Search: Down the Funnel

December 15, 2011

Here I am in a rat hole of a hotel on my way to a meeting in the pre dawn hours. I click on a headline “Using Search and Social Strategically to Win New Business.” It is one of those odd ball Forbes Magazine articles. I am not sure if the write up is an ad, an editorial, a feature, or a crazy PR move designed to give me an upset tummy.

The idea is that a big company called Siemens figured out how to use search and social media to drive people “down the funnel.” I was baffled. I get the metaphor of a funnel. Dump oil in the big part of the funnel and put the little part in the motorcycle’s dipstick thing. Quit when the crankcase is full. Well, sort of. Here’s the passage that explains Siemens’ method:

o put this idea into action, Siemens Enterprise Communications turned to the experts at gyro to develop and execute the plan to push search and social “down the funnel” and align it against supporting an identified opportunity. Instead of focusing on getting in the consideration set, we set our sights on developing a program to help influence decision-makers at the point of purchase.


The idea was to buy ads and post messages on social networks. The “secret” is explained in this segment:

So here’s where the fun started: We used geotargeting to place ads within a 50-mile radius of the city that housed our prospects, influencers and key decision-makers. Then we used social platforms—Facebook and LinkedIn—to segment prospects and deliver employer-specific ad copy. Our social tactics also helped ensure that our competitor (who could outspend us if they so chose) didn’t see our campaign; essentially, we needed to stay under their radar. In the event that our prospect did not take a desired search action, we used remarketing to continue interacting with customers across the Web through other online content platforms, such as regional news sites and

But if one is under the radar, won’t other people miss the program as well? Minor point.

Three observations:

First, search does not mean information retrieval. Search means something different from my understanding of finding information. This is the search engine marketing type of search. SEO is under pressure and my Overflight system is easily confused with articles about sales, not about locating on point information. Grrr.

Second, there is some sort of tie up going on among the company providing the services (Gyro, an advisor to Forbes) and the article itself. I am not sure what’s what, but this type of case study is what real journalists produce, I am glad I got kicked out of a business class and was forced to study Anglo Saxon.

Third, the notion of using social networks to fool competitors tells me quite a lot about the acumen of the competitors. How can one be confident that a competitor was not participating in the “conversation” and playing mind games with the wizards who cooked up the program.

“Down the funnel” has an intriguing graphic too. I want to stay out of the funnel. Too bad about the meaning of the word “search”. I would suggest that search has gone “down the toilet” but that may be too harsh. How about “down the drain”? Fun.

Stephen E Arnold, December 15, 2011

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