The CMO's New Million-Dollar Slide (Not)

We all agree: The Funnel Is Gone. The old, tried-and-true customer path to purchase is no more.

Are you happy with how you have replaced it?

Many new models are being floated, and all of them aspire to be crowned the new standard. But suppose that there is no million-dollar slide for this new world of brand-building. Suppose the new path to purchase cannot be modeled. Suppose a good model does not exist.

This is the state of play, and it's time to confront it. It's unrealistic to expect that any single model can capture how customers become aware of a need, a want, and a brand, and then move to purchasing said brand, and then reflect on the experience (perhaps then circling back to purchase again, or becoming a brand advocate).

Consumers' perceptions and preferences shift daily, even hourly. Surveying consumers to map them into the purchase funnel is outdated. But one thing has not changed: consumers' desires for brands they can trust, and for trusted brands to anticipate their needs and create new, valuable products and services.



So what can be done? Here are some thoughts:

1.   BYOF – Build your own funnel. Abandon the standard formula for modeling consumer decisions. Today, consumers draw a map to their doors. You need to discover it. Track consumers' patterns of search, deliberations, and purchase process around your products without a uniform “map” in mind but with theirs. Today's mobile technologies allow you to capture consumers' daily activities in real-time. They allow you to capture context, which is going to help you innovate successfully.

Heineken uses mobile technology to track (with consumers' permission) exactly where they are when they make a purchase, when they consume, and how they make choices among beverages. The purchase funnel was a useful basis for the average market research study and for average consumers. But when it comes to today's consumer, “average” no longer exists.

2.   Segment customers by their patterns of search, deliberations and activities along their paths to purchase your product or a competitor's. Segment them further by the context that surrounds their experience with your brand, regardless of demographics. Think in terms of their daily life experiences and behaviors. Seek and analyze contextually rich episodes in their lives (as they are reported to you). Segmenting by real-time behavior rather than by demographics will open up new ways to help consumers make choices, and identify the few real “trust” points that really matter among the myriad of “touchpoints” where consumers encounter your brand.

3.   Use “listening” technologies to capture what's being said about your brand, but recognize the limitations of these systems. Don’t be tempted to think that “listening in” is going to reveal the purchase drivers and contextual factors you need.

4.   Use this information to identify new ways to influence the paths of purchase. The savvy, wary and highly opinionated consumer is the boss and you need to follow their lead. You may not select the channels they use, but you can make the touchpoints they do use (and the critical “trust” points) real selling opportunities.
Consider how Burberry found a new path to purchase for the young digital consumer— a consumer likely not to be seen in its flagship store buying from its high-end Prorsum line. Burberry made videos and images of its new collections available on Twitter and Facebook. This created enormous social currency for Burberry. Today, it has 15 million Facebook fans and over 1.5 million Twitter followers. All of them can purchase straight off the videos online wherever they are.  This method invites consumers into an inner circle they couldn’t access before, and they are responding.

5.   Stop planning your marketing from a channel perspective. Budgeting across traditional channels of media versus digital channels isn’t useful anymore; it’s nonsense.
Instead, begin budgeting marketing efforts based on the distinctive patterns of paths of purchase taken by different segments of consumers. Only one-third of all purchases today roughly follow the old funnel model.

So take your old funnel images and line your birdcages. While you're at it, do the same with any new, single-slide wonders that try to capture the path to purchase. These days, we’re all on a “road less traveled.”

2 comments about "The CMO's New Million-Dollar Slide (Not)".
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  1. Prugh Roeser from The Devereux Group, Inc., October 30, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.

    Interesting post. I think, however, there is a distinction to be made between the path to purchase and what we call the Buyer Cycle which is defined as the buyer’s pre-purchase steps that Marketing and Sales can influence. As you rightly point out, the path to purchase – or the buying process – has changed. And depictions of the buying process – like the funnel – should change as well.

    But the Buyer Cycle itself hasn’t really changed. Its 5 core steps – getting up to speed on what’s going on in the marketplace, defining what’s needed, researching options, making a selection, and completing the purchase – are still the same steps buyers go through in the course of making a purchase. How they do it, however, has changed to much more of a “self-serve” model.

    So perhaps a diagram of the universal Buyer Cycle should be “The CMO’s New Million-Dollar Slide.”

  2. Erich Joachimsthaler from Vivaldi Partners, October 30, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.

    Thanks. Good catch. Buyer Cycle versus Paths to Purchase.

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