As customers change the way they interact with brands, the way we think of conversion funnels needs to evolve as well, writes Mirum’s Nick McLawhorn.

The “Happy Path” is no longer relevant, and with it went the “Funnel.” What replaced them are clusters of behaviors that build stages of the decision-making experience. This is especially true when you accept that interactions do not happen in a vacuum. Potential customers are engaging with your brand through your website, your social channels, user-generated content, media, events, sales teams and peers. Due to this change in behavior, the way decisions are made has evolved to reflect how information is gathered.

In the past, we have thought of conversion as progressing through specific stages in a decision-making process:

Awareness -> Engagement -> Consideration -> Preference -> Conversion

But the actual progression is not even close; instead, a prospective customer may engage with a consideration message, then begin researching to build awareness. They may then seek out reviews, which have been traditionally classified as steps in consideration.

So now, like a nurturing initiative, the funnel becomes a scoring matrix that builds towards completing the stages of the decision-making process in a nonlinear fashion.

The challenge becomes finding the key interactions that build the stages: what are the clusters of behaviors that identify a prospect has likely reached a satisfactory level of participation?

Let’s look at this from a potential customer engagement:

As a customer searches for sprockets, they find an article about the latest technology on your website through a search. They scroll completely through the article, but do not view any other content on your site and leave. Our scoring matrix would then look like this:

Then, when searching for companies who develop sprockets with this technology, they come to your YouTube videos of how your sprockets have helped customers. We now have a matrix at this stage:

From there they follow a link to your LinkedIn experience with information about the company and customer reviews. That leads them to your product pages where they download whitepapers. With these engagements the customer jumps up in the scoring matrix.

As you can see, clusters of behaviors that help guide customers through the decision-making process can happen in random orders and across a multitude of platforms. Just like your lead-nurturing strategy, you should give yourself the best opportunity to participate in the experience with your customers, and don’t miss those key points of interactions just because they look like they are outside of the “funnel” or “happy path,” as you will often hear them referred to.

Using these types of scoring models opens up other benefits as well. Can you now apply personas and marketing campaigns to the scoring models? Yes! Which gives you the ability to identify what campaigns/messages drive behavior types that are needed to help customers make informed decisions.

As the potential touchpoints your customers have with your brand continue to increase, you need to have flexibility in gauging the intent of those touchpoints and behaviors, and be able to build actions on the opportunities to participate in the experience with them.

Take this concept and put it into perspective with your reality, and don’t let those opportunities continue to pass you by.