Acquisition, Behavior, and Outcomes
Ready to think through a digital strategy for your small business? A good place to start is by focusing on acquisition, behavior, and outcomes.
Brainstorming on these 3 areas will help bring the big picture into focus and lay a foundation for planning your digital actions.
Each area prompts a related question.
|Acquisition||"What are we going to do to attract our target audience to our website and other platforms?"|
|Behavior||"What do we want them to do once they arrive?"|
|Outcomes||"What are the business outcomes we're aiming for?"|
This brainstorming process invites you to consider what you want your prospects' experience to be like as they discover your digital platforms and interact with them.
It also ensures that you don't inadvertently skip over a key area of planning.
The Acquisition - Behavior - Outcomes (ABO) model is the brainchild of Avinash Kaushik, a Google executive, Fortune 500 consultant, and one of the brightest lights in marketing.
ABO helps you to think through big picture issues in a structured and holistic manner.
It requires working through questions like:
1. How Are We Going to Acquire Traffic From Our Target Audience?
- Who is our audience? What do we know about their behaviors, values, or preferences?
- How do we find our audience?
- How can we increase awareness of our brand among this audience? What sort of "brand introduction" would our audience find delightful or appealing?
- Once individuals become aware of our brand, what's our plan for enticing/influencing them to consider what we offer? Which options are the most cost- and time-effective?
- What roles do paid media, rented platforms, and our owned platforms play in our plan?
You need a plan for acquiring traffic.
- What keywords should be trying to rank for? Which ones do we currently rank for? How do we stack up against the competition?
- Do we have an SEO strategy? Is it written down? What are we going to do to improve our search engine ranking?
- What percentage of our traffic comes from Google? What percentage is referral traffic (e.g., from Facebook)?
- Which traffic sources or campaigns are driving the most revenue for our business? Are we over-investing in underperforming channels?
2. What Do We Want Visitors to Do Once They Arrive?
- What do we want visitors to do — and experience — when they arrive on our digital platforms?
- Are there key pages, videos, charts, testimonials, or results we want them to see? Do we want them to sign up for online or offline events, forums, email or video courses, free downloads, a software demo, a product trial, a free consultation or inspection, or an email newsletter? Do we want them to take a quiz, fill out a form or create user-generated content?
- Do we want them to visit our site regularly? If so, what would encourage them to do that?
- How will we convert these engaged repeat visitors into customers and retain them?
- What do we need to do to deliver a memorable or remarkable experience to our current and potential customers? (For ideas, think in terms of Kaushik's qualifiers for a mind-blowing experience: ". . . sheer beauty, intelligence, and simplicity . . .") A memorable experience can include making it very easy for a user to accomplish a task on your site (such as easy and frictionless checkouts). Or it may include a classy after-purchase touch like a beautiful personalized postcard sent automatically. (This can be done with a platform like Autopilot.)
- What roles do paid media, rented platforms, and our owned platforms play in our plan?
Your prospects' expectations are set by best-in-class online experiences.
- How will we engage visitors to think about our products and services?
- What content would our audience find relevant and valuable? What topics are they interested in? What problems are they seeking to solve? What aspirations and goals motivate them?
- On those topics, how can we provide more value to the target audience than they can find anywhere else?
- In search engine rankings, how can we outdo our competition when covering topics that our audience is interested in?
3. What Business Outcomes Are #1 and #2 Designed to Generate?
- What outcomes signify value delivered to our business? Improved brand perception? Downloads? Qualified online leads? In-bound phone calls? Email and event sign-ups? Appointment bookings? Sales of products or services? Positive customer reviews? Improved processes?
- Does our planning create a win-win for our prospects and our business?
- What are our targets and measures for success?
- Who decides what business outcomes we will target?
- For each project, who is responsible for achieving business outcomes?
Before you start make sure you are clear on your organization's top business objectives.
This is essential to ensure that all of your business intiatives are aligned.
Also, be sure to make a plan for all 3 areas: acquisition, behavior, and outcomes. A typical error I've seen is when an organization or small business focuses on activity within one area or a subset of one area, such as increasing brand awareness.
Inevitably, the narrow focus will manifest as missed business targets. In these situations you'll find a lack of alignment, a lack of understanding of analytics, and lack of clarity about what staff are solving for.
Remember, these three areas of activity — acquisition, behavior, and outcomes — encompass the complete customer journey and all of your main business actions.
It's impossible to be a remarkable, successful customer-centric company if you are not thinking, before strategy is ever written, in terms of the complete customer journey, offline and online, and designing for it wisely.
What's a customer journey?
The customer journey is simply the sum of experiences your customer has with your business from the moment they first discover you to the first purchase and (hopefully) repeat purchases.
Those experiences can largely be architected by you. They spark feelings, perceptions, intrigue, deep thinking, and more on the part of the prospect. The goal is to imbue each experience with the highest value possible.
You can think of it as a relationship journey, characterized by a first encounter, a gradual but deepening knowledge of each other and satisfaction in each other, and culminating in a growing commitment.
Strive to Excel at Both 'Rented' and 'Owned'
You'll also have to consider the roles of "rented" and "owned" platforms. If you want to win at digital you'll need to excel at both, but your investment emphasis should be on your "owned" platforms.
What Are "Owned" Platforms?
Owned platforms typically include your website(s) and mobile apps. These are platforms that you fully control.
