31. May 2023 By Uwe Römgens
125 years of sales models: from AIDA to the messy middle
In this modern era of AI, data-driven marketing is the holy grail for getting to know customers better and increasing their loyalty. That being said, many companies underestimate the complexity of the issue and hope to be able make up for the organisational and procedural shortcomings of recent years by buying whichever marketing solution they deem appropriate. After purchasing a highly dynamic and agile software solution, the option of using static sales models such as AIDA and the well-known funnel approach is quickly put back on the table without accounting for the fact that the sales behaviour of the clientele in the B2C sector, and also more and more in the B2B sector, is no longer linear. Customers expect an approach that is both individual and personal. But not only is every customer individual, every company that wants to successfully understand its clientele is too. In order to find the right sales model, the target group and the company must be compatible.
Which one suits your company?
The customer’s initial visit to a provider’s website is not where the process starts. Nowadays, potential customers inform themselves about a product or service through various channels and let the opinions and experiences of other customers shape their perceptions in the run-up to their decisions before they begin the actual purchase or decision-making process.
A look at the past 125 years shows that there are plenty of exciting sales models that help every organisation to better understand the current sales and decision-making behaviour of modern customers and to align their marketing measures accordingly. Each of these models presents interesting ideas and approaches to the world of data-driven marketing that can help companies refine their understanding of end customers and understand them better.
From AIDA to the moment of truth
In 1898, Elmo Lewis developed the AIDA advertising effectiveness model, making it the first to describe a theoretical customer journey. This served as William Townsend’s basis for defining the ‘sales funnel’ in 1924, which is still an essential basis for lead management processes in the B2B environment to this day. It was not until 1961 that Russell Colley added a pre-emptive awareness level to the funnel – he called his enhanced model DAGMAR/ACCA.
Whereas up to that point the models had been characterised by advertising effectiveness alone, in 1986, the then CEO of SAS Airlines Jan Carlzon brought the idea of what he called ‘moments of truth’ into play for the first time. Every contact a company has with a customer can positively or negatively influence the purchase decision. This was the first time that customer contact points, such as service or satisfaction with a product or service, were integrated into an advertising effectiveness model.
The concept of the ‘moment of truth’ was picked up by Procter & Gamble in 2005 and extended to include the ‘first and second moment of truth’. These describe individual touchpoints at which customers come into contact with products and try them out for the first time.
The ‘online’ aspect is making its way into sales models
In 2011, Google seized upon this concept, coining the term ‘zero moment of truth’ (ZMOT), and divided purchasing behaviour into what they call ‘micro-moments’, which marketers must recognise in order to address customers appropriately. This model also takes into account the connection between the offline and online worlds for the first time.
The study Google published in 2020 describes customers’ purchasing behaviour as the ‘messy middle’. Customer journeys are not linear and are often compared to a ball of wool (‘messy’). In the middle is the customer (‘messy middle’) – influenced by countless amounts of information on lots of channels. In this model, customers alternate between research and evaluation. Decisions tend to be made spontaneously, whereby customers use cognitive shortcuts to do so – that is, they spontaneously decide on the appropriate offer that is presented to them and suits their current need.
Sales funnel model: do you want to know more?
If you want to learn more about these exciting sales models, then I invite you to join me on a historical journey through selected sales models from the last 125 years. In my white paper, I take a detailed look at the various sales models and give my personal assessment of them. I put together an interactive checklist at the end as a special highlight with which you can easily assess for yourself whether or not there is a need for new sales solutions in your company.
You will find more exciting blog posts from the adesso world in our latest blog posts.