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Marketing as Ecosystem (Not a Funnel) [Infographic]

by Ann Handley  |  
December 19, 2011

I love the word "ecosystem" when it refers to attracting and nurturing new customers via content, search, and social media—because it nicely conjures up the kind of balanced approach required to do it well. It also dramatizes how this approach is not a funnel, but rather, a circle.

You can have killer content, for example, but if you haven't optimized it from both a search and social perspective ... well, switch to writing novels and call it a day. Similarly, you can impeccably optimize pages that will bring you boatloads of traffic like Ellis Island once attracted immigrants. But if the content they find on your pages is useless and salesy or your approach is all one-way broadcast, that's a crying shame. Or you can have a sweet social presence, but without good content to nurture ... well, you get my point.

So, I particularly like this infographic from Volinsky Consulting on the Inbound Marketing Ecosystem because it nicely lays out the interconnectedness of content, search, and social in a Lion King/Circle of Life kind of way. (Plus, it throws in marketing automation for good measure.)

Particularly gripping for me is that last point and final takeaway: Leads acquired via this content, search, and social mix cost 62 percent less than your average inbound lead.

Is that overstating things? I don't think so, but you doubting types can see the research that backs up that claim here. I also love the handy content-tactics chart.

Do I agree with all of this? Not exactly. For example, I don't know who the 28 percent of companies are that think trade shows have become less important in the last six months, but I'd like to have a stern private word with them. Jeanne Hopkins, VP of Marketing for Hubspot, muses that online strategies are more efficient and less expensive than in-person events. That's true, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. I don't see in-person events and online events as hostile suitemates ... but working nicely in tandem. In other words, it's not either/or---it's both.

But I digress. The infographic is terrific. So here it is. View. Enjoy.

Inbound Marketing Ecosystem - Infographic

Created by Volinsky Consulting

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Dan Hinmon Mon Dec 19, 2011 via blog

    Great snapshot of the content/marketing environment. One of the nicest I've seen. Thanks!

  • by Slavik Mon Dec 19, 2011 via blog

    Thanks Dan!

  • by Michael Katz Mon Dec 19, 2011 via blog

    Hi Ann! Thanks for the example. I agree, more accurate, definitely, than a funnel.

    But maybe they serve two different purposes? The thing about a funnel (or flow chart, or anything that suggests movement) is that it leads people to act on it (i.e. moving prospects/clients through the funnel).

    So while it's a HUGE oversimplification, I find that most businesspeople - particularly those for whom marketing is strange and confusing - need a huge oversimplification in order to know what to do next.

    What do you think?


  • by Andrew Tue Dec 20, 2011 via blog

    I agree with you, Michael. While this infographic is undoubtedly more thorough and presents a deeper understanding of the bigger picture, the funnel analogy solves the problem from a different angle. Both are useful in my estimation. So instead of "let's kill the funnel" it should be "let's look at this infographic and not just at the funnel." There is indeed power in simplicity.

  • by Ann Handley Tue Dec 20, 2011 via blog

    Thanks for chiming in, Dan. I liked it quite a bit, too.

  • by Ann Handley Tue Dec 20, 2011 via blog

    Hi guys - Thanks for chiming in here. I think the reason I like the ecosystem vs. the funnel is because of the way that it presents the relationship with and journey of the B2B buyers as an evolution, and not simply a straight line. I also like the way that even AFTER a sale, the relationship continues in the circle, and doesn't simply stop.

    But that said, I can see your point, too. Well, points. And anything that oversimplifies is definitely something I can get behind. I like simple. :)

  • by Tzivia Wed Dec 21, 2011 via blog

    I wonder if a less linear image would work better than a funnel. After all, prospects come from multiple directions, loop back for more information, and check out other sources while during the buying process. A lot of loops here; the funnel doesn't really reflect the 'ecosystem.'

  • by Frédéric Abella Fri Dec 23, 2011 via blog


    Thank you for this terrific infographic.

    It looks to me as a part of the agile commerce concept of Forrester by Brian Walker. You may know that, but it worths a look (



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