The missing post-purchase funnel

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Martha Rzeppa

12. 11. 2013 | 4 min read

The missing post-purchase funnel

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Marketing wisdom taught us that it’s 10 times cheaper to grow an existing customer than to acquire a new one. But hand on heart, how much are you doing right now that’s fully dedicated to your existing customers? Probably not that much, really.

When you google “post-purchase funnel”, the results are pretty disappointing. The majority of the funnels stop at the actual purchase. Great.

When you google “post-purchase campaign” you get some suggestions, but most of the ones I found are saying that “yeah, some of your marketing efforts should definitely focus on post purchase. The key is to build a relationship. Keep them engaged. Send some emails. Conduct some surveys.” Thanks, that’s really helpful.

Especially in the world of marketing automation and content marketing, we are so crazy about “nurturing the prospect through the funnel” with the right top/middle/bottom of funnel content. But to be honest, not many of us develop dedicated nurture programmes that focus entirely on the customer that has already bought from us. (Yes, it hurts to admit it. Mea culpa (sometimes). A great “post-purchase” example we did though is this Citrix campaign.)

So what happens to this hot prospect we often obsess about, once he has been nurtured through our funnel?

You may say that you just start at the top again and will be re-nurtured through the funnel until you are ready to buy the next product/service or to upgrade to a next version. But can we really treat someone we already have a lot of data about the same way as we treat prospects we only have an email and a download or two from? And must we still  “educate” them about our brand as much as we’d normally do with a prospect?

I think not.

You may say that the funnel “opens up” again. You know the “you use the product, start talking about it (if it’s not completely shite) and then become an advocate of the brand” theory. Maybe that’s true. It sounds plausible. But talking about us is not equal to buying more from us. Advocating might be attractive for new prospects but not as effective for growing our existing customers. And even if we assumed it would, what would this mean for our content marketing programmes?

The question I’ve kept asking myself for a while now is what does this post-purchase funnel really look like and what’s the content mix we need?

Now the disappointing moment: I have no clue, really. (Booooooooo!) All I know is that it’s a bloody challenging endeavor. Why? Because I am (not literally) shitting myself just thinking about what would happen if I didn’t respond to my data correctly (you know à la “Dear Mr. Martha” or the “selling something that’s just completely off from what I am interested in” trap) or if I didn’t use the data I already have at all.

It’s a fine balance between serving the right content at the right time and completely messing it up. And this time, more is at stake. It’s really scary. And tricky. Especially, because the last people you’d like to piss off are your existing customers.

My approach to marketing life in general is that when you don’t know the answer to a question you test, test, test.

My first attempt could look like something like thisB2B Funnel

(Hint: No, it’s not an elephant eaten by a boa constructor. And, also not an upside-down Christmas tree. Try again.) 

Ok ok. Here’s the less abstract version:
B2B Funnel explained


And work like this:
An alternating mix of top and middle of funnel content to test the next-interest waters. Once we think we’ve triggered stronger and repeated interest in a particular area (which should happen sooner than the first time around), we then slowly move the customer-prospect into a dedicated bottom of funnel stream. Not too risky. But we gain some additional insights into what our customer-prospect might be interested in.

It’s important that we actively start thinking post-purchase and invest more of our efforts in getting this stage of the funnel right. Because if we don’t, we miss a great opportunity. It might be even the first step to losing our dear customer.

Let’s recap the main message of this post again: it’s 10 times cheaper to grow an existing customer than to acquire a new one.

So why the hell aren’t we working more on it?


Note: If you have tested any post-purchase campaigns, have thought about this challenge or just have an opinion about this topic, it would be great to hear from you in the comments section below. If you have an alternative funnel, please do share it with me at [email protected].


Published in:

  • B2B Funnel

  • b2b-marketing

  • content-marketing

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  1. Michele Linn

    November 25th, 2013

    Great post, Martha. This is something I think about as well, but, like you, I haven’t cracked the code. As one example, I think Evernote does a nice job providing useful content to its customers (even though the base product is free). Their blog is focused on how users can get more from the product – and it introduces them to other products as well.

    Would love to hear other people’s examples as well!

  2. Martha Rzeppa

    November 26th, 2013

    Thanks, Michele. Evernote is a great example of a company engaging with their audience on the web. I wonder if they’re continuing the conversation in their lead nurturing programmes and if they are, how they’re using their data to inform what type of content to use.

    Something to keep us busy next year.

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