Elias St. Elmo Lewis was a prominent advertising executive around the turn of the 20th century; he was also almost murdered on two separate occasions.
According to the March 1905 issue of Ad sense, Lewis and some colleagues consumed food sprinkled with arsenic by
an “illy disposed person.” A few weeks later, the same person, apparently still illy disposed, set fire to Lewis’s building.
He and his colleagues barely escaped “with their lives and several pairs of pajamas.” By the way, Lewis also invented the concept of the sales and marketing funnel in 1898.
The story of how Elias St. Elmo Lewis fled his would-be assassin would interest you whether or not you wanted information about digital marketing. You’d feel a spark of curiosity, and you’d read on to discover why someone wanted Lewis dead. If the first sentence of this post had been, “Lewis invented the sales and marketing funnel,” it wouldn’t have elicited that same motivation. You might have read on for academic reasons or from commitment to the headline but not from a natural drive to find out more.
Timing Is Everything
So much of the content we write isn’t delightful. It doesn’t spark wonder or curiosity. We write toward the rational side of the customer’s brain instead of trying to generate emotion.
We do this because we create content with the assumption we’re targeting buyers who are already evaluating solutions. We aim 99 percent of our content toward the Evaluation portion of the sales funnel, and we employ rational, logical, and incredibly boring arguments to persuade people to buy.
Because this post began with two paragraphs about attempted murder, you started down the Elias St. Elmo Lewis sales funnel at the Awareness stage. You weren’t evaluating whether the sales funnel was a useful tool or not; you felt intrigued to find out more. By creating more content for the Awareness portion of the sales funnel, you build stronger emotional connections with your brand. And as anyone who’s ever been in love knows, passion trumps rationality every time.
Why We Avoid the Awareness Stage
At his 2014 Content Marketing World keynote presentation, Andrew Davis argued we focus on the Evaluation stage because it’s the easiest way to tie content creation to revenue generated. Buyer A downloads White Paper B and makes a purchase two days later. These scenarios justify the expense of content creation, which makes Evaluation a comfortable place to be. It’s much safer to bet on this kind of content than to take a chance with the Awareness stage.
When Awareness-stage content delivers, however, it delivers in a big way. “The LEGO Movie,” a great example of Awareness-stage content, resulted in a 15-percent sales increase for LEGO in 2014 and over a $1 billion increase in net profit. Davis advocates creating content for the Awareness stage to generate these “moments of inspiration.” These moments inspire customers to purchase things they didn’t even know they needed.
Making customers fall in love with your brand becomes the basis for a lifelong relationship. Rationally persuading customers to buy and hoping they’ll fall in love later isn’t just boring — it’s also risky. No one dreams of getting into a logical and hopefully mutually beneficial relationship. You might get the initial sale, but you won’t establish the passion that keeps customers coming back.
Taking a Chance
Awareness is more than the first time someone learns about your product. It’s recreated in moments when customers discover something new about your brand. We fell in love with Apple in 1984, but we renewed our vows with “Here’s to the Crazy Ones.”
Apple doesn’t rationally argue about the benefits of its products. It dares you not to fall in love with them. You can’t afford to play it safe by only creating content easily tied to purchasing in a one-to-one relationship.
Keep creating and testing content for your Evaluation stage, but generate more moment of inspiration ideas. You’ll create several pieces of content with flat or negative ROI until you uncover the magic.
Magic is what transforms companies from product lines into brands. Invest more not only in introducing customer to your product but helping them rediscover it again and again.
Just stay away from illy disposed assassins while you do it.
Sales funnel image by Carla Gates from Flickr Creative Commons
Elias St. Elmo Lewis image by Advertising Hall of Fame (public domain)
Light bulb inspiration concept image by Brian A. Jackson from Shutterstock