The Journey Really Is the Destination: Thinking Through Your Target’s Journey for Greater Return
June 17, 2019
The most common question I’m asked by clients during the planning process is “What channels are we going to use?” A reasonable question, but there’s a second, more fundamental one behind it. The question behind the question is one word: “Why?”. In other words, what do we want these channels to actually do? Figure that out, and that “What channels?” question becomes a LOT easier.
In today’s marketing ecosystem there are too many ways to reach your prospects. Brands get lost in all the noise and spend a LOT of money along the way trying a seemingly endless series of tactics to see which channels work for their audience. Much of this effort is wasted and can be avoided with some planning and strategizing up front. The foundation of this is understanding the concept of the customer journey.
A[PD1] popular way to describe the activity of “curating” a strategic experience designed specifically for your target is called a “journey.” The journey, as the name implies, is a series of events during which your target interacts with your brand, receives a series of messages in a planned sequence, and is conceptually led to the correct conclusion or action. Planning the journey makes selecting channels much easier.
There are a multitude of ways to develop journeys but leveraging research and insights to identify where your targets are already going for the type of information and solutions you provide can help you build an efficient and effective journey for your targets quickly. An example of this methodology can be found in a “Red” paper developed by FINN Partners called Content Marketing ROI in a TMI World.
The foundation of a solid strategy includes the following elements:
- Clear objectives established up front – This includes both measurable behaviors as well as what you want them to think/feel/takeaway. This needs to be tied to business objectives but should consider how your brand/solutions/product addresses what your target cares about.
- An intentional ecosystem of channels that enable discovery, research, validation, and Inquiry – Customers today don’t necessarily believe everything you tell them. So in addition to a channel plan that makes it easy for them to find you and take advantage of what you have to offer, brands also need to take into account the fact that prospects can — and WILL — research you. The most efficient way of addressing this phenomenon is to observe where they are most likely to go to research their topic and ensure you are a relevant part of the conversation in that space. The best way to catch fish is to go to where they already are.
- Personalized content aligned using language and topics your target uses – Conversation and channel analysis are key topics discussed in FINN’s recent red paper. If you understand the topic area relevant to your business, and the voice in which your targets prefer to receive information, you can develop a relevant, and therefore effective, strategy within the channels your target already uses. The next step is to connect-the-dots developing an ecosystem that leads to your brand using personalized content. Relevant and personalized content that is paid off on your company’s website drives real business impacts from a marketer’s perspective. For example, in a study conducted in 2017, marketers attributed higher conversion rates, improved perception of their customers’ experiences (as well as their brand) and greater prospect engagement directly to content that has been developed and personalized to them.
- Strategic positioning related to the major players in the online conversation – Most marketers think about a competitive SWOT as it relates to their competition for market share. A newer strategy is understanding who is influencing the discussion online about the topics your target cares about. Think of it as a SWOT for influence rather than for transactions. This can be measured and quantified. The phenomenon is most obvious on Instagram, where-in 2019 global influencer marketing spend is reaching $7B. As the following chart demonstrates, that number was essentially zero only seven years ago. Increasingly, brands are grasping the importance of being heard online, and understand the ROI of spending to support it.
While paid endorsements are an effective strategy, influencing is quickly catching up. Simply engaging directly in online conversations and forums with identified “influencers” can be an effective way to reinforce to your target that your brand is relevant and ideally, a good solution for their needs.
Clearly the way you deploy, measure and optimize also contributes to the effectiveness and ROI of your efforts. These, however, are topics for another blog post. My point is that before grappling with any of that, you first need to think through the journey you want your targets to make. If you’re interested in learning more, you can download FINN Partners “Red” paper Content Marketing ROI in a TMI World for additional information.