For example, you own and control the design, the code, the user experience, conversion pathways, and the content. You own the domain name, the personalization plan, maybe a recommendation engine, and, perhaps most importantly, the data.
You design, shape, and own the customer relationships. You can creatively integrate with third-party marketing platforms, curating remarkable customer experiences and customer journeys.
The core raison d'etre for your business resides (or should reside) in/on your website.
The array of actionable insights that you can get from your website data is incredible. These insights can be used to make decisions that boost engagement, brand perception, brand awareness, search engine ranking, repeat purchases, loyalty, and revenue.
The nature and quality of this data is wholly different from the analytics provided by rented platforms.
“If you want to win on the web, you have to do both Own and Rent really well. You pretty much don’t have a choice.
But if you are going to suck at something, sucking at rent is preferable.”
— Avinash Kaushik
What Are "Rented" Platforms?
"Rented" platforms are the digital channels your brand actively cultivates a presence on but that you don't own.
This includes social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; messaging apps; and e-commerce channels like Amazon, and E-bay.
You Don't Own the Data
The key thing here is you don't own the data. The platform owners decide what data you get.
For example, if you sell books on Amazon, you'll never know:
- Who purchased your books
- Whether you have any repeat customers
- Whether there are identifiable segments within your customers that can/should be targeted outside of Amazon.
Beware of Vanity Metrics
In addition, some of the metrics offered by rented platforms may be of little use and lead to what we call "Shiny Object Syndrome": or the chasing the wrong thing.
For example, Facebook's design has popularized getting "likes" and "fans." So much so that many businesses (and marketing vendors) focused on dubious goals like increasing likes and doubling fans.
Yet in a report for the Journal of Advertising Research, Brad Smallwood, Facebook's VP of Marketing Science admitted:
The allure of measurable and traceable ‘shiny’ metrics—such as social-media users’ ‘Likes,’ ‘Shares,’ message posts, and ‘clicks’—has led marketers to endless, often beautifully crafted, intricate reports on the irrelevant.
The metrics offered by rented platorms have also been known to change significantly. Indeed, data researcher Jane Manchun Wong recently discovered that Facebook is experimenting with hiding "likes" in newsfeeds, just as they hid likes on Instagram.
Focusing the bulk of resources on rented platforms will undercut conversions and revenue and increase cost of customer acquisition.
The algorithms on rented platforms undergo frequent changes which are executed for the platform's business objectives.
It's true that often those business objectives include creating win-wins with advertisers and businesses. However, these objectives won't always overlap with yours. That can present challenges.
Facebook's decline in organic reach to near-zero for business and organization pages is one example. Mark Zuckerberg's announcement in January 2018 is another.
"Who Needs a Website When We Have Facebook!"
Be cautious about falling for this popular social media marketing myth: "All we need is Facebook, forget our website."
At the foundation of the "I only need Facebook" fad is a lack of understanding of the different (and critical) roles played by social media and your owned platforms.
Note: Some businesses may benefit from being on social media and skipping the website, but this tends to be the exception. Think: a Washington, D.C. cupcake food truck that relies on Twitter to inform fans of what street corner they'll be on that day.
With Facebook bearing down like a locomotive on an organic reach of zero (for Pages), go further in questioning your current view of social media and explore Thomas Baekdal's "Is it time to rethink social?"
For businesses, Facebook has essentially become an advertising platform with social aspects. While that advertising platform has powerful ways of connecting with potential future customers, and should be fully exploited, don't expect loyalty and retention to be generated by being active on Facebook.
Next Action Steps
After working through the basic Acquisition - Behavior - Outcomes model, there are two other powerful frameworks I recommend you use to finalize your strategies.
Both of them will help you plan smart digital strategies. And both are from Google's Digital Marketing Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik.
These models are:
The See - Think - Do framework model will help you think strategically about your channels. Whether you're a novice or have been in marketing for years, See - Think - Do will help you understand that rented and owned platforms serve unique purposes.
The DMMM will ensure each digital activity you plan is rooted in your business objectives. That's critical for maintaining alignment.
Note: Make sure all senior decision-makers have a strong grasp of digital measurement. If you don't understand how to measure success you can't lead your team to success.
Related Reading and Resources
Here are some additional resources related to business outcomes, strategy, and effective use of social media.
Lay the groundwork for measuring success with this framework from Avinash Kaushik.
This simple, yet powerful framework by Avinash Kaushik can be used for the smallest business or non-profit all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. Indeed, Kaushik has frequently used it, in his capacity as an international consultant, for top global brands.
David Cotgreave of Stoneseed IT on the importance of asking "What's the intended business outcome?" "When business outcomes are identified and managed well, your organization will enjoy the greatest possible return on your investment."
"Before your chase every little rabbit down the 10,000 digital marketing holes, keep this in mind: Most business success will come from a combination of effective Paid Media strategies (Search, Display, Video) where your Organic efforts will never break-through plus large Organic Digital efforts (Search, Email, Owned content presence) that get you in front of people your Paid efforts never will." - Avinash Kaushik
How to avoid Zuck Death Spiral.
"The assumption is: Big Social Audiences + Big Pimping = Big Social Profits. Big mistake." - Avinash Kaushik
What do social media algorithms and cornflakes have in common? In this insightful article by Thomas Baekdal find out how "we end up with content that drives a lot of engagement and activity but which means very little."
Check out my other business, Spearfish, which provides free consulting and funding solutions for small businesses.