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It's not a purchase funnel - it's a consideration path

Posted Thursday 4 December 2014
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Recently, while having a lively discussion on some work we’re doing with one of our clients, we were discussing the difference between an old-fashioned Purchase Funnel, and what we at Ariad call the Consideration Path.

A traditional Purchase Funnel looks like this:

purchasefunnel

However, it’s become increasingly clear that this funnel format is better used as a tool to imagine a customer’s Consideration Path, rather than as a usable representation of human behaviour. In truth, the Consideration Path should look more like this:

consideration path

 

This is because, despite the hopes of every marketer, people do not act in neat, predictable, rational ways. Humans are complex and individualistic in nature, and as such, their behaviour will vary based on a number of factors. Some may have a preference before consideration, only to have their opinion change. Some may have no opinion, and consider all options before forming their preference, skipping the opinion stage altogether. The linear model of the Purchase Funnel is outdated, as the proliferation of digital channels and customer choice has eliminated the controlled marketing and sales environment that the Purchase Funnel once represented. What does this mean for content marketers? It means that the funnel is no longer a top-down, step-by-step process.

In order to properly plan your content, you need to allow a more natural, free flowing content concept that we like to call a Content Ecosystem. A Content Ecosystem is reactive to the customer’s needs, as it allows the buyer to move at their own pace and direction along their Consideration Path. Instead of driving your prospects into a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s vital to plan your content across multiple channels in a way that makes it easy for your customers to access the content they need. Where the concept of a funnel is unidirectional, the Content Ecosystem is omnidirectional and gives the buyer the freedom to receive, request, or access whatever content they need during their progress through our redefined Consideration Path, before deciding—ultimately—to buy or abstain, to influence or remain silent.

However, the Content Ecosystem still needs to operate within the larger framework of the Consideration Path. Content still needs to help the buyer buy. It has to have a purpose. Too many companies lose sight of this as content marketing continues to grow in popularity, opting for a spray and pray approach of bombarding their customers with content, without having any need for the content to actually exist. Always ask yourself: Does this piece of content allow my customer to engage with our brand? Does it provide next steps? What pain point is it solving? Only by rethinking the purchase funnel and better understanding the buyer’s needs, wants, and journey to purchase can we use content marketing effectively. It’s time to ditch the Purchase Funnel and embrace the Consideration Path. Only by doing that can you create a proper Content Ecosystem that supports your customer’s needs, allows for choice while remaining targeted, and – at the end of the day – helps your buyers buy.

Kieran Miles is a Senior Strategist at Ariad Communications.

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