The marketing landscape is definitely changing. I have no doubts or qualms about that. But I do have one (maybe insignificant) complaint to many of you, within the marketing sphere, that refuses to subside: marketers still insist on including gimmicks in sales funnels that attempt to “be persuasive” buy in reality are not really necessary.
Allow me to give you an example. Recently, I attended a Business Squared presentation in Sydney. The brand/event is aimed at entrepreneurs and marketers looking for proven methods that boost the bottom line.
The guest speaker – whom attendees pay to hear – is the “expert mentor” Gary Vaynerchuk. But before the audience got to listen to the main event, we had to sit through a string of other so-called “mentors” trying to flog us get-rich-overnight ideas, law of attraction type wealth coaches and executive coaches that probably once read “How To Win Friends And Influence People” and saw an easy career opportunity.
Fair play to them. Perhaps I am being overly cynical here and these marketing gurus really can change fortunes. But at the time, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat frustrated and deflated. I was not there to hear about products and services I had no interest in.
Of course, in reality, this is the world of marketing. Businesses create systems with an organised sales funnel. In this particular instance, Vaynerchuk was being supported by speakers that were also targeting an audience of entrepreneurs – thus demonstrated relevancy.
Because he knew the audience had come to see him, their mindset was already on his product and his personality – his brand. In essence, prospects were already well along the customer journey. Vaynerchuk was trying to leverage preference and secure loyalty towards his brand.
I’m not saying this as a slight to Vaynerchuk. He was just taking advantage of a situation he probably had no control over anyway. The culprits behind the sales funnel are Business Squared making money from lesser-known speakers that are prepared to pay the going rate in order to get a presence with an audience.
Gary Vee has been used as a pawn to pull in the crowd, but the hard sell is coming from the life coaches like Tony Robbins & Co. spamming my email every 2nd day. People fall over doughy-eyed at the promise of being successful.
How sales funnels work
The fundamental purpose of a sales funnel is to classify the mindset of your customer and track them through the customer journey. A strong sales funnel will influence customers to take the next step and eventually make a purchase. When prospects don’t move to the next stage, you can identify, and thus strengthen, weaknesses in your marketing material and strategy.
Historically, the general consensus was that the consumer buying journey passes through four or five stages: awareness, consideration, purchase, service and loyalty. Each stage of your sales funnel should cater towards the mindset of customers within each stage of the buying process.
Every potential customer starts out as a stranger. The purpose of a sales funnel is to prompt an interest in strangers, encourage them to become better acquainted with your brand, earn their trust and persuade them to become paying customers. Think of courting customers in the same way you approach traditional dating and you get the picture.
At every stage of the funnel, your marketing and sales personnel need to facilitate a particular action that court prospects. For example, marketers are initially tasked with creating product awareness, providing relevant information that answers questions, detailing benefits, and standing out against the competition.
It used to be the case that the marketing department would handle business at the top-end of the traditional funnel, then sales would swoop in to seal the deal as it narrowed at the bottom. However, digital technology, and the accompanying array of advertising platforms in the digital space has killed the traditional sales funnel.
Sales funnels in the digital space
The influence of digital platforms and electronic devices is prompting businesses to adapt to new customer behaviours. Although the original five stages are still relevant, and continue to dominate the customer journey, the division and shape of modern sales funnels require a different shape; they should be circular. Sales circles.
In one sense, the internet gives modern businesses an advantage. We potentially have a wider audience, more platforms to work with, cost-effective marketing options and channels that enable us to reach customers quicker. This should add up to improving customer loyalty and boosting conversions. But the digital space also poses more problems than traditional marketing when it comes to convincing consumers.
The skill of modern marketing is to engage customers in conversation. Digital platforms have switched the power to consumers, and online shoppers want a two-way conversation. Mobile devices, computers and a wealth of content have ushered in a culture of researching products and brands before they make a purchasing decision.
Conversational considerations need to be included in a sales circle. Potential customers want to know that you have a solution that resolves the problem, desire or preference. The key is to classify customers and determine what their mindset is at each stage of the purchasing process.
It is therefore important to create a sales funnel, or circle, that ensures you are having the right conversation at the right time in the customer journey. Every customer starts out with a need. The aim of your marketing strategy is to convince them that your brand can satisfy their need.
Although technology has changed the marketing funnel and the type of device customers are using to engage with your brand influences how you present the message, the actual message should be consistent at each stage of the sales cycle regardless of the platform you are publishing your content on.
Understanding the customer mindset
The sales circle changes the scope of a marketing strategy. Modern technology dictates that it is no longer enough to know what a customer wants. Businesses have to provide customers with assistance on their journey and help them make a decision.
Consumer psychology predicts people respond to certain triggers. For most businesses, interest triggers and decision triggers will be the most crucial aspects of your marketing model. These are things that shoppers see or hear that pulls their emotional strings.
Social media is arguably the most powerful platform for evoking emotions and promoting persuasive triggers. According to Marketing Land, Dimensional Research published the results of a survey which revealed 90 per cent of online shoppers is influenced by authentic review left by other clients, even though they are absolute strangers to the reader.
It pays to encourage existing customers to leave a comment on your social accounts or start a conversation that provides relevant information other shoppers are contemplating as well.
Brand advocates play a crucial role in the modern business model. Include customers in your sales circle and you reach an untapped audience. There’s no need for gimmicks here, just pure, unadulterated information consumers actually want to hear. This is something I used to do when I represented Garden Time Australia.
You should also be looking to add review sites and online forums to your string of advertising platforms. These types of online platforms serve a number of purposes other than the new trend of acquiring customer reviews.
For example, Q&A platforms like Expedia and Quora are an opportunity for you to establish yourself as an expert and instill trust in prospects. The group influence of virtual communities are proven to have a positive impact on purchasing decisions.
The future of funnels
As new digital technologies emerge, marketers should expect sales “funnels” to take a different dimension. Although we don’t know exactly how future funnels might look, the need for flexibility and a willingness to adapt to new behaviours is a certainty.
We are already seeing early signs of how technology is shaping marketing. Automated tools integrated into customer relationship management (CRM) platforms promotes time-saving solutions and, when done well, can nurture leads and customer loyalty.
CRM data also serves as an analytical model that gives you valuable insights to how well your sales funnel and overall marketing campaign is performing. Sometimes the defining solution that resolves a problem is already there, but we haven’t filtered out the data in a way the answer becomes glaringly obvious.
The next wave of marketing technology will be funnel intelligence software. Such tools capture layers of data that provide direct intelligence for making business decisions that align with the mindset of your customers. There is huge potential for companies that are looking to shape a perfect sales circle without the need for lead capture gimmicks your audience don’t want or need.
The balance of power has tipped towards consumers which means businesses have to start listening and providing solutions, and not just answers. Relevancy and trust are a priority for modern consumers and if you don’t factor these components into your marketing-sales funnel, prospects will give preference to brands that do.
What do you think are the magic ingredients in a sales funnel? Write in and let me know your thoughts.