By now the digital marketing community has widely accepted the paradigm of online conversion consistently referred to as "the funnel."
For the purposes of this column, let's assume the entire global reach of that engagement engine called "social media" is not more than a constituent of part one: reach. Social media is a campaign.
Not everyone uses the same nomenclature, but largely the above sequence seems well-known and accepted. So well-accepted that today, there are several offerings in the marketplace that go some distance toward automating the process. Companies like HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua, while differing in nuance and target customer, all embrace and service the funnel optimization segment.
Many readers may be thinking: "I thought my website was already automating that!" And to a large extent it's true. But consider how much we're already taking for granted: the constant "on" of the site - and global availability. Plus all the functionality that is, by itself, responsible for almost all of our GDP's productivity gains over the past decade! The ubiquity of web achievement tends to level the terrain - making it harder to stand out simply by relying on the astonishing basics of the web itself.
Now consider digital analytics as the next level of automation: measuring and managing. What better way to know who's standing in front of what shelf of goods than to have that process automated? While architecting actionable analytics correctly requires notable effort, the bevy of benefits it can provide for marketing decision-makers is practically unprecedented. The keyword here is "actionable." And that's where funnel automation comes in.
Funnel automation takes advantage of tools like HubSpot, Marketo, or Eloqua and gives the marketer more pinpoint control over each part of the digital conversion funnel. The focused technology and trained effort can result in superior, not to say exponential increases in conversion rates.
Here are some of the key features of funnel conversion tools:
There's also coaching available for the marketer who wants to deploy these tools. Rather than training you in how to use the tool, the focus tends to be on results: coaching through the process of lead conversion that traditional analytics tools talk about. Funnel automation tools, focused on specific success benchmarks, help their customers through the process of conversion rather than just the data itself. The helpful advice and assistance can get as granular as "now do this." In a world where "what to do next" becomes a roadblock for so many marketers, this straightforward, result-oriented approach stands out as a next-generation approach to analytics.
The three companies I've mentioned do have some differences. HubSpot, for instance, tends to have the lowest basic price-point and targets small to mid-market companies (but certainly can work with larger efforts). Marketo and Eloqua tend more toward enterprise deployments and may require more technology expertise to make them functional.
We're not here to suggest ditching your SiteCatalyst dashboard. Funnel automation may work less impressively where the goal is to sell advertising or encourage brand awareness. But it more than makes up for that when the goal is either click-to-buy, or a sale with some lead-time attached to it.
The winning formula of funnel automation is based on pattern recognition. Where traditional analytics tools display data and allow for substantial insight into many levels of site interaction (with substantial customization), they don't specifically call out key sales funnel patterns. Seen in this light, the no-nonsense focus of funnel automation companies is invigorating.
If you're interested in finding out who checked out the new rack of shirts - and specifically how to work with them toward the card-swiper - then funnel automation tools offer a practical, programmatic approach that can make the customer's trip from front door to cash register quicker and more frequent.
Andrew Edwards is CEO at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting company he founded in 2002, and Managing Partner at Efectyv Marketing. He is also a founding member of the Web Analytics Association.
At Technology Leaders, Andrew created the firm's web analytics practice and has been involved in rolling out this service to hundreds of different customers worldwide. Technology Leaders provides web analytics and web site user-tracking expertise to leading organizations throughout North America and the world. The firm specializes in providing both business and technical skills to serve the complex digital marketing needs of its customers.
Andrew speaks and writes regularly about the latest trends in digital marketing and web analytics. He's the creator of the "e5o" virtuous digital marketing cycle as well as the "4x5 conversion cube" that compartmentalizes the approach to conversion for different site types in different stages of the customer lifecycle.
Andrew is an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter and his work is in numerous private collections.
June 5, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT