When you’re reaching out to a consumer, you are not just trying to get them to buy a product; you are entering into a long conversation that the consumer has had with other people, themselves and other marketers. For this reason, finding a new customer or closing a transaction is not just about making a sale but about becoming a part of the decision-making process that goes on before the sale.
Every marketer needs to think about the entire psychological process that happens before a sale is complete. In the marketing world, we consider this process a “decision funnel” that has four key steps. Here’s a rough guide to each of these steps and why it’s important to know them intimately.
The first stage of any purchase decision is awareness: This is where people first know that a product exists. There are two approaches to increasing product awareness: branding and direct response advertising.
In both cases, you want to make consumers aware that a brand’s product exists, but in branding you do a little more than that. You want to associate an emotion with the brand and its product. That emotion can be anything, positive or negative.
For instance, brands like Armani and Louis Vuitton have long associated success and luxury with their brands, and this has yielded much success. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, American beer brands associated sex and desirability with their products; more recently, Dodge Ram associated feelings of strength, patriotism and hard work with its "So God Made a Farmer” campaign.
Negative emotions are fair game, too, but these can backfire. This year’s Super Bowl demonstrated this with the Nationwide ad warning of the dangers of accidental deaths for children. Ostensibly a plea for responsible parenting, more cynically the ad preyed on parent fears in order to drive the instinct to protect oneself — and protection naturally comes with insurance. Nationwide stands behind its ad despite a broadly negative response.
The next step is consideration. After a consumer is aware of the product, he or she will then need to consider whether or not to buy it. Brands rely on the emotional appeal to push consumers a little further toward actually taking the step to purchase. Direct response advertisers won’t bother, instead telling consumers directly why they need the product immediately.
Billy Mays was a master of combining awareness and consideration in a short television commercial. With products like OxyClean, Mays would immediately show the existence of the product and its benefits, turning the products into best-sellers and himself into a loved personality.
In any market, there is competition. After a consumer has become aware of a product and is considering it, he or she will then consider another option. That could be a competitor’s product or possibly even the option of making do without the purchase altogether.
For instance, imagine you have an old car, and you’re offered a great deal on a hot new car. The salesperson convinces you that you will be cooler, sexier and more loved if you buy the car. You like how it looks, and you like the idea of cruising around town with some new wheels.
But then you realize that you live in downtown New York City, and you walk almost everywhere. Most of your friends don’t see cars as cool anymore — this isn’t the 90s, after all. You might then consider an alternative, like not buying at all or going to a competitor, like Vespa or Schwinn. Maybe you’ll just buy this shirt instead.
Finally, the goal — the purchase. Much of online advertising is devoted to this portion of the funnel, to many marketers’ chagrin. Since many lead generators focus on just this last part of the decision funnel, their ROI suffers. The fact is that all of the emotions and thoughts involved in a purchase need to be considered, even if you use a last-click attribution model and you only care about boosting this month’s sales.
At this year’s LeadsCon, the session entitled "Harvesting Demand: Lead Gen and Increasing Early-Stage Conversions” will focus on this very issue. How can lead generators increase early-stage conversions and incorporate the entirety of the decision-making process in their marketing efforts? Join us at this year’s LeadsCon for the answer.
Click here to register for LeadsCon Las Vegas 2015.