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Scott Brinker of MarketingLand wrote today on the death of the marketing funnel.

Given the recent fluctuations in the SEM climate, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But it does bring to mind the idea that some truths die. The marketing funnel was a truth. So, too, was keyword data.

It is no secret that the dynamics of the digital marketing realm (and by effect, traditional marketing avenues as well) have witnessed and been subject to zig-zag patterns – leaving marketers all too often in positions of defensive or reactive maneuvering. This is even true for those who work to be proactive in strategy, implementation and execution.

I think Brinker sums up the inequities of the marketing funnel nicely:

Yet despite its ubiquity, the funnel isn’t a particularly flattering shape for modern marketing.

It fails to take into consideration the powerful feedback loops between existing customers and newly arriving prospects that search and social media have wired up. It has no notion of repeat business or strengthening an existing customer’s account. It writes off people who end up choosing an alternative solution — when, in fact, those relationships still have value, too.

What Happens When Truths Die?

The world doesn’t stop. At the end of the day, clients don’t really care about what has happened with algorithm changes or protocol. They care about results. They care about what we are actively doing to better their situation. They care about what we will do to minimize the risk that future changes will not leave them in the dust.

This is a tremendous level of responsibility. As marketing experts, we are entrusted with our clients’ welfare. We are expected to deliver results, despite external (and as we’ve seen of late, extremely influential) factors.

New opportunities present themselves. Where there is a catastrophe, there is an opportunity. This may sound a little too silver-lining-joyful for you, but that’s the reality. It may not be the opportunity we would have chosen, but sitting around with a woe-is-me attitude doesn’t work in our favor. As professionals in this field, we are experienced, knowledgeable and creative. Certainly, we must heed the advice of industry leaders. But we shouldn’t let that keep us from exercising our professional instincts. We all know the problems – let’s focus on the solutions.

We get back to the basics. Specific to the Google-ings of late, some of the fundamental guidelines that once held muster with the Behemoth no longer do (URL anchor text, guest blog posting/commenting, etc.). But in all actuality, many of the basic tenets of search engine marketing still hold true. Google has always said it is interested in providing the best possible results to searchers. That’s the fundamental tenet. Some of the mechanisms for achieving that goal have changed, are changing, and certainly will continue to change.

Should that stop us? No. Flippin’. Way. Google wants to have it’s own social networking platform? Fine, let’s find a way to use that to our advantage. Google wants to expand its knowledge graph? Ok then, let’s figure out how we can work with the development team to implement structured data into our sites.

Why Does It Have To Be So Much Work?

Matt Cutts recently said:

I believe, if you ask any SEO, is SEO harder now than 5-6 years ago, I think they’d say it’s a little more challenging. You can expect that to increase.

This, comrades, is the nature of the beast. We have experienced a bell curve of SEO activity. A great many people, who previously had no experience, jumped on the SEO bandwagon. Some used black-hat trickery for short-term gains. Some used ignorance. At the end of the day, those of us who have tried for positive, quality work ended up paying the price.

It’s going to get harder. It’s going to require flexibility, and time, and education. It’s going to be a lot of learning and growing pain.

For a while, it’s probably going to stink.

But if we stick with this – if we can pull our resources and identify upcoming trends and adjust our protocol proactively, I think we’ll be better for it.

Some Truths Are Timeless. Some, Well, Aren’t

Maybe the marketing funnel, in concept and iconography, is dead. And I accept that. A funnel is an easy visualization for people to wrap their heads around. It provides marketers an outline for how to attract customers and increase sales.

But the foundational ideas behind the funnel are alive and well. The funnel has historically been the mechanism for developing strategy. As a shape, it fails the modern marketing community, and the consumer communities yet more.

I believe faith can be restored in this ideology. Maybe it will require a different shape. Maybe it will redefined as a process or workflow.

Maybe when truths die, we just need to find another truth.