The See - Think - Do - Care (STDC) Model is a simple yet powerful business framework that will transform the way you communicate with and market to your target audience.
At the core of STDC are two principles:
The 4 audience intent clusters are consideration stages.
Each intent cluster has a specific scope and definition.
|Audience intent cluster||Who belongs in the cluster?||Their intent / mindset|
|See||Largest addressable qualified audience (LAQA)||Discover your brand for the first time.|
|Think||LAQA with mild commercial intent||Think about your brand's offerings|
|Do||LAQA that's ready to transact||Willing to or in process of purchasing from you|
|Care||Repeat customers||Affinity for your brand|
A channel is any mode of communication, offline or online. Channels include print, digital, radio, TV, billboards. Digital channels include your website, social media, email, third-party marketplaces like Amazon, mobile apps, app stores, business directories, Google My Business pages, Alexa skills, text messaging, SEO/search engine results, and advertising.
Advertising channels include display ads, affiliate marketing, and PPC (pay-per-click) ads for search engines or social media.
Sales or marketing phone calls with prospects or donors could also be considered amatchannel.
In this article, we'll be focusing on commonly used digital channels.
You can think of the intent stages as relationship stages. They signal purpose and indicate mindset and level of interest in your brand.
To grow your business you have to craft effective communication strategies for each stage.
In short, you can’t communicate the same way with each cluster and expect to reach your full potential for success.
The audience intent clusters were named See, Think, and Do to encourage you to view your planning through the lens of the customer's perspective.
This is a subtle yet profound difference (not the only difference) with other models.
It leads you to ask:
"The goal is to optimize See and Think in order to maximize Do."
— Avinash Kaushik
This STDC framework was created to teach you how to think about digital so you can make better decisions and get better results.
I'm using "digital" as shorthand for the platforms (including your website and social media), tactics, and strategies available to you.
Remember: each consideration stage shares an intent and has a different level of interest in your brand.
To win people over in each stage (See - Think - Do - Care), you need a plan to:
You'll also want to brainstorm what type of content will give your audience a reason to shift from one stage to the next.
Each cluster should be assigned different goals and metrics.
The framework will guide you to shape your content and marketing to meet the needs of each cluster and attain appropriate outcomes for each.
When defining your LAQA (largest addressable qualified audience) ask "What behaviors or interests qualify them to be in our target audience?"
Here's an example for a personal training business. In this example, we're targeting only people who live near South Station in Boston.
|Audience intent cluster||Who belongs in the cluster?||Consulting case example|
|See||Largest addressable qualified audience (LAQA)||Health-conscious people in our district who lead active lifestyles|
|Think||LAQA with mild commercial intent||Health-conscious people in our district who lead active lifestyles and are considering personal trainer options|
|Do||LAQA that's ready to transact||Health-conscious people in our district who lead active lifestyles, are considering personal trainer options, and are at the later stages of a purchasing decision|
|Care||Repeat customers||Current customers who've signed up for more than one training block|
Now let's look at digital channels.
As I mentioned earlier, not all channels are effective for reaching each the 4 audience intent clusters. Including this fact in your planning is part of genius of Kaushik's framework.
The diagrams below highlight which channels work well with the 4 intent clusters.
Let's start with SEO and social media.
Before we go further, let's take a closer look at YouTube. This platform is different from other social media channels in that it's excellent for Think stage content.
YouTube is also good for a bit of See and a bit of Do.
Let's adjust the diagram to incorporate this information:
Facebook is great for reaching new people in your target audience who are not aware of your brand. Like our other social media platforms (excluding YouTube), it's also good for the beginning stages of Think.
But there's something important that businesses and nonprofits need to understand about Facebook that may change the way you use this social platform.
Over the years Facebook has throttled back the reach of "organic posts" made on business and organizational Pages. (An "organic" post is a post that doesn't have any advertising money behind it.)
It's been previously estimated that only 2% to 6% of the people who've liked (become a "fan") of your Page will ever see your posts in their newsfeed. This downward trend has been going on for years.
This is why I advise businesses to de-emphasize organic posting which is largely a crapshoot and a waste of time.
Instead, focus on Facebook ads. Using Facebook's ad platform, you can target your ads specifically to your LAQA. You can do this by building an ad audience that matches the same interests, demographics, and geographic location as your LAQA. That presents a tremendous opportunity for growing your See cluster.
