The Funnel Chart
by Polson Enterprises The Boating Industry Information Specialists how to contact us
The FUNNEL CHART illustrates how we select among leisure alternatives. Potential Leisure activities enter at the top of the funnel. Steps in the process of selecting an alternative are shown as levels in the funnel. Constraints are shown as filters between the various levels. The decreasing cross sectional area of the funnel indicates we may be capable of investigating several activities at their earlier stages but only a few at later stages. Time required to go "through the funnel" is typically dependent upon the financial and time requirements of the activity. The size of the PARTICIPANTS RESERVOIR represents the capacity of the infrastructure (facilities used by the activity) and support structure (clubs, coaches, referees, leagues, web sites, newsletters, suppliers, retailers) for the activity.
Once an activity is encountered with one of our senses we have an AWARENESS of it. We tend to prefer certain types of activities such as sports, home based (tv, reading, crafts), motorized vehicles, or nature activities. If the activity fits one of our leisure areas and does not involve anything we fear (heights, flying, water, darkness) we begin to gain KNOWLEDGE about it. We screen the activity for our demographics (sex, age, income, marital status), our physical characteristics and abilities (sex, size, strength, agility level, disabled), and local availability. If we don't see others who look like us participating, if our body is not "up to" the physical requirements of the activity, or the activity is not available locally we will usually stop our investigation. We also mentally use this filter when purchasing leisure items as gifts for others. Those who cease to progress at a filter are DEFECTORS.
The next step is PARTICIPATION in the activity. In some cases we may only visualize ourselves participating. The quality of our first few experiences determines if we continue to progress toward LIKING the activity. We begin to compare it to other activities (alternatives) and to develop PREFERENCES for it. Some activities require actions many may consider hassles that consume time or money and must be done before or after participation in the activity. Hassles may include purchasing a fishing license, paying a lake use fee, cleaning fish, gassing up a boat, flushing a marine drive, backing down a launch ramp, marina fees, buying two stroke oil, and frequent repairs. If we and our family continue to have good experiences with the activity, we decide if the activity is worth the time, money, and hassle required. If it is, we develop a CONVICTION to purchase the needed equipment or services and participate more fully. High ticket items will often require approval of our spouse and making financial arrangements. Some time consuming activities may be put off until more leisure time is available. When the decision to buy is reached we begin SHOPPING for one or more suppliers of new or used equipment or services. Brands, models, and options are compared to select the attributes needed which may include soft side issues such as warranty, service, and financing. Some general shopping is usually done at earlier stages but the major shopping decisions are made at this time. If the proper equipment or service is available at a fair price we will PURCHASE it.
After acquiring the equipment or service we become NORMAL PARTICIPANTS in the activity. Typically 15 to 25% of the normal participants develop a zeal for the activity and desire to commit additional time and resources to it. They purchase the latest equipment, subscribe to magazines, join clubs, talk with others about the activity, encourage others to join in the activity, advise others in equipment selection, and account for almost 75% of the participation in the activity. This RECREATIONAL SPECIALIZATION often begins to focus on a specific area of the activity such as fishing for a specific species like trout or bass. A few become highly skilled PROFESSIONALS, like in professional bass fishing. Once in the professional or recreational specialization groups, individuals may regress to a prior level. Some participants will EVAPORATE (cease to participate) from a leisure activity due to age. Others may be driven off by overcrowding of the facilities or support structure. For example, water access issues impact boating participation.
Surveys can be conducted to estimate the number of people in a specific population (club, college, town, county, state, country) at various levels of the funnel at a given time. The results can be used to forecast participation, equipment, and facility needs. Trade associations, equipment manufacturer's, and sports organizations can use the chart to identify and implement methods to help more people through the various filters (reduce DEFECTORS) and to help them move through faster. These methods are called FACILITATORS. For example the boating industry currently has a Grow Boating program to increase awareness and a dealer certification program to improve the "dealer experience".
The Second Hand Market
With the high costs of new equipment, many new first time buyers now turn to used equipment available from want ads, bulletin boards and online auctions such as eBay. Removing "hassles' from this "second hand" market might lead to greater participation in many activities. Several of these new participants may eventually purchase "new" equipment.
Push or Pull?
To get more people (customers) through the funnel, some manufacturers and facilities try to PUSH them through with hard sell tactics (low price if you buy today, specials, rebates, bundle with a "free" vacation, tell you how you will regret it if you don't become a participant, put babes in the show booth, build shoddy low cost equipment, hide "hassles of the activity", hide total cost of ownership, etc) while other try to PULL their customers though by making their activity fun and easy to participate in (the activity itself may be difficult and challenging, like mountain climbing or scuba diving, but they try to make the equipment easy to operate, easy to understand, reliable, safe, provide easy access to facilities, sponsor participant clubs, provide good equipment support, etc) . Others try a combination of both ways, and some try nothing at all. Which route does your activity take?
The Grow Boating movement seems to have discovered the "Buying Funnel" and may be on their way to rediscovering the funnel chart concept I presented in the early 1990's that also includes alternative leisure activities.
NMMA Barriers & Competitors Quantitative Study. Final Report. Sept 2004. by Left Brain Marketing. The Executive Summary (slide 7 of the Power Point presentation) mentions a certain number of families being "in the buying funnel" but no graphic is presented.
Boating Industry magazine's Jan/Feb 2005 edition has a segment titled "Grow Boating Update" edited by Matt Gruhn and Lizz Walz on page 13. The article includes the sketch of a funnel and quotes Thom Dammrich of the NMMA talking about trying to get more people into the funnel to buy more boats. The funnel drawing accompanying the article shows 3 stages (Interest, Consideration, Shopping) and a matrix beside the graphic indicates the percentage of people at each of the three stages for boats and for RVs. The graphic lists the data source as "Barriers and Competitors Quantitative Study". 2004.
"Understanding Barriers to Boat Sales" by Jerry Mona of Left Brain, Inc. published by Soundings Trade Only in their April 2005 issue on pgs 34-35 shows a funnel proposed by Mr. Mona that has 5 stages (No Interest, Interest, Consideration, Shopping and Purchase. It also indicates the percentage of targeted consumers not currently owning a boat (incomes of $50K or above) at each stage of the funnel. He reported introducing this "buying funnel" for boats while presenting some other research at the Grow Boating meeting at the Miami International Boat Show.
"Funnel Vision" by Matt Gruhn published in Boating Industry magazine in their May 2005 issue on Page 12 brought our Funnel Chart back to light! The article covers our Funnel Chart, its history and encourages the industry to consider the concepts raised by it.