Aug 06

Personas in the funnel. How to integrate customer experience with conversion funnel tools.

Two axes entwined like the DNA: it is the whole array of benefits of customer experience knowledge on the one hand and precise online traffic measuring tools on the other hand. The modern marketing services market is a collection of quickly growing business and sometimes unsuccessful start-ups based on the dynamics of e-commerce. Today is a good time to offer services that aggregate various digital solutions to support online sales because it has become difficult to handle the methods of web user flow. Still, the challenge actually lies outside of automation, multiple streams analysis, and affiliations. Do not overestimate the technology because it is the man, not a bar in a chart that we should focus on. This is where the powerful palette of tools set on the foundations (knowledge, emotions, and behaviour) of personas on their experience journey related to the proposition emerges. In fact, this is the right starting point for planning sales tactics for the digital environment as well.

Persona and MQL/SQL

Personas are fictional profiles, personality outline of the model buyer of a product or service. They are archetypes described with social, demographic, and psychographic features that indicate specific skills, goals, and expectations (both for life and the product). They can be presented in a persona sheet with a made-up name, age, gender, residence, motto, values, ambitions, lifecycle phase, type of job, daily routine, fears, hopes, etc. Often, the empathy map is used, a summary of what the persona feels, thinks, hears, sees, says, and does. It is then expanded into individual stages of the purchase process (customer journey mapping). Persona is a term used in customer experience.

On the other hand, there are the notions of MQL and SQL, and some more, in the e-commerce sales conversion language. Generally speaking, ‘marketing/sales-qualified leads’ mean various degrees of engagement in the purchase decision-making. The MQL shows interest in the content on the landing page and SQL commences the purchase process or is classified by the sales department as a prospective valuable buyer. But this is where the shoe pinches because not many companies define the terms precisely. What specific content, time of exposure to the content, what actions, and previous experience determine an MQL? What parameters should be added to a record, how many points should be assigned in scoring processes in order to determine that the MQL is now an SQL? Should corporate sales plan values be included in the parameters?

Both approaches apparently in a way replace a notion broadly referred to as the ‘target’ but have yet to find a common tongue. Both the domains have had the tools to develop the dialogue on the needs of an individual customer for a long time. It is the personas that should be the starting point as their psychographic perspective provides a broader technical framework for the categorisation of landing page users. Every persona is in motion, in the dynamic process of becoming familiar with the offer. It is where the emotional components of the purchasing attitude are shaped. The right mix of these ingredients results in actions that can be measured as traffic in our e-commerce structures.

No less than three tiers of the funnel

The edge of the funnel is the acquisition of prospective buyers. It is the inspiration of interest, the entrance to the AIDA tunnel (Attention > Interest > Desire > Action). It is the first tier of the funnel built with advertising campaigns, PR activities, influencers, mailing, etc. It is the communication entry point and the domain of insights. It could be sponsoring or own publicity on hired sections of specialist websites. We cast mile-long nets like industrial fishermen to catch tonnes of cookies.

The second tier is the ‘conversion facility’. This is where tactics for increasing prospect involvement in the offer come in. More precisely, an aptly built content set that presents in various contexts benefits that respond to the needs of the persona. Every possible landing page should lead, be it vertically or horizontally within the tier, to easily and noiselessly opening doors to the third tier of the funnel. This tier produces marketing qualified leads.

The end-process takes place in the narrowest part of the structure where the action is directed at the purchase decision. This is where the specific description of the offer, the value, and the purchase method come in. This strong current should lead one way, towards the outlet. That is why all sales, cross-sales, involvement (because ‘action’ sometimes mean completing a form, fixing a meeting, etc.) techniques bring the lead (SQL) to the yes-click. Modern, looked-after, and advanced e-commerce business cares particularly well for the quality of content in its content-rich shop. And it profiles the user and their basket.

It is important to define the MQL and SQL precisely within the context of currently available e-marketing tools at each of the tiers. Pool lead quality is what hurts most companies. Sales departments become more sceptical of marketers’ work while marketers focus on the cost-per-lead factor. The truth is, the worse the lead, the cheaper it is, which is a fertile ground for abuse in relations with providers of e-commerce services. One way to avoid it is the discussion with the employer, in particular, its sales team about what is a ‘good lead’ for them. This is where the skills of tech-fans fail as the ‘human factor’ enters the stage. Here we are! Now to integration with CEM.

Customer experience mapping (CEM)

It is not a technological issue that the AI is unable to fully integrate the decision-making process with the structure of landing pages and their content. We can expect the artificial intelligence to soon write texts and design images leading click by click to the purchase. Before we program the AI with those goals, we should understand the model it is supposed to operate in. It is actually human-oriented; it takes into account the human non-linear mix of myriads of factors that affect the man and human environment. The man is the key element here. The persona on its journey of experience that reaches deep into generations and the environment remains an unattainable system of conditions that can be measures virtually only statistically. In most cases, however, it works because changes in sales or conversion are measured statistically as well. Still, this approach does not answer the question about the meaning of soft factors such as quick wins or reduced anxiety.

CJM, or customer journey mapping consists of several stages: prior experience, awareness building, search for information (selection), purchase, use, and finally, recommendations. At each level, each persona has separate needs related to the form, content, and type of message sender.

This is the key, the model that may come in handy when building foundations for the sales funnel. For the purpose of the model, the six elements of CJM can be grouped in pairs into three levels of the structure of landing pages. The first two stages (prior experience and awareness building) are our internal actions on external websites where cookies are collected. The next pair (selection and purchase) belongs to websites, preferably ‘well-contented’ e-commerce platforms. The last stages (use and recommendations) take place back on external platforms (the blogosphere, social media).

It will be interesting to see whether the AI will handle the whole process, including recommendations. Will it take into account all the subtleties stemming from family or social models, our susceptibility to sound, weather, and image? Will it fully individualise the supply process to eventually trigger the demand reaction? Will it consider the whole complexity of the process, including the fact that not all decisions are motivated?

Integrated marketing is the future of marketing.

Integration is a separate specialist field within marketing. It introduces coherence and direction into the structures of market tools, processes, and actions and makes them quantifiable. For an integrator, advocates of specific solutions are just means to an end. The same applies to the technology, which for the time being, still serves the people and is intended to improve the quality of their lives, including the supply and demand domain.

This is why integration of technological knowledge with human-oriented customer experience is the right path for developing e-commerce strategies, sales tactics, and expectations regarding the influence on societies and finance.