You’ve probably heard of the marketing Funnel and why it’s so important for a company’s integrated approach to building a solid base of loyal customers. The traditional marketing funnel usually starts with awareness, moves into consideration, leads to purchase, and ends with loyalty. This path is one-directional and sequential, and therefore doesn’t even begin to cover the scope of a customer’s decision journey.
With a greater Ecommerce presence, online consumers are more in control now than they have ever been before.
Internet surfers are not just catching waves any longer – they are making waves. That’s because consumers don’t just consume information provided by the sites they visit – they are actually creating it. As consumers take charge, the customer journey becomes a complicated and unpredictable one.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that we are looking at an upright funnel. Remember using these in high school laboratory experiments? Those types of funnels rely on a filtration system that channels substances through a narrow opening in order to isolate the desired filtrate. Without this tool, there’d be constant spillage and inevitable waste.
Likewise, marketers want to sift out customers that aren’t valuable and nurture those who are going to travel through the funnel and convert. Viewing the sales process through this lens, however, is oversimplified and too linear to translate the plethora of customer entry and exit points. What if, instead, we flip the funnel completely upside-down?
Flipping The Funnel
From a Social media standpoint, turning a funnel upside down or on its side is logical since it enables one to harness the power of social currency. (If flipping the funnel upside down doesn’t sit well with you, think of it on its side, resembling a megaphone). Here, social currency measures the ability of brands to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s digital and mobile landscape (e.g. Instagram influencers).
Under this model, companies tend to make a few strong connections with loyal customers and incentivize them to broadcast the brand’s marketing message through the customers’ reliable social circles. As Erich Joachimsthaler, founder and CEO of Vivaldi and the one to coin the term “social currency,” points out, “There is no value creation unless there are consumers that are willing to share.”
You may ask yourself, “Why would a customer feel inclined to pass along information that benefits a company’s business? What do customers get out of it?” Well, think about the very foundation of why people share things in the first place. Remember “Show-and-Tell” in elementary school? It was an unspoken rule that you only share things that: 1) Make you look good, 2) Evoke emotion, 3) Provide utility, 4) Tell a story.
When I was in preschool, I did “Show-and-Tell” featuring my handy-dandy Cool Tools, and might I add, I felt pretty cool. I wanted my classmates to understand that by using these realistic, miniature tools, I was able to repair plumbing fixtures like any other plumber on the block (shout out to my dad). I wanted to instill a sense of awe among my classmates and prove to them that they also needed to be equipped with this totally awesome toolkit.
In order to convey my message, I stood on a public platform with a virtual megaphone and vouched for a product in front of my fellow preschoolers. I acted as a brand advocate not because I was trying to increase Cool Tools profits, but because I was trying to increase my own social currency – without even realizing it. It’s basic human instinct to want to be in good social standing with your peers and to want to help others.
By communicating with people like myself, I established a very personal and social connection that not even a Cool Tools commercial could impress upon my classmates. At the not-so-ripe age of 4, it was evident that I wasn’t giving my sales pitch with the hopes of earning a chunk of commission. And since the Internet and social media had yet to take off, the social currency that I earned stemmed strictly from my willingness to share my insights on what joy and utility my new tools brought me. I had earned one of my first social paychecks, and it felt good.
My speech didn’t transcend the walls of my classroom in the same way it would resound today with a simple Facebook post or YouTube video, but it did enter the minds of my highly interested classmates who were already extremely social beings with a proclivity to share every single bit of information they absorbed and retained. Not to mention, it was pretty easy convincing my classmates that to be cool like me, they needed Cool Tools.
In this way, I leveraged my social connections to spread the word about Cool Tools in a contagious fashion.
Of course, Cool Tools still employed the traditional marketing approach of broadcasting commercials to a large audience in order to reach and resonate with a few (upright funnel), but it also still relied on the preschooler to connect with their product and feel strongly enough to share that with her like-minded peers (upside-down or megaphone funnel). Cool Tools incentivized the target audience of young children to amplify its reach through their small yet powerful social networks, achieving the mark of being one of the hottest, gotta-have-it toys on the market.
Give Your Customers A Megaphone
When it comes to creating content for your own marketing campaign, think of how your audience can use it to advance their own social standing and earn more social currency. Be mindful that the traditional funnel approach can trap you in the cycle of thinking that each customer follows the same linear path. This is not to say you can’t use some of the applications of the upright funnel – just remember the power of a few customers who are given a megaphone. The noise is impossible to ignore.
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