It’s nice to see two acronyms make friends

Illustration by Stephen Carlson

“We are trying to connect our content to our funnel.”

Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

  • “At least before July the whole focus is getting our actual customers to attend the big conference, but you’d have no idea from the website.”
  • “We swore a solemn oath that we’d never pass around spreadsheets with emails in them. But we’re always passing around spreadsheets with emails in them.”
  • “The CMO now reports to the CTO so that’s weird. And the last CMO was all social all the time but the new CMO wants to know what the hell we’re actually buying and the last CMO is still unemployed so we’re very motivated to solve this.”
  • “We built the big database of customer behavior but no one will update it.”

There’s a thing that does this!

What is a Funnel?

A funnel is just a self-interested triangle. It shows how you bring people into your world and get money out of them. Increasingly when I go to client meetings, whether it’s media or banking, I find myself thinking, “what’s the funnel here?” Here’s a funnel I just drew, it’s roughly how people come to find Postlight. I live this funnel:

General brand marketing > Social/Twitter/Podcast > Events/Newsletter > Email > 1st visit > 2nd visit > Relationships > $$$

What is CRM?

A Customer Relationship Management system is a database designed for persuasion—the software version of a funnel. You put people in the CRM database and then it tells you to do things to them, like send them emails. If they reply to the emails, the CRM keeps track of that too.

An old version of Salesforce found via Enterprise Screenshots.

What’s a CMS?

No heads anywhere!

And finally, everything these days is “headless.” This means that CMSes, CRMs, everything—they don’t make HTML pages for your browser any more. They’re APIs that clients connect to. They produce data, not pages. This means lots of things but the big one is that it’s much easier to smush up two APIs and make something new than it is to smush up two HTML pages.

API is just a fancy way to say “funnel”

So now you’ve taken my CMS and my CRM, which used to be just boxes that I typed into, and made them into APIs. This means we can do all kinds of new things. Let’s say our goal is to get people to come to a big event or conference.

  1. Someone visits our website (CMS) and signs up for our newsletter (put them in the CRM) and stays subscribed for three months and opens the email every single week.
  2. Should we invite them to a special event? Put the event information on our website with a special link (CMS), and tell only the people who’ve subscribed for three months about it (CRM + email API).
  3. Now we know how many people visit the home page, how many of those will sign up for the newsletter, how many of those will keep reading after three months, and how many of those will visit a web page about an event, and how many of those will actually RSVP.
  4. So if our goal is to get 100 people to come to an event but we only got 25 to actually attend, we may need to get 16 times as many newsletter subscribers in order to achieve our marketing goals, and they need to be good subscribers who care.
  5. So we’d better start rethinking how we’re acquiring subscribers and focus on that part of our funnel.

Why now?

I’ve been working in and around CRM systems for 15 years and they’ve always been terrible pieces of software. It’s like they were designed to punish salespeople and make them more annoying.




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