How to fix the marketing and sales funnel

Bryony Thomas, Author & Founder at Watertight Marketing
There's a fundamental problem with customer journey planning and the subsequent actions taken by marketers to improve their results. It's upside down. In this half-hour session, Bryony Thomas dismantles the classic sales funnel to create a better metaphor, showing that most businesses have a worrying hole in their bucket.

This excellent session by Bryony spoke through some of her teachings from her book – Watertight Marketing. Heavily recommended and available to purchase now!

Notes from Hannah Silverstein

Bryony began in a rather unconventional way- asking us how we would go about stealing our neighbours cat (disclaimer: Bryony does not condone stealing cats, and no cats were harmed in the making on this webinar).

The point to her question was to illustrate that it really depends on the cat. A reminder for us marketers to know our customers, know what kind of buyer they are, to know about their considered (or impulsive) decision making. Know and understand that they have choices, and that if you want to win them over, you have to be gentle and smart with it.  

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg- or the beginning of the catnip, so to speak. 

Within her book, Bryony outlines four key areas (or pillars/the foundations) of a successful brand/business:

  1. The right work (to whom are you offering what)
  2. The balanced routine (how will you support their decision)
  3. The baseline rhythm (when and how often will you show up)
  4. Maintain momentum (why will you show up that regularly, with what goals?)

Within the webinar, Bryony delved into number 2: the balanced routine. Here it is imperative to know and understand the customer (that cat), and their journey (a.k.a. the customer journey).  

Alike Carrie Rose challenged SEO and PR last week, Bryony also challenges conventions: Bryony challenges the marketing funnel. 

Rather than a marketing funnel, Bryony suggests it’s more like a sales colander, and if you have water (mass market) pouring in, these potential customers are leaking out at every stage.  

To be precise, according to Bryony’s colander (funnel), there are a total of 13 points when customers may potentially be leaking out- and it’s our jobs, as guardians of the customer journey, to work holistically across the brand that we nurture and protect, to identify those gaps, and plug them.

THE KEY THING TO NOTE IS:  with the customer journey, you map it forwards, you look through the customer’s eyes and work through the process.

But as a brand, as professionals, you need to work backwards from where you are as a brand, to where they are as a customer, so there is a complete path to purchase. So with the holes, you start from the bottom, and work up.  

We can replace the funnel with three elements:

  1. The bucket (service) – where we keep the customers that leak out (here the customer service team take care of the customers- holes 7-13)
  2. The funnel and filters (sales)- the win, the customers you catch (here the sales team catch the customers – holes 4-6)
  3. Taps (marketing) customers you find (here it’s the job of the marketing team, to generate leads – holes 1-3)

However as this is a holistic full business flow, as an organisation we support each other. Everyone in the organisation has responsibility in all areas (because this is customer experience). Although the numbered holes are assigned responsibility to certain departments, we all have responsibility to work together to make this work. 

Once you understand the customer journey flow, Bryony suggests we diagnose (using a traffic light system) areas that are red and so really need our attention (where we are losing the most customers), and then we can move our focus on the yellow areas that need our attention next.

*Top tip, you can go to to try it out for yourself.*

‘You need to out think the competition, not outspend’ – the trick is to be smart with it, spend time in the right places. 

As Bryony recommends: start at the bottom (at the bucket), and work your way up.

  1. Forgotten customers- this is your opportunity to utilise your channels and speak to the customers who have forgotten about you
  2. Onboarding process- this is your opportunity to warmly welcome your customers and make a long lasting impression
  3. Emotional connection – this is your consistent and compelling brand that connects to your customers. The values, the visuals and the attraction to the people that should care about your brand.

…..and so on, working your way up through the 13 holes, to identify which areas need the most attention. – And although this was just a small introduction as to what is possible by using the watertight marketing method, we have been inspired enough to rethink our approach to the sales colander, and to focus more on nurturing our customers throughout their journey.

Q and A

If you don’t have a team, and its just you- is there a timeline to complete the watertight marketing process? I will be honest, to do it properly, it takes about a year. My advice is read the book quickly like a novel. Then go back and walk through it, go the diagnosis, go from red to amber to green, then my best advice would be: sell your business!

How often do you assess your marketing plans?Do a big review annually (whole review of all 13 holes), then have a 90 day review period to monitor, tweak and maintain. 

How do you map out an accurate customer journey when there are so many touchpoints?Well, you can’t. You can map one, and you can create moment of purposeful pause (6 stepping stones when people can consider). In reality customers will jump around on the journey- because they are only human. Remember, a customer journey is just a lens- you are not trying to represent the absolute truth. 

You can know your customers, but customer insights don’t always work. Especially not for innovative ideas. Often marketers’ insights are more powerful than customer insight- maybe instead use customers to justify your innovative ideas

Although you challenge that tools aren’t always best, are there any tools you think are IMPERATIVE to marketers? No, tools can be rubbish and also amazing, that is subjective. There is no universal answer, no universal tool.  It is totally dependent on the context- who the customers are, what the company is. There are no absolutes. There is no absolute truth. There is no answer on how you take your goods to market

Watertight marketing is not an answer book it’s a question book. It’s a framework to put your thoughts within and to look at it holistically

Do you have an example of how your watertight method has helped a company? Yes: Audenza. They doubled profit in first year, next time she attended the course, they tripled their profits. It isn’t about metrics in small businesses, that isn’t always useful. However, with the touchpoint leaks, if you approach this measurement tool the same way each time (traffic lights), you will see progress.

Do you have any tips for creating an emotional connection when selling b2b functional service? Quite simply, be human. There is no difference between b2b and b2c, pretty brands or official complex brands. Just be human with it. Use emotion first, logic in the middle, and emotion at the end. 

How do you get past the sales people, or someone who needs convincing? Get them to read the book! Ge the MD or CEO to read it first- or they can go to YouTube and watch the 10-minute video. Then get them into a room, show them the heat map and touchpoint leaks, and talk them through the book and the process.

But what if they don’t know there is a problem? It’s true, often they don’t see the problem. Often, if they believe in WOM and referrals, and don’t believe in marketing- and yes you can build a perfectly good business without marketing– its just easier when you have these tools and you understand it.  Show them from the beginning, the bottom of the funnel- play with the numbers, and show them the compounding interest, and how much it increases as it goes. They will see the numbers, how it increases and then see the value. 

What would you suggest for moving towards better customers i.e. the customers you really want– how do you get rid of crap customers?I use customer characterisations (customer profile), then apply it to the P-P matrix in chapter 11. I use that as my lens to overlay purpose and profit. People who light your soul, and their money- then you overlay the customer segments. Then to you look holistically, the customers that have most value is where you place your emphasis. 

Bryony can be found at, and on Linkedin here.