Traditional product marketing hinges upon one main objective: the sale. The end game is to convince consumers to purchase particular products when they walk into retail stores.
Naturally, thanks to the rapid rise of e-commerce and online subscription services, this marketing approach is no longer the norm, nor is it recommended. Many digital brands are beginning to realize that in order to thrive in the future, they must promote and facilitate behavior change. Why? Because they aren't just asking consumers to change what they buy; they're asking consumers to change their lifestyles.
For example, companies including Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Instacart are asking consumers to stop visiting the grocery store and start cooking more meals at home. Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, are asking consumers to change the way they get around town. If these brands took the traditional route and only promoted the immediate benefits of a one-time purchase, they'd be toast. Instead, every campaign they create must focus on the long game: retaining current users, boosting their lifetime value, and facilitating permanent behavior change.
Mapping the Path to Behavior Change
Behavior change isn't something that happens overnight. It's a long and arduous process. Companies like Netflix, Sling TV, and Hulu, for example, were considered add-on services that augmented cable for several years. But over time, these brands were able to convince millions of households to cut their cable subscriptions altogether and completely change their content viewing habits.
So what's the secret to sparking large-scale, long-term behavior change? It begins with focusing your marketing campaigns toward retention, long-term use, and lifetime value — not just instant gratification.
As a digital marketer, you are likely familiar with building customer personas and mapping their journeys. Creating a desired behavior map is a similar endeavor, but instead of charting historic patterns, you plot the actions you want consumers to take. That's what makes it a desired behavior map; it lays out the journey you want users to embark upon after signing up.
These four steps will help digital brands create desired customer behavior maps that lift their marketing results:
- List Your Potential Retention Metrics
How do you currently determine whether customers are "retained"? How do you identify whether they have officially changed their behavior?
A ride-sharing service, for example, may consider a user "retained" after he or she pays surge fees during rush hour at least once per week for a month straight. A meal delivery service, on the other hand, may wait until a customer goes 12 straight weeks without cancelling a delivery before considering him or her "retained."
Jot down a short list of metrics you believe indicate a high likelihood of behavior change. These can be educated guesses; the next step will add much-needed confirmation.
- Identify the Best Indicator of Lifetime Value
Test each metric on your list until you identify which one most accurately indicates full-on behavior change (thus lifetime value). Sit down with your analytics team, conduct a focus group with customers — do whatever it takes to confirm what long-term loyalty looks like.
After you've identified your best lifetime value metric, make sure everyone on the marketing team agrees with your assessment before proceeding to the next step.
- Chart a Chronological Path Toward That Outcome
After identifying your best lifetime value metric, work backward chronologically to identify the steps users would need to take in order to get there.
For example, let's say a streaming service considers consumers "retained" once they reach their second billing cycle and utilize a device like Roku or AppleTV to stream their favorite shows. What will it take in order to drive new users toward this status?
The first step would probably be for them to sign up and provide an email address. Step two could be for them to download the app. Step three could be for them to begin watching content on their computer or tablet. Step four could be to watch brand-recommended content and build a library of favorites. Then, once a customer has a large list of content to plough through, step five could be activating a special offer for a Roku or AppleTV because these devices greatly enhance the viewing experience and have the highest correlation to long-term retention.
This is just one example of how a company can plot a chronological path to lifetime value. The bottom line is that it should be highly detailed. Every step should have a time frame and measurable outcome associated with it. This will help align all of your marketing activities.
- Build Creative Content to Suit Your Map
Take all of your active (and upcoming) creative assets and determine where they fall on the map. Then, hone them to ensure they're all communicating a cohesive story in the proper sequence. For example, make sure your welcome emails aren't touting features and add-ons you want consumers to explore two months from now.
Conduct this exercise with every landing page or outreach asset you've created (or plan to create). Make it abundantly clear in every piece of content what the next step for the user should be, and make sure each step of the process looks and feels like a cohesive, seamless journey.
The modern era of e-commerce and subscription services calls for a new approach to digital marketing. Today, it's all about lifetime value — and the best way to achieve this goal is to promote and facilitate behavior change.
With a clear map of desired behaviors and a plan to guide customers down the path, you can ensure your product or service becomes an indispensable part of their lives.
Danielle Narveson is a marketing technologist who helps brands build stronger connections with their customers. She is currently the director of strategy at LIFT Agency.
Danielle has 10 years of experience as a digital and mobile strategist in five countries, working with companies such as Starbucks, NIVEA, Disney, and more. She has also worked for multiple startups, including her own.