Break Your Funnel: How Consumer Intent Drives Good Marketing

Most marketers only care about ‘do-ers’ – people with lots of commercial intent. Especially in digital, we want to deliver metrics that have “value:” booking a consultation, signing up for a newsletter, finding a retailer, even liking a social post. To accomplish this, we make our digital, especially websites, all about the Do. But ‘do’ content is selfish.


Last week, I attended the Art of Marketing, a conference with a generic name and amazing speakers. Though Bethany Mota and Morgan Spurlock were big draws for me, the panel I was most excited by was from Avinash Kaushik, a Google guru espousing the benefits of all things Big Data. What else is new, right? Well, in true Google style, I learned a LOT about things I thought I already knew a lot about.

If youre like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about the funnel – what stageof the purchase decision theyre in, and how to cram more of them in there once youve nabbed a few. Chances are, though, you dont really believe in the funnel – as a consumer, you dont follow it, and as a marketer, your most successful work isnt tied to it. Today, the funnel is now a fallback, a way to legitimize lazy ideas by backing them up with the certainty these kinds of grandfathered concepts give us. As Avinash said, and Ill happily echo: f&*$ the funnel! I mean, do you want to spend your career wedging Sandra, caucasian, mother of 2, down the funnel? Do you think she likes it in there? No! No! F*&$ the funnel!

The funnel worked when the only way we could understand our target markets was anecdotal evidence, like focus groups and surveys. We used wide brushes to paint large consumer groups because we had to. That said:

We have more real, personal data than anyone in history, and data says theres no linear path to purchase – we get on the highway at different times, we drive at different speeds, we take different routes, but that doesnt mean were not spending. It just means as consumers, were special snowflakes. As marketers, were not doing enough to court them.

Avinash instead breaks marketing into four motivations, four intents that dictate the type of marketing consumers need to see according to their mindset: See, Think, Do, Care. Lets talk about them. 

Most marketers only care about the Do. Do-ers are people with lots of commercial intent. Especially in digital, we want to deliver metrics that have “value:” booking a consultation, signing up for a newsletter, finding a retailer, even liking a social post. To accomplish this, we make our digital, especially websites – Lord, the websites – all about the Do. Do content is selfish. Calls to action all over the damn place. Resized print ads, complete with eye-glazing USPs, packaged as content.This approach assumes everyone who lands on our content is ready to buy – why? We want to produce reports that give hard numbers about how many Sandras weve stuffed down the funnel, and trackable actions do that. If youre working on a big brand, chances are your Do metrics are chugging along and your client is happy. But how many people, of your entire audience, can we assume are in the Do stage – 10%? 5%? 2%? What about the other 90+% of people – what are we doing there?

Lets start with See, where the majority of our potential customers are at any given time. This is everyone who sees your brand, online and off – not just those in your target market,but everyone. Theyre getting to know you, your products, and your category. Theyre listening to your stories, if youre telling them, or your product announcements, or your brand history, or your charitable initiatives. Consumers still want to know who theyre getting into bed with, and that goes beyond your USPs.

This is where the fun starts – its where you get to tell your brand story, where adding immediacy, stronger appeals and CTAs is fine, but education-driven content is key – think “Learn More” over “Buy Now.” Consumers dont love a hard sell, but in this stage especially youre risking turning them off if you sell too hard. Slow and steady wins the race.

Care. Care is your core audience, your repurchasers, your brand evangelists out talking to their friends about your product. For the amount of lip service we pay to social influencers lately, its staggering how often we neglect the micro-influencers we already have: core customers who could influence their real friends to really buy a product on our behalf without paying them, discounting, sacrificing creative vision to fit with an influencer’s personal brand, or co-ordinating the effort. All we really have to do is take care of them – tailor content right to the people who are living what your brand is about. Surprise those people. Delight them – they’re building your brand more effectively than an Instagram post ever has. Give them a reason to keep coming back.

Digital is the only place we can reach every intent. Traditional formats allow us room for one message, and one story – we just have to cross our fingers that a little sliver of those millions of impressionsare our target and in the right intent mindset. In digital, we have the flexibility to give all things to all people. Not only do we have infinite room to talk about ourselves and our audience, but we can serve content, appeals and key messages with zero wasted impressions to the relevant people using behavioural and contextual (re)targeting. Is this new information? No. But is it information most of us are using? Are we taking into account everywhere our customers are, physically and mentally? Or are we just saying Heres what were selling – if you dont like it, we’ll see you when you do”? Thats on you, but myself, Im excited to Do a little less and See, Think and Care a little more.

Meaghan is the digital strategist at 88 Creative. You can (attempt to) follow her on Instagram here.