The digital marketing revolution has changed everything we know about how to reach customers. How can we reach and influence consumers today, knowing that what worked from a reach and frequency standpoint in the past does not work anymore? At our most recent Bell Bash, Marco Charnas, a New Business Manager at Google, spoke to us about marketing with intent and the various tactics you can use to put yourself squarely in front of your customer’s path to purchase.
In today’s digital landscape, success in reaching consumers is all about understanding consumer behavior in a way that is not linear. Because of digital transformation and the mobile revolution, consumer behavior is much more fragmented. Businesses must understand consumer intent and be there to meet the needs of consumers at different points along their path to purchase. The brands that can do so are not only going to be able to differentiate themselves, but they will be the ones to grow.
In this post, we go over Marco’s main points and highlight the various ways to predict consumer purchase intent and how we can deploy a marketing strategy to get in front of a consumer as they contemplate a purchase.
The new consumer path to purchase
The strategies we have used in the past based on the traditional linear marketing funnel don’t work anymore. The way consumers act and interact online has changed the formula for this, no matter who your audience is. Instead of moving through the funnel in a straight line, from awareness to advocacy, online consumers move back and forth throughout the funnel, and every consumer journey is different.
Just think about the last time you purchased a product or service online. What did your path to purchase look like?
According to Marco Charnas, Google did a study last year analyzing 100,000 customer journeys, and they found that the reason the consumer behavior shift has happened is because of increased access to information. Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, so anytime they need something or need to know something, they can get access to it just by pulling their phone out of their pocket. So how do we interact with our consumers, users, and our audience in this new landscape? How can you respond to their needs in real-time? Prospective clients are looking for the products or services your company offers every day. How can you stand out and reach them? The answer to all of this is “marketing with intent.”
In order to help us understand the marketing with intent strategy, Marco began by describing his path to purchase.
Marco’s path to puppy
Marco used his path to purchase for his new puppy as an example to explain how the digital landscape has fragmented the traditional marketing funnel. Let’s take a look at his journey as a consumer.
Beginning the search
“I got my puppy Napa two months ago. My customer journey with Napa took around one and a half months from the searches comparing puppies and dogs to the moment I actually bought him. Overall, there were 100 touchpoints – and by that I mean me doing something on this consumer journey.
I was reviewing my online history and saw that I started researching things like best dog breeds, best dogs for small apartments, and hypoallergenic dogs. I could see that, at this point in my journey, I didn’t really know what type of dog or what breed I wanted, and I wasn’t really sure, maybe even scared, about getting a dog, but I was doing some research.”
“After that, I started watching YouTube videos about dogs and what the best breed was to get. I visited several blogs just to compare. It’s crazy the amount of information that is out there for ‘the best 10 dogs for small apartments in New York City’ and things like that.”
Back to search
“Then, I continued my research phase on Google.com, going more into specific breeds. I thought I wanted a labradoodle – it’s kind of the thing to have in NYC. Then I started researching prices, but I wasn’t sure if that was exactly it. So then I started researching things like ‘how long does a poodle live?’”
A little more research and making a final purchase
“Long story short, after going back and forth from general searches to watching youtube to going to different websites, I finally decided what I wanted. I actually found a place in Long Island, a breeder that had what I was looking for, and I started doing some research on them. I checked their reviews, and I finally decided and went to Google Maps and made an appointment and went there.”
So if you’re thinking like a marketer, or you are a business trying to reach consumers, you can’t just reach every person that could be interested and create awareness or just talk to them in these linear points on the funnel. But because of the mobile revolution and how people interact online, they have access to information in real-time, and they’re expecting brands to anticipate what they want and provide a solution then and there.
Consumers dictate reach and frequency
Marketers can’t use the old fashioned formulas dealing with reach and frequency and be successful anymore. Now, consumers are the ones who decide when and how they are going to interact with brands.
When people can count on brands to be able to reach them when they need something, those brands can count on growth. Marco used his experience finding a puppy as an example: “As a user and consumer, I was researching throughout my experience, trying to find solutions. Certain brands showed up throughout my journey, and they were the ones that offered me answers and solutions to what I was looking for. The breeder I chose actually reached out to me at the perfect time with an ad, and that’s how I got to know them.”
So because that breeder reached Marco at the perfect point in his path to purchase, they were able to gain a new customer. Thus, the brands that can reach out to consumers in real-time are the ones that can count on growth and be more successful in the future.
Marketing with intent – looking beyond search for a digital marketing strategy
More than 70% of consumers turn to Maps, Search, or YouTube when shopping or browsing. So when we talk about the consumer touchpoints, we’re not just talking about search behavior alone; it’s also about the many different other ways people interact and live online. Think about how you interact with brands on your phones and your computers. How can we use all of that online consumer behavior and deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience?
When it comes to marketing with intent, marketers are looking for the answers to these questions:
- How can we answer that customer need when we know that they are online and constantly searching for a product or service like ours?
- How can we reach that need before they know what they are searching for?
Marketers need to do three things to create an effective marketing strategy around intent:
- Optimize for growth. When thinking about marketing strategy, don’t think about short term goals, think about the ultimate business objective and how to connect a marketing strategy to that objective.
