First, let me explain what I mean by “bowtie approach”. In a bowtie, we have two sides that have the shape of a funnel. Similarly to the marketing conversion funnel, the ends of the bow tie are wider and narrowing towards the middle. So, if we look at both sides of the bowtie, we will notice 2 mirrored funnels that represent the different stages of the consumer behavior process. During this process a consumer, customer, user or however we like to call them, evolve through different stages, strategies and tactics which we as marketers need to cover. But, how do we cover these stages? It may depend on what the objectives are, but I believe that there is an aspect common to all industries: all businesses aim to make money and be profitable. They all need to create awareness at some level and have assets that will need to be nurtured throughout their life cycle.
Source: T2O Media Inc
A deep-dive on the bowtie funnel
Since the beginning of times, marketers have given different names to their brand´s life-cycle and customer’s journey, but nowadays it seems that most have chosen to call it “conversion funnel”, where 4 main stages are well defined on each side of the bowtie. To the left we have all branding activities as well as all pre-conversion and performance tactics, and to the right the loyalty and nurturing processes (sometimes referred as post-conversion). These 2 sides tend to act completely separate but in the end it’s just the natural life-cycle of a consumer.
To the left of the bow tie, there are 4 main steps based on the AIDA model, that can or can’t be followed by a user along their pre-purchase cycle:
- Awareness: this step is what we call the right-side upper-funnel and it’s aimed to generating brand awareness: making users or consumers aware of the existence of a brand or product that they had no previous knowledge of. We usually refer to this stage as the “prospecting” phase, where we are scouting for new potential clients who might have a basic need or no need for the product at all
- Interest: right after building brand awareness, we seed the idea of our brand or product and we start climbing in our potential user’s top of mind. At this level we try to establish a more tangible connection with the user, which ultimately leads her to take our brand into consideration.
- Consideration / Desire: As part of the decision-making process, potential consumers tend to compare and evaluate their different options, unless the product or service is very unique and of high value. This is the stage where we, as marketers, have to push towards the conversion and have the users finish the right side of the process.
- Conversion / Action: finally, we have reached the best part, where the user becomes part of our customer base!
The right side of the bow tie represents the post-purchase process which is not as well-known as the left side and where marketing agencies do not tend to focus that much. This side is, in some cases, way more powerful from a business perspective as it allows a company not only to work on the new-business process but also to leverage its assets.
Having started in this business as a startup 15-years ago, we understand what KPIs such as churn rate, burn rate or life time value (LTV) mean to a company, and we think that having a well-defined left side strategy should not be the only part to keep in mind.
- Loyalty: we tend to overlook the value of our customers and sometimes we say: “hey, we did a great job and acquired X number of users and earned X number of dollars, we can go home and rest” …it’s definitely not the case. When we finish the initial process of acquiring a user, that’s where the challenge actually starts. That is when we as marketers need to have a strong and solid strategy to keep our clients and make them as profitable as we can.
- Recommendation: only after a consumer has tested our product or service, is when he feels comfortable recommending it to somebody else either in his closest social circles or through social amplification platforms such as blogs, forums, etc.
- Referrals: usually confused with a recommendation. A referral goes beyond sharing what the product or service looks like; the user actually performs a deeper analysis of what the benefits are and looks for others to benefit from it.
- Up-sell / Cross-sell: finally, we need to push our customers into continuing to consume either the same or a different product, process in which we boost our user’s LTV.
In conclusion, these 8 stages build up our marketing customer journey and within each one of them it’s where tactics come in play. But since I was going to talk about trends tied to the aforementioned bowtie strategy, I believe the following trends are a perfect fit.
Hot marketing trends vs bowtie on the left-side
- Awareness – Story- Doing
At T2O media we believe that story-telling has always been important, but we like to say what we do and then do what we say, meaning that we go from story-telling to story-doing and always have a strong focus on delivering what our clients expect. This is a trend that is getting more traction, but not in a manner that is significant to a business. Storytelling is in fact very important, if not the most important part of the brand building process, but having a good story is not always a guarantee of success. The story has to be short but detailed and also has to deliver a consistent and interesting plot, not just ”telling”, otherwise it won’t have the desired effect.
I urge you to read the following article which clearly explains how story-telling has a profound impact in a brand’s strategy:
- Interest – Content Marketing
Content is King! How many times have we heard this during the past 10 years? It is true that content has always been there and it’s a very important part of the customer journey. However, a current trend is that with all the data available, we are now able to actually generate content that is highly qualified and targeted towards our audience, not just on a topic-basis but also on a personalization basis. What we are talking about is generation of dynamic content that targets users based on their likes and stage of the customer journey. This is now available through tools like SalesForce Marketing Cloud (part of our tech-stack), Hubspot, Sprinklr, Marketo or many others out there.
This year’s trend is all about creating niche content, using much more video – even readable- that complies with voice search, with the ability to index for SEO purposes and also with the ability to answer niche questions that can be highlighted in the search engine results pages. It is also important to create content that is long enough as to engage and rank within the search engines, but in a snackable way, instead of talking only on a single topic and only using the traditional blog post type of content.
- Consideration – Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing has been growing over the past years, not only because there has been a change in how we communicate with the audiences, but because audiences like to engage with these influencers in a two-way communication. When we work with influencers, it is very important to take three things into consideration:
- Work with influencers that not only have a high reach, but that are highly related to our audiences and segments as well: we can’t use the same influencer for all of our core targets.
- Work with influencers that like to create content: sometimes it’s not just about writing a text and linking it to a content, but actually letting them create content for the brand that is relatable to the audience and channels being used.
