You no doubt work within sales or marketing. But you are just as much of a customer yourself, are you not? So put on your customer glasses and leave them in place for a moment or two.
Within traditional marketing, we tend to draw a line between brand building and tactical marketing. We have models which tell us first to raise awareness and then to drum up demand, and that the further down the purchase funnel we go, the more rational our communications ought to be. These models have served us well. At least until digital channels came along and smashed through across the board. Now there is much focus on performance marketing, which is often taken as synonymous with digital advertising but geared towards a particular outcome. Neither of these approaches – not the traditional and not the current – are adequate today. The time has come to do away with what we have learned and instead focus on profitable growth. After all, that is what all entrepreneurship is based on.
Focusing on profitable growth does not mean the same message for all customers. Simply shouting from the soap box – roll up, roll up! – does not work, no matter what channel we use. The point is to begin measuring the effects of growth and to change our mindset from one where profitability lies in activities further down the purchase funnel to one where we think like our customers and conceptualise growth as a shared responsibility within the organisation.
Now that you have seen the customer’s journey from their perspective – through the videos, comments on social media, reviews, recommendations and ads that they see – everyone must play a role in your onward journey from blissful ignorance to completed purchase. What was it in the chain that influenced you and where were you in the process when you decided to make a purchase – as a marketer this is the point you want to hit. It is easy to be tempted by a technical solution that promises to solve things. If you’re lucky, this will solve part of your need, but your chances of attaining real success will grow considerably if you also change your processes and mindset. Which is to say, you need new technologies, but also new skills and new processes as well. That is what gives you the right foundation to succeed.
By measuring your brand building and your self-driving activities on the basis of performance indicators, you will make it possible to plan, purchase and optimise all media and to let all activities carry a shared responsibility for the overarching business outcome. These include revenue, customer lifetime value, and lead conversion rates. This will allow you to ease off on the pressure that we often put on activities far down the purchase funnel. And it will reduce the risk of you misdimensioning your media investments.
It is now time to apply the methods that are normally used in what we call performance marketing within all forms of marketing – across the entire business, at all stages of the customer journey and throughout the entire purchase funnel, in all channels and formats. An omni-strategy worthy of the name.
It is now time to change your glasses. Put your marketing glasses back on and let us imagine ourselves a bit of the way into your digital market transformation:
Begin focusing on customer intentions
The reason for looking at the customer journey from a new perspective is to understand the signals your consumers are sending; with these signals decoded, you will have a basis to explain their intentions. The big platforms follow search patterns and these can be used as parameters for steering your communications and advertisements. An Internet user who visits the websites of different car manufacturers, watches car tests on YouTube and reads reviews can be classed as in the market for a new car. Showing your car advertisement to this visitor is likely an effective investment. The challenge is that the volume of consumers who clearly show their intentions are few, while those we want to reach are many. This means that you cannot rely solely on these indicators. But with a little creativity and a good grasp on your analysis, you will be able to identify more customer intentions, find more connections and even create twins.
Paid search is not just a channel – it is a behavioural insights machine
Paid search is a good example. If you set your sights on target groups nearing the end point, far down the purchase funnel, then paid search is perhaps the most effective channel of all. But paid search is much more than just a channel. You can use it to identify behaviours which can then in turn be used to systematically build data-based insights – your very own behavioural insights machine. The actual search query is the variable (predictor) for the consumer’s intention. The intention is what then predicts which measures will be taken and ultimately lead to a sale. If a search query can reveal somebody’s mindset, then you can use this insight to find twins, create advertising materials, offer strategies and to design your content across all channels, even offline.
By undertaking a systematic analysis of behaviour far down the purchase funnel, you will find the usual insights on conversion itself, but also in relation to your customers’ intentions and behaviours. Thus, you will gain insights into what the process for decision-making and consideration looks like. Use this knowledge when forming your overall approach, your omni-strategy which spans across all categories – both online and offline.
Kick your consideration engine into action
Okay, so the next question is how do we activate intent signals farther up in the purchase funnel? A strategy for building up your own customer data is crucial – this is your primary data, your new gold. You can then complement your primary data with secondary data – for example, the intent signals that the various platforms offer to hit the mark. Google Custom Intent Audiences is a powerful option which you can use for all searches, YouTube, display ads and other advertisement types in order to create thematic groupings on the basis of search terms, URLs and app data. You can also use pre-populated, intent-driven segments in order to reach out more broadly, but with the same message.
It is easy to fall into the trap and feel satisfied once you have hit an optimum view rate or cinched a mediocre click-through-rate for a certain demographic or segment. But remember that the goal here is to introduce performance thinking high up in the purchase funnel. Use your unique, intent-based insights in order to trigger the right ads at the right moment. Performed correctly so that they coincide with your customers’ mindset. And you will need to keep your ear to the ground at all times in order to identify changing behaviours and connections.
Experiment with placements, sponsored content, digital outdoor advertising and on programmatically building up your brand and pumping your consideration motor with regular supplies of fresh data.
Your greatest asset is still your brand strength
For many years now, performance marketing has been used to affect what happens in the lower tiers of the purchase funnel – close to the actual purchase itself. This is something that many have latched on to and the rapid growth seen within this area of marketing is primarily down to measurability – being able to snipe well-defined segments and make use of direct channels. You can make changes in a matter of seconds, fully automated and supported by AI. But after doing all the right things for a while, the curve begins to flatten out. Growth tapers off. This is almost always because you have reached the limit of what your brand strength allows. If you want to continue growing, then you need to increase the strength of your brand. This takes considerable investments and resources.
By deploying a data-driven approach and using advanced measurements, you can work your way backwards from the purchase to better understand the origin of the demand. Doing this will give you a new outlook on your activities and choice of channels. Ultimately this will lead to higher quality and greater effectiveness in your brand building. Indeed, this might be a long-term endeavour, but that does not mean that you should not measure, analyse and interpret the effects of the efforts you make. Your brand building work is crucial. For it is definitely not something that will happen on its own.
Growth is everyone’s responsibility
Creating growth is not a team effort or something that you can outsource to somebody else. Nor can you solve your growth challenges through increased advertising alone. I would even stick my neck out and say that if your performance marketing is not currently being done in-house, you should begin working in that direction. You’ve got everything to gain. Implementing the approach and methods used within this guide into your entire business will give you a good understanding for the different parts of your customer journey and how they interconnect. Then through consistent results tracking and your own primary data, you will be able to find the connections that let you maximise the effects of your efforts. And still with my neck in its fully extended position – trust me, your competitors are going to do it.
Consider: Have I got the right capabilities in the form of technology, skills and processes in place?
Communicate: The entire company is responsible for growth.
Do: Make sure that you are measuring your brand building activities against defined endpoints. Ensure that you have a complete overview of the entire customer journey and that you are measuring activities and touchpoints throughout the whole journey and in all channels.