Anyone engaged in the field of marketing will be familiar with the purchase funnel, the idea that there are a number of stepping stones that, if well managed, can lead a customer to buy.

Actually, many of us remember that we used to call it the sales funnel based on good old AIDA (Attention – Interest – Desire – Action). We would follow the process slavishly with an artillery barrage of display ads, stretched to the limit performance promises, aspirational settings and then the call to action – right to the point where the science of selling told us exactly when to stop talking and suggestively remove the top from the pen; psychologically trapping the customer into signing on the bottom line.

But then we had an epiphany and realised that you can’t make someone buy, not if you actually want them to come back again or even spread the word on your behalf. No, we realised that if the customer actually wants to buy then life becomes so much easier and, well, honest. So now we call it the purchase funnel and we talk instead of discovery, building trust, understanding the power of word of mouth and how these stepping stones will lead – if the customer so chooses – to a purchase.

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) have recently researched how the success of native advertising is really just an extension of the purchase funnel epiphany and they have suggested five key ingredients for building those stepping stones to purchase.

Attract

It’s a fact that discovery without attraction is just a happy accident and no business can be built on happy accidents. So how do we encourage and enable discovery? Well, firstly we dally where our customers-to-be like to linger; whether bikers round the biking pages, hikers round the hiking pages or cooks round the cooking pages.

And we attract attention not by the lavish attention-demanding display of the male peacock, but by the simple medium of saying something, in their language that is interesting, relevant and current so that our very first touch-point, our first moment of truth, is actually a genuine adding of value in its own right, rather than an intrusion.

Introduce

Native advertisers have long realised that being transparent and honest about who we are does not mean an instant loss of audience attention; in fact the AOP research stressed how important transparency is in these early stages of building trust.

Trying to disguise your ultimate desire to engage with the reader by hiding your brand is likely to backfire if they feel they are being manipulated.

Engage

Engagement is the reward for the quality of the content; headings that capture interest, sub-headings that hint at relevance and currency, together with pictures, facts and stories that reward the reader.

Marketing folklore tells of tool seller Black and Decker’s own epiphany when they realised that people did not want to buy drills, they wanted to make holes. Every native ad should be talking issues and outcomes; not labouring features on products.

Demonstrate Expertise

It takes a real expert to make a complex challenge sound genuinely easy to solve or achieve. Your understanding of the current issues or knowing the perennial problems that make readers look for answers, gives you the opportunity to provide advice and solutions that will start the process of building respect for you and your brand.

Solutions, ideas, advice and quick tips will all be gratefully received and the source will be positively remembered.

Don’t Hard Sell

Having won the respect of your audience the worst thing you can do is insult them with a ham fisted attempt to close.

Dotted through your content, wherever relevant, plant links that will take the reader who wants to know more direct to your site.

Remember, it isn’t about trying to sell, it’s about making it easy to buy.

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Author Adam Knoyle

More posts by Adam Knoyle

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