Conversion Funnel Folly, Part 2

If all you're getting are reports, you aren't getting any intelligence. Part two of a series.


Last time, I promised to show you what a true persuasion scenario looks like. A persuasion scenario is much more than a one-dimensional, overly simplistic conversion funnel. So, before I dissect and expose a truly persuasive scenario, we must define a persuasion scenario’s necessary qualities.

Persuasion Scenario Defined

To quote my site:

A scenario consists of persuasive components that lead a visitor segment to participate in a conversion action. Some of these components will be linear; others will be nonlinear. All must be customer-focused — based on how each segment approaches the decision to buy — rather than business-focused.

[It] provides for the meaningful measurement of customer activity so you can optimize performance.

Each aspect of a persuasion scenario must be planned with a customer focus that acknowledges the differing needs of each visitor segment (persona) and provides persuasive momentum. Into that structure, and always sensitive to it, the scenario incorporates the business’ sales process in a way that benefits visitors without undermining their buying decision process.

Persuasive Narrative

Most effective persuasive efforts begin with a narrative or brief storyline that describes how each persona will behave and what it’ll need to gain buying resolve at all stages of the buying process. A persona’s path to a macro conversion may consist of several unique scenarios, each with a measurable micro-conversion action required. Only after you’ve identified these persona needs can you create and map your persuasion scenario.

Persuasion Scenario Components

Every scenario component will consist of one or several persuasion entities, each with a distinct responsibility and measurable contribution to the scenario’s success. The persuasion entities are typically Web pages, but they don’t have to be, as some scenario aspects occur offline or offsite. A persuasion entity can be a banner ad, a search engine result, a mass-media ad, a print ad, a telephone sales script, even something like a business card. Whatever contact method you have with the prospect should be accounted and planned for.

The components defined:

  • Driving point. This is the prospecting point, the point outside the funnel as it’s typically understood, where a scenario technically begins. It might be a search engine result, a paid click, a banner ad, or a home page. It’s the concretely identifiable place where the visitor shows a level of interest in entering the scenario. Think of it as the for-sale sign in front of a house; it’s not the house itself, but the persuasive alert that the house is available.
  • Funnel points. These are pages are entrees to the classic conversion funnel, a door (perhaps one of many) to the house that’s for sale. At this point, you’re in a position to control the persuasive process. A funnel point can be a landing or main product category page.
  • Resolution points. These pages contain information visitors may need to answer questions associated with their individual buying processes. Each resolution-point page or entity must always link to either a waypoint or a conversion beacon to ensure the visitor never misses an opportunity to convert.
  • Waypoints. These are persuasive touch points that marketers determine are integral to the seller’s conversion goals, as well as important to the needs of a particular visitor segment. Waypoints support the sales process and conversion goal. For example, an analytic, price-conscious ticket buyer for an event would certainly wonder about costs, so a sales-process “Ticket Pricing Page” would help answer those questions. Similarly, if the ticket seller wants to increase bundled sales, a waypoint could be a “Subscription Ticket Options Page” that appeals to a visitor segment interested in better overall value. Not every site visitor must hit every waypoint to be persuaded or complete the scenario. Waypoints are selling-process pages that meet the needs of a majority of folks within a visitor segment.
  • Conversion beacon. A conversion beacon signals the first (or next) step in a linear process through which a visitor must pass to reach the conversion point. Resolution points and waypoints lead a visitor to the conversion beacon, the place where she demonstrates her intention to convert. If the persuasion scenario is designed to get visitors to subscribe to a newsletter, for example, resolution points and waypoints would build value for the newsletter while the sign-up button that begins the registration process would be the first conversion beacon. Each step in completing the registration process constitutes another conversion beacon, and the visitor must complete each step in order. Checkout processes include several conversion beacons.
  • Conversion point. This is the point where we know with absolute certainty a visitor has successfully completed a persuasion scenario. The conversion point is the entity that’s delivered so both the business and the visitor know conversion has occurred. This is usually some form of confirmation.

Hypothetical Persuasion Scenario

Let’s pretend General Motors has identified four buyer segments, or personas, for the Corvette. One segment is a competitive buyer; he’s most concerned with performance and speed. Let’s plan a simple scenario for the competitive buyer persona, “Donald”:

  • The driving point: Donald sees a TV ad for the new Corvette and makes note of the URL on the ad.
  • The funnel point: He lands at the URL.
  • A waypoint: He clicks the “Performance Page.” This page presents Donald with a compelling argument for financing through GM.
  • Another waypoint: He clicks on the “GM Financing” page. Thought this is a business-focused waypoint, Donald was still pulled into it, not forced.
  • The resolution point: Donald is now gaining resolve to at least take a test drive, but he wants to make sure he can find a color and interior style he likes, so he clicks the “Available Colors” page.
  • The conversion beacon: Donald sees his favorite color and interior and is now considering which local dealership he’ll visit. He clicks the “Test drive at your local dealer” link and fills out a short form.
  • The conversion point: Donald is presented a page listing several local dealers. He clicks the ‘print map’ link for his nearest dealer. He’s a now a lead generated by a GM corporate site.

This uncomplicated scenario shows how a simple conversion funnel falls short. For one, it doesn’t account for human-based, nonlinear marketing, much to the chagrin of technical types who would like it to be simplified and left-brained. The real world of customers just doesn’t agree.

And this is just one scenario. Donald could have several more to account for different driving points and different conversion goals, not to mention the other personas and their scenarios.

What site do you think will have a better overall conversion rate, the one that accounts for all its complex buying scenarios or the one trying to stuff prospects into a simple conversion funnel or two? Want a hint?

Not only are these persuasion scenarios exciting to marketers, they’re also measurable and accountable to business goals by design. Since each of these scenarios posits a model for customer behavior, each can be analyzed and optimized.

More about analyzing and its superiority to conversion funnel reporting next time.

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