

The big takeaway is you just have to think differently. No longer is it that you have salespeople that are like hey, what can I do to put you into a Chevy and marketing people that are creating brochures and collateral? It really has to be a concerted effort to create a buyer’s journey that takes people through in a seamless and effortlessly way.

What are the challenges to thinking differently?

There’s many challenges because when you have old school thinking, that old school thinking is a little bit of an obstacle, right? We have to think like the prospect. Too many people talk about themselves and they don’t really stand in the shoes of the prospect. If I asked you about your children, you could talk about them all day. The second I started talking about my children, you’re polite for a minute or two and then you kind of zone out because it’s not about you anymore, now it’s about me and it’s the same day with marketing. Getting people to flip flop their thinking and their communications to stand in the shoes of that prospect is quite challenging, but the end result is when you do do that, you get much, much better results.

Eric keiles

Eric Keiles

Book Author

Eric Keiles “walks the walk.” He has founded and grown four companies since 1997 and is immersed in the entrepreneurial world, most recently as Cofounder and Chief Marketing Officer at Square 2 Marketing. A well-known public speaker and writer, Eric produces weekly Video Marketing Minutes, hosts Square 2 Marketing’s workshop series, and edits a weekly marketing newsletter that reaches fifteen thousand entrepreneurs. His mission is to help business owners think differently about their sales and marketing efforts. Eric sits on the board or volunteers at several professional organizations and has been an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) for almost ten years. He lives in Doylestown, Bucks County, PA, with his family.

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