Beyond the broken funnel: six reason why changing to ‘instant marketing’ isn’t easy

The traditional ‘funnel’ model used by marketers to map how consumers move from being interested in a product through to purchase is broken and a new set of factors has been brought into play by the rise of social media, according to a leading media consultant.

Bjorn Timelin, a partner with McKinsey & Company, told The Big Rethink conference last week that despite the ‘consumer decision journey’ being nothing like it was ten years ago, many companies still use the funnel model to plan their marketing campaigns.

For brands that want to prolong their relationship with customers, he said, it was essential to understand how technology had changed purchasing journeys and adapt accordingly. It is no longer a linear process, he said, but a circular one. The old model of customers moving neatly through the funnel from the ‘marketing’ phase to ‘store purchase’ was gone – as was the old idea that ‘advocacy’ came after a purchase.

Timelin said five critical factors now dominate consumer decision forming.

They are:

1. Consideration
2. Evaluation
3. Purchase
4. Post-purchase experience
5. Bond

Giving examples taken from research into skincare products, Timelin said the new Consideration phase was typically very narrow – with consumers entering this phase with an average of 1.5 products in mind (He joked that only a statistician could come up with a figure of 1.5 products being in a consumer’s mind).

In the Consideration phase, he said, influences from friends and social media typically added a further 1.7 products to a consumer’s list of possibles. However, he said, as the Evaluation phase began, research showed being one of the 1.5 products under initial consideration was critically important as those brands were two or three times more likely to be the product that was purchased.

One of the more startling revelations about the way consumers now come to decisions, he said, was the continuation of brand engagement following a purchase. In the skincare category, Timelin added, 40% of consumers continued to research their product after they had left the Purchased phase and moved into Post-purchase experience.

The findings suggest that expectation amongst modern consumers is for an on-going relationship with brands across social media through every stage of the purchasing process, he said. This fundamental shift means that brands can’t wait for consumers to engage with them, each brand must instead adopt an ‘always there’ mentality, otherwise they’re likely to lose custom to more savvy rivals that have devised ‘instant marketing’ campaigns to provide information and make it more likely they are one of the 1.5 brands in a consumer’s mind at the start of the Consideration phase. These clever brands then nurture customers through and beyond their decision process with further social media marketing, he added.

If all of that wasn’t a tall-enough order, Timelin identified six common factors that stood in the way of brands adapting to – and making the most of – this new consumer behaviour.

They are:

1. A lack of alignment within businesses

Typically, not all departments within a business were attuned to this new way of thinking – not everyone gets this new way of working.

2. Business silos

In many firms, he said, customer experience was farmed off to a call centre while marketing campaigns were dealt with in a separate department.

3. Hard to recruit the right people

There were relatively few people, he said, with the right mix of skills and experience – demand for them is high. If you were one of these people, he asked, would you want to work for a backward-looking business (see point two) when there were other options available to you? It’s a common chicken and egg pattern, he said, when recruiting for new media jobs. Business need skilled people to help change their organisations, but highly-qualified candidates can cherry pick opportunities and don’t always want to work in an environment where change is likely to be slow and difficult.

4. Measuring ROI and marketing impact

Despite some very good examples of measuring impact, Timelin said, there remained a huge range of ability in companies to measure the effectiveness of adopting this new marketing approach. Of those that couldn’t properly measure the impact of their work, there were those that simply relied on blind faith while spending large sums of cash. Others simply ignored the need to measure impact, he added.

5. No customisation

The bottom 25% of firms than engage in digital and social marketing programmes do no customise their messages to suit the audience, he said. Typically, the same email is sent to all customers and there is very little testing, which fundamentally misses the point about the new consumer’s need to be nurtured.

6. Lack of dynamism

Even firms who had committed to ‘instant marketing’ programmes – and did test the content they sent to customers and prospects – were frequently not quick enough to respond to results. Often, Timelin said, firms had spent considerable sums and were locked in programmes that were slow to respond. Firms were taking up to a month to change programmes in response to audience testing, when this should be happening in one or two days.