Companies used to be in control. The traditional sales funnel model consisted of the company pushing the prospect through stages of awareness, familiarity, consideration, and eventual purchase. It worked well – until new technology and a more empowered global attitude led customers to begin exerting their own preferences about their engagement with companies. Widespread Internet access and social media now allow prospects to explore brands more comparatively through a wider variety of tools, and consumers are as invested in ongoing engagement with a company as the sale itself.
Adjusting to the shift in consumer decision requires serious revamping of your company’s marketing. Begin by mapping out your customer decision journey. Visualize this decision-making process as a loop with initial consideration of your offering at one end and the moment of purchase and beyond at the other. From the moment of initial consideration, consumers actively evaluate brands. After purchasing a product, the consumer then begins an active evaluation again, this time informed by his or her post-purchase experience. At any point in that loop, an interaction with your brand will affect the customer decision journey. This means that you need to look at every touch point that a prospect could have with your brand before, during, and after purchase.
By mapping out these touch points, you can identify, strengthen, and grow your organization’s presence at critical times in your prospect’s/customer’s decision making process – thus increasing the chances that your company comes out on top at the moment of purchase. Some primary touch points to strengthen or newly introduce include; the identification of the problem by a prospect, the definition of criteria and requirements to solve the problem through research (often on the Internet), the search for vendors and consultants, the evaluation of RFP responses and creation of a vendor short list, and the trial tests and final evaluations leading to a purchase order.
Still skeptical? A recent study by McKinsey & Co. identified that two-thirds of the touch points during active evaluation involve consumer-driven marketing activities and one-third resulted from company-driven marketing. The traditional sales funnel model entirely ignores two-thirds of the average consumer’s interactions with a brand. The best way to affect consumer-driven marketing activities, such as Internet reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations, is to align your marketing with the consumer decision journey. This will allow you to focus your marketing initiatives on the most influential touch points, saving money that might have been spent inefficiently and helping your customers feel as though you are in touch with their needs and wants. Targeting your marketing to your customer decision journey can turn the death of the sales funnel and the loss of power that comes with it into an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time with the right offer.