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Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Mastering full-funnel marketing for lasting growth

Many companies have shifted their focus to bottom-of-funnel tactics, like paid search and retargeting ads, as economic uncertainty drives budget constraints and increases the pressure to make sales. However, this imbalanced approach will almost certainly have a lagging negative impact on revenue and ROI.

Implementing a full-funnel marketing strategy can fix the imbalance and ensure long-term growth and sustainability. Let’s look at the full marketing funnel, why stage-specific engagement matters, and how to bring them to life.

What are the stages of full-funnel marketing?

Marketing strategy is often compared to a funnel because of the shape it takes as consumers move through the purchase journey. 

A chart showing the conversion funnel.

Stage 1: Top-of-funnel

Awareness tactics (at the top of the funnel) are broad and cast a wide net to reach consumers. This might include things like radio ads, billboard ads, blogs, or public relations campaigns. 

The purpose of top-of-funnel tactics is to get your brand in front of your audience and generate brand awareness. As such, success for these individual tactics should be measured by publisher metrics like impressions, reach, frequency, and video completion rates or through survey metrics like lift in brand awareness and ad recall. A common misstep we see marketers make is trying to measure the success of a top-of-funnel tactic by the number of conversions it drives. Billboards aren’t going to result in a click-through conversion, but they do influence consumers who may not even know they want to buy your product or service yet. Similarly, an attribution model that ignores the role top-of-funnel tactics play as part of the confluence of factors that ultimately drive conversion can work against you.

Stage 2: Mid-funnel

Consideration tactics (in the middle of the funnel) focus on consumers who are familiar with and evaluating the brand. Tactics deployed at this might include product-specific emails, FAQ pages, and organic search strategy. 

This is the stage where we start to see consumers interacting with the brand so success metrics look different than those in the top of the funnel. Here, we are interested in engagement metrics like click-through rates, social media interactions, rich media interactions, average time on site, pages visited per website engagement, scroll depth, and non-conversion website events (e.g., PDF downloads, webinar registrations, video completions, etc.).

Stage 3: Bottom of the funnel

Conversion tactics (at the bottom of the funnel) get in front of consumers who are ready to make a purchase. Paid search is a major tactic at this stage of the funnel, but tactics might also include website content like comparison charts or savings calculators.

This is the stage at which we measure tactical success in terms of conversions. Consumers, influenced by the awareness and consideration driven higher up in the funnel from other tactics, are now ready to make a purchase or submit a lead form.

But it doesn’t end there! After consumers convert, they move into the loyalty part of the funnel. The tactics in this part of the funnel keep consumers coming back. It might include things like personalized content, rewards and loyalty programs, or incentive campaigns.

The success of your loyalty program can be measured by customer retention rate, customer lifetime value, and repeat purchases.

The lowest part of the funnel is advocacy, which is all about getting consumers to tell their friends about your brand. This often takes the form of customer reviews and referral programs and can be measured by metrics like customer satisfaction scores, online reviews and sentiment analysis, and social listening insights.

Why does a full-funnel marketing strategy matter?

Although marketers like to position their strategy into a nice, neat little funnel, the reality is that the consumer journey is not so nice and neat. It’s also not linear. On average, it takes 8-12 touchpoints with a brand to convert a customer! 

An image depicting the unclear path that often occurs between the first point of contact and conversion.

The beauty of a full-funnel marketing strategy is that it helps you meet consumers where they are in their journeys. It is a holistic, integrated approach that drives repeat exposure and facilitates multiple touch points with customers at different stages of their journey, which is critical for ensuring your brand is top of mind when the moment of truth comes and a buying decision is made.

The negative impact of a bottom-of-funnel approach

Conversion-focused tactics often get the most attention because they produce the most conversions. But consumers can’t convert if they aren’t aware of your brand. Consumers won’t convert if they know about your brand, but haven’t taken the time to consider what it means to them. By neglecting the upper parts of the funnel, you choke the funnel and restrict your ability to drive conversions in the long term.

Unfortunately, many companies get overly focused on the bottom-of-funnel tactics due to the very real and understandable pressure that marketers get from leaders focused only on transactional KPIs. This is especially true in times of economic uncertainty (check out our white paper on how to optimize your customer experience for recession resilience) when driving revenue takes on a heightened priority.

A broken funnel can manifest in many ways:

Poor engagement rates

If you skipped over the awareness part of the funnel, consumers may not be familiar with your brand. Trust and credibility have yet to be established and so they are not prepared to engage with your content.

