E. St. Elmo Lewis immortalized the idea of the AIDA model sometime in 1898. It was in that year that this Advertising Hall of Fame inductee first drew the world’s attention to the four fundamental mind-states that most buyers experience as they travel down marketing’s most sacrosanct path, progressively switching status from WHO? to WHOA! If everything goes according to plan. And of course, AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Organizations and marketers worth their salt have always followed some version of the AIDA marketing funnel model, maybe in spirit if not in letter.
The only trouble is, their customers have not. Nope siree, not really – consumers have only given the impression that they do. Because buyers, after the heat & dust has settled, follow one thing: Their heart. Their motivations.
You would argue that every marketer knows that. That is what is the AIDA model is, implicitly, based on the very essence, which is true. What not every marketer acknowledges, however, is that the funnel hasn’t undergone much change since Elmo’s trend-bucking revelation in 1898. It’s 2020.
If we haven’t tried to reboot the funnel for a new age, or – the elephant in the room moment - haven’t dared to look a legacy in the eye, we haven’t been responsive and response-able enough.
Here's How AIDA Marketing Funnel Model Looks From an Online POV and an Offline Perspective
The lens of motivation – and incentives that give it form and shape - gives us a refreshingly innovative lever to at least consider a tweak, if not an overhaul, to the legacy of AIDA.
How can we arrest the goldfish ATTENTION (A) span in a sea of distraction for a second longer? Is it possible to INTEREST (I) potential customers with something that resonates with them at a deeper level? What will it take to evoke DESIRE (D) that’s irresistible? Finally, is there a clever-er way to stir ACTION (A) in those final, ‘it-could-go-either-way’ moments that keep most marketers awake at night? Let’s find out with a motivation-first reboot.
A: Garnering Attention
Let’s begin at the top of the AIDA marketing funnel model (ToFu) where we can assume – for the sake of discussion - that the market (potential customers) isn’t aware of you. Not for this specific product anyway, let us say. This is a stage where searchers are trawling the universe with a rather wide torchlight and seeking broad strokes of information rather than a deep-dive.
Their trigger could be anything from a curious mind that’s simply sniffing around for ‘What's New’, an upcoming keynote or occasion where the topic may feature in a speech or conversations, or a cursory investigation of possible causes to a problem they are facing. Sometimes, they are generally exploring and not even aware of a need.
For a brand, this is a time to cast a wide net through a mix of outbound (mass media) and inbound (targeted content) AIDA marketing strategy.
Corporate giants who were either born or bred during the pre-internet era – household names like Unilever, P&G, Ford, General Electric, ITC, Britannia, Amul, Asian Paints, Godrej, Dabur, the Times Group and TATA. To name some – cast this net on offline media and channels such as TV, newspapers, radio, magazines, cinema slides, hoardings, events and activations - each of which would be fuelling ‘market buzz’ and engineering ‘word-of-mouth equity’ in their own unique ways, be it at the breakfast table, between inquisitive neighbours and club evenings.
Despite being ‘intrusive’, if one had the budget, mass media afforded a great way to stay top of mind, and tickle the market’s imagination. In the modern age, a large chunk of that playground has shifted online, with videos, blogs and social media now staple weaponry for both millennial and Gen Z brands, as well as hundred-year-old icons who have gracefully transitioned to the digital play.
This Attention (Top of Funnel) Stage is also an opportunity to associate feelings of authority, respect and gratitude with your brand by showcasing leadership and empathy in the classic sense – in other words, by being present where potential customers are with a helpful attitude and useful information: Be it at the ‘experience store’, the weekend flea market or the company blog. However, your competition is planning to do the same thing, so how do you ensure you have an edge? Let’s look at five ways to achieve this.
- Conduct a poll or survey with internal teams, customer databases (distributing survey forms via Mall or RWA activations, for instance) and on open platforms like social media to get a pulse of what customers are going through at the moment, their most common challenges, and their (secret) Wish Lists. You can use various keyword research tools to support both online and offline activity here. People are lazy, and it isn’t always easy to get them to participate in surveys and reply to questionnaires, so get creative and incentivize them with interesting reward ideas.
- Find the right SME’s / Subject Matter Experts – both external or in the house – and inspire them into producing their finest work (be it TV ads, newspaper campaigns, coffee table books, PR exercises, feature articles in magazines, multi-format online content such as white papers & e-books, infographics, videos, checklists, tips & strategies and SEO strategies like back-links) with the power of incentives, customer rewards & recognition.
- If you can deliver real value at this stage, it stands to reason that you will be surprising potential customers pleasantly (the “Where have you been all my life?” kind) and evoking mild levels of admiration too. Leverage it by inviting them to opt into your weekly or monthly newsletter, or to subscribe to your YouTube channel or Vlog, at this stage. Sweeten the deal with a nice reward on-the-spot.
