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Lately, there’s been a ton of energy put into to declaring (or defending) the superiority of a particular sales funnel / cycle / journey / [descriptor of choice]. In the rush to have one’s point of view heralded as “the definitive model,” we’re overlooking the basics.

All these words and images are trying to do is capture the process tribal members go through to arrive at the “best” decision. And therein lies the crux of the problem. In the chase to define the process, we’re forgetting the most important core principle:

A Confused Mind Always Says “No.”

Regardless of which camp you sit in, the biggest challenge we face as marketers is keeping things simple and easy to understand. Whether we’re communicating internally to explain our strategic approach or the benefits of a product to customers, simplicity is key.

And while our various tribes (aka “buyer personas”) may seem to have unique journeys for deciding what solution will best solve their problem / need / desire, they face overwhelming odds at being able to make that choice easily. Why? Think about it. Not only is there an overabundance of solution choices, there’s this deluge of information they have to wade through to make that choice.

We’ve all been programmed into thinking more choices and more information is better — but is that really true? Because the more choices, and the more information, the more opportunity there is for our buyer personas to become confused.

Whenever we go into “analysis paralysis,” we click and go away. That’s not good for our businesses.

More Choice = Higher Expectations

Just to complicate things even more, the more product/service options a buyer persona can choose from, the greater her expectations about her experience with her chosen brand. So even if you successfully get someone through your funnel and she’s committed to buying a product or service from you, her expectations are now as high as the process was confusing, convoluted, and long, for her.

Watch Barry Schwarz at TED talking about the Paradox of Choice:

“Right” vs. “Wrong” Choices

As marketers, we’re tasked with helping prospective buyers make the “right” decision — with the implicit assumption that the “right” decision is to buy whatever it is we’re selling.

Yet as Barry points out, when a prospect is faced with lots of options, and has done all this research to determine the right one, the landmine is her high expectations — thus making it way easier for your brand to fail. It’s so much easier for her to experience buyer’s remorse, to keep second-guessing herself, and never feel like she’s truly satisfied than it is to sort through the plethora of available options.

Which in turn, directly impacts her next buying decision.

What Can You Do to Fix This?

1. Clearly position your solutions (brands). Help the prospect to distinguish your brand within the sea of sameness.

2. Make her care about your brand. Give her a compelling, irresistible reason to fall in love. Because once she does, saying “yes” comes easy and heaven help the person who tries to dissuade her from marrying the love of her life.

3. Simplify her decision journey as much as you can. Help her get from anxiety to security as quickly as possible, with as little fuss as possible. Don’t FUD (fear-uncertainty-doubt) her. Keep communication clear, sincere, and positive.

It’s my belief (and I’m sure I’ll piss off a lot of people off with this, but what else is new), that if we, as marketers, did our jobs and clearly positioned our brands, we’d make our clients more profitable and prospective buyers much happier.

Analysis Paralysis

We’d also perhaps not need such complex, over-described funnels, complicated marketing processes, and tons of content. I mean seriously, two hundred years ago, there wasn’t much choice around clothing, was there? You either made it yourself, went to a tailor or seamstress, or went naked.

Most people didn’t need much in the way of clothing back then — they needed four sets of clothes — one for winter, one for summer, one for work, and one for Sunday or special occasions. Fashion, as such, was not the widespread phenomenon it is today.

It took inventing the power loom, sewing machines, paper sewing patterns, automobiles, and the movies to spread the notion of “dressing fashionably” and needing more than the basics. Looms provided ready-made cloth, sewing machines and patterns meant ready-made clothing could be cheaply produced en masse, cars meant you could travel more easily, see more people, spend more time away from home. Along with local movie houses, they created the desire for you to want to dress to impress or mimic your favorite movie idol.

Enter Aaron Montgomery Ward who in 1872 created the first mail order catalog in the U.S. where you could order ready-made clothing. Suddenly, you had choices in shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, hats, gloves. Maybe only four or five initially, but heavens! Four or five was an amazing selection when compared to what your local tailor/seamstress could offer you. Or what you could make yourself.

Creating a clear positioning was much easier then because there weren’t as many choices as today. But as time has passed, and choices have exploded, positioning has become a fine art mixed with lots of science.

More Choices Means Positioning is Job #1

What does all this have to do with your funnel / journey / lifecycle? Everything.

Because underlying all of this is the psychological process every human being goes through to make a decision. When combined with the complexity of your market, and the choices available, it’s why working with a brand expert can help your company determine its most effective positioning, faster.