The Digital Marketing Lifecycle
For decades marketers have used a relatively unchanged model of the customer journey, from first-touch to repeat-purchase. However, with the onset of digital transformations occurring at companies both large and small, it’s time to revisit those traditional models and take a closer look at how online lead generation fits in, in order to reach the ultimate goal…not only of generating leads and revenue at present, but for maximizing the lifetime value of your product or service for your customer.
In the past, we marketers created content and optimized experiences for these different stages of the customer journey, but as new digital marketing channels and tactics continue to emerge, marketers have taken notice that the linear journey has stopped working that way it was intended to. But don’t worry, the marketing funnel as we know it is not over, we just need to regain focus on how it’s evolved and what we’re doing about it.
The Old Customer Journey
Though it is common to see the traditional marketing and sales funnel diagrammed in different ways, all such models share a general structure. They explain that the path customers take in their purchase of a product is highly linear and highly deterministic. From first becoming aware of a brand to discovering a product for which they are in-the-market to purchase, then eventually becoming a repeat customer, the traditional, sequential moments of the customer journey no longer apply.
This model doesn’t accurately depict the lives of modern consumers.
In an age where we shift between platforms and channels, relying on recommendations by friends and influencers and algorithms to help us discover our own tastes, the notion of a step-by-step process seems out-dated. We can be coaxed into a one-click purchase from a single touch, but we might also see a brand dozens of times across multiple channels before we are converted from lead to a sale. We skip steps. We move backwards. We enter the marketing funnel in odd places and may even go out-of-market for months before making a purchase. Contemporary life is not a rote, mechanical process. Today we buzz with activity that the old marketing funnel cannot sufficiently describe.
Lets shift our focus to the non-linearity of modern marketing: open-ended, multi-path customer journeys built upon multi-channel campaigns using multi-touch tactics.
The New Funnel in the age of Digital Marketing
Think Open-Ended or Lose Out. The goal of the old marketing funnel was simple: establish a brand-loyal customer who will continue to purchase your products without additional prompting. It seemed a worthwhile goal. After all, a customer who has reached that stage will continue to generate revenue without additional investment. What such a closed-ended model misses, however, is the possibility of a brand-loyal customer transforming into a brand advocate.
Consider this fact: more millennials consider themselves loyal to a brand than loyal to a political party. Brands have become, in some sense, the building blocks of contemporary identity. Active participation in that constructive process is of the utmost value.
The ubiquity of social media means that user-generated content is more valuable than ever before. A recommendation from a loyal customer won’t just reach their friends (or friends-of-friends), but potentially a far wider audience. A customer who becomes a living touchpoint for your brand offers returns well beyond their own purchases and there is thus a need to maximize the lifetime value of these customers by never considering their customer journey to be “over.”
New Entry Points for Marketing to the Modern Consumer
The old marketing funnel lends itself to highly deterministic campaigns. Marketing on different channels would be arranged so as to serve as sequential touchpoints which the customer would reach one after the other (e.g. a banner ad soliciting an email address to which a call-to-action could be sent). Today, however, we know that customer journeys are unique. Particular marketing channels cannot be associated with any particular stage of the funnel: the diversity in shoppers’ media consumption habits is simply too great. Whereas one person may use Instagram to follow a brand and its new product releases, another person may use the platform to discover new brands. In line with the idea of an open-ended marketing funnel, any particular channel can be both the site of first-touch and brand-advocacy.
What this means for brands today is that their content must move customers from lead towards advocacy no matter where they are in that process. By producing quality, self-contained content which does not rely upon some particular preceding touchpoint, nor imply some particular succeeding touchpoint, brands can benefit despite the indeterminacy of the customer journey.
Emerging Strategies for 2018
Segmented Email Automation
Given the need for content that reflects an individual’s position in the marketing funnel, automated, customized, highly-targeted emails have been proving far more effective than traditional mass-mailers. Put that “monthly newsletter” away, and don’t ever send it again! Automation tools now allow brands to use collected data to quickly gauge a customer and decide what content is best to offer them. And, while automation tools have been clumsy and cumbersome in the past, they are getting less technical, more visual, and overall easier to use all the time.
However, the key to email automation is not slipping into a “set it and forget it” mindset. Marketers must review and improve their selections based on observed response metrics. In fact, successful marketing programs are 70.2% more likely to A/B test their automated emails at least once a year than unsuccessful ones. Remember: automation allows you to scale your decisions, but it still requires that you make the decisions!
Buyer Persona Discovery
Keep an eye out for off-the-shelf machine learning and data science-based features and tools for marketers. Customer behavior is increasingly dependent upon algorithmic recommendations made by platforms like Netflix or Spotify. There is a certain ease of consumption that comes when the content best for you is only a click a way. It is essential that brands learn how to emulate this feeling, but it is only possible with an increased personalization of content. After all, segmentation is what makes the suggestion algorithms that run the social web so appealing: all the content you want, none that you don’t.
The Value of Channel Ownership
As the new digital marketing tactics imply that a customer is never “finished,” the difference between “rented” and “owned” audience is becoming increasingly important for marketers to consider. For example, while an advertising campaign on Facebook can capture a large audience, each impression must be paid for; email, on the other hand, offers free and consistent access to an established audience. If a brand is to continue to engage with an audience after an initial campaign (and, indeed, after a purchase), it must make every effort to migrate audiences onto owned channels. While email may be a good bet in 2018, so too are Facebook groups which have gained priority over posts by Facebook pages since the latest change to the platform’s algorithms.
How do you describe a Digital Transformation?
Organic research reveals that 30% of people believe “transforming the culture of the organization” is what comes to mind when they think about a digital transformation, while 24% say it refers to “ways of working” compared to only 8% who believe the adoption of new IT is at the forefront of a digital transformation. Sales and Marketing teams don’t always see eye to eye about how to generate leads for the company. Is your digital strategy properly aligned?
Learn how to nail the transformation from traditional advertising to digital advertising with the advice of our experts in this free 14-minute webinar.