A short history of the Purchase Funnel

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Grant explains how the Digital Sales Funnel has superseded the traditional Sales Funnel which was created in 1898.

In 1898 Elias Elmo Lewis created the purchase funnel, which has become ubiquitous all around the world.

But how can a purchase funnel created over a hundred years ago still be relevant in business today?

Well the truth is, it isn’t.

You see, the purchase funnel has a wide top and it relied on the fact that attention was abundant, which of course, in 1898 it probably was. If you put a direct mail through someone’s door over a hundred years ago, the chances are they would have a look at it.

But today that isn’t the case.

This is because we now live in a world where everybody owns a media channel and information has therefore become abundant. There’s a direct cause and effect. In other words, in a world of abundance of information, attention is not scarce and, therefore, the scatter gun approach of bombarding lots and lots of people to get their attention simply doesn’t work.

Therefore, in the digital sales funnel, we have a narrow top because the idea is; the only way we’ll get people’s attention today is by creating value and that won’t work by bombarding the world but by attracting them to us.

The reason why, in the digital sales funnel, we now have a fat middle, is because that’s where we need to concentrate our efforts. Attention is the most precious thing that every company needs today in order to be successful. Therefore, once we’ve earned someone’s attention, we need to nurture it and keep it in order to bring them to a purchase later on.

Therefore we’ll have more and more people.

As they come into our funnel we don’t just want to get rid of them, screen them out, as we did in the traditional purchase funnel, but we want to hold their attention.

Even if they don’t buy, using their media channels they may very well become an advocate and recommend us to someone else. Therefore, if we want to be successful at business today, we can’t be using models from 1898. We need to get with the times, understand that the dynamic of attention has changed, and use the digital sales funnel in order to nurture attention and get purchases.

There may be small changes to the spoken word in this transcript in order to facilitate the readability of the written English

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  1. There is a difference between strategy and tactics. FB, IG, LI and others are mediums with specific types of audiences. Those are your tactical tools to reach them. The strategy is the same finding qualified buyers in the universe of potential. People do not have a shorter attention span, just ask Netflix. In a universe of abundance they have a shorter consideration time

  2. Author

    Thanks Joe. FB, IG, LI and your website etc. are media channels. Like any media, including Netflix, they enable a business to build an audience and retain it. In so doing, a business can ensure that it is in the ‘consideration set’ of the buyer when they are ready to make a purchase. The Digital Sales Funnel enables a business to measure its ‘media effectiveness’ as a part of its marketing mix.

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