The Importance of Behavior in Digital Marketing Strategy

Customer behavior is frequently one of the most criminally overlooked aspects of any digital marketing strategy.

When running integrated campaigns across multiple platforms–blogs, email marketing, paid search and display campaigns on Google, Bing, Facebook, YouTube–you’re dealing with complex marketing machinery, some of which works exactly as planned but some of which will inevitably require tweaks and adjustments.

The reason for some tweaks may be technical–emails bouncing, ads not serving in proper volume, widgets not working, etc.

But more often than not, most problems you face will have to do with the behavioral patterns of the audiences you’re targeting.

As an example of this, take one client of ours. As the manufacturers of a brand new, antioxidant supplement, this client took great pains to ensure their product was safe, well-researched, and of sufficient quality to give it a distinct messaging and marketing advantage over direct competitors.

The client then hired us to develop their digital marketing strategy to sell the stuff. We crafted messaging that exhorted the benefits of this new product. We developed brand enhancement materials and corporate collateral to give it a distinct look and feel.

Further, we published educational content to build an audience around the idea that users won’t just be buying a nutritional supplement–they’ll be buying into a healthy living community and movement.

The things we were doing worked to some degree–the audience was growing, SERP rankings were improving, visibility was increasing. Sounds great, right? Except for one thing: for whatever reason, we couldn’t seem to sell the stuff!

Here we’ve got the Cadillac of antioxidants on our hands, and nobody wanted it!

Naturally, when you’re selling the Cadillac of antioxidants, there’s a desire to present a Cadillac-level website aesthetic to match the products quality. There’s also a natural, human tendency on the part of the client to charge the Cadillac price. And that’s all well and good, (as long as the market can bear it).

But there’s a problem here, can you see it?

Cadillac didn’t start by being the Cadillac of automobiles, it had to earn that reputation.

To become synonymous with high-end automotive engineering–to become synonymous with high-end anything–requires an advanced understanding of what people in the marketplace want and being able to craft an experience to match their expectations.

That understanding doesn’t occur overnight, it’s a learning process.

No matter the car, they’re almost universally sold in a parking lot along with dozens of other car models. The dealerships–from California to Maine–are almost totally identical with very little room for originality or variation. Similarly, antioxidants are sold on decidedly not slick-looking sales pages, but are gummed up with dozens of other supplement products and offers, resembling something of a low-rent pharmacy.

You may not like it, but it’s what the market has dictated. And it works.

When it comes to nutritional supplements, what this client was learning the hard way is that people weren’t looking for the most expensive and very best antioxidant. Sure, a better antioxidant is…better. But you have to market the product in line with existing behavioral patterns in mind.

Customers paying $10 to $15 for a bottle of the old stuff for years are unlikely to suddenly pay $60 for yours–no matter how good the formula promises to be or how slick the website looks. If they’ve been paying $4.95 for shipping, they’re unlikely to want to pay $6, no matter how great your ad copy or how well-built your PPC campaigns, and so on. Unless you’re the very first of your kind, there will be an existing pool of ideal customers to whom you will be marketing your product.

This potential customer base will bring to market their own experiences and expectations and judge your offerings against them.

In a digital world of endless options, the customer is more in command of their market than ever before. Their choices are virtually infinite. But ironically, this also means he/she is more inclined to distrust your product if it rejects the basic conventions they’ve come to expect and rely upon from previous experiences with similar products.

Antioxidants, like automobiles, are typically sold a certain way. Stray from that formula and you’re going to encounter resistance.

In this same way, even Cadillac–“The Standard of the World”, as their marketers would have it–doesn’t have carte blanche to suddenly charge five or six times the going rate of its close competitors or start selling Cadillacs with a single model shown in the display window of a town square boutique. When you buy a car–Cadillac or otherwise–you have a general idea of price, a general idea of how you buy it, where to find it, etc. There’s even a tacit admission of this regularity in their slogan.

Can you spot it?

The word “standard”, in and of itself, admits the brand’s lack of singularity within the marketplace even as it asserts its supremacy. It says, in essence, “sure, there are other luxury cars you can buy, but can they withstand judgment against our 100+ years of positive user experiences and universal familiarity with the Cadillac product and brand? Probably not.”

What it promises is not revolutionary perfection, but something you can count on through the years with very little change. You expect certain things and we promise your expectations will be met. From price range to quality to the very act of how you buy–your expectations have been factored into the process at every turn.

To return to our clients, while their product may well be wholly better than its competitors, the means of selling it will have to comport with industry norms if long-term success is to be had. The Cadillac of antioxidants will have to be sold in generally the same fashion as the Yugo of antioxidants, because the antioxidant market has spoken.

Fighting hard-wired customer behavior isn’t useful, but learning from it is crucial.

It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the best digital marketing strategy hinges not on what makes a product different, but on what makes it the same.

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