In this article, I want to share with you all this huge shift that I’ve been noticing in marketing as I’ve studied the recent trends in the field.
I really believe that we are at the beginning of the next huge trend in marketing — I’m calling it Marketing 3.0, the Experience Era.
Here’s how Proof is going to win in the Experience Era and how your business can win too.
If you get on this trend early, you’re going to grow faster than any of your competitors. I wholeheartedly believe that you’re going to be able to create raving fans that are loyal to your company forever. That is certainly what we are seeing and what we believe here at Proof.
A little backstory
Back in 2014, I launched my marketing agency, and for some reason, the niche that myself and my business partner fell into was the Port-a-potty rental business. A really glamorous industry…
And so for us, our offering basically was it boils down to this: we build nice websites for Port-a-Potty rental companies. And what we were offering what was kind of the cream of the crop for the time — really nice websites; mobile optimized, maybe even some good forms on there to kind of capture a lead.
Essentially, we were just building websites. And that’s what I think marketing 1.0 online was — it was the website alone.
Eventually, we grew that website business into an agency with 20 clients, and we really wanted to go launch an online training business. And so by 2016, we’d kind of shifted out of the agency, and we were trying to sell this course called 6K Success, which was all about how to land high ticket clients, and how to start a consulting business in 60 days or less.
A landing page for 6k success
Our value proposition became: we create courses to help people land agency clients.
And we kind of built our website from what we knew at the time, and it just wasn’t working. So I started thinking, “What are people doing, what’s the newest thing in online marketing?”
Marketing 2.0: the sales and marketing funnel
Essentially, the sales funnel was one website — maybe six webpages — and you’d start with a little, small micro commitment. You’d ask a prospect for their email address in exchange for some sort of PDF download. Then you’d take them through to a sales video, then a sales page, and an order form, then an upsell, two upsells, then an email follow up.
Traditional online marketing funnel.
It was basically a website that multiplied into lots of different websites. We found that with about 100 people, instead of at the end one or two buying like with our Agency websites, we’d have three or four people buying, and they would actually buy more stuff; because we’d have up-sells in the process. And the whole thing just worked a lot better because it kind of multiplied out from marketing 1.0.
Marketing 2.0 was and is the marketing funnel, and it worked really well for us then. And it continues to work well for us.
In fact, we’ve kind of dominated, because we’ve mastered these strategies over the last three or four years.
But as we have grown and sold these courses, we have asked: “What if we had two funnels that were speaking to two different kinds of people?”
And we really had these two groups of people in our company that were buying our courses. There were existing agencies that just wanted to add on new services, or wanted to learn what we were doing to prospect and land clients. But we also had beginners — people that were working a full-time job or right out of college they’re looking to start their own business.
At one point, we took our funnel and we split it in half; we duplicated it. And we built one —with all the headlines and the copy — for agencies, and the other one was all for beginners.
We launched it, and then we waited. Sure enough, our sales went up again. It converted higher on the agency side, and it converted higher on the beginner’s side. And this was huge. We were like, “Wow we’ve really figured this out.”
So we split the thing again, but what we found was that caused a lot of stuff to break. If you’ve ever built funnels before, you know that stuff, ultimately, breaks. Emails break, zaps break, websites go down. And so even with just two funnels, becomes this really, really complex thing. And so we kind of rolled our flow back into one and would occasionally use two.
Proof and the dream of Experiences
At Proof today, we work with 3,000+ businesses helping them increase conversion rates, and we’re kind of obsessed with the funnel. That’s what we’ve used to grow to $175K MRR in our first 12 months, and that’s basically what got us into Y Combinator.
The team at YC
At the back of mind, I’ve always had this kind of nagging question, “What if every person had their own personal funnel, what would happen then?”
What if, instead of having just two funnels, or 10 funnels, or 20 funnels. What if for 10,000 visitors I had 10,000 funnels, and each one spoke perfectly to them?
I came across this quote from, David Cancel, CEO of Drift (btw check out our podcast interview with him if you haven’t seen it yet). And he said something on the lines of:
“Most of the marketing tools that exist today were built for a world that no longer exists.”
And I just felt like this has been true because for years. I’ve wanted to have this marketing funnel for every single visitor, and the tools simply don’t exist for it.
So marketing 1.0 was the website, marketing 2.0 was the website multiplied, which in part created the sales funnel. I think marketing 3.0 is the sales funnel multiplied again.
"Marketing 3.0 is the personal experience where every person has their own funnel. And in that world, you can create these little micro funnels, and even one-time use funnels for a person at that right time, theoretically."
