It’s amazing how many organizations have marketing strategies that revolve around a single conversion point. Whether it’s a form submission, signing up for a trial, or visiting a brick-and-mortar establishment, many marketers obsess over these singular action points. The problem is that there are human beings behind these individual actions. As we know, human aren’t always impulsive. Sometimes people are calculated and there’s a lot of thought leading up to a conversion, not to mention a lot of thought after one.
The prevailing attitude within many of these organizations goes something like this: “If we can only get them in the door, they will fall in love and buy what we’re selling.” While this may have been true in the so-called “Golden Age of Advertising,” consumers no longer buy products, they buy better versions of themselves. Consumers own their purchasing journeys deciding when they want information and when they don’t. Therefore, a marketing strategy that banks on overcoming a single tipping point in the mind of prospects is not only flawed, it’s absurd.
Instead, marketers need to step way back and take a much more holistic view of the dynamics involved in the purchasing decisions their target customers make. This can be broken down into three areas, pre-conversion, conversion, and post-conversion.
In the pre-conversion phase consumers are experiencing the struggles and successes that shape their values and needs. There are gathering information and learning about themselves and others. This manifests in a variety of ways, but simply put, wants, needs, and curiosities arise. Successful marketers build strategies that thoughtfully expose potential customers to their brands long before a decision has ever been made. Furthermore, they prepare for the next stages when their targets move beyond awareness and basic exposure into actual interaction.
Consumer interaction with an organization occurs within the conversion stage. I must stress than this is not a one and done process. A given individual’s conversion activity is more and more fragmented. A pattern of several drive-bys, then a quick store visit, then a website view, then a longer store visit may lead up to an actual purchase at the store. A web lead might start out as a simple social media like, then an email sign up, then a file download, and then turn into a subscription. The point is that there are multiple interactions, not one singular tipping point. Successful marketers know this and they thoughtfully construct avenues for consumers to self-navigate along a conversion path. While they create the various touchpoints needed to win someone over, they understand that their buyers ultimately own the journey they take.
Finally, there is a post-conversion phase that may make the difference between an engaged, loyal customer and a one-time, gone-forever transaction. Successful marketing organizations are able to keep converted individuals engaged by clearly defining a path for more conversions and by providing reasons to bring others along the same journey. This post-conversion phase is one marked by additional conversion activity and by recruitment/evangelism.
It’s important to understand that all three stages can be and often are interwoven. Each conversion type has pre and post conversion phases. There are both psychological and physical steps leading up to signing up for an email newsletter or peeking through a storefront window, just like there are steps that follow. A successful marketing strategy thinks through this reality.
Conversely, marketers with limited or no success focus solely on the conversion stage. They only focus on the action that drives a sale. In the case of brick and mortar store, it might be the widespread promotion of an upcoming 50% off sale. In the case of a B2B organization, it might be the promotion a request for quote (RFQ) webpage. In either case, most or all of the activities leading up to and following the conversion are completely ignored.
In order to be successful in this new age of consumer-owned conversion, organizations must evolve their mindsets to a much more holistic view of marketing. Those that don’t will be increasingly ignored by consumers demanding richer, more thoughtful engagement experiences. Marketers can no longer be mass-promotional wonks, they must become architects of consumer-malleable interaction highways. This is the way of the world, the foundation of transformative marketing. Evolve or die.