Saturday, December 1, 2012

Marketing Funnel - 4 common mistakes companies make in customer adoption

In this post, I'll go over 4 common mistakes companies make regarding their marketing funnels.  The marketing funnel is the journey a person takes to become your customer - if you're unfamiliar with the marketing funnel (a.k.a. customer or product adoption process), please see my previous posts introducing the marketing funnel and how to diagnose it.


Even if you have a fantastic product that perfectly satisfies an unmet need in the marketplace, potential customers still have to go through these steps before they buy and adopt it.  The slightest misstep along the way can cause you to lose potential customers.

You can still have a successful business without understanding the marketing funnel or avoiding these common mistakes.  But, it's likely you'll be leaving customers unserved and money on the table.


In order to understand how you're doing, where you're strong, and where you can improve, you have to be able to measure your performance.  To understand how you're doing across the marketing funnel, you need to know what percentage of customers you're converting from each phase to the next.

That information will help you decide where to focus your effort and resources.  Do you want to make up ground where you're weak?  Do you want to build an existing strength into a distinctive advantage?

NOTE:  Additional detail and examples of points 1 & 2 can be found in an earlier post about diagnosing your marketing funnel.


Once you start measuring your performance, you'll want to understand how you're doing relative to your competitors.  The insights you gain from benchmarking your conversion numbers against competitors can be eye-opening and force you to completely rethink earlier conclusions.

For example, you might have thought 75% conversion in a particular stage was pretty good, until you learn that your competitors average 90%.  What you thought might have been a strength is actually a relative weakness.  The opposite could also be true - you might have concluded you were struggling in a particular area until you learn that the entire industry is experiencing similar difficulties and your performance is actually best-in-class.  Again, more detail can be found in the post about marketing funnel diagnostics.


This error usually occurs when companies are so focused on their product that they under-invest in or neglect letting customers know about it.  The problem with starting in the middle is you're asking customers to consider trying or purchasing your product when they don't even know about or understand it.

During a pro-bono consulting project for an arts education non-profit, we realized our client was committing this error.  The bulk of their advertising budget was going toward mailing course catalogs to residents in their market.  These catalogs were expensive to print and mail, and they were being sent to people who had never heard of our client and had no reason to read or even open these mailings.  Recipients were being asked to evaluate without being aware or interested.  Our recommendation was to shift their budget to post cards, emails, and advertising that would introduce themselves and their mission to the community, then give them options for receiving more information.  These methods were much less expensive so the reach could be expanded and our client was now engaging potential customers at the beginning of the marketing funnel.

This error can be especially prevalent in the tech industry, where companies concentrate their efforts on product development.  Your killer app won't get you anywhere unless you make people aware of it and what it can do for them.


Many companies understand they have to start by making customers aware of their existence and eventually get customers to buy and adopt their product.  But since they're not familiar with the marketing funnel, they might skip an important step in between.  Also contributing to this error is the fact that awareness is often easy to drive (any publicity is good publicity) and purchase and adoption are easy to measure - the steps in between are often more complicated and harder to track.

To understand what happens if you skip a step of the marketing funnel, ask yourself the following questions for each skipped step:
  • Awareness:  Would you buy a product you've never heard of before?
  • Interest:  Would you buy a product if you can't find any information about it?
  • Evaluation:  Would you buy a product if you can't understand how it will help you?
  • Trial:  Would you buy something you can't demo or test drive?
  • Adoption:  Would you endorse of advocate for a product that you wouldn't buy or adopt?
Consider what you'd think about a car company that doesn't allow you to test drive their vehicles.  Or if you'd buy software if you can't find any information on what it does or how it can help you.  Even if these products are great, you might never find out because you've exited their marketing funnels prior to getting to adoption.

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