This post aims to present a super-simple framework to help you conceptualize your marketing activities in an incremental way. What we’re trying to do is help you set reasonable conversion expectations for your audiences, across different levels of consideration.
The basic premise is this; you probably wouldn’t propose marriage to someone on the first date, right? That would be an unreasonable expectation. Similarly, when marketing a product or service, what’s the least burdensome ask you can make to your audience that pushes them further down your sales funnel? And once you nail that, you move on to the next ask. It’s an admittedly linear approach, but we think it will help you develop a solid foundation for digital marketing activities that can then be easily tweaked to catch people more inclined to skip-steps and jump more readily from awareness to sale. But you need to build the foundation first. We’re calling it Who? What? Where?.
It’s 7:30pm, and the phone starts ringing…
You’re just about to settle down for dinner. It’s been a long day at work. You’re looking forward to powering down, spending time with your family and maybe kicking back with a good book or some Netflix.
Then, the phone starts ringing.
Is it work? It must be urgent if they decided to call instead of email. No, that’s not a work number. Could it be an old friend who happens to have landed in town for a quick stopover? Maybe it’s some appointment you forgot?
Reluctantly, you answer. And it’s a telemarketer. You hang up in seconds and think to yourself, why why why would they think that this kind of sales tactic works? A cold-call, come on?!
The Digital Equivalent of the Cold-Call
Everybody despises the cold call, and yet so often, when we’re engaging new clients, they fixate on sales objectives around new customers. Customers who’ve never heard of their brand. Customers who don’t need their services or products right now. They want to invest the bulk of their budgets in targeting new customers, driving them straight to sales pages.
All that’s well and good. Broadening brand awareness in-and-of-itself is not a bad objective, but what do they expect these new prospects to do? Jump from awareness to sale in one action?
If you’re in a low-consideration B2C business, that’s possible, that happens, but if you’re in a high-consideration B2B enterprise… That’s very very rare.
How about ABC = Always Be Converting?
Remember that scene in Glengarry Glen Ross with Alec Baldwin. The famous “always be closing” scene. This one (warning; NSFW):
How about, instead of Always Be Closing we start saying Always Be Converting.
That’s the point of Who? What? Where?. To help you streamline your activities so they’re conversion focused, by lining up reasonable conversion expectations for your audience segments.
It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or revolutionary, just common sense. We thought it would be helpful to formalize it so you can better conceptualize how asking for a little from prospects and customers can get you a lot in the long-run. It’s the slow and steady approach, the gentle seduction approach.
And while it’s not the only way to grow your brand, it’s a good place to start, because it helps you capitalize on the very important asset you already have; your customers. Gently take them from cold, to lukewarm, to warm, to on fire!
Don’t Propose on the First Date
My son is three, so I’ve recently been exposed to multiple ambient viewings of Disney’s Frozen. The scene that sets off the plot begins with some neighbouring prince asking to wed one of the main characters, only a few hours into their first meeting.
The first time I saw it, I yelled “don’t do it you just met him!” at the screen. Anyhow, I digress. The point is, if you’re in a high-consideration business (especially for a product or service that requires a significant investment) it’s foolish to expect someone to convert to sale the first time out.
You need to nurture, establish trust and build credibility over time and continued interactions.
Social Follows Are Soft-Leads
But how do you do that?
Social Media is a gift for brands willing to play the long-game. I often describe social media followers as soft-leads; you know who they are, you can message them passively (not directly please) as they’ve opted-in to hear you articulate your value proposition, over and over. Remember, Facebook’s 1.44 Billion users spend an average of 20 minutes per day on the network. In the course of a month, that adds up to a lot of potential touches, where you can keep reminding prospects why you’re the best choice for them, warming them up for when they decide they’re ready to start comparison shopping in your sector. And Facebook is just one network.
So maybe, the realistic conversion for your awareness advertising isn’t to direct the majority of people to sales pages, but rather to follow you on appropriate social channels.
But maybe you don’t have the resources to run multiple campaigns for cold (conversion=follow) and warm (conversion=hard lead capture for sales) prospects? What then?
How about retargeting? You can run your hard-lead-generation campaign and retarget people who visit your sales page and don’t convert (sign-up, download, whatever) on social networks later, requesting the far less committal conversion of follow-us/like us.
Because your retargeting will only be pointed at the small number of people who (1) clicked your advertisement or organic landing page search result (2) did not perform the action you were offering, then the cost will be nominal, and the management relatively straightforward.
The only caution here is to ensure your messaging on your landing page and advertising is general enough that people who don’t know you aren’t intimidated or confused, while specific enough to add value for more sophisticated prospects.
Once those colder prospects are following you on social channels, they’ll get to see the depth of your offering and value proposition. That’s where you nurture, that’s where you warm them up, and get ready for the next conversion…
That’s just an example of how offering the right conversion, to the right customer on the right channel can help you grow your prospective customer base for the long-game.
Imagine our prince from Frozen had decided, instead of proposing on the first date, to call the heroine princess Anna on the phone the next day and suggested they go see a movie she expressed interest in, or a restaurant that specialized in a dish she mentioned she really liked. In marketing terms, he’d be retargeting her, using the knowledge gleaned in the first interaction to nudge her forward in the conversion cycle. Put succinctly, he’d be offering the right message, on the right channel, expecting a reasonable conversion. Queen Elsa would’ve been less likely to object, and you’d have no plot, but would have the underpinnings of a more fruitful, long-term relationship (if of course, the prince didn’t turn out to have rather nefarious intentions, but I’m spoiling here so I’ll stop).
