They say if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. One of the favorite tools of marketers, the sales funnel, may produce the same kind of myopia, according to Unmarketing’s Scott Stratten.
Stratten’s new book, Unselling: The New Customer Experience, spends a couple of chapters on what he calls “funnel vision.” In his (and co-author Alison Kramer’s) words,
The traditional funnel focused on sales and conversions. Once customers moved through the funnel, they were off the radar.
Today, 60 percent of all purchase decisions are made before customers enter your funnel. Consumers come to you prepared and educated, with trusted referrals in hand before they ever hear your sales pitch.
This is a fundamental change in philosophy. Because so much is taking place outside the funnel, what comes after the sale can be as important as getting the sale.
So, if the sales funnel is no longer a useful way to think about potential customers, what should a marketer do? Stratten proposes a “sales cloud” model. It’s not quite as simple as the uni-directional sales funnel. In the sales cloud, there’s a lot of interaction between current, past, and potential customers, mostly enabled by social media, review sites, etc.
This is why it’s so important to create an amazing customer experience, according to Stratten. If you fail to meet a customer’s expectations, they may well let the world know.
If you do manage to deliver as promised and expected, the customer probably won’t bother to share that experience unless asked. But, when you greatly exceed expectations, the customer may feel compelled to tell everyone they know.
Stratten recounts the “Joshie” story, in which a child’s stuffed animal was left behind at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Rather than simply returning the lost item, the creative employees created a Joshie adventure. They photographed the toy lounging by the pool, getting a massage, hanging out with other stuffed toys, and even issued an employee badge for Joshie. The parents were delighted, and couldn’t help but share their experience as Ritz-Carlton customers.
“Joshie” represents the kind of amazing customer experience that makes an indelible impression on the customer and, once in a while, massive traction in social media. For building a brand, one Joshie experience is worth a million ad impressions.
Overall, Unselling is an fast-paced lesson in how to (and not to) do business in today’s world. The sales cloud is about as theoretical as Stratten gets – most of the book is illustrated with good, bad, and ugly examples of businesses succeeding or failing at adapting to today’s reality. Stratten has a knack for spotting real-life examples that illustrate basic business truths.
If you’ve ever seen Stratten deliver a keynote, you know he can make the audience laugh. His sense of humor and taste for irony make Unselling a quick and enjoyable read.
For more about funnel vision and other Unselling topics, be sure to listen to my podcast, Unselling with Scott Stratten (or read the transcript).