Marketers are great as using metaphors to conceptualize the process they think consumers go through as they approach making a purchase.

Perhaps the most widely embraced paradigm has been the ‘consumer journey’ — the path the consumer follows from initially feeling or identifying a need to actually plunking down the dollars. I had some free time over the long weekend to read an interesting article from exalted consultancy, McKinsey, on the consumer journey subject, and it got me wondering …

Is there such a thing as the ‘donor journey’? My conclusion in moment.

First, back to the original consumer paradigm … and guess what, it’s changing. At least according to McKinsey.

The old model for years used the ‘funnel’ metaphor — consumers started their purchase process with a set of potential brands and methodically (but not necessarily rationally) reduced that number to eventually make their purchase. Each step offered ‘touch points’ where marketers could cleverly intervene at the highest leverage points and in the most cost-effective ways to help nail the sale. You’ve probably all seen the model; it looks like this:

Trad con journey

But nowadays McKinsey preaches a different journey — a circular journey. This model has four stages that form a loop, to emphasise the importance of the consumer experience. The four phases:

  1. Initial consideration;
  2. Active evaluation — or the process of researching the potential purchase;
  3. Closure — when/how the consumer buys the brand; and,
  4. Post-Purchase — when consumers experience the brand.

The new model looks like this:

New con journey

It reflects the proliferation of product/services choices, the explosion of communication/media channels (the most important now being digital), and the empowerment of consumers (to find relevant information and self-initiate).

According to McKinsey, the ‘funnel’ isn’t defunct. For example, brand awareness still matters — brands in the initial consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased than brands that are not in it.

It’s more a case of needing to account for the complexity that arises from consumer empowerment. So, for example, empowered consumers as they begin to evaluate — given their ease of accessing information — might actually increase the number of brands they might consider, rather than narrowing early as the funnel suggests.

McKinsey asserts that two-thirds of the ‘touch points’ during the active evaluation phase involve consumer-driven activities — finding internet reviews, seeking  friends and family (and other) recommendation via social media, recalling past experience — where they ‘draw’ information, as opposed to having it ‘pushed’ at them. A step beyond Seth Godin’s ‘permission marketing’.

Bottom line: the consumer is in charge.

The two big consequences, as Mc Kinsey sees it:

  • The post-purchase experience with the product or service is even more critical (in no small part because it will be shared).
  • And the difference between ‘active’ versus ‘passive’ loyalty becomes more important (because consumers can, if they wish, become high-impact brand advocates and on the other hand, if they’re passive, there’s ample opportunity for them to be exposed and vulnerable to competitive brands).

Maybe this is all too conceptual as you approach your day-to-day fundraising tasks. But I suggest most fundraisers would benefit from reading a piece like The consumer decision journey. You’ll better understand why Roger, for example, is beating the drum over improving donor experiences.

Is there a ‘donor journey’?

I think the answer to that is tied, by definition, to this question: At what commitment level (maybe amount-driven) does ‘reasoning’ (or at least what donor perceives as reasoning) enter the decision to give?

  • Dropping a coin in the Salvation Army kettle — very short ‘journey’! From instant brand awareness right to hand in pocket. So set aside the pure impulse gift.
  • Responding to a direct mail/email appeal — a short journey that only leaves the station if the appeal touches a donor’s already exposed nerve ending. Still not a heap of ‘active evaluation’ (yet here’s where an ‘intervention’ like putting security symbols on a landing page or providing a super-simple response card comes into play).
  • Deciding to make a monthly gift — probably involves a bit more consideration … now involving more assessment of the prospective organization’s efficacy and not just emotional reaction to the cause.
  • Making a bequest — definitely a journey.
  • Defecting or not renewing — yes, the journey of no return … and possibly a very quick one if the post-purchase experience is disappointing!

What’s your verdict? Is it helpful or not to think about a ‘donor journey’?





This article was posted in: Donor acquisition, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Integrated fundraising and marketing, Nonprofit branding, Online fundraising and marketing.
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