But now, as we’re testing this concept, we’re seeing conversion rates go up a lot, revenue going up a lot, customers being happier, and it’s just a delightful experience for all.
It’s really kind of like giving every visitor your very best salesperson — it’s their personal concierge to walk them through your website, through your sales funnel, through your demo booking funnel, and out the other end. It’s a better experience and leads to higher conversion rates.
If you study the best salespeople, they don’t just give the same pitch over and over, right? They’ve kind of two steps: step one is you gather data by asking questions. The best salespeople go in looking for a conversation. Then in step two, they personalize the pitch, personalize the sales conversation and make it a one-to-one experience that’s kind of a one-time, single-use conversation there.
But then on the other hand, what do most marketers do?
We tell every person the exact same thing, and it kills me. Because I know that if I can just figure out how to deliver these personal experiences at scale — things would go way better for me and the customer.
And so there’s this problem that I heard one of my marketing heroes talk about. He said:
“A lack of personalization creates poor conversions, and lack of data gives you bad personalization which is blah marketing, and most marketing is just the average of all of the visitors.”
And marketers say, “Well, I’ve got these 10 different audiences, but I don’t know how to talk to each of them specifically, and so I’m just going to kind of create the average, and average marketing gives you average results. You’ll never get ahead.”
I think a lot of this is just about closing the gap, it’s about closing the gap between what people expect and what people get. But then I think as companies, as startups, if we can go and deliver far beyond what people expect — there’s this area of delight.
And if we can kind of delight customers, if we can leave some room, leave a delta in between what people expect and what they get, then repeat. It creates delight, it creates raving fans, and it creates a huge, huge impact.
Amazon’s long-bet on personalization
And recently, I’ve studied their shareholder’s letters. If you haven’t done this, download Amazon’s shareholder letters. Every year since 1997, Jeff Bezos puts out a letter that just kind of breaks down what’s on his mind, and what strategies he’s been working on and what they’re thinking about at Amazon.
The other day I printed every single one of these off — I think there’s 22 of them — and I laid them out on the floor all around me. I had this huge whiteboard, pen, paper, and note. And I just read every single one of these.
I was marking out when he was launching new products, and what he was talking about, what words come up over and over, what are the things that he seemed to care about.
And it hit me, as I read through the whole thing, I kind of stepped back. This idea of creating personalized experiences was so core to their business. And, actually, was in sentence number three of his very first shareholder letter in 1997,
“But this is day one for the internet, and if we execute well for Amazon.com; today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time, tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery.”
And so the third sentence in back 20 plus years ago, Jeff Bezos is saying, “We’re going to make this a core part of our strategy, and we’re going to be there at the very beginning here.” And so what does that look like?
This is far before it was easy to do any sort of personalization, but they said: “We’re going to make this a core competency here.”
If you really want to see something interesting, go to Amazon.com and pull it up in Incognito. And look at what an un-personalized version of Amazon.com looks like for you.
Unpersonalized version of Amazon’s homepage.
And then flip over and look at the personalized version. You’ll see just the stark difference.
A personalized version of the same site.
Enter the Experiences Era
I think that marketing, in the Experiences era, is kind of like having every visitor already logged in when they first hit your site — even for the very first time. This is not just something that only huge companies can do.
In 2019, we’re breaking into the place where companies of all sizes can create unique experiences for their visitors. Consumers have more power and more leverage than they’ve ever had before. And there’s more options for people, more options for consumers to go out there and purchase products; and so they’ve got a lot more power.
And that’s really at the heart of what Experiences is. I think as marketers we really get into data and we get into clicks and visitors, and click-through rates, and all these metrics. And we forget at the heart of marketing today is real people.
Our mission at Proof is to make the internet delightfully human.
We’ve been working on a new product over the past year called Experiences. We’ve been testing it on our signup funnels, on our demo funnels; and we’re seeing insane results.
We’re seeing demo registrations increase by 54 percent-ish. We’re seeing new trials, increased by 27 percent. And it’s all around figuring out which demographics can we group our visitors into; what kind of experiences can we deliver to them in real time, and how do we do that at scale?
So this has been something that’s really, really exciting for us, I’ve been really itching we’ve been sitting on this for months and months as we’ve been testing this and trying to prove this thing out; we’re finally getting some of the results, some of the case studies, some of the split tests are hitting statistical significance.
Interested in finding out more about Experiences? We’re in Beta right now, but we’ll be opening up early access over the next few months.
If this is interesting at all to you, sign up and we’ll keep in touch with updates.