The point being, that in our personal lives, we naturally temper our expectations when dealing with other people. We try to be reasonable, and offer incentives expressed in the form of give-and-take; shouldn’t marketing our business be the same?
Standing on the Shoulders of See, Think, Do.
Much of what we’re proposing here is inspired by Avinash Kaushik’s absolutely brilliant See, Think, Do framework. If you haven’t read it before, please check it out. It’s really powerful.
Briefly, he maps out customers along three levels of consideration:
- Seers: Anyone who could potentially benefit from your product or service
- Thinkers: People who are actively exploring options in your industry
- Doers: People who are ready to buy whatever you’re selling
Who? What? Where? is built on Kaushik’s model, but looks specifically at how to gently move prospects from Seers to Thinkers and finally to Doers. And while our little framework has applications across sectors, it’s mostly designed for high-consideration purchases, where people are less likely to jump from Seers to Doers. Most of it happens inside Think.
But the “Who” in Who? What? Where? are essentially Kaushik’s considerations stages.
Anyhow, without further delay…
Who? What? Where?
Here’s a Who? What? Where? canvas we made for a client in the non-profit sector, seeking to boost their fundraising:
As you can see, it’s all about nudging customers deeper and deeper down your sales funnel, from passive social media followers to donors to ambassadors. By applying this framework they not only increased their donations over a season by over 15%, they also reduced their spend on custom content creation, advertising and social media consulting by about 20% against the previous year.
Wait, Isn’t This Just the Old Purchase Funnel Again?
One of the valid criticisms I expect to receive for this framework is that it is really linear, and in fact based on the old-school purchase funnel which I’ve previously argued is dead and archaic.
It is linear, but only for the purpose of conceptualization. That means, while it focuses on showing you how customers can be nudged further and further down the funnel, it doesn’t exclude the possibility that customers might jump into the funnel at any point.
Like I said upfront, what we’re hoping to do with this framework is to drill in the idea of setting reasonable expectations for conversions. That can help you build a solid foundation for your marketing activities. Once that foundation is laid, you’re readily setup to start capturing funnel-jumpers. You will naturally capture them.
Who is Who?
Pretty straightforward. Who is the consideration stage your customers are in. As we’re following Kaushik’s model, we’re beginning with Seers: the widest possible potential customer base for your brand. The only difference here is that we’re going to add a bit more gradation inside of each of his consideration stages, as the purpose of incremental marketing is to gently push people through many substages of consideration.
Basically, you’re going to be asking your customers and prospects to “do” many things, but those things aren’t necessarily sales.
What is What?
What is the conversion you’re asking these customers to perform. It’s the action. Sometimes that action is a sale, sometimes it’s asking them to advocate on behalf of your brand on social media, and most of the time it’s a small step to draw them closer to your brand.
Put simply, What? is the most reasonable little ask you can make of prospects/customers that will easy for them to make. It’s the realistic intersection of what you want and what they can give.
What is Where?
Where? is channels: mass-media awareness advertising, organic search, organic social, paid social, paid search, retargeting, email lists, etc…Where? basically tells you where to find the audiences you’re targeting in Who?. To learn more about your Where? opportunities check out this blog post.
Bonus: How?!… What is How?
How? is the incentive, the bait, the content you’ll use to nudge your prospect over to the next phase. Maybe it’s a whitepaper behind a sign-up? Maybe it’s a free webinar? Maybe it’s a coupon? Maybe it’s just a fantastic piece of writing…
Let’s look at 2 examples
Okay. We can talk about this until we’re blue in the face, but I think the best way to understand it is to look at a couple of different examples.
B2C Accountant Seeks Looking to Grow Client Base
You’re an independant accountant. You’re confident that you can close sales once you get in front of prospects. Your value proposition is fast turnaround and transparent pricing. You help small businesses with their taxes, helping them write-off business development costs. Your customers are very loyal. But you need more customers, to establish a stable revenue stream.
Here’s what your Who? What? Where? canvas might look like:
B2B SaaS firm seeks to increase lead generation
Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you offer a SaaS firm that facilitates project management. You ultimately want more users, but you also want the users you have to use your service more often, buy premium subscriptions, and evangelize for you to their networks.
Again, each stage narrows the funnel, with each conversion or “what” driving to the next row in the table, but the structure is still loose enough to allow users to drop in anywhere.
What the Who? What? Where? framework implies for the structure of your digital marketing campaigns isn’t necessarily revolutionary, it’s more or less just common sense, but by framing it this way we hope that it acts as an invitation to think about micro-conversions, or the smallest significant action your prospects can take to move forward along the funnel, both pre and post purchase. Though many of the conversions we’ve described above may seem like small potatoes, each one will move your prospects a little further down the funnel, while building trust and establishing an active relationship that can be leveraged for future sales & marketing activities.
The beauty of this super-simple framework is that can be applied to virtually any sector, both on or offline. If you’re a white tablecloth restaurant and want to convert lunch patrons into more lucrative dinner patrons, what micro-conversions can you offer people as they leave lunch to come back for dinner? Maybe a special prix-fixe menu? Maybe in order to get that prix-fixe coupon you also have to sign-up for a newsletter, which would give you another way to access those customers for other promotions.
Does that all make sense? Try to build your own. Below is a blank Who? What? Where? canvas. Try to think about what the least difficult conversion might be for your customers to make, and how you can use that to nudge them forward in your sales cycle.
Over time, we hope to make more vertical/industry specific canvases for Who? What? Where? , but until then, give it a shot and feel free to ask us any questions in the comments.
-Ali, Martin & Laura