Do Sales Funnels Still Work? Or is the Concept Springing Leaks?

Stories and Strategies Podcast

Episode 80

Guest: Megan Dougherty

Published January 22, 2023

Listen to this episode

Doug Downs (00:05):

Elias St. Elmo Lewis was an American advertising advocate in the late 19th century when he was still a young man in his twenties. He firmly believed in pursuing new scientific principles. In 1898, he issued a paper that took ideas expressed earlier by Joseph Richards outlining what he called the ADA model for sales, A I D A. You must first make someone aware of your product or service, then get their interest, then their desire, and finally get them to take action. A I D A St. Elmo Lewis shaped these into a funnel shape with awareness at the top than interest, than desire, and then action. This became known as the sales funnel were sometimes called the marketing funnel. And it’s been criticized almost as long as it’s been around. Early criticisms were it didn’t take into account post-purchase effects like satisfaction, repeat patronage, behaviour and referrals,

(01:14):

Or recently criticisms of focused on the idea we don’t follow linear response processes. And that there’s a difference between cognitive and effective thinking. Today, as more and more experts vie for your attention on social media, there’s increased criticism for funnels. But regardless of new technologies and new applications, we do still need to become aware of something first before we purchase. And we do need to develop an interest and then a desire before we take action. So today on Stories and Strategies, is the sales funnel dead or is it just the tactics and the technologies that have changed the way the funnel is used? My name is Doug Downs music off the top of the Wellman Ragtime Sea Shanty, performed by Scott Bradley. My guest this week is Megan Dougherty from One Stone Creative. Megan joining us from Gatineau Quebec, right?

Megan Dougherty (02:23):

I am. I am. And thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to be

Doug Downs (02:25):

Here. Great to have you. And that music off the top is something near in. Indeed. If it’s a shanty, it works for you, right?

Megan Dougherty (02:32):

It is. I was brought up on Stan Rogers and his ilk. So anything even remotely related to the Canadian icon, east coast seafaring music, I’m very, very into it.

Doug Downs (02:41):

I love that area. I’ve not been twice. I’ve only been twice. But what a beautiful area of Canada. If you’re coming from Europe actually and you’re thinking just Toronto, I’m just going to see Toronto, maybe Montreal, I don’t know. See the East Coast stop, p e i and the west side of Newfoundland. Oh my God, that’s gorgeous. Gross Morne Point. Megan, you are the founder of One Stone Creative, a full service podcast planning and production company that brings gears of digital marketing experience to podcasting. You help your clients get more mileage out of content they’ve already created, network with other professionals, generate new business. One stone creative and stories and strategies actually are kindred spirits. In some worlds we would be classified as competitors and sort of maybe we are, but in the world of podcasting, it means you and I are friends, we’re colleagues, we’re helping all ships rise.

Megan Dougherty (03:39):

That’s one of the things I like about being in this industry because I mean, you know, can walk into any group or any podcasting event and you know, can shake a stick and hit two dozen podcast producers at different companies doing the same thing. But there’s plenty of business to go around and there’s plenty of, there’s a lot of choice for people to find companies whose vibe and specific deliverables really match theirs. And people are so willing to help each other out in this industry. And it really, it is about rising the tide, the floats. All boats a great industry.

Doug Downs (04:04):

It’s kinda like going to a gym. Yeah, it’s

Megan Dougherty (04:06):

Like going to a Gym

Doug Downs (04:08):

Megan you and I were chatting about where podcasts fit in the marketing funnel or the sales funnel, whatever you wanna call it. The general expression that I hear from senior podcasters as they feel that podcasts fit closer to the top of the funnel, up near awareness and interest. For me, that doesn’t do it perfectly At first, podcasting is a weekly habit for only one in four people. So there’s more awareness of podcasts than that, but not a listening habit. Second, one of the beautiful things about podcasts is the deep layers of trust that listeners build for the brand. And actually in particular, the host. It would seem to me podcasts do a less than average job getting people’s attention, but once they have it, they’re marvelous for harnessing that trust through the lower parts of the funnel, desire in action. Am I crazy?

Megan Dougherty (05:04):

I don’t think so. And I mean, think it all really, it depends so much on what type of podcast you’re creating and even more on how much audience you have to begin with. I think a podcast, any other type of content marketing somebody might do you can create it. You can make something absolutely amazing. And if you’ve got no one there to listen to it, it’s not going to serve you any better than a blog post or anything else. So how it works in the funnel I completely agree with you, is that relationship that you listeners build with hosts is extraordinary. It can even be, I know maybe you notice this on the production end, sometimes I feel like I know my clients better than I actually do, cuz I’m listening to them all the time. And it really creates this feeling of intimacy and closeness and then you get on a call and it’s like, oh wait, no, this is not that type of relationship. And that’s happening to listeners and to our audiences as well. And I think it can really work in different places within a funnel depending on what strategic angle you’re taking with the podcast and how you’re leveraging it specifically in your own business based on your own needs.