- Segment by value. Know the different audience segments your business is trying to reach. Understand how your company is deploying a marketing strategy for each of the audience segments.
- Automate for scale. Answering all customer needs manually and in real-time is going to be impossible, so automation is essential to this strategy.
Let’s dive into each of these in more detail.
Number one: Optimize for growth
In 2018, Google partnered with MIT and did research comparing 500 different companies. The study was about comparing companies that are growing to the ones that are not growing.
This research found that almost 90% of leading marketers use strategic metrics such as gross revenue and market share. Thus, what we are seeing is that companies who are managing, organizing, and deploying their marketing strategy based on their actual business objectives are the ones that are more successful and are growing. Compare that to the companies that may be basing strategy on short term goals and marketing KPIs, like website traffic and impressions. These things are handy, but at the end of the day, they are not what is going to help a business grow.
The measure of success for a marketing strategy should align with a business’s priority objectives.
For example, a surgeon that Bell Media works with was looking to triple weight-loss surgeries. We were able to look at what the surgeon wanted to accomplish and align a full digital tactic to help reach that goal. We redesigned their website, created brand awareness, generated a search engine dominance play, and implemented content marketing and social media strategies. In the end, by adding all of these elements to their marketing strategy with a clear picture of the surgeon’s ultimate business goal, they were able to increase the number of surgeries and reach that goal.
Number 2: Segment by value
Businesses need to understand their core audiences and who they are trying to reach, but they also need to know the different values of each different audience segment. The value is not the same for a new customer, repeat customer, and someone that has just visited your site and expressed interest. Companies that can identify different audience segments and understand the value of each of them are the ones that are being successful in this new era of marketing with intent.
According to the study mentioned above, 66% of marketing leaders believe how companies apply their data will play a key role in their ability to thrive. It has to do with going beyond identifying the audience and determining how that information can be used and deploying that strategy. We can take all of that 1st and 3rd party data and apply that information to a marketing approach.
Have you segmented customers in a way that allows you to know the value of each segment, and are you using those effectively in your marketing initiative?
Here is another example from one of Bell Media’s clients. Bell Media partnered with a regional community college, and we were able to identify which different audiences they were trying to reach based on the student profiles and the various degrees this college was offering. We created a different strategy for each degree with different communication and marketing tactics and succeeded in increasing the inquiry goal by 170% to yield a 9:1 ROI.
We were able to accomplish all of this by understanding that it’s not all the same communication. Successful marketers seek to understand their audience and what message will reach them. Then, they segment by value, or how much the business is willing to pay, for each of these new inquiries.
Number 3: Using Automation Strategies to Scale
It’s not just about anticipating what our users are searching for or what they need, but being there in the right moment at the right time. There is other competition out there, and you are not going to be the only one trying to reach that customer. So, how can we succeed in such a competitive space? The answer is through automation.
In the study with MIT, they found that leaders were over two times more likely than their counterparts to affirm that they were already investing in automation and machine learning to drive marketing activities. Companies that were growing were more focused and were more willing to invest in automation and machine learning technologies and apply them to digital strategies.
Here are a few ways we use automation and machine learning technologies to help companies grow:
- Within the Google Apps program, we can automate how much we are willing to pay for each new lead, or how much we are willing to pay for a positive return. We can let our system optimize for what matters to a business, which at the end of the day, should be a certain number of leads or customers, a specific revenue amount, or an ROI ratio.
- We can automate and use machine learning within our platforms with creative. It’s tough to deliver the right message at the right time to the right user, so that’s why you need to use automation to do this. Our system will alternate, test, and reiterate all the different possibilities for ad creative to find what works best for a particular user.
- We also deal with leveraging automation on the distribution side. There are different distribution models, and we can use automation and machine learning to let our systems help us understand where there is value throughout this journey and these multiple touchpoints.
- We use automation on the audience side by building similar audiences based on people with similar interests as the people who have come to your site.
Automation is a way to accelerate and make sure that we not only understand what the business objective is or the audience we are trying to reach, but also make sure that we are reaching them at scale and in the right time.
A change in mindset to reach ultimate marketing potential
In conclusion, to be successful in digital marketing, businesses need to change their mindsets and optimize, not for short term goals, but for the ultimate goal of what they are trying to do as a company. They should implement a successful marketing strategy that is a reflection of that goal. Additionally, businesses should understand their core audience segments and the different values they can bring and how much they are willing to pay for each of these. Finally, any successful digital marketing strategy must embrace automation to reach the scale, and right now, we have amazing tools to leverage for this.
Partner with Bell Media to create a digital marketing strategy and reach your ultimate business goals
Bell Media is a leading digital marketing agency in the Southeast, a 5x INC. 5000 Company, and a Google Premier Partner. We serve local companies in competitive markets that have a need or desire to grow. Bell Media is in the business of predictable outcomes, fueling growth by driving customer acquisition and filling open capacity. We work hard to understand what success looks like to our clients and passionately seek to achieve those results through collaboration and education.