The failing funnel: where this model actually fails

  • Robin Janssens
  • 26 / 01 / 2024
Leestijd: 3 min

A strong brand story not only reaches new customers, it keeps your existing customers coming back. A distinctive brand binds the public to your organization. They become fans of you. Ambassadors of your brand.

In a previous blog, we dove into the "audience journey," the journey your audience goes through from getting to know your brand to purchasing your product or service. The "funnel" that your audience goes through helps build on your brand story and address the needs of your audience at any given stage.

However, there is one shortcoming of this funnel, which becomes especially noticeable in longer purchase processes.

The Funnel Paradox

The one major shortcoming of the funnel? A funnel works like a funnel, and what is once at the bottom of that funnel stays at the bottom of that funnel. In other words, the audience is output in this model.

Let's face it ... actually, you want your customers to be so happy with your brand that they come back for more! Existing customers are input, rather than output.

After all, they are a good gauge for that pressing question: what needs does your target audience have?

From funnel to circle

In 2018, Mike Lieberman en Eric Keiles  devised the "Cyclonic Buyer Journey." This model replaces the classic sales funnel and assumes a circular customer journey (or: audience journey), which is particularly applicable to long purchase journeys. These are often more expensive purchases, where the buyer likes to delve a little deeper. Think of a new production line (B2B) or a new TV or dishwasher (B2C).

The funnel-shaped audience journey provides a solid foundation and the same phases therefore recur in the cyclonic journey, but the beauty of a circle: the end is a new beginning!

The Cyclonic Buyer Journey

This model consists of eight phases, as shown in the figure. The phases are roughly assigned to Marketing, Sales and Service, three separate departments within organizations that are collectively responsible for the customer journey. They also include Awareness (See), Consideration (Think) and Decision (Do), but zoom in further on the audience experience.

Want to know more about each phase? We briefly explain each stage at the bottom of this blog.

Content strategy that turns customers into fans

When laying out the content strategy for your product or service, it is important to understand what your audience's challenges are. Even more important is to realize that not everyone is in the same situation.

Your service or product may solve a common challenge, but one customer will perceive the problem as very pressing and want to make an immediate purchase, while another is only just becoming aware of the problem and wants to do some research first.

Create content for (almost) all phases of the cyclonic audience journey and you will respond to the questions that arise throughout the buying process. Are you using your content to help the potential customer further along his or her journey, from (pre-)awareness to purchase? Then you have real content gold in your hands!

Join us in telling your gr8 story

To create effective content specifically targeted to your audience, you will need to understand your audience better than ever before. Content marketing and storytelling can make an impact on your audience at every stage of the cyclonic audience journey, from initial contact to final conversion.

Wondering how we approach that for your brand story? Contact us and stop by for a cup of coffee or tea. We're always curious to hear your story!

gr8 deep-dive:

All phases of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey


There are potential customers who are not yet aware of their challenges or the fact that there is a solution to certain problems, let alone that you can help them with those problems. We call that stage "pre-awareness." With content that triggers and wakes them up, you create awareness. The start of their audience journey!

Awareness (See)

This is the first "active" step of the audience journey. Your potential customer is aware of his or her challenge, and starts looking for a solution. Think about asking around to family or friends for solutions, looking around on social media, or putting search engines to work. An important stage for content marketing, because your solution needs to become findable here!


Once your audience is aware of their challenge or that a solution exists to help them, they will want to educate themselves about the options available. In the cyclonic audience journey, this is considered a separate phase because there is a tremendous amount of content available today. Especially for more expensive purchases or longer purchase journeys, a prospect can take a long time to educate themselves. So from a content marketing perspective, play into this: provide answers to their questions!

Consideration (Think)

Now that your potential customer has gathered all the options and has read up on them, it is time to reduce all those possibilities to a few concrete options. For content marketing, this is a crucial time to offer guidance! After all, you don't want your solution to drop out at this stage. What makes your product or service a better option than the other candidates?


With only a few options left, the critical comparison begins. Your potential customer starts looking at prices, additional benefits and skills that differentiate one provider from another. The job of your content at this stage? Stand out! Your brand story comes together with the potential customer's story. He/she as the hero, you as the one who can provide the necessary support to overcome obstacles.


The Rationalization phase is the stage in the decision-making process that no longer relies on emotions. No, your potential customer wants to clear up some doubts and difficult questions before he or she proceeds to purchase. Think questions about ROI, payment terms, warranties, and the like. On an emotional level, you've already won them over with storytelling and content marketing; now it's time for marketing and sales to work together to overcome the final obstacle. Help your prospect make the decision rationally as well.

Decision (Do)

In this phase, a (potential) customer cuts the knot. He or she makes a decision and proceeds to purchase. From a content marketing point of view, it is therefore important to make this as easy as possible for the customer! Is there a simple application form available, or is the quotation process very complicated?

Ongoing Delivery

You have brought in the (new) customer, congratulations! But, as we said at the beginning of this blog, this is just the beginning... Now it's a matter of really serving your customer. Make sure they become fans of your company, and if they run into a similar challenge... they will always come back to you!