High engagement, but low conversion

Similarly, if consumers are clicking, but not converting, may not be meeting them at the right point in their journey.

Conversion stagnation

Often a symptom of low-funnel strategies, you may have tapped out your available audience by ignoring critical awareness tactics.

Unintentionally over-indexing on first-time customers

It is 5-7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. If your customer base is over-indexed on new customers, you may need to double down on your retention efforts.

Decrease in branded searches

Customers can’t search for you if they don’t know about your brand. Investing in top-of-funnel tactics is crucial to driving brand awareness.

Increase in costs to convert

Persistent increases in cost per lead (CPL) or cost per acquisition (CPA) signal that you are competing for a finite, over-indexed audience and would benefit from upper-funnel tactics.

Bringing a full-funnel marketing strategy to life

If any of the scenarios above sound familiar, it’s probably time to evolve your marketing strategy to adopt a full-funnel approach.

Here are some key considerations when establishing a full-funnel marketing strategy: 

Teamwork makes the dream work

A full-funnel marketing strategy requires collaboration across multiple teams (think strategy, brand, paid media, creative, content, design, PR, email, loyalty… the list goes on!) to ensure thoughtful, cohesive customer experiences. Make sure you are pulling in representatives from all the appropriate teams to drive alignment and ensure consistency.

Measurement matters

An appropriate measurement strategy is key to keeping a full-funnel strategy on the rails. As we described when defining the stages of the funnel, KPIs must reflect where tactics sit within the funnel to properly measure success and make informed marketing decisions.

Similarly, an attribution model can make or break your strategy. Last-click attribution models in particular can influence over-indexing on bottom-of-funnel tactics by assigning credit to the last touch before a conversion. This model puts a thumb on the scale for bottom-of-funnel tactics, limiting the ability to optimize for the distinct goals of tactics that play other roles in the funnel. Linear or data-driven models are generally more effective at assigning appropriate value to tactics throughout the funnel. 

Be patient

The impact of a full-funnel strategy won’t be felt immediately. Upper-funnel efforts build future demand. Building loyalty and driving advocacy takes time. But this strategy sustains growth marketing investment in the long term by allowing you to reach more potential customers, extending the lifetime value of those customers, and generating more profit for less investment by driving efficiencies across the program.

The bottom line: full-funnel marketing strategies work

A recent Nielsen study of CPG brands showed that those with a full-funnel strategy had 45% higher ROI and a 7% increase in offline sales compared to marketing campaigns running in a single purchase stage.

We recently published a case study about how we helped a nonprofit client of ours drive efficiencies in their paid media program by enhancing their bottom-of-funnel paid media program to a full-funnel one. In the first year of running this full-funnel program, our client spent 9% more on paid media year over year, but produced 61% more donations.

Designing holistic customer experiences that drive growth is our strength. Because full-funnel marketing strategy is a team sport that requires participation from multiple teams, internal silos are the enemy of creating a holistic, integrated strategy. At Tallwave, we pride ourselves on two things: 1) relentlessly keeping the customer at the center of what we do at every stage of the journey and 2) driving integration and collaboration in the strategies that drive the customer experience so we can deliver successfully against your customers’ needs and your business goals. 

Ready to learn more about how Tallwave can help enhance your marketing program? Give us a shout!

Categories
Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy Value Realization

Driven by values: The new persona playbook

Target audience research and persona profiles have become a standard part of the marketing toolkit. Despite the changes I’ve experienced in my 20 years as a marketer as new technologies have emerged, channels have evolved, and customer expectations have become more demanding, the importance of persona profiles has been one of the few constants. A rich persona can be hugely beneficial in driving and informing how we engage with prospective customers, certainly through marketing efforts, but more broadly as well. 

Despite the rapid rate of change that has shaped the marketing landscape, how we approach persona profiles hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve seen personas with different levels of depth and layouts, but they’re generally pretty similar at their core. Most of the time, they include a combination of what your audience looks like, with details like their age, income, job title, and marital status. The more creative ones even include fictitious names and pictures. And the rest is some combination of consumer behaviors, statements, pain points, and information gathered from a fairly small number of representatives of your audience, often through interviews. 

But there’s one big problem with the traditional approach to personas. Nearly all the information they include has very little to do with what you care about most: WHY your customers buy and HOW to get prospective customers to do the same. The good news is we believe we have a better approach. In this post, I’ll share a method for audience research and persona development that taps into a huge repository of existing data to deliver insights on the values that drive your customers’ decisions.

