DMAIC Funnel

If you search Google, there are 88,800 thousand images for the marketing funnel depicted. All having a little different twist. All of them depicting a systematic way to go from initial contact to buy and many of them adding the referral and repeat stages. I believe a systematic way to manage your marketing should not be an option but a fundamental of marketing. However, with this many options can there be a system?

In previous blogs, you have heard me mention that one of the main culprits is variation and the lack of proper segmentation. We think of segmentation both in a horizontal fashion and a vertical. Horizontal will typically result in segments such as: Direct, Internet, Distributor, Joint-Venture and so on. This funnel allows you to assign different products to each process stage in the hope of maximizing efforts.

However, if you attempt to improve your Marketing Funnel, how would you go about it? Being a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, the Marketing Funnel bears a close resemblance to the DMAIC process of Six Sigma. Not that I am trying to replace the marketing funnel with DMAIC, but it certainly would not hurt to analyze the resemblance to improve our marketing process. And if you know anything about Lean Six Sigma, the one thing we will attack is variation. However, just using some generic definitions of DMAIC and relating them to the Marketing Funnel can create some interesting observations.

Purpose: Identify the clients, their needs and requirements.
Deliverable: State the need of the client (CTS) and the problem

Purpose: Quantify Process Performance
Deliverable: Determine baseline process performance

Purpose: Identify, Verify and Quantify Root causes
Deliverable: Statistically linking input with output

Purpose: Create the Solution and Validate
Deliverable: Optimizing Process Operating Conditions

Purpose: Document and Standardize Process
Deliverable: Meet Critical to Quality(CTQ) consistently (Involvement)

Looking at your Marketing Funnel from the DMAIC viewpoint is not that far-fetched, is it?

Define Stage

Six Sigma or Lean practitioners would view what I say about DMAIC as hardly revolutionary. Marketers may view it as just a way for a Black Belt to find a way to maneuver themselves into some of their market share. I happen to be more of a marketing guy, than a Lean or Six Sigma technician. But I believe that Marketing should be a process and when viewed that way, many of the principles and tools of Lean and Six Sigma start making a lot of sense.

Marketing people view their role as a series of events, task and campaigns versus a process. Not to over simplify but a calendar is a static document and does not support the use of a process. Once you start systematizing or building a marketing process deliverables, stability, variation and measurable results become important. Hence, Lean or Six Sigma can be a significant partner in improving the Marketing process.

Use of the DMAIC process is usually reserved for solving problem with existing processes. Other methodologies, such as DMEDI are used in the design functions and may be more suitable for certain marketing campaigns. In this series of Blog Posts, I am going to concentrate on the DMAIC method.

My early post correlated the Marketing Funnel to DMAIC and how we may use that methodology to walk our customer through our marketing process. The first stage in the DMAIC Methodology is the Define stage. In the marketing funnel the opening stage is usually reserved for the awareness stage. We typically think of this as our lead generation efforts of getting someone to enter our funnel. Even though we may use efforts as permissions style marketing it is still very much a bait and switch tactic. If we truly believe the Inbound Marketing is what is necessary in today’s marketing, using the Six Sigma Define stage opens a more correct way of entry into the funnel.

My explanation of the Define Stage previously:
Purpose: Identify the clients, their needs and requirements.
Deliverable: State the need of the client and the problem

Expanding on this explanation the Define stage typically asks us to start with a problem statement. In the marketing sense, can you define the problem that you solve for your customers clearly? Where the problem statement describes the pain, the next statement should describe the relief that is to be expected. After that, we go into a process that is typically defined as Voice of the Customer. There are typically two major categories that are required; Output requirements and Service Requirements. The output requirements relate to the final product or service that is delivered to the customer. The service requirements relate to how the customer would like to be treated and served during the process.The final step in the Define stage is to document the process. Typically, this is done with a high level process map. Don’t worry about it being completely correct as we will use it and develop it further in the remaining processes.

Six Sigma has some great tools on how to obtain and measure these processes such as Kano Analysis, Process Map and SIPOC . I just wonder why marketers shy away from them.

Measure Stage

Processes lend themselves to measurement. If you treat your marketing as a process, then you should be able to measure your marketing. The define stage answers the question: What is important? The measure stage will answer that question by asking: How are we doing?

I stated in a previous post that the purpose of the Measure stage was to quantify process performance and deliverable was to determine baseline process performance. Without these facts, you will be very ineffective in improving performance. This is the stage which is most difficult for the novice. Adequate measurements in the current state are simply not there many times and as a result we either never get out of this stage be trying to be too precise or we move on without inadequate information that causes us reduce effectiveness of the latter stages. Another common fault is that we start analyzing the data which is the next stage of the process.

