Why Your Sales Funnel Isn’t Producing Customers

by Dan Lemp


Voiceover [00:03]
Business owners, do you want an unfair advantage over your competitors? Do you want to dominate in your area of expertise? You are listening to Business Life Hacks. Learn to influence consumer psychology and shortcut your way to business success with tips, tricks, and hacks from award-winning digital agency, JMarketing.

Dan Lemp [00:25]
Hello, everybody, and welcome to Business Life Hacks. In this episode, we’re talking about: buyer psychology, and what you can do to help your customers choose you over your competition.

And this is based off of some new findings that Google has come out with about buyer psychology, which adds layers of depth to our own process at JMarketing of building systems for our clients that leverage psychology of buyer behavior to influence buyer psychology and lead customers from the awareness stage all the way through to the sale.

In the beginning of this process, the buyer becomes aware of your brand and at the very end, they buy; they make a purchase. But what happens in that middle process is a messy, nonlinear process. It’s a lot messier than most people think about.

Very few businesses understand this portion of the buyer process, even though it’s the most important. And if you are one of the businesses who are leveraging that understanding, then you win and your competitors miss out.

So I’m just going to read a passage from this report – “The sum total of a shopper’s experiences and impressions creates a backdrop of exposure, encompassing brands, products and more. Against this backdrop, purchase triggers prompt the consumer to enter a cycle of exploration and evaluation, gathering information, and then narrowing it down.”

If the first cycle of going from exploration through evaluation doesn’t yield a definite choice, then they loop back, repeating that process as many times as necessary.

Finally, all options are evaluated, then they make a purchase or they don’t. Either way, the whole experience feeds back into their background exposure. So what are the three main points of this middle period that you need to leverage?

One: show up at key moments of exploration and evaluation to win or protect your share of consumer preference. Two: apply behavioral biases, to give shoppers the information and reassurance they need to exit the messy middle and complete a purchase.

Three: optimised site speed, user experience, and onsite messaging to shorten the distance between trigger and purchase. So, Josh, can you explain a bit about how we normally think about a sales funnel and what parts of that are normally overlooked?

Josh Strawczynski [03:05]
The sales funnel is fundamentally thought of as a very straightforward process. And I’ll talk about it in web terms – you have a problem; you look to solve it with the product purchase or service purchase. You go to Google, you find possible solutions.

That’s the top of the funnel, so you say, ‘okay, I’ve got ten to choose from’. You go into the middle of the funnel, where you start evaluating each of them against one another and you go, ‘OK, clearly this one is the best out of the bunch’; that takes you to the bottom of the funnel where you pull the trigger and you go, ‘yeah, I’m going to buy from these guys.’

And when it’s explained in those terms, it seems pretty straightforward. And most of us advertisers would actually think that way, except that that’s not how it works. At JMarketing, if you’ve listened to our podcast before, if you’ve read anything that we’ve published, you’ll know that we always talk about this algorithm we use that looks at how we’re clearly solving the customer’s problem and more importantly, what are their frictions and anxieties in the process.

And the reason that we look at that is because of the messy middle of the funnel. When we’re evaluating all of our options, human behavior is to not want to proceed. It’s to look for problems and feel anxious about the decisions.

And that’s what this report is all about. It’s about how can you supercharge your offering so that it makes people feel at ease. But it also totally out positions the competition and gives you a greater share of voice.

Dan Lemp [04:39]
Yeah, because until someone kicks them out of that messy middle part, they’re going to go through exploration and keep looking at all the different brands they can, picking up more and more information and then narrowing down, narrowing down, narrowing down.

But if no one’s kick them through to that last stage, then they’re just going to go through that cycle over and over and over and over and over again, getting more and more exposed to more of your competitors. So you want to get them out of that cycle as quickly as you can.

Josh Strawczynski [05:06]
And this is relevant for B2C and B2B buyers or sellers (however you want to look at it). The more complex something is, the more unknown, the more anxiety the buyer is going to have when they’re looking at it.

So if you buy gum at the supermarket, there’s a very low-risk threshold, you just toss it in a basket and not think anything of it. If, however, you’ve been charged with, say, finding a company to renovate the office, which is actually one of our customers at the moment, well, there’s a much higher burden on you.

You’re feeling a lot of social pressure and professional pressure to make the right choice. That’s why there’s the saying you’ll never get fired for hiring IBM. It’s not because IBM is necessarily the best solution, but everyone recognises them as quite reliable. And so even if it ends up being a total mess, you won’t lose your job.

And for a lot of people, that is a very important driver of decision making.

