The Digital Funnel

I wonder if the exotically named E. St Elmo Lewis had any idea when he published his AIDA Funnel in 1898 that his model would fuel the online marketing boom over a hundred years later?

To put it in context, the invention of the quaintly obsolete filing cabinet was in the same year, and the year before saw the diesel engine, the ice cream scoop and fairy floss. The year after, in 1899, a Norwegian came up with the paper clip, and the Wright brothers hadn’t begun to invent powered flight. I hear the internet back then was worse than the NBN.

What is the AIDA funnel?

The AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. It is a model of the cognitive journey we as customers follow in our decision to purchase. The funnel derives from Lewis’ original illustration of a funnel illustrating the customer experience and the diminishing numbers down to conversion into a sale.

The customer enters the funnel at awareness and is directed downwards through the process. Many have added and overlaid stages over the years, including the valuable addition of post-purchase loyalty, but the fundamental structure is the same.

Understanding the structure of your business’ funnel allows you control over the entire purchase process. It highlights inefficiencies, aids in selecting where to focus your marketing dollar – and creates a framework for all that excellent data we can collect these days.

Are you still confused? …let’s break it down.

Awareness:

Where St Elmo would have relied upon signage, advertising, and word of mouth, these days, you have the choice of so much more in the digital sphere. Whilst the aforementioned are still strong lead generators – most potential customers take to the internet when they need a problem solved.

Remember the stat from the last post…

89% of consumers conduct online research before buying a product.

So let’s look at the ubiquitous Google search.

Your potential customer needs a solution, so they type in a generic search, and I will illustrate this with a subject close to my own heart:

Pool Heating

Note that I am not looking for a product per se – I am looking for information. It may be a solution involving a product or a service, and a critical point here is that it isn’t about the sale. These days Google will put products into the feed, but I don’t know if that’s what I want yet. Your landing page will be where I identify that you offer information about the topic, whether it’s a blog post, video or even a quiz. Your aim is to get me to click, and I will click on whatever search result gives me broadly relevant answers to a question I haven’t refined yet. You have earned my interest.

 In the example, I clicked on the second non-ad result – because it had my suburb in it (this is a clever trick of customising a landing page to your location) https://thepoolheatingcompany.com.au/solar-pool-heating-ipswich/. Have a look – it is an excellent example for the next stage of the funnel.

Interest:

Once I have walked through your door, figuratively in the case of digital – clicked on your blog post, landing page, advertising, etc. I have become a lead. At this stage, you state your expertise as an authority on my problem, with an in-depth guide, comparisons, pro versus con, etc. Here you could offer me something of value in return for my email address, such as an ebook, checklist, trials or samples. Here is where I can further identify my particular pain point.

Here is your opportunity to list why your unique selling proposition (USP in marketing parlance) is the best solution and address any known objections. The trick is to enable me to evaluate my choices to make it as easy as possible to make my decision. Your lead is qualified, and now you have to induce a desire for your product or service.

The example has a comprehensive landing page addressing objections (like the cost to run), lists the benefits, and outlines its USP. It also has a regular call-to-action for a free quote.

Desire:

If you have created trust that you are an expert and demonstrated that your solution is the right choice for my needs, now you need to appeal to my emotional side. To do this, show empathy towards my pain point by meeting objections and relating them to your USP. Testimonials and other social proof work here, demonstrating that others had my problem, and you have solved it.

In the example, I feel they understand me by being aware of my location and my concerns. It isn’t pushy, there haven’t been intrusive chat requests, and they obviously know about pool heating. I would have liked to have seen some social proof.

 So …what am I going to do about it?

Action:

Here is where you want me to do something – book an appointment, get a quote, buy a product – click a button. It needs to be a simple process, and I need to trust the process.

To do this, you can point me to your privacy policy, offer reassurance with a money-back guarantee, warranties or a free trial. Explain the steps I need to take if there may be some complexity to the sale (like measuring something). If I am still unsure, it can also be a fallback to asking more questions (it’s still clicking a button, and you are getting contact details for a follow-up).

In the example, I know there’s a 15-year warranty, and the quote is free. I went with the form option because I like to gauge follow-ups – but that might be just me.

Conclusion:

There are many more complex aspects of funnels outside the remit of this article, but awareness is the first step. All businesses have a funnel, although unless they work on the funnel as a whole, many are focused on the point-of-sale end result, conversion.

If you simply want more sales, or you’re not getting the results you want, the answer is somewhere (or everywhere) along the funnel. Perhaps it’s not getting enough awareness at the top to get enough qualified leads, or maybe you are getting heaps of leads, but they bounce off when it cmes to action. With evidence collected over 123 years, optimising your funnel is a proven way to increase your sales.

To quote from E. St Elmo Lewis:

“You generally hear that what a man doesn’t know doesn’t hurt him, but in business what a man doesn’t know does hurt.”

Do you have any great examples (or howlers) of a digital sales funnel in action? I would love to hear about them and share them in an addendum to this article.

Please feel free to ask questions – if you are thinking them, then someone else probably is too – and leave feedback. If you have a particular topic that seems a little confusing, please tell me and I will endeavour to answer them on this blog. If you need to rethink your web presence, have a question, or just want me to look at your site, as always, I am free to call on 0415 824 106.

Kindest regards

Jim Dobbin

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