Remember that this is a current state not a future state step in the process. Remember, if you think something that you are doing is not measurable, there is someone already measuring it, YOUR CUSTOMER. This brings us back to the marketing funnel and I am correlating the measure phase to the consider phase. In the consider phase, or the like stage of the funnel, prospects are aware of you but now you must prepare them to consider you as a worthy candidate. How do you do that? In the DMAIC methodology we use tools such as Critical to Quality and other tools to determine what is important to a prospect. Instead of thinking about this step from an internal point of view step back and consider what the prospect would use to measure your product or service and make the decision to move through the funnel. Developing measures with customer input will certainly help a prospect move though the funnel.

At this stage, do you know how a prospect is measuring you? What is the most Critical to quality standard that influences your product or service? What is more critical than others? The old saying is that people perform by how they are measured? If your company is based on how they are being measured do you have measurements in places that you are performing too?

This is an area that we taking the process map to a deeper level or developing the current state in a Value Stream Mapping process?

From the Developing and Measuring Training the Six Sigma Way: A Business Approach to Training and Development book, they state that customers’ expectations have three aspects: assume, expected and desired. The assumed customer requirements are the basics and typically are only communicated when the customer is dissatisfied. The expected customers have come to anticipate, certain features from their experience or by observing them in the marketplace. The desired customer requirements, however, are not objectively communicated to the supplier. They represent what desires the customer would really like to have met but does not expect. Some call these customer delights. Could you be scaling yourself in these three areas?

Developing marketing measurements requires a mind-set for accountability. Measurements must be understandable, quantifiable, and economic. Customers objectively and clearly state these requirements and pay the supplier for meeting their explicit expectations. We must be there listening and responding to them. The more these requirements are met, the more the customer is satisfied.

Do you have listening posts built into your processes?
What targets are you meeting?

Related book: What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services

Analyze Stage

The first 2-steps of the DMAIC process answered the questions: What is important and how are we doing? We also considered the marketing funnel stages of Awareness and Consider. The third stage of the process in DMAIC is Analyze and in the Marketing funnel it is Prefer or Trust. Analyzing is about finding ROOT CAUSE to the already described process steps of Define and Measure.

This is also time to reiterate that the thinking process must be about the external prospect or customer. Are listening to your prospects requirements and measuring yourself on how you are performing based on those requirements? Have you properly identified, verified and quantified the root causes of their pain and statistically linked input with output? If this seems mind boggling, you are at the proper stage. Now, is the time to make sense of all the data and confirm the validity of it? However, this is the time that so-called common sense can get in the way. Even at the most basic level of Six Sigma training, examples are given of problems that when reviewed, the data seems to point at an obvious answer. It is an eye-opening experience when you input the data into a statistical program such as Mini-tab and see the results. If you would not have analyzed the problem correctly, you may have been working on a problem that did not exist and as a result have little impact. Remember the old adage, numbers do not lie! However, garbage in will equal garbage out, verification of the data is extremely important.
Using a high level process map or as I prefer, a Value Stream Map is important. The visualization of the process will help as you analyze the data. The first several times you do this, it may only involve several simple tools such as a Fishbone Diagram and/or a Pareto Chart. This is also the stage we look at Value-Added activities. We can very often find many things that are adding little value from the prospects point of view at this time. Sometimes significant reductions that will pay for the entire improvement policy can be found in this stage.

As a prospect, I may have entered your funnel with a specific problem and now determined that you are someone that I should consider. It is time for me to analyze your organization and start developing preferences. How does marketing react to this role? Marketing at this time needs to identify root cause. I believe that it is very difficult for a prospect to move from consider to prefer without having their root cause addressed. If you start with the definition of the problem you are solving and take a marketing segment or even an individual prospect and using a tool such as the fishbone diagram, you will be able to determine whether you product or service addresses root cause. If it does not, is there a reason to continue with this customer? Is it a good fit? Maybe, there is a better product or service you should be offering?


The Fishbone Diagram, also known as the Cause and Effect Diagram or Ishikawa Diagram, is a graphical construct used to identify and explore on a single chart, in increasing detail commonly using the 5- Why technique, the possible causes which lead to a given effect. The ultimate aim is to work down through the causes to identify basic root causes of a problem.

