The Fulfilment Funnel
I am going to tell you the simple secret formula that lies behind every success in business and in Life.
I’m going to tell you right here, without any long, frustrating pre-amble about who I am, why you should listen to me, or what you need to do next. (You can find all that out later, if you want to.)
Once you have read the simple formula - and it is very simple indeed - you could, if you wish, drop this article right there and go off and succeed by applying it. That would be up to you.
You might read it and say, ‘That’s obvious!’ and just want to get on with it.
Or you might want to know a bit more detail about exactly how to apply it, what can go wrong with it, and why it works better if applied in a particular sequence.
Here’s the formula:
‘Give more than you take.’
Stop the press.
Close the screen down.
Apply that formula to yourself, your family, your workplace, your business, your relationships with every and everything, and you will win.
Now for the detail…
Your Perfect Situation
Ideally, ideally, ideally, what’s your perfect business situation?
What sort of situation would you like to be in with your clients?
The same thing applies to your romantic partner, by the way, or to your family, or to just about anyone and anything else.
You would like to be close to them, wouldn’t you? You’d like to have a relationship which dovetailed neatly and functioned almost as one organism; you’d like to be rewarded extremely well, while contributing hugely and happily, and really making a positive difference while doing so, right?
The affinity between you and your client, in this ideal situation - or you and your partner, or you and anyone or anything - would be extremely high, wouldn’t it?
The distance between you intellectually, emotionally, perhaps spiritually and geographically, would be very small.
In terms of a client base, your clients would be fans of yours, well-connected to you, eager to hear from you or to possess anything to do with you; your membership organisation would be large and gaining members all the time, with lots of interactive communication taking place within it. And you would be happy to interact with them, to give them more of what they wanted.
Within this group, you could be yourself fully and relaxedly without friction. Because that would be what was wanted.
In effect, your dreams would have come true.
How do you get to that point?
The answer, in brief, is ‘Give more than you take’. But the real answer is in the detail of how to apply that.
One of the key things to note is affinity. In your ideal situation, the feeling of closeness would be reflected in almost every aspect of your relationship. So one of the things to work on, as far as climbing up to this position, is closeness: closeness geographically, perhaps, but, more importantly, closeness mentally and emotionally.
Then both you and your client (or partner or whatever) would be fulfilled.
The Fulfilment Funnel
You will have heard of the idea of the ‘sales funnel’ - in fact, you’re probably sick of hearing about it.
It’s the idea that your business is like an open funnel, with clients progressively making their way down, from an awareness that you exist to becoming more and more interested in you and your products, until they act, purchasing more and more until they become ‘loyal’ to you and your brand. It’s extremely prevalent in business thinking, and obviously has some workability or it wouldn’t be so popular.
The problem with it is that the pointy end of the funnel has been pointing at the wrong thing.
The clue is in the name: ‘sales funnel’.
Funnels like that are designed to get sales. They tend to be aimed at the point at which a potential customer makes a purchase. You then ‘upsell’, ‘downsell’ or ‘cross-sell’ to these people at the point of purchase, generating more income for yourself.
You may have already spotted how this potentially violates our simple success formula above.
A standard ‘sales funnel’ tends to lean dangerously towards taking more than it gives.
Obviously, if you have really great products or services, the more you can sell to the customer the more you are giving. But if your products or services are mediocre, or too highly priced, you could end up gradually, perhaps imperceptibly at first, siphoning off from customers more than you are injecting into them.
You end up taking away more than you are putting in.
Clients feel this in an almost supernatural way: before long, they have wandered off and your customer base is dwindling rather than growing. Or you can’t get any customers at all.
You will no doubt have spotted that the sane principle applies to your romantic relationships.
Give more than you take, and any relationship (or business) flourishes; take more than you give, and it gradually withers.
So how does a Fulfilment Funnel work?
The big thing to notice is that a Fulfilment Funnel points at the right thing: your ideal situation described above. Aim a funnel at ‘fulfilment’, at that super-closeness described above, and everything else will fall into place.
What is ‘fulfilment’?
It is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; it is a satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's potential; it is the meeting of a requirement, condition, or need.
It comes from late Old English fullfyllan ‘fill up, make full’.
It sounds a lot like the ideal situation of closeness we pictured above.
