Digital Marketing Starts With Intent

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

While the traditional marketing funnel adequately models a traditional marketing plan, digital marketing requires something that’s anything but traditional. While I heard the above phrase plenty in my youth, it’s becoming less common these days. It may be due to my spending the majority of time in digital mediums. In digital, there is no regularly scheduled programming.

Internet, mobile, digital television and digital radio have abandoned the idea of schedules. This is truly genius. Why should an otherwise appealing offering suffer due to a scheduling conflict (sporting events aside). We all have to make choices. Sometimes we must select Option A over Option B. The beauty of the digital world is our ability to select both. We only need give one immediate attention and save the other for later. Rather than either/or, we prioritize.

This does not mean that we get to everything on our priority list. Ask anyone that records programs on their DVR or Tivo. Some chaff falls to the bottom. If this is too high tech for you, you can ask my wife. She would prefer that everything that needs to get done around the house gets completed. Maybe in a more perfect world with four day weekends. As it stands now, the most important tasks get tackled first with the others falling to the bottom.

And so it goes in the digital world. We prefer and we prioritize. We do not schedule. The result of such a shift leads to a major impact on the traditional marketing funnel. The traditional funnel was predicated on the fact that awareness need be generated before anything else. If a prospect weren’t aware of the offering, they would never convert.

The digital model turns this idea on its head. It is not for lack of awareness. In fact, awareness is a very important concept in digital marketing. In fact, billions will be spent on it year after year. Web pages, SEO, SEM, landing pages, emails and widgets aim to build awareness around your offerings. However, the thought process has been based on the traditional funnel. Build awareness, create relevance, drive intent and reap the rewards.

With email conversion rates wallowing in the single digits, the failure of this seems rather obvious. And these conversion rates even being among those customers who have given permission to be marketed to. But given the low costs of sending an email, the conversion rates will suffice for now so long as the ROI remains more favorable than traditional means.

So what’s the fix. Currently, the trend has been increased relevance. True enough. Including a simple birthday greeting in an email can increase conversions.

But relevance is only the end product of a larger perspective on digital. Success starts with re-examining the marketing funnel. In digital, the funnel starts with Intent. Digital exist to answer intent. Yet, we persist on starting with awareness.

Digital is not a channel, there is no regularly scheduled programming and building something does not equate to eyeballs. The success of SEO and SEM has depended highly on the idea that digital users have intentions. Depending on search terms, marketers can buy relevant eyeballs. No longer is there a need to push fountain drinks on customers that only want a candy bar.

Think about the digital tools used everyday. Internet browsers, mobile phones, video games and PDAs – to a much lesser extent. These are not passive tools. They exist to solve problems. Users only engage with these devices when they have an explicit intent. A majority of online users have set their starting pages to search engines. This should tell us that the most common use for the Internet is finding. This is an active process driven by intent.

On the eve of an election, think about how often potential consumers looking at election results online or on a mobile device will be swayed through a banner ad on CNN.com selling Vista. Is that really the time someone decides that Vista is the solution?

I’d be willing to guess the number between 0.02% and 0.4%. Standard attention figures to be sure.

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One Response to Digital Marketing Starts With Intent

  1. […] users of digital technology are driven into the cloud by intent. What happens then is the digital magic that has allowed the Internet to thrive going on ten […]

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