A Pareto chart, named after Vilfredo Pareto, is a type of chart which contains both bars and a line graph. The bars display the values in descending order, and the line graph shows the cumulative totals of each category, left to right. The purpose of the Pareto chart is to highlight the most important among a (typically large) set of factors. In quality control, it often represents the most common sources of defects, the highest occurring type of defect, or the most frequent reasons for customer complaints, and so on.


Improve Stage

The first 3-steps of the DMAIC process answered the questions: What is important, how are we doing and what is wrong? We also considered the marketing funnel stages of Awareness, Consider and prefer. The fourth stage of the process in DMAIC is Improve and in the Marketing funnel it is Evaluate or Trust. Now, we get to the stage that we have been waiting, create the solution, validate and optimize the process. Or, in simpler terms, what needs to be done?

After all the hard work of the previous stages, it goes without saying you must work on addressing the root cause of the problem not something else. It sounds silly to say, but the people that were good at doing all the detective work in the previous two steps are not necessarily the problem solvers in the organization. Roles may shift and different agendas may creep into this stage. This is important if this shift takes place, stay on task and work on the root cause.

All solutions are not equal. Typically, without too much analysis you can weed through them and narrow the good ones down to several ones that address the root cause. The remaining ones should be systematically eliminated or ranked in order of feasibility to include perceived effectiveness, ease of implementation, within budget constraints, and the ability to measure. What good is a solution if it cannot be measured on how effective it is? Another criterion that I recommend is the ability to pilot test. A sampling of your solution can be a very effective way of deciding between two seemingly equal solutions. Especially, if one requires a substantial investment. A solution matrix is a very simple and visual tool for comparison. Several other tools that can be used our Tree Diagrams and Design of Experiments (DOE).

Marketers frequently at this stage get someone to evaluate or try the product. They are thinking download for thirty days, use this sample, attend this webinar and other ways of evaluation. My thinking is that after you have accomplished the other three stages of the funnel; you are ready to demonstrate that you solve ROOT CAUSE. Can you? Most jobs are lost at this stage because of a lack of clarity. You solution must be crystal clear and be without a question on how you will solve the prospects’ problem and deliver that solution. It is also imperative that you turn your solution into dollars. What is the ROI you are contributing?

Control Stage

The first 4-steps of the DMAIC process answered the questions: What is important, how are we doing, what is wrong and what needs to be done? We also considered the marketing funnel stages of Awareness, consider, prefer and evaluate. The fifth stage of the process in DMAIC is Control and in the Marketing funnel it is the commit or buy stage. This is where in Six Sigma we document the process and standardize meeting critical to quality (CTQ) issues.

This step involves taking the improvements and implementing them. We will document standard operating procedures, create process control plans, and establish a control process. The one final step in handing off the process or transitioning the process for implementation. However, it is imperative that we create an operation that is stable, predictable and meets the customer requirements. The implementation should be supported by documentation and project management to put all the work into practice. Another way of saying this is how are we going to guarantee performance.

In the marketing funnel it comes down to the basic decision to commit or buy the product or service. As I said in my last post, clarity is the number one issue that may prevent you from succeeding if your product/service meets the criteria for the root cause. Remember, customers want consistency. At this stage, you will see price and the confidence that you can deliver what you say becoming the greatest issues. If you believe price is the overwhelming issue, just think of how many times you have lost a job to a better known brand. Why? Security and your lack of ability to address the root cause with unquestionable clarity.

The Control process of Six Sigma can certainly teach us a few things. Creating an operation that delivers a stable and predictable outcome is the purpose of not only the Control stage but the entire DMAIC process. If you have identified predictable measures that the customer can visualize and satisfy the root cause of his problem, you are well on your way of obtaining commitment.

Another stage of Control is handing off of the project for implementation. How many marketing projects are not supported by sales or vice versa? Sales efforts can be undermined especially when the process does not provide predictable results. The ability to control this stage of the process may prevent you from caving into unreasonable demands that prospects may place upon you. However, most worries are not about the prospect but in the effort to close sales many organizations will take their eye off the target and take jobs that may or not solve the root cause or problem for the prospect. Seldom in that circumstance will you deliver the product or service that the prospect is hoping for. It may result in over delivering, which not only is wasted but to the prospect unclear and difficult to evaluate appropriately. Sales may look at this and determine that there is a greater degree of flexibility in the product/service than there is and/or that pricing could be adjusted because the next customer may not need all this. This is not a problem of your sales department, rather you having built the platform and handed off a poorly designed control phase. Build a process management plan for implementation and establishing ongoing measure and methods to be used for improvement is crucial to overall success.