From, this story about the growing importance of the mobile web for advertisers (and business development programs):

Mobile experts have long advised brands and publishers to set up mobile-optimized sites that they can drive consumers to via mobile advertising. It looks like they may be catching on, with nearly half (49%) of mobile campaigns sending people to their mobile sites in April, representing a 28% increase from a year ago, according to the latest data from mobile ad network Millennial Media.

Obviously, the evolution of the mobile web as a gateway between consumers and brands is still in its infancy (and evolving slowly at that), but the potential is clear. Once advertisers finally push past the “establishing a general market presence” and “lead generation” phase, they will begin to focus on specific types of functions and services that will focus not only on customer acquisition, but also customer development and retention. (More on that below.)

One finding from Millennial Data that tends to indicate we still have a very long way to go before advertisers adopt the new realities (and capabilities) of digital is this:

Ads that involved some social component still only made up 17% of the total. By comparison, 40% of ads included a click-to-call feature.


Targeting by demographic and behavioral audience made up 34% and 10% respectively.

With the effectiveness gap growing daily between the familiar sets of generalizations making up demographic modeling versus the increasing specificity of behavioral modeling through social monitoring, it is surprising to see that demographic modeling still outweighs behavioral model by a ratio of 3 to 1.

And finally this, which may be the most telling comment of all:

Social media continues to play a growing role in mobile advertising. Campaigns that let consumers take some sort of social action, from liking a Facebook page to leaving feedback on a new product, grew 39% from the prior month.

That’s great, but it means advertisers are still pushing “likes” and “follows” and “shares” as campaign outcomes. This isn’t inherently bad, mind you. These types of basic social interactions between consumers and advertisers are valuable. No question about it. But they are still 101-level outcomes reminiscent of early digital metrics like “hits” and “uniques,” which constitute only the thin (and sadly the most obvious) outer layer of metrics illustrating consumer behaviors in response to marketing, advertising and other business development activities.

Notably absent from the trends reported by Millennial’s data is an evidence of adoption of the more pioneering strategies and tactics employed by advertisers looking to distance themselves from their competitors – like Ford, Starbucks, Virgin America and even Intercontinental Hotel Group – whose use of the medium now extends beyond the obvious “presence and acquisition” play. Let me illustrate this point with a few diagrams.

First, if you are a business, let’s look at what your digital strategy should look like:

Forget for a second everything you have been told about the importance of content, reach and impressions, and typical marketing or media points of focus. Put it all aside for now, so you can focus on this. You can go back to that stuff in a few minutes.

Take a look at the above daisy chain of customer development phases. Generally speaking, a business first begins with presence (to create awareness, desire and preference), then moves into acquisition (turning a prospective customer into a transacting customer). What comes next is the development phase, where a freshly acquired customer becomes a better educated customer. This phase is often characterized by a shift from entry-level products to more advanced-level products, or from basic products to premium products. – Think of the evolution of a typical consumer in regards to a hobby like photography, triathlon or digital publishing, for example. Most people don’t start out with the pro-level stuff. They start with entry-level or mid-market products, then work their way up. This is what businesses typically focus on during the development phase. – Following this (and often overlapping it) is the retention phase, where a business and a consumer manage to keep their relationship relevant and interesting well beyond the honeymoon phase. In this phase, the consumer may have reached the end of the development journey. He or she has become a premium customer. There are no more new or exciting products to buy for a while. They’re all set. Now the trick is to make sure they don’t get bored with you, and aren’t lured away by a competitor. Finally, the last phase is the maintenance of long term loyalty (a topic we will cover again very soon).

Note that creating mechanisms of evangelism and positive WOM (word-of-mouth) can be a secondary focus for the brand in phases 2, 3, 4 and 5, which in turn help drive all five phases of development. (Again, the subject of a future post.) Worth keeping in mind as every phase, when managed properly, also enhances the others, creating new customers and developing them into loyal, frequent, eager partners for the brand.

Every business on the planet is subject to some version of this customer development process, which is why it is so relevant to our discussion today. Now let us look at what is happening today in the digital (marketing) world:

What the above diagram shows is the current digital and social media model for most brands and advertisers, the focus being on presence and acquisition, but not yet on development, retention, or long term loyalty. (Notice that I say most, not all.) This is a serious problem, and the reason why is simple: By focusing almost exclusively on presence and acquisition, current digital strategies interrupt a natural business and customer development process that mustfollow its course.

Think of the emphasis on presence and acquisition vs the more complete model that also encompasses development, retention and loyalty as the difference between focusing all of your energy on scoring as many one-nigh-stands with complete strangers as possible, and building healthy relationships with other human beings. The parallels aren’t exact (in business, healthy relationships still have to scale), but the metaphor helps illustrate the inherent flaw of the incomplete model: Shallow objectives produce shallow results. Not to mention that acquisition devoid of development, retention and loyalty essentially signals a slightly less than social behavior. One might even make the argument that it signals a rather anti-social type of behavior.

This isn’t to say that an incomplete digital strategy will utterly ruin a company’s efforts in the development, retention and loyalty-building phases of the process, but it will – at best – fail to support these efforts, and – at worst – either hinder or interrupt them in regards to increasingly important digital channels.

Would it not be simpler, then, to make sure that your digital strategy supports every phase of this process? Of course. Why is it, then, that so few digital strategies – with social media components or not – fail to focus on post-acquisition phases? Think about that.

Simple stuff, but you have to be aware of these types of mechanisms in order to see where marketing strategies tend to fall short. If you are an agency especially, don’t just focus on specialized tasks and familiar service models. See the bigger picture. “See the field,” as a military commander would say. For a digital strategy to be effective, for it to bear fruit, it has to be complete, it has to cover all the angles, it has to generate more opportunities for both the client and the agency than existed yesterday.

Stop and ask yourselves the question: Are your digital activities mostly geared towards establishing a presence on digital channels and attracting customers, or do they also help develop and retain them? What about long term engagement and actual relationship-building with loyal customers (not just a default ‘community management’ stopgap)? Are you really there yet? Still think all this is mostly about content, impressions, media value, follows and mentions?

Think bigger. You’re on the right track, but you’re still stuck in first gear.



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