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Navigating the Marketing Funnel to Build Connected Consumer Journeys

May 11, 2021

By Andrea Tartaglia – Co-Founder/Director @ The Marketing Leaders Ltd.

 

Following up from last week’s blog post (here) where I shared my definition of the marketing funnel and gave some insights on why I think it is a critical tool when developing marketing strategies, I’d like to share my experience in navigating the funnel to build connected consumer journeys (which is possibly a fancy way to call a marketing strategy that is consumer centric). 

It comes as no surprise then that my starting point is the consumer. As mentioned a number of times on this blog and on the TML website, I use data and insights to clarify where the various consumer personas are in the journey (for more on consumer segmentation and buyer’s personas head to the Knowledge House on the TML website). I measure as much as it is possible and track the key indicators throughout the journey to assess effectiveness of all the marketing activities I have implemented to move consumers through the funnel. But I am getting ahead of myself… 

I use the information and my goals to map the consumer journey of each consumer persona, determining the intended chain of actions (in my marketing campaign) and reactions (from consumers), visualizing the path that consumers are likely to take as they journey with the Brand.

Each step I map is an opportunity to reflect on the choices that consumers will have to make along the path and on the likely effectiveness of each marketing activity they are exposed to.

There are some critical steps that need to be monitored closely and measured to check if everything is on track. Data again is key.

 I map a starting point, an end point and everything in between, including any external factors that I think can influence the outcome. And for each step I clarify what activities are going to be implemented and what result they have to generate for the achievement of my ultimate objectives.

 

The funnel model forces me to think about what marketing tools and techniques are adequate for each ‘phase’, or each step in the consumer’s journey.

The kind of marketing and communication activities to generate awareness is very different from what needs to be done to create/strengthen affinity, turn that into interest and finally into an active behavior.

Things can get quite complicated, and mapping is a useful exercise that helps me clarifying and stress testing my strategies and planned activities.

And all the data I have collected and studied allow me to step in the shoes of each consumer persona and imagine and anticipate how they will behave.

 

I mentioned that I map the journey for each consumer persona (or segment). I certain cases, I also map the journey of any people that have an influence on the consumer journey. For example, I am used to working on marketing strategies addressed to kids, knowing that the actual person making the purchase is likely to be a parent or an adult gift giver. In these cases, I need to map the journey for the kids and for the parent/gift giver. They are fundamentally different ‘audiences’ and need to think carefully about how to address them separately and individually, but also understand how the two journeys overlap and influence each other.

 

All this work results into the final marketing strategy, with the details of each activity, the KPIs to measure along the way and the results expected. Every single element plays a part, and everything drives to the end result. This is why I call these connected consumer journeys.

Understanding the connections is the fundamental benefit of this exercise. It allows for a greater level of sophistication in the strategic approach and brings to life the interdependencies of the various touchpoints with consumers.

Nothing works in isolation and no single activity can be measured and evaluated only thanks to its own ‘merits’.

It is also a great tool to bring key stakeholders along in my marketing journey as it articulates well goals, strategies, starting point, expected result and everything in between. 

At the end of the process, I find very useful to relook at the mapping after the end of a campaign. This generates critical learnings that can be applied to future campaigns. And also, it can reveal some surprising connections that were not immediately evident while the process was still live.

For example, after a successful launch of a movie and its associated merchandising range, I relooked and measured all the interdependencies between the movie launch campaign and performance and the sales of merchandising. This revealed that the assumption that purchase was driven by the success of the movie was not correct. The most important contributor to sales was the willingness of retailers to give prominent display space to the merchandising lines as a consequence of the movie release (regardless its success and the marketing for the movie and the product). This evidence generated lots of conversations about the opportunities for merchandising sales in the absence of a movie release (very hot topic at the moment given cinemas are sadly closed – at the moment of writing).

 

 

Let’s bring all this to life with an example (excuse the vagueness as I can’t reveal the Brand or the details around it… I think it still provides some valuable insights on how to use the marketing funnel and connected consumer journeys in ‘real life’).

A few years ago, one of the brands I was managing had an issue which, even being relatively small in the greater scheme of things, could become a much larger problem if not addressed in a timely manner.

While the Brand was performing extremely well, we saw sales from the younger audience (kids) stagnating. This raised a flag as kids are the adult consumers of tomorrow and if they are disengaging, they are likely to abandon the Brand, putting future sales at risk.

