Help me help you

So we’re well into 2013 and the development of #ClickThruThurs is continuing. By now you should already be quite familiar with the initiative and the many reasons that it’s a good thing. What I’d like to take some time to do now is explore in a little more detail the ways in which your clicks count, and why such a simple action can lead to really positive things. Help me to help you understand how best to manipulate educate marketers to get what you want. Yep, I said it…

That’s right team, it’s time to delve slightly further into the fucked up world of marketing!

First up, let’s enjoy some marketing history with a lesson about the purchase funnel. The idea of the purchase funnel was first developed in 1898 by a dude named E. St Elmo Lewis and it is used to describe a theoretical customer journey in making a purchase. Here’s an example of the traditional purchase funnel (which is still in use in an alarming amount of marketing today):

The traditional purchase funnel is linear and no longer relevant to customer interaction.

The idea is that a customer’s journey goes a bit like this:

  1. Bikes are pretty awesome and seem like a good way to get around while providing some health benefits (Awareness)
  2. I think maybe I want to get a bike (Opinion)
  3. What sort of bike do I want to get (Consideration)
  4. I think I want to get this really sweet style of bike that suits my needs and wants perfectly and I think I want this basket/GPS unit on it (Preference)
  5. I’m getting this bike from my LBS (Purchase)

There are variations on the theme both in terminology and in level of detail but that’s the basic version and it really hasn’t changed in nearly 115 years (arguably like cycling’s governing body/ies *ahem*).

Except that now, it’s totally and utterly changed.

See, somewhere along the way you bastards all got together and connected your computers into some kind of fucking hive mind internet. Then you fuckers went and made it way worse by making “social networks” so you can brag to your friends all the time and call people you’ve never met your friends.

In the good old days it was so much easier. Your local store ruled the world. You wanted to know about something, you came in and talked to someone. They told you what you wanted to hear  / they needed to sell you needed to know and then you made a choice about what to buy. Nice, simple, straightforward.

But nowadays it’s vastly more complex. Even though it’s still sometimes referred to as the “purchase funnel”, the funnel has been gone from it for a long fucking time. These days it can be more accurately described as a purchase matrix. Here’s a really simplified version of what it may look like:

This is a simplified version of the modern kind of purchasing journey

Note that I called it simplified, because it is. Depending on the product and the scale of the purchase, the number of points at which a potential customer can connect or relate to a brand is huge. No longer is there a nice, linear progression through a funnel. No longer is the local store the centre of expertise and knowledge (even if they have the most knowledgeable experts).

These days customers connect through a range of things, from news articles, to blogs, to advertising and so on. And worse still (for the dreaded marketers) is that  a connection at any of those places can be at any point in a specific customer’s purchasing journey. 2 customers can be reading the exact same blog post for example, and one is ready to buy while the other is just starting to learn about the products on offer. How is the poor marketer meant to relate to both of these customers at the same time?

Fuck them. Don’t feel sorry for the marketer. Not your problem. BUT, and here’s the important bit, the point of telling you about this is to demonstrate that marketers working in the modern digital world have a hell of a lot of work going on at any given point in time. They’re trying to maintain relevant contact with as many customers as possible across as many channels as they can manage and afford.

It’s hard goddamn work.

Which is why #ClickThruThurs is important and useful to marketers. Anywhere that they can identify an audience that is actively engaging with them, their brand/s or a project that they are involved with, that space becomes valuable to them. This works on multiple levels and is actually of benefit to almost everyone (there’s always one stubborn person who swears it doesn’t benefit them).

The short version is that when marketers can see a passionate and engaged audience, then they want to connect with that audience. This is good for riders and teams because it makes their product/s (i.e. the team profile, connection with fans, etc.) more valuable to marketers. It’s good for marketers because it helps them to see where and (more importantly) in what ways the fans are connecting and responding to the team and riders.

And it’s good for us fans too, because smart marketers then go to work to make the content and contributions that they make more relevant and meaningful to the audience. Which in turn means that we’ll be more willing to engage with the sponsors etc and the cycle improves again. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Smart marketers are attentive and responsive, great marketers are part of the communityI’ll discuss this in more detail in the next post, but the point is that we’re trying to encourage long-term relationships here between brands and teams/riders. In order for that to work we need to accept a certain amount of responsibility for the relationship between brands (sponsors) and fans. So there is real incentive for us to actively engage, not just by buying the brand’s products or services, but by also communicating clearly with them about what we want or need from them.

A great example of this is the Glacier Gloves promo that is running via Amber Pierce’s connection to them. Not only do you get a great discount on a great product (Amber swears by them and that’s good enough for me, I don’t cycle anywhere cold enough to need real gloves), but what you also get is an incentive to tell your friends about the great deal you got, the great product you got from the great deal and the great rider you got the deal from. That’s the “extended reach” that marketers talk about. It’s when your connection to their product or brand is strong enough that you’re willing to recommend them. That’s what they’re working to achieve.

The good news is that as a result of all this internettish, social meshwork stuff, they want that to be a genuine connection. So they’re not trying to trick you. They’re trying to understand you and connect with you. They’re trying to work out what the best thing is that they can offer you. A really smart brand and marketer will pay attention to communities that care about it and what it is doing. Trust me, that’s the kind of engagement they dream of having. They want a relationship with you that lasts and is two-way.

That’s the story of the purchase funnel in a nutshell. It’s gone from a simplistic method of trying to convince you to buy something and it’s become an opportunity to meet as equals, understand each other a little better and see if there’s some way in which we can help each other out.

That’s more than enough marketing drivel for one post, thanks for sticking with it this far. Next time I’ll get into a bit more of the nuts and bolts of how smart brands are responding to the communities of fans that they’re finding and connecting with.

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