Dan Lemp [06:07]
Could you summarise the takeaways from this report about how to get more sales from our ads and from our website?

Josh Strawczynski [06:15]
They’ve broken it down into six areas. And a lot of these you will have seen before, but I love the way that this is broken down because it deals with common anxieties and frictions in the buying process.

The first one is: a short description of your product showing what it delivers, and in particular, it’s even better if it’s versus everyone else. Now, you will have seen this before, I guarantee it. You will have seen one of these tables of product features and it’ll be your product versus someone else’s versus someone else’s.

Yours will have ticks like ‘oh, it comes in green; this is the size it does this, that and the other thing.’ And the competitors will only have a few ticks. What that’s doing is reducing anxiety in making this decision, and it’s selling doubt into the head about the competition. So that’s really powerful.

Secondly: the power of now. A great anxiety that people don’t think about is people don’t like to wait. We like gratification immediately. So we find this even when we selling a website. If a customer says, how long is it going to take?

If we say too long, if we were like, ‘we can’t start for a week’, that is a reason why they wouldn’t purchase. So the power of being able to deliver not just the product, but results right away, very, very powerful for both your website and your advertising.

Dan, social proof; this is one that you’re a big fan of. Why don’t you talk about social proof for us.

Dan Lemp [07:52]
Yeah, I love social proof and the impact it makes. This is basically recommendations and reviews. If you’re searching for a plumber and you search for ‘plumber in my city’ and then one plumber comes up and you see that they have two, three star reviews on Google and then you see another one come up that doesn’t have any reviews.

And then you see one that has fifty five star reviews. 11 times out of ten, I’m going to choose the one who has the most and the best reviews. A social proof could be being talked about in the media, and you can learn how to get media coverage for free or if you have reviews on your website saying how great your service is.

This is all stuff that lowers the amount of anxiety people have about purchasing your service or your product because that social proof gives them comfort that they’re making the right decision.

Josh Strawczynski [08:50]
I’m going to add to that even more. And we’ve used this in high conversion web design very effectively. Where if a client of ours has a whole heap of case studies (let’s use the office renovators as an example); one version of social proof is seeing what they’ve done for companies before and then being able to drill down into companies that are similar to yours, either similar in business nature or in this case, have a similar office set up and structure and tastes and preferences.

If they can see what you’ve done, that is a social proof that you can deliver it again. So social proof is really powerful, but it’s different to authority bias, which is that fourth one. Authority bias is when someone who is very reputable is vouching for you.

And this comes through really heavily when you’ve got doctors, medical professionals, building practitioners, people who theoretically should be on the front line of things and have seen it first hand. They’re going to carry a lot of weight.

If you know who they are, like sports star endorsements, that’s great. But even if you don’t know who they are, often a little write up saying ‘Steve Bloggs, who was head of the industry for twenty years, recommends it for these reasons’ – it carries a lot of power.

Dan, scarcity bias; this is something you and I, we laugh at all the time when we see websites with tickers saying this deal is only available for another two minutes. What do you think? Does that influence your buyer decision cycle?

Dan Lemp [10:25]
Not any more. Maybe if it’s just that, it’s probably a 10 percent or something. Because I am like, well, what if it was true and it is only available for another two minutes?

But really, what are the odds that I showed up to the website when there’s only two minutes left? That kind of thing feels artificial to me.

Josh Strawczynski [10:44]
And you would be absolutely right. You can’t use this (and this is what’s happening right now) as the only trigger in your arsenal.

But scarcity bias is a real thing and it actually helps to short circuit that messy middle.

So it can be really effective if done tastefully to say – ‘free for this month only’, or ‘we’ve only got five of these left in stock’.

Dan Lemp [11:10]
Yeah. Like, I was buying a flight yesterday and when I go on and it says select your seat. You know, if I go in there and I see that there are only four seats left on the flight that I want to buy because they’ve crossed out all the unavailable seats that are already purchased.

If it was full, I’d go back into that cycle and keep looking at other flights and wait for a while. If I see there’s only four seats left, I’m probably going to buy right then because I don’t want to miss out.

Josh Strawczynski [11:40]
Great example. And now let’s move on to the last one, because it kind of ties into it. And that’s the power of free. People get this confused all the time, but what can we give our customers, which is going to add to the value offer if they act now?

So we’re going to throw in free reports, free access to this portal. In Australia, they were dentel ads. I don’t know what they were in the US for you, Dan. But they were like – ‘I will throw in free steak knives, if you’re one of the first 50 callers’.

