Not since college did it seem like a funnel could possibly be the path to a relationship. (And even then, let’s be honest.)
The marketing world uses the funnel as a metaphor to describe the narrowing of prospects from all potential consumers to ones that convert. Dating lends itself naturally to the funnel metaphor, describing the uplifting phenomenon of how all the fish in the sea winnow down to The One you catch. As schools of fish drop out along the way, the funnel identifies which steps have the worst conversion rates with the most opportunity for improvement.
It all comes down to AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. Each step along the funnel represents Dating Offender archetypes, perhaps a depressing study, but with knowledge comes the power to increase your luck in the Funnel of Love.
Step 1 – Awareness. Even the best products fail if no one hears of them. The same applies to people: The New Girl, The Shy One, The Hermit. The antidote to Step 1: GET OUT THERE.
For Jill, being in a relationship meant being a recluse (along with the come-hither paradox of wearing sweats while entirely avoiding sweating). Jill found herself single after three years of this charming behavior, and to remedy her awareness quandary, she instituted The Single Turnaround Plan: working out, dressing up, and going out — increasing her awareness (and attractiveness) by about 82 percent. Jill excels in the remaining AIDA steps, so heightening awareness remedies her problem.
Walt, on the other hand, maximizes awareness because he flushes his chances further down the funnel (i.e., when you get to know him). Walt is the dating equivalent of Viagra e-mails: sleazy, unwelcome, and shameless. He plays the numbers game, knowing if he spams everyone with his bad lines, a certain small percentage of women (read: the very drunk and insecure) will be fooled. Walt (literally) boasts a shockingly high success-to-attractiveness ratio.
Step 2 – Interest. As Walt illustrates, you can excel in awareness, but lose it all by Step 2 if you create negative impressions. Interest is epitomized by the Set-Up Test: Can your friends trust you will make them look good if they set you up? Or do you give blind dates a bad name?
Kate falls squarely into the former category, the universally Interest-ing category. In the two minutes she was single, Kate had more set ups lined up than she could fit in her own organic date schedule. Maddie was brainstorming matches for Kate, briefing her on the bachelor behind door number one. “Is he your type?” Maddie asked, passing her iPhone with his Facebook profile pulled up.”Sure, he’s cute and sounds nice,” Kate said. “Am I his type? Does he like petite blondes?” Maddie (one herself) arched an eyebrow, “Who doesn’t?”
Step 2 also includes the natural attrition of those simply not on the market for the product you are peddling. In non-dating terms, you may be aware of a dog-walking service, but you’re probably not signing up if you don’t own a dog. So circling back to Step 1, there’s no point soliciting increased traffic of cat lovers only to certainly lose them in Step 2. One dating market equivalent of non-dog owners is the declared Eternal Bachelor.
The keys to increasing conversion in Step 2 are need identification and demonstrating benefits. Reid knows he falls into the generally Interest-ing type: tall, handsome, twinkling blue eyes, funny, Ivy League pedigree. But he also guarantees Step 2 success by articulating his value proposition of being a good cook and foot massager, tricks he rolls out by date two that usually get him all the way to about Step 4.
Precisely what deal are we closing? A date? A committed relationship? The Whole Fairy Tale? We might need a bigger funnel.
Step 3 – Desire. By this point, your product has awareness and you’ve sifted out those not in your market wheelhouse. Now the task is to convince your captive audience that your specific product is aspirational and best meets their needs, relative to their other choices on the market. Desire gets down to the nitty gritty: Do the specifics of your product meet their needs and evoke their desires?
Kitty is a master of Steps 1 & 2. She is to meeting men as the Top 1% is to making money. And she possesses looks and charm to earn nearly 100% interest. But she tanks when it comes to Step 3, due to an addiction to drama and instability worthy of a soap opera, which combined make suitors think there must be a lower-maintenace substitute good.
Step 4 – Action. Not until Step 4 do we get to the ABCs: Always Be Closing. Customers know you, they’re on the market for you, they’ve decided your model fits their needs, but can you coax them to take the plunge?
Precisely what deal are we closing? A date? A committed relationship? The Whole Fairy Tale? We might need a bigger funnel. In the original AIDA model, Step 3 could be interpreted as the dating process and Step 4 as marriage. But more sophisticated later models drill the funnel deeper by adding follow-up steps to account for customer retention. The Customer Relationship Management perspective would make Step 3 flirting, Step 4 dating, and Steps 5+ closing the deal.
I will leave insights on those advanced steps to those with higher bottom-of-funnel conversion rates than I.