Skip to main

The Traditional Marketing Funnel Is Dead—Use This Model Instead [Infographic]

Authors: Will Ostedt Will Ostedt
Posted Under: Digital Marketing
Listen to this Article

The Traditional Marketing Funnel Is Dead


An experienced fisherman will tell you that some fish will bite a baited hook when they are hungry, some bite it because they are curious, and some bite it because they are angry.

The fish’s motivation can literally change with the wind, water temperature, cloud cover, air temperature, and a myriad of other reasons that most of us will never care to understand.  But, the fisherman just keeps trying different areas of the lake, and different baits and lures until they find the right combination. Even the smallest tug on the tip of a fishing rod is enough to develop a strategy for landing that world record clunker. They patiently work all areas of the lake with all different types of baits and lures.

As digital platforms continue to change the marketing landscape in real time, all marketers can take a cue from the fisherman. Recognizing that purchasing power has shifted to a new, more digitally savvy generation, and is no longer the brand’s path to define, it’s time to cast your marketing net differently.

Heave the traditional marketing funnel aside because the digital marketing era demands a new model: the Pathfinder Model.

What Is the Pathfinder Model of Marketing?

The powerful brand that once proudly led legions of followers down a road to conversion has been trampled and pushed to the side by a faster moving generation of consumers that know precisely where they want to go and how they want to get there.

Not for the weak, the new path is filled with sharp, jagged turns, zig-zagging roads, strewn with bright and shiny distractions and is lined with the charred remains of once great brands that fell victim to a lack of focus and downright refusal to adapt.  Only those that are nimble, agile and able to stay the course will complete the ultimate test of brand survival. 

Most importantly, as a brand, you must realize it is no longer your path, it is the consumer’s path and you should be lucky enough to join them on their journey.

It is no longer your path—it is the consumer's path. Click To Tweet

One more time because this is important:  It is the consumer’s path and you should consider yourself lucky to be a part of their journey.

Your days of building paths are over. Now you are a pathfinder.

The Three Types of Consumers

The Pathfinder Model of Marketing assumes that there are always three basic groups of consumers, each with different motivation and knowledge levels as it relates to problems and solutions.

The Educatables

Visualized as concentric circles, the outermost rung is those audiences that are unaware or indifferent to a specific problem. They have very little motivation to fix a problem that does not exist in their minds and therefore, has minimal knowledge of any potential solutions. We refer to this low motivation and low knowledge audience as the Educatables, as they require messaging that educates them on the primary problem before they will become interested in learning about a solution.

The Persuadables

The middle ring is occupied by groups that are highly motivated by a problem, but they have minimal knowledge of the available solutions. We call them the Persuadables, as they should be more susceptible to messaging that guides them to a solution for the problem they face.

The Convertables

Finally, in the innermost circle, is where the Convertables live. These are groups of people that are highly motivated by a problem and possess a high knowledge level of the available solutions. Because this group has a pressing need and is likely in the process of weighing the pros and cons of each solution, successful messaging is usually focused on communicating the features and benefits of your solution.

By defining the audiences by their motivation and knowledge levels, we can then develop marketing strategies for each ring and aim to turn Educatables into Persuadables, and Persuadables into Convertables.

Step 1: Cast Your Messages

Start by casting a set of messages to the outer ring of Educatables, until you find a section of the audience that nibbles. Data-driven digital marketing allows us to analyze the response data and then determine the messages that work – the first step on the path.  At the same time, develop a set of messages that resonate with the Persuadable audience, and then do the same with the Convertable audiences. Follow the data and you shall find the key to winning the fickle consumers’ brand loyalty. 

Step 2: Code Your Messages

Each message is assigned a code based on the variation of the message and the category of audience it is meant to target.  For example, a message coded as E3 might be the 3rd variation of a specific message that is targeting the Educatables audience. Message P2 would therefore be a second variation of a message targeting the Persuadable level and so on.

Utilizing the response data that is easiest to ascertain through digital marketing tactics, we can make assumptions about an audience’s propensity to respond to certain combinations of messages. Each audience subset may have its own unique code based on the response and retargeting data for each message. For example, if we know that most of a target audience that responds to message E3 will then also respond to message P2, followed by message C1, then the messaging code is E3-P1-C1. Each code tells a story that can be recorded and stored with the supporting data for future use both online and offline as needed.

By analyzing response data for each message, and then implementing a retargeting strategy, we are able to see a clear, data-driven path to conversion.

Unlike the traditional funnel model, the Pathfinder Model accounts for both: the change in the way audiences consume messages and the way they are targeted. The model allows and expects for deviations in the consumer path. It understands that some consumers may nibble on the outer rungs before they finally decide to take your message. In this digitally-focused conversion model, unlike the traditional marketing funnel, we are not so quick to discard an audience set just because they do not respond right away. All data is good data as we develop a precise blueprint for finding the right audience and the right path forward.


The Pathfinder Model is about letting consumers show the brand the correct path. It’s a freeform model of marketing that conceptualizes brand interaction and embraces consumer behavior for a digital world.

And now for the infographic…

Pathfinder Model Infographic

Article Banner Image

Get our best tips. Join the smartest marketers who receive our twice monthly update.

Join the Social Pros LinkedIn Community

Join a community of real social pros doing social media on LinkedIn. Receive all the inspiration and ideas straight to your feed and add your thoughts to the conversation.

Follow Social Pros on LinkedIn

Subscribe to Social Pros Podcast

b2b influencer

Ready to Get Started?

I am looking for...