 

This is a fan fueled Brand, so it is important to maintain a high level of engagement across the broad spectrum of consumers the Brand attracts, and it is vital to have an influx of new young consumers on a regular basis to ensure the longevity of the Brand and secure future growth. 

Once the issue was identified, the next step was to understand its root causes and then come up with a plan for improving the situation. 

As mentioned above, there are a few steps I suggest undertaking as part of the strategic process:

 

  • Goals setting: this was a complicated situation. We had a mix of Brand objectives and commercial objectives. We needed the Brand to have a stronger equity among a certain segment of its audience (kids) and turn that into higher sales, in particular coming from new consumers, while building long term loyalty. Ultimately, we agreed the desired outcome from the marketing efforts was going to be an increase in sales of kids’ products. We quantified that and it became our end goal.   

 

  • Start mapping the consumer journey: at this point we had the starting point and the end point of the journey for this particular consumer segment. We then started to jot down the consumer journey. However, more insights were needed to fully understand the starting point. This required an exploration of the key consumer segment and the way it was engaging (and most importantly not engaging) with the Brand. The exercise highlighted that the touchpoints of the Brand with kids were not optimized and that there were significant gaps, specifically in relation to touchpoints very high in the consideration of kids but were not active for the Brand. Furthermore, we found there was inconsistency of messaging across all touchpoints, which was negatively impacting the ability of the Brand to attract new consumers, generate interest and turn that into intent to purchase.

 

  • Overlay funnel considerations: this last point was further elaborated on by using the funnel. If we want to attract new consumers among kids, we need kids to be aware of the Brand, engage with it, build interest, and then, as mentioned, generate intent to purchase and sales. We basically needed these new consumers to go through the funnel from top to bottom. At the top of the funnel, we had to address the issue of having gaps in our ecosystem of touchpoints relevant to kids (for example the lack of content on YouTube and other kids appropriate social media). Throughout the funnel, we had to address the issue of messaging. At the bottom of the funnel, we had to address some product issues and make sure the product side of things related to everything else, providing a consistent and seamless Brand experience.

  • Build the entire journey: all the data and insights gathered were then used to finalize the consumer journey, establishing what actions to take for each step, moving consumers through the funnel until the delivery of the desired outcome. This process raised some very interesting questions and forced us to take some hard decisions. For example, ideally we wanted to create a destination for our new digital kids content (aiming at building awareness) assuming kids would find it. Eventually we agreed it was going to be more effective to publish the content where kids are already engaging (i.e. anywhere gaming content was being published) and then move them from there to our Brand destination, where they could deepen their engagement with the Brand (therefore moving them from the awareness phase in the funnel to the interest phase).

 

  • Understand interdependencies: one thing became clear quite soon in the process. We could not just look at kids and what to do to address the issues we flagged in isolation from other consumer segments. The activities planned to increase awareness, interest and sales among kids had an impact on the Brand perceptions of all other consumer segments and vice versa. Also, we could actually use other segments as advocates for the Brand. This was the case with parents who could play an active role in helping us addressing the issues with the kids target. We had to create ‘spin-off’ consumer journeys connecting the kids plan with the plans for the other consumer segments, with a particular focus on what to do with parents in general and specifically to influence the consumer journey of kids, basically enrolling them as Brand ambassadors.

  • Execute the plan: with the consumer maps agreed upon, we could finally execute the strategy, implementing all the activities we planned at each step of the journey throughout the funnel. It was a lot of fun, but also long and hard work! I am not going to spend a lot of time here as I am sure you know it is never a linear process and various issues (some expected and some not) always come up along the way putting a twist on even the most carefully built plans…

 

  • Measure results: and throughout the execution we started measuring the effectiveness of the various actions, using different metrics depending on what activity was being evaluated and what phase of the funnel we were looking at (number of views, likes and engagements at the top of the funnel; sales at the bottom of the funnel). In the end we could demonstrate the campaign delivered an uplift in sales between 30% and 60% depending on the market and the retail channel we activated. Not bad at all! And most importantly aligned with the desired outcome we wanted from the beginning.

 

I am passionate about this. Always have been from my university days. In fact my dissertation explore the impact of advertising and communication strategies on the cognitive structures of consumers. Since then, I have been having fun building brand maps like this one:

And evolving these into the connected consumer journeys I talked about above, overlaying considerations on the different consumer segments the Brand engages with and the marketing funnel stages they might be in.

 

There are other considerations to talk about, which will be discussed in the next blog post. See you there.