Doug Downs (06:05):

So sticking with the funnel, and I do wanna get into, is the funnel still a funnel, but sticking with the funnel, you have to get people into awareness, then you have to get their interest, then their desire, and then the action. I think what we’re both saying is if you have the awareness and the interest, the desire and the action podcasts are kind of perfect for that. But you gotta get them in there in the first place to podcasts still have one in four. I mean that is the stat pretty much worldwide. It’s a 25%, 26% weekly listening habit.

Megan Dougherty (06:39):

And I mean that’s pretty good for, in terms of global habits, but I mean in terms of attracting new business, your own podcast isn’t going to do a very good job on that. Other people’s podcasts will do a fantastic job with that <laugh>,

Doug Downs (06:51):

The sales funnel overall. I don’t know about your social media feed, but I get bombarded with content stuff that says funnels are dead or our funnels dead, that kind of thing. So tell me the concept. Are funnels dead?

Megan Dougherty (07:08):

I don’t really think so. I think the marketing funnel was developed as, it was created as a way to describe human behavior and the way humans become aware of, learn about and make a decision based on a company. You could even say based on a friendship, it’s the same pattern of behavior. Becoming aware, getting to know a little better, making a decision, getting closer, making commitments. You can call that a funnel. You can call it a circle, you can call it a flywheel. You can call it a ladder. It’s basically just a way of talking about the process by which one person or entity gets to know and decides to commit to another. So I think it particular tactics or ways of applying a funnel, sure they’re going to be popular, they’re going to fade in, they’re going to fade out, they’ll go up and down. But I think the basic understanding of this is what people do to become buyers. I think that’s still true.

Doug Downs (07:58):

And I’ve heard a lot of, well, we need to think beyond the funnel because then there’s retention and is it the sideways eight, the infinity symbol? Yes. I love that concept. But still bringing new people in there is kind of a funnel approach to, and I like how you describe it. There’s a marriage funnel, there’s a boyfriend girlfriend funnel, there’s a buddy funnel, all of that. There’s

Megan Dougherty (08:22):

A dog walker funnel. Exactly. There’s a gym funnel.

Doug Downs (08:26):

Yes. Yeah,

Megan Dougherty (08:28):

And I think something that’s really good to keep in mind is you, as a business owner, especially whatever you call it, you do want to be aware of how it’s happening because you have a limited amount of resources to invest in acquiring new business. And you want to know what elements are working. So being able to divide things into step and be able to divide different categories into groups really does let you optimize and see this is what people find valuable. This is what encourages more people to take action. This does provide the information they need. Being able to divide things enough to get that data to be able to make good decisions. I think that’s probably not going to go outta style.

Doug Downs (09:03):

And to get people into my funnel, the typical approach is to create a lead magnet. So for us it’s stories and strategies. My chief lead magnet is this, how to start and Grow your podcast and you download it and it’s free and it is, it’s a good document. There’s lots of good info. I put a lot of work into that and we made it shiny with bubbles and things like that. And then you’re supposed to follow up with the Godfather offer enough or you can’t refuse, have people caught on. The

Megan Dougherty (09:35):

Language is so violent around funnels. Why is it all so violent?

Doug Downs (09:39):

We’re going to close that sale.

Megan Dougherty (09:40):

I’ve heard of shooting the lock off the wallet and it’s just like, goodness gracious.

Doug Downs (09:44):

Yeah, you’re right. So my questions are the whole lead magnet idea. Have people caught on to that do you think?

Megan Dougherty (09:53):

I think to an extent. I think people understand that that’s the game that companies are playing but I think there’s also understanding that is the game. It’s the game. It’s kind of what we have to play. I think anyone who runs this kind of business understands your email list is still one of your most important tools in terms of being able to make sales and build those relationships. And I think that the kind of general public also understand my email address is how I pay for things. And I think there is more sophistication around, yes, this is what’s happening but I think it’s also like, yes, this is how it works now and it is important to get that mini level of commitment of someone sending you their email address. We’ve still got ours two. Ours is the state of business podcasting report. Excellent. One of our opt-ins. Yes. Thank you. Thank you. And we put a lot of work into that every year as well. I think the age of the really short bite sized, here’s a checklist or 10, like a one page pdf. I think those are no longer considered worth someone’s email address by a lot of people. I don’t have specific data to back that up, but I think more live events, more robust content is sort of the expectation that the standards are higher which is good. I think that’s good.

Doug Downs (11:10):

A 2019 report by the B, B, C found consumers are more engaged during the branded parts of a podcast than they are during the rest of the content. A 12% higher memory encoding that same study found podcasts, increase awareness of your brand by 89%, favorability of your brand by 24% and purchase intent, whatever that means for you by 14%. Maybe a podcast is right for you and your brand. Send me an email personally and let’s just talk about it, Doug, at stories and strategies.ca. Let’s talk podcasts. See, and so we both talked about our lead magnets. Walk me through a customer journey that you could see someone taking and how a podcast might contribute. And this is going to be whatever the service or whatever the product is. I get that, but fictitiously, walk me through that.

