Silicon Valley’s explosive growth between 1980 and 2010 created a myth. That myth said that if you have a great idea, it would catch and spread like a virus. The “idea virus” has very specific symptoms: rampant angel funding, explosive market reach and powerful branding, all with seemingly effortless marketing attached to it.

What we know now is that in today’s market conditions a “great idea” is insufficient. Though the basic customer journey is the same today as it was 30 years ago (become aware of a product/service, think about it, buy it), it is a much longer and more complex journey now than ever before. Consumers demand more. Time and attention are their currency, and information is what they are buying.

In the next 900 words or so, we’re going to show how success comes from smart work on your sales funnel — particularly in the middle of the funnel. This article will borrow heavily from our own James Loomstein, managing partner of Rogue Marketing, and his featured episode on the Internet Marketing Podcast.

The Sales Funnel: A Bigger Part of the Marketing Picture

The middle of the funnel, or consideration phase of the customer journey, is exactly the part of the customer journey that is expanding. Awareness is arguably getting easier; we have more channels than ever to get attention and spread our “great idea.” Purchasing can happen any time, anywhere thanks to dozens of apps, payment platforms, and online markets. But the consideration phase has become a drawn-out period with more hemming and hawing, handwringing, and searching for social proof than ever before.

That’s why the consideration phase is “black gold” — we need to tap into the middle of the funnel, refine the materials we find there, and optimize the delivery method.

Most brands still have the modus operandi of getting customers from awareness to purchase as fast as possible, and for good reason: customers are languishing in the consideration phase, neither exiting nor purchasing. Like the Ass of Buridan, we’re paralyzed by our options. That means consumers are no longer (if ever) motivated by your “great idea,” and are focused on trying to get more information.

But consider this: if customers are spending longer in the consideration phase, it is because they still haven’t found what they are looking for. Rather than rushing an audience through the process, it’s time to step back and embrace the middle of the funnel by being their go-to source of information. Most marketers have started to go down that road with marketing automation and content marketing, and there’s more we can do.

Separating “I Wanna Know” Moments From “I Wanna Buy” Moments

Imagine one of those many moments in a day that you become aware of a product or service that catches your eye. You see the ad, then you visit a site on your phone, ask a friend, watch a video, read a review, do another Google search, and so on. Rather than buying, you have all those moments of interaction.

Google calls those moments “micro-moments,” or moments within the zero moment of truth. Micro-moments are critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when aggregated, they ultimately determine how that journey ends:

  • 91% turn to their phones in the middle of a task
  • 65% look for the most relevant information regardless of the company providing the information
  • 33% have purchased from a company or brand other than the one they intended

Here’s how we interpret that data: We want information, and we don’t care who published it; and where we get that information has a strong influence on where we ultimately decide to spend our money.

A More Intentional Approach to the Sales Funnel

With consumers scrutinizing everything about your brand and lengthening the sales cycle, no one can build a business on the myth of the idea anymore. You need focused products surrounded by clear information that is aligned to market expectations. So for you — the brand — it’s important to approach the middle of the funnel with the following tactics:

1. Separate out the drivers

Not everyone needs a sales pitch; in fact, the majority of people are not looking to buy … yet. Consider the various drivers that motivate people to find your brand:

  • I want to know moments
  • I want to go moments
  • I want to do moments
  • I want to buy moments

When you know why they find you, you prepare various means for them to find the right information. That makes the difference between earning a potential customer and getting just another website hit.

2. Recalibrate your understanding of marketing expectations

Consider the most-searched topics for your brand or your category. And don’t just stop at the purchase-level keywords — brands need to do a level-set on what people are searching for, whether or not it obviously translates directly to a purchase or conversion.

What is the share of consumer intent? Are you only visible at the bottom of the funnel? Think again on the stats we got from Google: If 33% of people are buying from a different brand than they had originally anticipated, where do you think they find the new brands? Bingo: directly from their consideration phase information providers.

3. Analyze opportunities at scale

There is always room to grow. So when you talk about “market opportunity,” think about it in more granular terms: What are your opportunities in the whole universe (cross-market, cross-industry, anything and anyone), in the available universe (within your reach), among your prospects (increase engagement), among your leads (increase conversion rates), and even in your conversions (upsell, advocacy).

Part II Coming Up

Stay tuned for the second part of this series where we’ll cover how to go from awareness to advocacy (including case studies), and the tools we use to turn these ideas into tangible results.