Destinations and Drivers – All You Need to Know About Digital

Even a complex array of digital marketing tactics can be simplified to two really big buckets – destinations and drivers. The simplicity of this approach has a purpose. It focuses strategists on the important distinctions between the two categories of effort and underscores their interdependency.

Destinations are all the places, events, or experiences that we want an audience to find and spend time with. Websites, mobile sites, Facebook, or other social channels or apps are among the many destinations you may want to build, maintain, and optimize. They can be short term or long term depending on objectives.

Drivers are all the ways that we get a specific audience to the destinations. Drivers can be paid elements like all manner of display or search ads, but they could be SEO efforts, email marketing, or traditional ad vehicles or PR that increase awareness and inspire visits or other valuable actions. They could also be gaming elements or social community management or the influence of other users that drives a deeper level of audience engagement and creates repeated exposures.

Destinations are no good without drivers. Think of the oft-used example of a billboard in the desert. Likewise drivers are worthless without great destinations. Just ask anyone who has spent media dollars driving users to a site that does not convert. A good digital plan with good management achieves a balance of drivers and destinations so they work together for efficiency and effectiveness.

Start your planning or audit your current digital strategy by defining your desired destinations. Your intended audience, budget, and business goals will define the destination’s home base, form, content, and lifespan. Then define the specific user actions you want to incite within your destination(s). Do you want your audience to consume or contribute some content, make a purchase, or opt in for email? The options are as varied as the millions of marketers out there. The actions you want to incite should support the business outcomes that you have set as goals – such as gaining consumer insights, improving reach or awareness, growing remarketing platforms, distributing samples, making sales, or activating loyalists. Each business will have a unique planning process that defines an approach that is custom fit for them, and it will change from campaign to campaign, season to season, and year over year.

Once you have your destinations defined you can plan out how to get your audience to that destination and what you want them to do while there and upon exit. Certain destinations and goals lend themselves to certain drivers. The effective pairing of destinations and drivers is the essential role of the digital media strategist. They must weigh the audience characteristics, their propensity to use certain media, the draw of the destination, and the cost, ease, or difficulty of attaining the desired user actions in crafting an effective media plan. There are so many options to consider, weigh, and test. Social media presents both a unique challenge and an exceptional opportunity to strategists because of the thousands of reasons that have been detailed here and elsewhere.

One reason that social media is so effective is that it can function as both a destination and a driver. For instance, a game or any other interactive or engaging piece of content can be a destination but it can also be the motivating factor that drives people to that destination – i.e., the driver. The functionality built into social channels and the natural sharing that takes place within those environments allows the destinations or experiences to draw in more users with “earned media.” Social media becomes both the train and the train station.

Every investment in digital should either be in support of a killer destination or the strategic effort to get targeted populations to interact with the destinations. The rest is just details. Web designers and developers, programmers and game developers, creators of great content, experiences, and destination should be working hand-in-hand with the crafters of media plans, the search marketers, and social media managers. Truly integrated digital marketing creates value when digital teams can balance the investment between the two and ensure that destinations and drivers sync up smoothly.

Modern Train image on home page via Shutterstock.

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