You can see that in business and in personal relationships the same idea applies: a successful business represents the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; a happy relationship is a satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's potential. ‘Filling up’ means meeting a requirement, condition, or need.
A perfect business relationship is one in which the client and the provider feel ‘full’. Their needs have been met: the client had something he or she wanted to address and it was addressed; the provider had something they wanted to contribute, and it was contributed.
Now let’s point a funnel at that, and see what happens.
At the very bottom of the funnel, where everything meets, both client and provider are totally satisfied. Their journey of getting closer and closer each other is complete; they have virtually ‘become one’. At this point, clients should be members of a close group of ‘inner circle’ customers, with special and ongoing access to the provider in a kind of marriage - which of course reflects what happens in a personal relationship at the same point.
Let’s examine the band just above that meeting point: what is happening there?
Here we find the customer and the provider become highly focused on each other. Major or central needs are being found and filled; requirements are clarified and reinforced; ability is enhanced. The affinity between client and provider is growing rapidly and in sizeable leaps: clients are becoming loyal, making additional purchases, recommending the provider to others. Viability is achieved; distribution or delivery is accomplished.
Upselling, downselling, cross-selling and any other kind of selling are happening not because you’re prompting them but simply as a result of something else, something much more fundamental: greater affinity.
And the band above that?
Here the provider consistently seeks, finds and fills the requirements of the client, but at a slower pace. Affinity steadily grows as more and more of those needs are met. It’s a like a treasure hunt, leading to the treasure of bigger needs fulfilled further down the funnel. Clients are becoming more confident as their continuing application of your product or methods result in improvements in quality; you are becoming more and more sure of your clients and able to suggest appropriate other things that might service their needs.
Further up the funnel, the affinity is less stable.
At this level, the whole process is not as assured: the provider often must draw attention to specific needs first and then tends to surge into them, filling the gaps; things are more adaptable, dramatic, changeable. In this band, it is still possible to lose some potential or actual clients as some things are missed or not addressed swiftly or accurately enough. Only those clients whose needs are met and whose gaps are filled make it through to the lower, steadier levels. The discipline and speed of the provider have to be superlative to encourage clients to make it past this stage.
The product of that discipline and speed is a sale. This is where the purchase takes place; this is where a traditional sales funnel ends.
Confidence grows with application. This is more of a process at this level, involving more time and work. Clients have to be led; attention has to be guided; interest has to be engaged. It’s a journey or a path - metaphors sometimes used in business without fully understanding them. The reason a business has to take a client on a journey is because the client wasn’t already there - it sounds like a truism, but lower in the Fulfilment Funnel the client is ‘there’ and isn’t going anywhere.
Given enough careful management, a client passes the point at which he or she makes a purchase. It looks like a very significant point to an outsider, and it is - but in practice it should not be made a fuss of. As a result of making a purchase, the client moves into the lower band of the funnel, which doesn’t end for another three bands at least.
If too much attention is drawn to this point, the Fulfilment Funnel can stall. Why?
Because parting with money triggers a response in most clients: the provider is taking something from them. This ‘taking’ must be heavily outweighed with ‘giving’ at this point. That’s why you see all those ‘bonuses’ on your order page: knowingly or unknowingly, businesses try to counteract the natural emotional sense that they are taking something from you by overloading you with gifts at that precise point.
One stage above that in our funnel and we have hit a Danger Zone. It’s hit and miss and it’s where many businesses (and relationships) fail: the client (or partner) has a pressing need and the provider either spots and handles it or not. If the need is addressed adequately, it encourages a client to re-orientate himself or herself to the provider and steadies the attention and interest so that it might survive into the next band down - but if not, then neither the business nor the relationship will survive.
Above that is a free-flowing area in which the game for a business is to appear visible long enough to attract some attention from potential clients. This is where most broad marketing campaigns occur. Welcome to AdWords, to social media, to traditional advertising.
The mistake many of these make is to imagine that they are lower down the funnel and can direct and guide the attention of potential clients - they are not. Rather, they are still in a realm in which even the slightest, flickering attention is the only product that should be expected. A potential client has to progress from this stage to at least two more stages down the funnel before many marketing techniques have a chance of working.
And that, you might think, is that. The top of the funnel. Funnel-free space, as it were.
Except you’d be mistaken.
Stay tuned to this blog for the secrets of the Hidden Funnel.