Thursday, July 21, 2011

there’s a hole in the funnel - redux

This is a newer version on a older theme - much covered in these pages, natch - the changed buyer journey, and the death of the funnel.
This was written for the newsletter of the Australian Marketing Institute, it's coming out next week I think.


There’s a hole in the funnel

As marketers we’ve all grown up with the ‘funnel’ metaphor as a framework by which we think about a buyer journey.

Customers, or prospects, would start out at the wide end of the funnel then narrow down their potential choices til a sale pops out the other end.

While we could even argue that this metaphor has never really been that accurate, it’s certainly broken now, in the 21st century.

The major spanner in the works has been ‘c*nsumer’ empowerment, enabled by the internet.

We now have almost unprecedented ability to; research and learn about companies, products and services and then make decisions, often independently of marketing and advertising messages, and increasingly following recommendations of other people like us.

In fact, around 60% of the touchpoints we may encounter on a typical journey now come from sources other than the brand.
And a customer journey that might have taken days or weeks in the past can now happen in a matter of minutes thanks to the mobile web.

Think about your own behaviour.
Have you ever googled a restaurant review while standing outside on the pavement?
Who do you trust more?
A company’s website or customer reviews on Amazon or Trip Advisor?

This happens at a stage that McKinsey & Co - in their 2009 report The New Customer Decision Journey - called active evaluation.

When the number of brands your customer is considering actually increases when they start poking about online. This is exactly the opposite of the premise of the traditional funnel, which goes from broad to narrow.

Back to that restaurant. The one you are standing outside gets 3 stars but you discover a five star review for Luigi’s, which you never knew about but it’s just round the corner.

This is the stage when we are intent on purchasing and we are actively researching the product.

Here's where the disconnect happens as much of advertising focuses on 'awareness' and trying to get into the 'initial consideration set' then catching sales at the other end with promotions, coupons and the like.
Yet, 'when the c*nsumer reaches out during their active evaluation stage, companies are not providing the right facts and testimonials that the consumer is looking for'.

This is where having a content strategy and leveraging consumer-driven marketing comes into it's own.

Content strategy is not just about being cute with keywords and SEO, it’s also about thinking like a publisher.

Becoming the leading online authority on your category or teaching people how to make best use of your product or service.

Authentic content makes your brand findable, credible and believable during this all important active evaluation phase, where customers are won or lost.

And when 'two thirds of the influence is from consumer driven touchpoints — word of mouth, talking to friends and family, searching on the internet’, what have you got to say that is worth spreading?

Ask yourself what you are doing to support the whole buyer journey.
Where are the opportunities to amplify the voice of the customer?
Can you create those opportunities?
Which are the touch-points of most influence?
Is your biggest issue simply awareness or is it churn?
Added value experiences for customers are no longer just a nice-to-have. Customers are demanding them. Or else voting with their feet.

So, it's official - there's a hole in the funnel.
People no longer make buying decisions in a linear way.
People turn to peers, friends, and other users for advice above other media.
The potential number of choices increases in active evaluation.
The more reasons (value) you can give customers to stick or prospects to switch, you win.

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