Digital Strategy To-MAY-to vs. To-MAH-to

You know what’s more “numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17)? Marketing frameworks, that’s what. But the problem with having so many is that different clients, agencies, brand managers, etc. all use different ones. And it’s leading to more confusion and miscommunication than to practical, actionable marketing.

Ones You May Have Heard of…

red-tomatoFrom the famous Four Ps – place, product, price, and promotion – to SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – to “customer journey” and the 3.1 million more (seriously, try this Google Image search) – there’s a lot of variety. Or so it seems. But a quick scan through the terminology used in these frameworks will reveal that they are still very product-centric and brand-outward – very traditional-advertising-like; that is to say they focus on things like “what to say, who to say it to, and where to say it.” These come from a deeply rooted mindset of “telling” customers what they should believe about the brand instead of “listening” to what customers actually need during their purchase decision process. In the new digital world, modern, empowered consumers are very good at tuning out messages they don’t want to hear or won’t simply take advertisers’ word for it, even if they saw the ad. So this kind of brand-outward, push advertising, thinly veiled as “storytelling,” is not working as well as it once did – in the golden age of men who were mad – Mad Men.

Ones You May Not Have Heard of…

yellow-tomatoThere are countless others, which range from lists of things, like these eyefulls from Lumascape, which list all the possible tactics and companies/vendors to choose from to categorization frameworks like the recent “paid, earned, owned.” Some of them are digital tactics only, while others are focused on traditional channels and tactics. These mostly tell you what things are, but not necessarily what to do about it. And many are still focused on the “sales funnel” of the advertiser – how to push messages out at people – vs. the “purchase funnel” of the user and what bits of information they need along every stage of the funnel to inform their own purchase decision.

What Should You Choose to Use?

So out of this ocean of marketing frameworks, which should you choose to use? Let’s make a new framework for that! Just kidding.

I would suggest the following approach. Focus on the ones that put the customer in the middle – literally and figuratively – i.e., the ones that focus on the customer’s purchase funnel instead of the advertiser’s sales funnel. In the new digital world in which marketing and advertising takes place, it is crucial to first assess what customers need to inform their own purchase funnel or customer journey, rather than what we as advertisers want to say about our product. Then look to see if the framework yields “so what’s?” and action steps that can be taken as a result of using it. If not, those frameworks are merely categorization frameworks, which tell you what things are but not what to do after the analysis.

With this in mind, let me introduce for your consideration two frameworks that I developed and refined over the years that are specifically designed to be actionable – to answer the question “so what?” They are designed to help marketers get to the actions they need to take to improve and optimize marketing.

In a previous column I talked about the bits of information users need at the various stages of their own purchase funnel. I called these “missing links.” The premise is that if an advertiser were able to efficiently answer these missing links, it would be able to help move the customer expeditiously down the purchase funnel toward the purchase. The point is that there are many different missing links and missing links are different for different customers. Using a pharma example, patients’ missing links are different from physicians’ missing links. So the marketer should go through a missing link exercise for each target customer segment – and identify all the pieces of information that the user would need to inform their own purchase decision.

Once this is done, the customer’s missing links can be plotted onto the Unified Marketing Framework. This framework allows users to plot their current marketing activities – both traditional and digital – in one of three concentric circles – on-site, off-site, and third-party. Once these marketing activities are plotted, it will be very clear whether they map to the areas where users have the most missing links. For example, if most users are already aware of a product or brand, they will not have “awareness” missing links – so allocating 90 percent of the marketing budget to awareness-type marketing activities would be sub-optimal. Users may have missing links further down the purchase funnel – e.g., during “consideration.” The marketing activities that would work best in this part of the purchase funnel may include search (both paid and organic) when users are searching for more information and customer reviews, to get unbiased reviews from fellow customers.

So, this is how marketers can use the Missing Link Framework together with the Unified Marketing Framework to focus their attention on the information needs of users and then change the marketing activities they deploy or reallocate budgets to more optimally address customers’ needs. By doing this, we move away from a product-centric, brand-outward mentality that is suboptimal in the new digital world.

Red tomato and Yellow tomato images via Shutterstock.

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