Things sell themselves these days.
Whether we’re talking about placing products in front of consumers, or trying to persuade others to adopt a particular strategy in an organisation, the point at which we reach them is crucial.
The traditional approach of a funnel, where we go through defined stages is starting to show its age – because it can’t cope with the idea that consumers may know as much, if not more than product and service providers.
Take recruitment, for example.
For a long time, the only way for a person to understand what it was like working for a company was to ask friends and family who worked there, or apply for a position and spend some time working there.
So, they entered a funnel – experiencing the recruitment process, negotiating salaries, starting work, mixing with their colleagues, understanding the hierarchy and so on.
Now – they have access to much more information on the working experience at a company – especially if it’s a large one.
For example, Glassdoor has 5,021 review of Barclays, 8.596 salaries and 1,920 interviews with employees.
A prospective employee looking there will know more about how the company treats its staff than almost anyone else internally, especially the top management.
The democratisation of information has levelled the playing field in every aspect of organisational interaction.
Most service and product providers understand their products in detail, but spend less time comparing themselves with others than potential consumers.
The consumers therefore are more likely to have a better understanding of the market and trends and the differences between brands, just through the basic research they do before engaging with providers, than the brands do themselves.
This change in the way of how consumers interact with products and services has been called the customer decision journey by McKinsey.
In this model, consumers start with an initial consideration set, a collection of brands that they are aware of and may have been exposed to recently.
They then get information from a wide variety of sources – internet reviews, personal recommendations, traditional media – which all contribute to an active evaluation of their options. At some point, they reach a moment of purchase, where they decide to go with a particular option.
According to the customer decision journey model, this is where the hard work begins.
The postpurchase experience then shapes success or failure.
Many people, once they make a decision, experience a degree of anxiety.
The first thing they then do is to go online and check that they have made the right decision – looking for reassurance from others in the same position.
This works, sometimes, as they get more information, realise that they are with a good brand and are reassured. On the other hand, they may see more information from competitors that show them what the alternatives might be.
The trigger for entering a loyalty loop and making follow on purchases depends then on the quality of what they get and their ongoing assessments of the options open to them.
This continuing change in the way consumers make decisions is changing everything from sales to recruitment in an organisation.
And the starting point – the thing that one must do to even play the game – is to be included in the initial consideration set.
And that means that the potential consumer needs to be aware that a particular organisation exists – it needs to be discoverable.
Which brings us back to the importance of brand awareness: why it matters so much now, and why it will become even more important in the years ahead.