What are Hooks, Flows and Funnels?

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Explaining what I do as a job has always been difficult.

A few years ago my Mum asked me what I did. I just told her I worked in an office. It was easier that way. I don’t know what my Mum thought. But she hasn’t asked again since.

I blame myself and the marketing industry.

As you would have noticed, the marketing world likes to use jargon. Like a lot of ‘industry speak’, it gives those who use it a sense of self-importance. It leaves those outside the industry scratching their heads.

So, let it be known, I’ve made it my personal mission to cut-down on jargon. I’m still going cold turkey so bear with me. I may well regress in this post.

Jargon is useless

Since I made the decision to quit jargon. It made me realise how ridiculous and unhelpful it really is. I mean, we’re supposed to help customers to understand then choose a product and services over another – right?

Actually, let me be more precise about the definition of what marketing is or does. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM):

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.

With respect to the CIM, even that definition has a whiff of jargon about it.

So I have spent the last few years working on how I can distill what I know about marketing in plain English. Plain enough so that those folks can understand the value that marketing can bring to their own customers.

This thinking laid the foundations of what would later become ‘Hooks, Flows and Funnels’.

Fact: plain English and marketing aren’t comfy bedfellows.

On my journey to rid the marketing jargon monkey from my back, I found that even grown-up marketing professionals with long job titles can’t resist talking in riddles about the subject.

This is odd because the customers they market to don’t really use that language. This made me think of something an old creative director boss of mine used to say:

Explain stuff as if you were talking to a mate down the pub.

Sage advice. But as I write this, it still seems that the marketing industry assumes that everyone (even those new to the industry) knows what the heck they’re talking about.

Let’s look at why start-ups might need marketing…

Imagine that you are Mr, Mrs or Ms start-up entrepreneur and you need to launch your business idea… you don’t have a lot of money or time… you’re excited about your idea but unsure how to actually market it… chances are, you, your partner and bank manager will be asking questions. Such as:

1. ‘How can I find out what my customer wants so I can position my business idea so it solves their problem?’

2. ‘How do I build a website so it’s intuitive to use, helps customers complete tasks and showcases my business idea?’

3. ‘How do I build up a bank of prospect customers so I can follow-up and convert them into paying customers?’

Let’s tackle those questions in order.


1. ‘How can I find out what my customer wants so I can position my business idea so it solves their problem?’

The 'Hook' in Hooks, Flows and Funnels

Put simply: you need a ‘hook’. Something to hang your message or ‘proposition’ off. Something you can own – something that’s very you. A ‘hook’ helps you stand out from the crowd. It offers your customers value because it solves their problems.

Here’s what I mean…

When you offer value, you stay away from being beaten down on price. Despite what people might say, people don’t just buy on price. A hook can help you protect the value.

A bit like Stella Artois – ‘Reassuringly expensive’…

The Stella Artois 'hook' helps defend the price positioning and builds the brand

The Stella Artois ‘hook’ helps defend the price positioning and builds the brand

Marketers call these things value propositions, brand propositions, positioning lines, USPs and taglines. I prefer to call them ‘hooks’. This can be as simple as a few words or a sentence. The hook offers a benefit (not a feature) to your audience. Done well, it’ll be memorable and powerful.

So, once you’ve come up with your very own ‘hook’ – what next…?


2. ‘How do I build a website so it’s intuitive to use, helps customers complete tasks and showcases my business idea?’

The 'Flows' of Hooks, Flows and Funnels

You probably have one website or app that you use habitually. Is using it so simple that you come back to it again and again? Chances are, that site or app has nailed the user ‘flows’.

What do I mean?

The designers and engineers have worked out what tasks you need to perform. Then they have made the experience of performing those tasks almost effortless.

You may have heard of User Experience Design (UXD or UX). It’s a powerful discipline that focuses on how customers use websites – the ‘flows’ – and not necessarily what they actually look like.

A wireframe of website journey flows

Work on your flows before you design or build anything

So, you’ve nailed how you bring customers into your website or app flows – next question…


3. ‘How do I build up a bank of prospect customers so I can follow-up and convert them into paying customers?’

Funnels logo highlight

To launch and sell stuff, you’ll need to perform some alchemy and convert online visitors into valuable, cash-paying customers. Think about a shop: not all visitors buy stuff on their first visit. So, how do you tempt them back?

You’re gonna need a sales funnel. It’s not a real funnel like the one you pour oil into to feed your engine, but the comparison is spot-on. Visitors (or ‘leads’) are or will be the lifeblood of your business.

Funnels are there to capture and convert those all-important leads.

One of the most simple funnels is to offer a free guide or ‘Lead Magnet’ that offers value to customers and collects their data at the same time.

This free guide 'Lead Magnet' offers value to the customer and captures data into the 'funnel'.

This free guide ‘Lead Magnet’ offers value to the customer and captures data into the ‘funnel’.

Websites, servers, marketing and hosting all costs money. Once you get a prospect customer onto your website, make sure your funnel is set-up so you can bring them back into your sales process when they’re ready.


What happens when Hooks, Flows and Funnels work together

Just imagine…

You’ve hooked customers in. You’ll know how to defend your position and offer value to them without dropping your price or compromising quality…

You’re wise to the tasks and flows those customers have to perform on your website and you’ve designed accordingly…

You get that they might not buy on the first visit. But that’s OK as you’ll now know the right way to capture their data and bring them back when they’re ready.

When you get these three things right, it adds up to a great experience for your customer. And a profitable one for you too.

Hooks, Flows and Funnels work best as a team

You can work through the three elements; Hooks, Flows, and Funnels, individually, but you’ll soon see that each one affects the other.

For example, if you haven’t got your hook right, you won’t attract any customers onto your site and through your flows. And ultimately, no data captured in your funnel.

So remember, they all work together. Like cogs in a bigger marketing machine. After you’ve finished creating all three, stand back and have a think about the overall customer journey. Walk through it yourself…

Look at how you ‘hooked’ your first customer, the ‘flows’ your website guided them through and the ‘funnels’ they went into.

In reality, it probably won’t be a straight, linear journey – I wish it was, but humans aren’t that simple. So be philosophical – accept that once you get this up and running, customers will drop-out at various stages.

Don’t worry, that’s not a problem. The good news is that you can measure where the dropouts are and make improvements where needed. Test and learn, test and learn.

So that’s Hooks, Flows and Funnels.

I hope you found this post useful and simple (please say ‘yes!’).  If you didn’t then I’m in a bit of bother. Because I liked the idea of Hooks, Flows and Funnels – so I showed it to some start-ups and organisations that work with them. They liked it too. 

Wait, would you like to be involved…?

Since we showed the Hooks, Flows and Funnels idea around, my colleagues and I, decided to write a course based on those three very things. We’re busy finishing off the material as we speak.

If you want to find out more about the course once it’s ready, click here. We’ll need some folks to test it out. And as you’ve read this far, I’d love it to be you!

Anyways up, thank you for reading. If I did regress and get too jargony, please comment on the blog. It helps with my recovery.

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