It actually works. The power of bundling in something you weren’t expecting is really, really strong.

Dan Lemp [12:23]
And a funny thing that Google mentioned is that that works even if the free product is unrelated.

Josh Strawczynski [12:29]
Yeah, bang on. So let’s summarise this, too. We did a lot of talking. If you’ve got a website or you’re advertising, and you want to outpace the competitors, when people have your six competitors open, they’re going to be glancing at each of their landing pages and all their advertising.

These are the six things they’re looking for. Is there a short, simple description of what the product is going to deliver and specifically how it’ll solve my problem. If I buy it, can I get access to it and get value from it today?

Is it social proof? Are there reviews; are there things I can look at that are very specific to me that will say, ‘yes, this is a good choice. Go for it’. Is there any scarcity? Is there a reason to act now? Is it running out? Is it on sale?

What is it that makes me need to act now? Is this someone really authoritative that I know or that should know more than the average person that’s backing up that this is the right choice? And finally, is there any incentive; is there something I’m going to get for free if I act right now?

Do all of those things in both advertising level and on the website level, and that’s going to give you the best chance at stealing the customer.

But Dan, just to give us an interesting segue: one of the interesting things out of this report was that – even if you don’t do any of those and you are clearly the worst of the options in that buyer decision set, some people will choose you. That’s staggering!

Dan Lemp [14:07]
It’s kind of hilarious, actually, but it’s just statistics. There’s a very little chance that if a thousand people come to your website and they’re looking at you versus two other competitors, that none of them are going to go for you.

So the very act of showing up and being in front of your customers is really important. And that’s why SEO is a great investment for me, because it keeps you front of mind and it keeps them showing up to your website, going through, reading more information.

And Josh, we disagree about this a little bit, but in my mind, SEO is a big authority builder too, for a couple of reasons.

One, if someone searches for ‘best golf clubs for sale in Melbourne, Australia’, and there is a golf shop that comes up as the number one result, yes, it does put them front of mind, but it also signifies to people that they are a reliable source because Google has ranked them at the top.

For me, that’s a big authority booster.

Josh Strawczynski [15:15]
I don’t believe that once you’re on the website, you’re remembering that this was number one because you’ve probably opened up five or six websites.

But, to give you credit, where I will agree is that if you’re smart and your SEO strategy involves a whole heap of content creation and you’re doing it well, that person’s probably been exposed to a few articles and interesting things you’ve written from their SEO Google search.

And in that case, you’re going to stand ahead above the competition because they have read stuff about you before that we know that seven brand exposures significantly increase trust and brand recall, and that’s going to feed the social proof you looking for.

Dan Lemp [16:00]
Yeah, that’s true. And I think part of why I see SEO as an authority builder is that SEO really can’t be separate from the content strategy. SEO isn’t just ranking number one.

It’s also all the content that you put on your site to rank you at number one. And that’s all part of the SEO process. So if they go in and they see all the great content that you’ve put out, then that’s an aspect that gives you more authority.

Josh Strawczynski [16:23]
Yeah, you know, look, you’re absolutely right. I do want to just pull the conversation back slightly, though, to the section where we were talking about – no matter if you’re the worst solution out of the bunch, a percentage of customers will buy from you.

This is a trap for business owners and marketing managers to think, ‘well, we’re getting some sales. We just need to advertise more.’ That is not the right thinking. That is specious reasoning at best.

Have a think about these six measures of authority, if you will, to bring people through that messy middle and see what you can do to turbocharge your business. If you want to talk about it, by all means, get in touch with JMarketing.

But we strongly recommend you download Decoding Decisions: The Messy Middle of Purchase Behaviour from our blog. We will have it linked below this podcast. Have a read and feel free to discuss the topic with us because it is a really juicy one that’s going to give you a lot of advantages if you apply it right.

Dan Lemp [17:27]
Yeah, well, I think that anyone who leverages all that information is going to see a big impact in their business. So, Josh, thanks so much for bringing up that topic. This is really interesting, I think, really impactful information.

Josh Strawczynski  [17:41]
Yeah. Welcome, Dan. Let’s make sure we do a follow-up podcast on how this ties into the anxiety and friction in the buying process and exactly how people can move their websites and their advertising through that. As always, well, hosted, and see you in the next episode. 

Dan Lemp

Dan leads the JMarketing SEO department. An extremely analytical mind, he is fascinated with the questions of 'Why', 'How', and 'Is there a better way'? Through Dan's research and experimentation, JMarketing have unlocked a host of best practices and optimisation tricks for our clients.

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