- The most important thing is measurement. It is critical to be able to measure all the actions generated by the influencers we work with. This new trend is one that T2O media has been working on for quite a while, with partners who have this technology, where influencers are part of a controlled network that measures the interactions, being able to track what these influencer activations have achieved for the business.
Goals of content marketing (Data source: B2B Slideshare)
- Conversion – Chatbots
Chatbots have been evolving in the past two years, going from basic Q&A to advanced learning by using Machine Learning algorithms built by tech-giants like Google (DialogFlow), Amazon (Lex), among others. This technology allows us marketers to activate campaigns that are segmented, targeted and aimed to a conversion stage, where the traditional conversion process is not replaced but boosted by a chatbot that helps a user complete the process in an easier and oriented manner.
In a recent report by Drift, 27% of the users stated that they would buy a basic item through chatbots and 13% would buy an expensive one. This is a trend that will increase as Machine Learning increases the chatbot’s efficacy and as users feel more comfortable buying that way.
The following chart shows why users are using a Chatbot nowadays.
But a chatbot is not only useful for users and to help drive more sales, it is also important for the following reasons:
- Saves time and money
- Helps us generate new leads
- Helps users find the information they are looking for
- Provides a 24hr basic customer support
Why did chatbots appear in the first place? Basically, because they are more efficient than us humans in some mechanical tasks. I don’t believe Machine Learning and bots are replacing humans; they are making us more efficient, letting us focus on more relevant tasks that generate more revenue to our businesses. We are humans and bots can’t replace how we deal with other humans, how we understand each other and how we can help each other…there is always a limit for machines and that’s where we have an advantage: in our human relations and interactions.
Below the State of the Chatbots Report 2018 by Drift:
Hot marketing trends vs bowtie on the right-side
So, now that we have gone through the left-side of the bow tie and have a clearer understanding of how the purchase process works, we will take a look at the most overlooked side where our customers end up after they first acquired our products or services.
- Loyalty – Social CRM
Loyalty programs will definitely ring a bell, but are you familiar with what a Social CRM provides to a loyalty program? When these kind of programs started popping up, databases were built either by filling out a form, completing a purchase or by a call center inputting data via another type of interface. This process started to change in the recent years, since social logins appeared, and now we allow our users to sign-up or purchase with their social credentials. The main difference resides in how and what data we collect, with a social CRM being more robust in terms of data, qualification and segmentation. By using a social CRM, we have the ability of clustering our customers’ most common demographic information such as address, age, name, email, etc., their social interests and interactions via cross-matching, and many other pieces of information that lead companies to have far more robust profiling and to generate a highly targeted conversation with our customer base.
We not only know what a customer has bought, but also what interactions the user is having with your brand in the social networks, what the sentiment is and what type of content is being consumed.
- Recommendation – Marketing Automation
One of the most prolific trends is marketing automation, which includes some of the areas that we have already covered. M.A is focused on creating a process where companies can scale without having to increase their man-power exponentially. For example, let’s say we have a B2B company that sells IT technology to large organizations.
They would have the following common flow:
- Looking for new prospects
- Converting those prospects to new leads
- Generating business opportunities out of those leads
If we think about how to start building a semi-automatic process, we could potentially use a list-generation tool, we could then implement a Machine Learning process that qualifies those prospects and assigns a score based on parameters we input. After that, we would export those prospects to our CRM where we would start a lead nurturing process by generating segmented contents and sending them through email, display ads, search ads, or any other kind of media outlets. We could track all those interactions and then, automatically set an out-bound calling process to convert those leads into real business opportunities.
The process I have just described is suitable for almost any kind of business and it’s very powerful in terms of scaling, optimization and leverage of assets within a company.
- Referrals – Actionable Data (Machine Learning)
This trend was a little more complicated to match, but here is what I see. As I previously explained, referral differs from recommendation in regard to the detail which is made of the product or service. Meaning that I can recommend a thing to someone. Nevertheless, only when I refer it I enter into details on what the benefits are, since referrals require to be person and situation-based. Machine Learning helps us implement hyper-personalized contents by using data clusters that are segmented and targeted. This can be used in the referral process, where companies allow a user to refer a service and the referred will obtain some kind of incentive.
An example may be a bot for a health service provider that, based on Machine Learning, refers a doctor using data previously gathered from other patients (not disclosing any PII). Instead of just providing a list of doctors, Machine Learning filters and refers the most accurate specialist, based on what other users have summited as feedback for their personal experiences and situations.
- Up-selling / Cross-selling – Demand Generation Marketing
Demand Generation is a technique that is normally tied to B2B environments. This technique is highly efficient to automate top-funnel processes and is one of the steps of the Marketing Automation process. In 2018 Demand Generation is becoming a big boom, as there have been several tools popping up to create D.M. plans to help marketers achieve their goals faster and with less resources. The main difference between a pure marketing automation process and a demand generation program, is the depth of the process with the latter being composed of several parts to fulfill a set of stages.
Before I started to write this piece of content, I was working on a leadgen process. I was trying to tie our own strategic approach as an agency to our own case by activating what we do for our clients (this is not always possible within an agency). Through my research and review of articles on many different topics, I came to the conclusion that most developments in marketing in 2018 are tied to these 3 main areas:
- Machine Learning and Voice Recognition
- Data activation
These are areas that will continue to evolve and will eventually merge to other trends like Virtual Reality, Voice Search and Blockchain.
At T2O media we have an innovative and data-driven mindset, currently implementing different programs and projects to include these trends as part of our service portfolio, continuing to always be in line with the marketing landscape and to provide better service to our clients.
What will 2019 bring for us…?