How to Plan Content Around Buying Cycle Stages, Not Just Keywords

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June 5, 2024

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How to Plan Content Around Buying Cycle Stages, Not Just Keywords

The Endless Pursuit of Business Frameworks

The world does not need a new business framework. A quick Google search yields “About 269,000,000 results (0.25 seconds)” for “business framework.” But most of the frameworks available today solve for divisional silos. For example, AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) views marketing through the lens of the company, not the customer.

I’ve been worrying about this quite a bit recently, and that’s why today’s post comes from a deep desire to create a new, simpler lens through which we can look at all our activities to move our companies towards higher profits. After all, I love frameworks because they allow you to teach people how to think, rather than just giving them a fish.

Here’s what I was trying to solve for:

  1. We talk the customer centricity game, but we rarely walk it.
  2. We don’t think about our marketing expansively enough.
  3. We apply irrational and “narrow-view” measurement strategies, which mess up what’s good and what’s bad.

My solution to these problems is a framework called See-Think-Do. It puts the customer first, evaluates our marketing programs, and right-aligns our view of success (metrics). Let me break it down for you.

The See – Think – Do Framework

The foundation of the framework is the consideration stages and the audience in each stage. What consideration state might someone be in? What unifying view defines the audience in that stage?

In the See stage, the audience is “all people who wear clothes.” This is the largest possible way to frame your potential audience. In the Think stage, the audience is “all people who wear clothes who think they might need some.” And in the Do stage, the audience is “all people who wear clothes who think they might need some, and are currently looking to buy them.”

Three distinct consideration stages. See. Think. Do.

This simple yet insightful framework allows us to:

  1. Identify gaps in our content/engagement/channel strategy.
  2. Truly reflect on whether our marketing and advertising initiatives are broad enough and optimized enough for each customer consideration stage.
  3. Measure the efficiency/outcome/value from each stage optimally, rather than judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree.

The See – Think – Do Framework: Content Strategy

If your website (or mobile site or mobile app) only has content/engagement points intended for people to buy a product/service from you, then you will always have limited success. Because you are only targeting one consideration stage: Do.

To grow your business, you need content/engagement points for the See stage (the widest possible addressable audience) and for the Think stage (fill up your funnel at the very top, convince people early, build relationships, convert higher at a cheaper acquisition cost). That way, when an audience chooses to engage with you digitally, you’ll have an engagement point perfectly suited for their consideration stage, no matter which stage it is.

Take ModCloth as an example. It has a very well crafted See and Think strategy, in addition to its crystal clear Do engagement point. Perhaps you just love clothes and you would like to engage with the brand by being a virtual fashion buyer for a day! Or perhaps you want to sign up for their blog, or follow them on social media. Or perhaps you love clothes and you think you might need some at some point, so you can sign up to be notified of when reviews of something you are considering are posted.

If your business, like ModCloth, has See and Think content strategies, you are ready to have a profit-busting, global-maxima-achieving marketing and measurement strategy. If you don’t, you are going to eat smaller meals, you are going to solve for a smaller (local) maxima, and you are going to take advantage of a tiny part of the opportunity out there.

The See – Think – Do Framework: Marketing Strategy

Step one towards having an exceptional See – Think – Do marketing strategy is to take a long hard look at what you are doing today. It starts with a question. For example:

When we buy display advertising, who are we solving for? Is it for the audience in the See stage? Is it for the audience in the Think stage? Or, is it for the audience in the Do stage?

The answer to that question has such an incredible impact on the execution strategy of that marketing program. If it is for the audience in the See stage, your ad creative will be broad, your ad targeting strategy will be demographic, psychographic based or just geographic. If it is for the audience in the Think stage, your ad creative will be a little narrower, your ad targeting strategy will be more specific. If your audience is in the Do stage, your ad creative will be much more focused, your ad targeting strategy will be intent-specific.

You can go through this exercise for everything you do – SEO, PPC, Affiliate marketing, Email. Ask yourself: What are we solving for and is our execution strategy tied to the appropriate consideration stage?

At the end of this exercise, you’ll have a really great understanding of what each of your marketing/acquisition strategy is solving for. And if you have the power to have this discussion with the right management level in the company, you’ll also get to ask some really hard questions.

For example, if display advertising is only focused on the See stage, you can ask two questions:

  1. Is our ad creative, targeting and purpose properly aligned with the consideration stage and audience?
  2. Is this all we can accomplish from display advertising on the Internet?

The answer to question one will improve your current effectiveness. The answer to question two might be more troubling. Surely, with all the data we have access to, all the behavior we have access to, and all the incredible creativity we can deploy across digital platforms, it is pretty darn awful to use digital display ads as glorified billboards or TV commercials. We. Can. Do. So. Much. More!

The See – Think – Do Framework: Measurement Strategy

Why did the company have such a poor marketing strategy in the first place? I believe it has to do with choosing the wrong success metrics. The company obsesses about conversion rate. But conversion it is only important for the Do stage. You should absolutely measure the success of your Do stage marketing portfolio based on that metric. But all this falls apart when you try to judge the success of your See and Think consideration stage marketing campaigns using conversion rate.

In those stages, the audience is simply not ready to hear your love song. They are not ready for your pimpy attention or aggressive raising of their interest, or for your desire to convince them to be interested in your product. Not yet. Visually, when you measure See and Think using conversion rate, this is what you are doing – judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree.

To fix this, use See metrics to measure success of your See marketing strategies, use Think metrics and Do metrics respectively for those two stages. Judge success using a metric that tells you whether those marketing campaigns, with unique ad creative, targeting and purpose in each stage, are accomplishing what they are supposed to accomplish.

Once you have your marketing focus areas optimally aligned with their respective consideration stages, work with an Analysis Ninja to identify the world’s greatest metrics to measure performance in each stage. This is what that picture might look like:

  • In the See stage, measure interactions, brand awareness, new visits.
  • In the Think stage, measure click-through rates, page depth, per visit goal value, % assists.
  • In the Do stage, measure conversion rate, revenue, loyalty.

Now you can kill what does not work against these new metrics, because you are no longer judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree!

Epilogue: The See – Think – Do – Coddle Framework

Life does not stop at getting one order from a customer. That is just the first step towards their success, and your success. Any business that does not, with vehemence, focus on their existing customer base is being foolish. For that reason, my framework has a fourth element: Coddle.

I hate the word “retain,” which is typically used to describe this fourth element. I hate it because it comes with the connotation that we are holding someone hostage. I want us to aim higher. Coddle your customers, people who buy from you more than twice. Existing customers are your buffer in bad times, they are awesome. But just like your new customers, you need to have an amazing Content, Marketing and Measurement strategy for your existing customers.

I hope this post has enough material for you to create strategies that ensure you Coddle your customers. I promise to write something on my own See – Think – Do strategies for the Coddle audience in the future. As always, it is your turn now. Share your ideas, critique, praise, improvement suggestions, and practical tips via comments. Thank you.

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