- Rope in domain leaders and host a webinar, which remains a great way of establishing yourself as an idea hub. Just like the junta, VIP’s and Experts need to be incentivized – perhaps more than others - but because of their influencer stature in society (and, by extension, possible implications for your brand), you must be extra sensitive in researching and identifying theirs. Trade shows and offline exhibitions are other potent weapons at this Attention-Grabbing stage, and this is another area where incentives can play a big role for you - be it in attracting the right guests and participants or boosting visitor numbers.
- Set setting S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) goals to increase sales conversion rate, digital marketing (cold mailers), Call Centres (cold calls) and SEO teams. Here again, you can game the AIDA sales funnel model to your advantage by giving sales incentive rewards & recognition to frontline and outreach teams.
I: Creating Interest
This is the trickiest part of the funnel, where you have to engineer a mindset change and elicit sustainable curiosity around your product or brand. In short, go from Zero to One. And you have to do it all without betraying your impatience or anxiety. Start by trying to convince your audience that you really, really understand their universe – and are both able and ready to make it a little better.
This is the stage to weigh and try various approaches such as a deep-dive around unique features and benefits (that sets you apart from your competition which, incidentally, is also squarely on your customers’ radar by now), clarity (In-person and digital Demo’s), FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) triggers, validation (testimonials), confidence (reviews) and trust (influencer opinions), while generally building some amount of hoo-ha to break the clutter.
As in the previous (Attention) phase, this is a stage where you may end up creating a need where none existed, such as, for instance, getting a casual gadget geek to realize that the new TV with vision protection technology is just what the doctor ordered for his child who hates carrots, broccoli and everything good for the eye. This can happen face to face such as a presentation in a Trade Fair kiosk (to take an offline example), or via an influencer vlog (to take an online one).
So how do you maximize mileage from each of these nuts and bolts? As always, tap into the power of motivation.
Whether it is getting your PR agency to generate buzz, content teams to amp up engagement by leveraging trending tactics (such as in-moment and in-moment marketing), walk-in visitors to register for a Demo, users to share their feedback and suggestions, followers to participate in a contest, potential customers to fill up a lead form, contact centres and back-office folks to follow up on pipelines, digital marketing teams to lay remarketing gambits or influencers to crank up their game. Attaching a nifty incentive reward in this middle section (MoFu) of the AIDA sales funnel works wonders.
D: Arousing Desire
This is the dramatic part of the funnel where your potential patron probably already know what you offer and why you probably represent a better choice than others in the market, but the OMG! (X) Factor - which can lift their interest to the next level - is still not there. That emotional connect is typically provided by stoking triggers (not all of which come with a halo) such as aspiration, craving, greed, jealousy, passion, joy, altruism and others.
Sway future buyers – some of whom are, by now, fairly hot ‘leads’ - in the Desire stage of the AIDA funnel by selling the sizzle, not the steak. Up-front real benefits that fit snugly in their journey (if you can start your pitch with “Finally…!”, you’re halfway there), share case studies and stories that show them exactly how the idea made a difference in someone else’s life, try and rope in celebrities for the “This I gotta have” factor.
A: Triggering Action
The Action phase of AIDA is, not surprisingly, action-packed. You may have done all that hard work and come within inches of closing the deal, but the last-minute touches (BoFu: Bottom of the Funnel) can still upset the applecart.
Bring out your tactical smarts now and make the best use of tools like reminders via SMS, WhatsApp and emails, ad retargeting, shopping cart & payment gateway integration, special SALE activations at markets and malls. Include ‘wake-up nudges & pokes’ on social media, conversion-optimized websites and landing pages (with powerful CTA’s and an intuitive bot experience), trials & test-drives, discount coupons & codes, special offers (last-minute, early-bird, limited-period), free audit & consultation offers, head-turning UX design and of course, a well-greased sales process which increases the sales conversion rate.
As you may have guessed, incentives rewards and recognition plays a central role in this concluding phase - be it while devising targets for on-ground and digital teams, planning special ‘ACT NOW’ offers at the strategy table or deploying sales incentive rewards, call-center and distributor channel rockstars.
Activate The Serial Position Effect- Primacy and Recency Effect
According to psychology, the brain registers the initial and latter experiences differently. Things we sense (see, hear, taste, etc.) first tend to lodge themselves in the long term memory, whereas those we encounter later (that is, more recent items) go into the short term memory. When the consumer’s mind confronts the marketer’s communication, the short term memory usually whirrs to life first (RECENCY EFFECT), making a connection with the last or previous message.
However, as the message gradually sinks in, the long term enters the action (PRIMACY EFFECT), setting the context and stage for overall meaning and impact. As product custodians and brand leaders, our task is to sync the two optimally to get the most out of their buck. A strong launch, for example, can set the long term context with the primacy effect, while ongoing communication can keep reviving and recall it with the recency effect.
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