If some consider marketing a religion, why can’t religion be marketing? What can the Church of Scientology teach us about viral marketing and the sales cycle?
I’m a bit obsessive sometimes. I’ll learn a new marketing concept and then try to apply it to every facet of my life or world – whether it fits or not.
Enter Product Funnels
I think I heard about product funnels for about three years before I finally got what the big deal was. In summary:
- Picture a big funnel. Prospects go in at the top and as they move down the funnel, they purchase more expensive products in your product line.
- A free sample teases prospects into the funnel and allows them to sample your services for free. This free sample requires little to no time or cost outlay to you (could be a free PDF download, a whitepaper, a free weekly mastermind call, an audio, etc).
- Customers enter the sales cycle at the price point of their choice.
- As product price increases, the level of personal touch and involvement increases.
- As trust increases, customers customers ‘move down’ the funnel and graduate to a higher-priced product
This was crystallized for me by marketing mavens Andrea J. Lee and Tina Forsyth – most recently in their new book Pink Spoon Marketing (and of course their stellar Multiple Streams of Coaching Income).
Here’s the gist:
Remember the ice cream store and how you can always get a taste of a flavor for free? That’s the pink spoon. You don’t know yet if you want a pint or a cone, a cake or even a flavor of the month – you just want a taste. And so it is with business: prospects want to sample what you have before they buy products and services. By converse, you don’t want to spend a ton of time on these ‘tourists’ until they’ve decided they want to commit to a purchase.
So for my business, I have a free excerpt of my seminar that gets folks comfy with my flavor and expertise and then higher priced products that engage them at different levels of cost and involvement. One-on-one consulting is at the highest level.
Once you start thinking in terms of product funnels you’ll begin to see them everywhere. Like in the music industry, you have
- The free download
- A single (plus remixes)
- An album
- T-shirt or poster or other merchandise
- A boxed set
- A live concert
Again, the level of involvement for the vendor/business increases as the price increases.
Scientology’s Product Funnel
I then decided to apply the product funnel concept to the Church of Scientology (recently skewerd on South Park). I surfed around the famed Operation Clambake – a site that focuses on the Church’s darker side. Here’s the product funnel for Scientology:
- A free personality test – this gets you in the door . This requires a small amount of time from volunteer CoS staff or no staff commitment at all when done online. Here’s the test if you want to take it – along with the ‘right’ answers.
- The purchase of one of their many books, like A New Slant On Life at around $30 – a small financial outlay with no need for time involvement from core CoS staff.
- Annual membership at around $300 a year (your first six months is free).
- Further training at potentially greater cost to the member including a $2,000 lifetime membership.
- Gradually rising in the ranks of the church and organization with up to $1,000,000 for a Gold Patron Meritorious level of membership. Eat it, Tony Robbins!
Granted, part of their ‘auditing’ process requires confessing your deepest darkest secrets and I’d guess that blackmail is a great way to make your site ‘sticky’. But, you can see an expertly crafted product funnel – and even further invovlement at the ‘pink spoon’ level given the outreach of their volunteer ministers (recently seen on the set of War of the Worlds or in the middle of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath).
Compare this to the Roman Catholic Church:
The free ‘pink spoon’ taste would be attending a mass at your local Church – but not being able to fully participate in the liturgy. That’s where the funnel falls apart. There’s no actual graduation to other levels. There’s permanent, lifetime baptism and tithing expectation.
If you are born into the one true apostolic Church, you are baptized immediately and it isn’t until the sacrament of Confirmation when you say ‘Heck yeah!’ and confirm the faith you were born into – and even then you can’t be ‘un-baptized’ – unless you do something worthy of excommunication. Super-sticky, to be sure, but not a smooth transition from introduction to lifetime customer.
I think it’d be fun to compare the marketing practices of world religions – including now-defunct belief systems – to see what works and what doesn’t. Along with all the social and political implications of religion in world history- how much falls just to marketing (aka evangelism)? Starting point: The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages had at first condemned theatre as the haven of whores and sinners – but then flip-flopped once they realized the power of theatre to evangelize a largely illterate audience.
Can you get any more of a ‘value proposition’ than purchasing indulgences? I bet brand managers sweat in excitement at the thought of their own Inquisition.
You can’t buy that kind of Lovemark. You have to inflict it.