The Marketing Funnel
The art of the sales pitch dates back to whenever humans started trading. The concept of AIDA has some longevity to it as well. An ad man named E. St. Elmo Lewis spelled out the basic idea in 1898. Lewis worked in-house at National Cash Register and Burroughs Adding Machine Co. before going out on his own. Thus, AIDA was the cutting-edge, hi-tech marketing strategy of its day.
It wasn’t called AIDA, however, until 1921. Lewis’s scheme used slightly different terms, and it was C.P. Russell who suggested the mnemonic, AIDA; presumably people in those days were more opera-savvy than they are today. Now, most people say “ade-ah” instead of “ay-eee-da,” which negates AIDA’s value as a mnemonic device.
Structuring Your Product Information
Why is something like AIDA even needed? In a perfect world, every salesman would like to have a mind-meld with the prospect. That way, all the relevant information could be communicated simultaneously. But in the real world, that’s not possible. There has to be a sequence.
In theory, you’re supposed to sell the benefits. But if the prospect doesn’t know anything about the product or service, then you also need to describe it. It’s also important to differentiate your product from what competitors are offering. And then you want to create some urgency around finding out more or, even better, buying it—today.
AIDA, then, is a time-tested method for structuring all of this information.
Guiding Prospects into the Funnel
First you need to get your prospects’ Attention, because they won’t hear anything else if they’re not listening in the first place.
Then you can deepen their Interest. This often involves placing a person in your ad or marketing copy who has a need or problem your prospects will identify with. When you show that you understand or empathize, it gives prospects confidence that you “get them,” and they become more willing to listen to the rest of the pitch.
The third step is Desire. You can arouse Desire by explaining the benefits in an aspirational way: Do you want to feel better? Our product has three clinically proven ingredients. Need money fast? We approve your credit application in six seconds… And there’s always the visual promise that you could be in a relationship with a hot movie star, if only you were driving a convertible with the acceleration and cornering ability of a Porsche or a Mustang or a Mini—depending on your price point.
Finally there’s a call to Action. This can vary from an exclusive offer to a threat that prospects need to hurry because supplies are limited. What matters is that you make it explicit and tell your prospects exactly what you want them to do. Marketers have dozens of ways to remind sales people to never forget that final A in AIDA: “ABC—Always Be Closing” and “Don’t be afraid to ask for the business” are just two of them.