The Sales Funnel: Why Your Warped View Of It is Losing You Customers

All marketers love talking about the sales funnel and how it guides an overarching marketing strategy model, but in reality our idea of the funnel is warped and we have fallen into a trap of placing the wrong amount of emphasis on each stage. This has resulted in countless lost sales and missed opportunity.

We often say that ‘awareness’ ‘fills’ the funnel, ‘conversion’ is about the transaction and ‘consideration’ simply serves as a platform to link the two together. This is where the distortion comes in because the consideration phase is being neglected and overlooked by brands and advertisers. It’s more than just a stepping stone, and by applying three very simple tactics, you open the door to plenty more opportunity.

Show Up

There is more to consideration than you think

Think about the word consider for a second. It is exactly that, the customer is weighing up all their options and all their research to gather the information they need to make a decision. A common practice is to think that customers can only enter the funnel at the awareness cycle and slowly drop off as they navigate their path to purchase. But if that’s the case where are they going? Well they have either decided not to pursue their interest, or they have gone to a competitor. But if there is the inevitable risk of customers being lost along the funnel, there is also the opportunity for them to be acquired and this is why ‘consideration’ isn’t just a stepping stone on the path, it can serve as another gateway if approached correctly.

Google’s recent report on “The Messy Middle” tackles just how complicated the consideration phase is as consumers dance between constant exploration and evaluation before finally pulling the trigger. The report goes into great detail across industries and on the various cognitive biases that affect a consumer’s decision making progress but for the purpose of this article I want to focus on how businesses can act to simultaneously decrease the threat of losing customers, whilst increasing their opportunity of gaining them, and whilst the practice may be complicated, the principal components are very simple.

"If customers can be lost, they can be aquired"

Utilising consideration

Reading through the 100 page report it can really be whittled down to 3 words for approaching success in “The Messy Middle”:

  1. Show Up
  2. Communicate
  3. Deliver

Visibility is always important and it’s why we pay such close attention to things like viewable impressions and impression share but Google’s study shows that when a customer is ready to make a decision, between 18%-44% of them (variable across different industries) can still be influenced to go with their 2nd choice brand, providing they are still being exposed to it. Imagine undergoing intense research, planning, campaign builds, and spending budget to gather audience in the awareness phase, only to lose them by not being present later down the track.

Of course, just showing up is only step 1. You then need to ensure you are relaying the right messaging, values, USP’s and tactics that are going to most resonate with your audience (Yes, A/B testing is just as important in the consideration phase). If you are showing up AND communicating in the right way to your customers, you can remain in pole position if you are their 1st choice brand, and stand a strong chance of stealing them away if you are the 2nd or 3rd.

And as for the final point, as customers and as providers we all know the frustration of a bad user experience but when 88% of customers say they won’t return after a bad experience and are 5x more likely to abandon if a site isn’t optimised for mobile, we see just how vital this factor is. If businesses take the time and effort to invest in experience across all platforms once again you offer your potential customers a seamless path to purchase. Taking into account what we have discussed there is an even larger weighting on this as you don’t just have your customers, you now have the new customers you have acquired from your competitors.

Final thoughts

There is no denying the complexity of understanding consumers behaviour and then having to navigate the landscape along with all your other competitors. Add in further difficulty of USP’s, brand awareness, pricing or even perhaps global pandemics, and we have ourselves a very difficult space, but that hasn’t changed and nor it is going to.

What we can do is make sure we have effective strategies to Show Up, Communicate & Deliver. Only with the right consumer centric frameworks in place, that fully appreciate the complexities of the sales journey, can we set ourselves up for success.