We hear so much these days about how the purchase funnel is dead. That people don’t shop for products in a linear fashion. Much of the dismissal of the purchase funnel is driven by new data and studies that come out of the world of ecommerce and highly regarded sources such as McKinsey. Most of this evidence points to buyer behavior not responding to the linear fashion depicted in the purchase funnel – A.I.D.A. – Awareness ➞ Interest ➞ Decision ➞ Action.
Did people ever really behave in such a logical, regimented fashion? For that matter, was the purchase funnel ever really intended to be a direct representation of buyer behavior? First a little history.
What’s come to be known as the A.I.D.A. or purchase funnel model was first depicted by Elias St. Elmo Lewis, a Philadelphia ad agency honcho from Philadelphia, in 1899. The A.I.D.A. model, according to Lewis, was depicted in the following manner – “To catch the eye of the reader, to inform him, to make a customer of him”.
This says nothing about buyer behavior. It says every about content creation. Lewis is calling out the role of marketing and marketing content to address different buyer mindsets.
Could it be that the purchase funnel was never meant to depict a behavioral process? Rather that we as marketers conveniently (or lazily) assigned that role to the purchase funnel? I would say yes and yes.
The real value of the purchase funnel is realized when we look at it as a guide for creating content and other marketing tactics. Less a purchase funnel and more of a content funnel. This is particularly true for Inbound Marketing –
Awareness ➞ How can we create awareness of our brand?
Interest ➞ What sort of content is ideal for building interest in our offerings? Videos? Ebooks? Blog posts?
Decision ➞ How can we use marketing content, our website, other tactics etc. to help buyers along in their purchase decision?
Action ➞ How can we best insure we have a customer for life?
For suggestions on how to create content that corresponds to the different buyer needs across the content funnel, check out our guide for creating Killer Marketing Content.