If you've been using the traditional marketing funnel, you may have noticed that it doesn't work as well as it used to.

Maybe it's all the marketing and advertising noise that bombards us from everywhere--including that cellphone that's always at our fingertips.

Maybe it's because consumers nowadays are a lot more media-savvy than before.

Whatever the reason, we need to do marketing differently.

Some businesses have tried to adapt by increasing their advertising budgets. Or by trying platforms that are more creative, more engaging, more "viral."

But maybe the problem isn't our budget or the platforms or media we use. Maybe the problem is deeper than that.

The problem is we treat all our prospects the same way, even though they're on different tracks on their journey towards becoming customers.

Either we take a broad approach, trying to appeal to anybody and everybody, hoping something will stick. Or we only reach out to "warm" markets who are already looking for the solution we provide and are one trigger away from making a purchase.

The broad approach makes us spend way too much money and effort to get precious few buyers. And the warm approach makes us miss the opportunity to reach those who are early in their buying journey.

One Itch, Three Different Responses

Funnel expert, Scott Oldford of INFINITUS, proposes a better way to think about marketing funnels. Scott calls it the SSF Method and it entails creating different funnels for people who are on different lanes: the sidewalk, the slow lane, and the fast lane.

People on the Sidewalk fit the demographic of your target market. However, they are still largely unaware of the problem you can solve for them. They're experiencing the problem, alright, but they're not yet at the point where it's a nagging itch they want to scratch. They don't know about you (and don't care), and so they're far from being ready to purchase anything from you.

People on the Slow Lane are aware of the itch. They're starting to scratch, and they want to find a solution before it gets worse. But they want to make an informed choice. As such, they're actively seeking information and looking up to authority figures to show them the way.

Finally, people on the Fast Lane are acutely aware of the itch. In fact, it's keeping them awake at night, their skin is raw, and people are beginning to stare. So they're ready to purchase a solution, as long as it meets their needs and overcomes their objections.

How to Market In Three Lanes

As you can see, people on different tracks have different needs, so putting them all in one funnel is neither the most efficient nor the most effective way to do it.

"Deliver an experience that will be so relevant, your lead won't be able to say 'NO,'" Oldford advises.

And the way to be relevant is to create a separate funnel for each of the three tracks. That means your job is different for each funnel:

Don't ignore those who are on the Sidewalk. Get in their radar and show them what will happen if they don't take care of that itch soon.

For people on the Slow Lane, your job is to become the authority they're looking for.

And for people on the Fast Lane, your task is to overcome their objections and show them how you're the best option they have to get rid of that itch, once and for all.

The funnels are also connected to each other: it should naturally lead people from the Sidewalk to the Slow Lane, and from the Slow Lane to the Fast Lane.

SSF Method Scott Oldford

Rethink Your Marketing Funnel

Think of the three types of prospects you have: those on the Sidewalk, Slow Lane, and Fast Lane.

Review your existing marketing funnels and ask yourself:

How can you make yourself relevant and useful to them on each track? How can you move the ones on the Sidewalk to the Slow Lane? And the ones on the Slow Lane to the Fast Lane? And how can you facilitate the conversion of those in the Fast Lane to become paying customers?

This exercise alone will lead you to exciting new insights. So go ahead, rethink that marketing funnel.

Published on: Sep 13, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.