Megan Dougherty (12:17):

Yeah, well this is something that we’ve thought a lot about or that I’ve thought a lot about over the last couple of years and we really divide podcasts into different categories based on what their business goals are. I know you’re aware of what we do that the business podcast blueprints and what they mean is really strategically a podcast existing at a different point in your marketing funnel depending on what your goals are. So you as someone who said had a real estate podcast and their main goal with this podcast is to get new clients to show houses to who are hopefully going to buy houses and then down the road use them to sell the house again. So a podcast might not be a top of funnel magnet for them at all. It might not be useful. There’s not enough people who are listening to a podcast at that particular moment in time when they’re buying a house.

(12:57):

Maybe the podcast is going to be more about developing relationships with other industry professionals, with plumbers, with drywallers, with landscapers, with community services, so that there is a much broader array of people who can provide leads, who can say, oh, I know a great realtor for you. That’s going to be a relationship building style podcast that does work a little bit on attract, but it’s on the one-to-one human attraction rather than one to many broadcast style attraction. And that can be a really effective way to leverage a podcast within your business and build those relationships that are going to help with your business rather than looking at your podcast as the billboard of your services. So just as one example and as another one that maybe if you are trying to get that really everyone, hey, pay attention to us and our company. We’ve got great things to say.

(13:41):

So you are talking to experts, you’re promoting doing a lot of solo episodes to get your own IP out there so that you’ve got your own stuff for people to be paying attention to. And you’re going to spend twice the amount of time promoting every episode as you are recording it cuz you’ve gotta find those new people. So it really depends to what does the podcast need to do for your business? Where should it go in your funnel or your Infinity Circle? Or maybe it’s in for people who have already bought from you. This is the ongoing education podcast and it’s all about retention, and that podcast is just for people who are your clients who need ongoing insight. This is a great way to get one-to-many information out to them. So I think looking at first what the business goal is and then saying how can a podcast fill this goal or can a podcast fill this goal? Is the way to make it fit elegantly in your funnel, however you want to describe it,

Doug Downs (14:22):

Extending beyond podcast, because I think what you just said with gold, you have a valuable tool here with podcasts, but it could be your building a newsletter and it could be anything from the broad communications standpoint, could be an event that you’re holding. What you’re saying is deliberately target not only your audiences, but where that customer is in their journey and who the key contacts are that might defer the customer at that point in their journey to you. In other words, you’re not necessarily going b2c. You could be deliberately thinking b2b even though ultimately you need customers to buy your widget or purchase your service.

Megan Dougherty (15:05):

Yeah, I think that’s exactly it, and just sometimes it can take some experimentation. You might need to try a couple of different podcast styles and a couple of different formats to see where it is going to fit well in your business. But I think a big mistake people make when they get into podcasting, and maybe you’ve seen this as well, is oh, the other accounting firm has a podcast. I should have a podcast. Rather than thinking this is the area in my business that I know needs development or I know needs an ongoing source of content or ongoing resources being created, really starting with the goal I think it doesn’t make the funnel irrelevant, but it makes the podcast valuable no matter what.

Doug Downs (15:40):

Share with me one or two experiences. Your own customers have had their successes attributable, at least in part to their podcasts.

Megan Dougherty (15:48):

So one of my favorite examples of this is it was with the financial services company and they buy the numbers, very small podcast not anything that you’d want. I’m nowhere near the top of iTune. It’s a couple hundred downloads a month, maybe very tiny by the numbers. They can directly attribute tens and tens of thousands of dollars of new business every year to the show because they really intentionally create episodes around topics that matter to their ideal clients. Say high net worth individuals for example. Then they feed those episodes and how to use them to their sales and support team members. So when someone reaches out for the first time, it’s like, oh, I wonder, one of our partners had this great conversation with someone about this issue. Why don’t you listen here from about minute 20 to about minute 40. Well, that customer had this really intense personalized experience. They got the parasocial effect of listening to the partner. They eventually talked to the partner and the question’s not, should you, I hire you? When can we start? So it dramatically reduces the length of a sales cycle based on really intentional using and deploying this information that they know is relevant to them. So that’s just one way it can be really, really useful indirectly or after the fact of production.

Doug Downs (16:54):

And there’s a classic bottom of the funnel experience right there. Right? Yeah. They already had the desire. Oh, Megan, I’ve really enjoyed this. It is great meeting. I enjoyed your conference from a couple of weeks ago that you held online. Thank you. Always downloads your podcast for business report. It’s a good one. It’s linked in the show notes, by the way. Thanks for being on Stories and Strategies.

Megan Dougherty (17:16):

Thank you. It’s been such a pleasure, Doug. I cannot wait to see what happens in the coming months and years.

Doug Downs (17:20):

If you’d like to send a message to my guest, Megan Dougherty, there’s a link to the contact form from her website in the show notes. Stories and Strategies is a co-production of JGR Communications and Stories and Strategies podcasts. We’re hoping you might leave a rating for this podcast on either Apple or Spotify. Reviews are also welcome. They help funnel more people into giving the podcast a try. Thanks for listening.

 

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