By Bryony Thomas, Director at Clear Thought Consulting
Many businesses fail to move people through the sales funnel from awareness to action, not because they have their content wrong, but because they use it at the wrong time.
By mapping your content against your sales funnel you can determine both the tone and quantity of information to make available to increase your chances of moving people through to a sale. This applies equally to decision-making processes that take 10 minutes or 10 months.
Many of us will have experienced a sense of ‘information overload’ where we simply switch off, or the frustration of wanting to know more about a product or service before we commit and not being able to find it.
Both happen regularly, and when they do – you’ve lost a sale. For almost every purchase we make, we run through a broadly similar decision-making process (I say almost, as the impulse bar of chocolate at the supermarket counter is quite a different process).
Typically, and particularly for more complex purchases, our thinking will go something like this: ‘My laptop is heavy – I saw that ad for really light weight ones, who was it again?’ (Latent need); ‘There’s that ad, it’s X-brand’ (Awareness); ‘I’ll just check out their site’ (Interest); ‘Hmm, well the weight certainly compares well, but can I afford it, what are the other options?’ (Evaluation); ‘I’ll pop into Y-shop to see what it feels like and ask a little more about it’ (Trial); ‘I’ve researched the best price, I’ll get it from there’ (Purchase).
Kotler and others have spelt out various different versions of this process, there’s bound to have been one modelled for most markets.
So, our step-by-step decision-making process is something like:
Against this process you should map and measure your sales funnel, you’ll steadily whittle down your audience at each step, with interested parties moving through the funnel and those who either don’t want what you offer or who are turned off by your messaging going elsewhere. To maximise the conversion at each stage, marketers should consider two key elements; tone and quantity.
What do I mean by tone? As short-hand, think emotion. Against the sales funnel, there is an appropriate tone at each step. If you imagine a continuum from emotional to rational, typically your marketing material will need to start at emotional and move to rational through the funnel. Emotional appeals are most likely to really grab someone’s attention. If you hit a nerve, they notice you.
However rational you are, e.g. ‘we’re cheap’, if they don’t feel a need for what you’re offering they’re unlikely to notice your communications in the first place. Successful emotional appeals, in marketing terms, usually hit on a negative feeling and say that you can take it away. This is called finding the point of pain.
Once you’ve established that emotional appeal, your communications need to move into more rational territory, where proof is needed. As a sanity check on the tone of your marketing materials, map out each stage of the sales funnel and look at the material (offline, online, sales person, in-store, etc.) and assess the tone – are you too rational too soon? Are you trying to appeal to their emotions when they’re looking for proof?
Quantity, in regard to sales funnelling, is a fairly straight forward concept – start ‘short and sweet’ and then provide more information at each step. Where most organisations fall foul of this is on their websites. Home pages are often jam packed with information.
Considering the journey a home page or a campaign landing page is only the second step on the sales funnel – they are still pretty emotional (what’s the benefit for me?) and they are looking for key messages.
Again, map out your journey and assess the quantity of information you are serving at each stage, it should start small and increase at each step. So, if you’re experiencing lots of web traffic, but low numbers of enquiries – or lots of footfall and low sales, think about the sales funnel.
An initial assessment against tone and quantity will sign post where your blockage might be and put you on the path to a free flowing sales funnel that has a tangible link to your bottom line.
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