Let's adjust the diagram accordingly:
You'll see that Facebook is also good for providing value to some of your Care customers. For nonprofits: if a significant number of your top donors are active on Facebook, I recommend engaging directly with their posts as a means of staying top-of-mind.
Now let's stop and consider how you might use this information about Facebook.
Here's a story that a client shared with me. It illustrates how the See - Think - Do model can help you avoid errors and create more effective commmunications for your brand.
A sole proprietor ran a single Facebook ad for $50 to sell something that costs over $2,000. But no one bites on the ad. The business owner concludes “Facebook ads don’t work!”
Why didn’t anyone bite on the ad?
Facebook is generally an excellent channel for the “See” stage (increasing awareness of your brand).
Facebook is generally also useful for a tad of “Think” stage communications as well.
Typically, Facebook doesn't work well for the “Do” stage of buying.
So the proprietor ran a Do message on a See channel. When the ad didn't deliver, the proprietor "judged a fish by its ability to climb a tree" (a phrase Avinash Kaushik likes to use).
The client needed to shift his expectations of Facebook, and use the tool differently. By using Facebook ads to target his LAQA with See content, the client began to grow awareness of his brand effectively.
As you probably guessed, email marketing is an effective channel for every cluster except the See cluster.
Here I'd like to add in multi-channel marketing automation. That's a mouthful. What does that term mean?
Multi-channel marketing automation software enables you to create messages in a variety of channels from one dashboard. My favorite software for this is Autopilot. It enables you to create "heads-up" messages (small, unobtrusive pop-ups on your website), email, SMS (text messages), and print postcards.
Now let's fold advertising into the mix.
In the diagram below you'll see:
*AFF = affiliate advertising
Note: this channel information is drawn largely from Kaushik's consulting practice, with some slight modifications by me.
It represents a distillation of experience and wisdom, in the same way that a proverb is a distillation of life wisdom. A proverb is typically true (e.g. "The early bird catches the worm"), although there are exceptions. Test and confirm which channels are optimal for your business, then modify the diagram if need be.
Here are a few sample takeaways and questions you can draw from the above graphic and the STDC model generally.
If you're using the See - Think - Do framework then the following will be true:
Below I've highlighted the channels by category for those who may prefer to view the diagram this way:
As we mentioned at the beginning, to engage your prospects and customers in an optimal way, you'll need to create content targeted to each cluster. That means moving away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
The content you create for each audience cluster needs to be perceived by them as relevant and valuable.
"The foundation to any company’s success is to ensure that there is an attractive product/content for audiences to engage with in each of the three stages: See – Think – Do."
-- Avinash Kaushik
Each group has different information needs. When working with clients I often compare the different audience stages to courses in a meal.
One error some businesses fall into is to spend the majority of their marketing resources on just one consideration stage.
Another error is to plan all of your marketing through the lens of demographics or psychographics, which don't correlate with customer intent.
Segmenting and targeting your audience according to levels of intent and interest will enable you to identify and find your future customers and loyal supporters.
This is fundamentally different from the old "AIDA" model (Awareness - Interest- Desire- Action).
That model, associated with marketing/sales "funnels" and with one-way mass communications, pre-dates the Internet and the remarkable array of information we have now about the customer intent.
"Most frameworks solve for divisional silos. AIDA is from the siloed lens of marketing . . ."
— Avinash Kaushik
Indeed, AIDA has been dated variously to the period between 1898 to 1911. It thrived in an era of mass advertising when big brands had to rely on massive blitzes across billboards, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines: the one-way 'megaphone' that spoke but couldn't listen.
Busy small business owners will want to automate communications where it makes sense to do so. Automation is a real time-saver, and once it's set up it runs by itself.
As you work through the See - Think - Do framework, it will help you:
It will prevent you from leading with tactics and it will keep all your activities rooted in your top business objectives.
And that yields a win-win for you and your customers.
"Instead of developing a multitude of separate marketing channels, omni-channel is about a systematic approach. Its goal is to create a unified communication system. Online resources, social networks, and mobile applications work in conjunction, 'picking up' the consumer in time and making their interaction with the brand smooth and continuous." — Think With Google
"The businesses that can innovate, truly understand today’s consumer journey, and address consumers’ needs at every touchpoint are going to find themselves in a position to win." — Think with Google