Why Values Matter for Driving Consumer Behavior

Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney and longtime senior executive for the Walt Disney Company, put the power of values into the most succinct statement I’ve seen yet: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” He understood that, just like our customers, we make decisions every day, not based on our demographics or our past behaviors, but on our values. And brands can tap into that power. If you know which values your best customers share, the values that motivate the buying behaviors you’re trying to inspire in prospective customers, you have the power to know what to do and say to get existing customers to say yes more often and to drive new customers to purchase.

The Disconnect between Values and Demographics

As it turns out, our values have little to do with our demographics. Our demographics might be part of the reason we don’t take a particular action. For example, odds are if I don’t have children, I’m not searching for pediatricians or childcare options. Being childless, which is part of my demographics, is the reason for my inaction. But for people who share the demographic condition of parents, that common characteristic only determines that searching for and selecting a pediatrician or a childcare option is a choice they’re likely to make. The demographic condition of being a parent has nothing to do with which choice they make and why. If it did, all parents would make the same choices. But of course, they don’t. They make different choices based on what they value. That’s why using demographics alone to connect with and influence your audience doesn’t really work. 

I think the values gap that exists within a traditional demographic and psychographic approach to audience research and persona profile development is something that most marketers recognize intuitively. But there haven’t been a lot of better options for uncovering the nuances of what an audience values in a scalable way. That is, until I listened to episode 331 of the Digital Marketing Podcast, The Death of Demographics, An Interview With David Allison. In it, David Allison talked about his book, The Death of Demographics, and the research data behind it that spawned the first big data tool that makes a scalable, data-driven approach to values-centric audience research and persona creation possible. 

The book is the product of a massive global research study known as the Valuegraphics Project (more on that in a minute) that finds that when it comes to values, humans agree about 8% of the time as a baseline. When you group by any demographic cohort—age, gender, income, marital status, you name it—that agreement only increases by 2.5%. So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone. Because while the year you were born, whether you have kids, and your employment status may influence decisions you will or won’t make, they don’t have anything to do with the “why” behind them.

So what will be more effective? The answer is valuegraphics.

The Valuegraphics Project

The Valuegraphics Project is a global mapping of core human values, the drivers behind all our decision making. Through nearly a million surveys deployed in 152 languages in 180 countries across the world evaluating 436 values-related metrics, 56 core human values emerged. And 15 statistical clusters of agreement around subsets of those values, which the architects of this project call “archetypes,” emerged from that research data. Those 15 archetypes can be used as the basis for valuegraphic personas, each representing an audience that is demographically diverse, but highly aligned on values.

So building a marketing campaign around what you think “Gen Z” or “working moms” or “retirees” care about is going to be only slightly more effective than throwing the spaghetti at the wall and deploying your campaign to anyone and everyone.

This focus on values doesn’t mean demographics and psychographics don’t have a place—they do. They can be practical and effective ways to limit your audience based on functional barriers to making the decisions you want them to make. But demographics and psychographics won’t help you understand what actually drives those decisions. You need valuegraphics for that. That audience data triad of demographics, psychographics, and valuegraphics all come together with your audience engagement strategy in the Value Thinking process.

A Venn Diagram showing Values Thinking. Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.
Values Thinking is a process for identifying the underlying values that motivate your target audience so you can build an engagement strategy around those values.

Valuegraphics in Action

Chart showing Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.
Value Graphics in Action: The U.S. vs the world.

So how do you go about putting valuegraphics to work to better understand and engage your audience? It starts with understanding the valuegraphics profile for your target regions and then surveying your target audience to illuminate their dominant and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes. 

Regional Valuegraphic Profiles

One of the outputs of the Valuegraphics Project is a set of region-specific profiles that tell you the top values for each region. Looking at the regional valuegraphics profile for the US, we know that belonging, family, relationships, personal growth, and health and wellbeing make up the top 5 values for the region. Looking at the top 5 values for the US compared to the rest of the world, we see that family and relationships are valued similarly. But there’s significant divergence between the US and the rest of the world when it comes to belonging and health and wellbeing. 

If you’re targeting a US-based audience, that’s already much more useful than any demographic or psychographic data when it comes to not just getting in front of, but influencing your audience to take a particular action. No matter what else you say, if you can connect your product or service to the values of belonging and health and wellbeing, your efforts will be much more effective at striking a chord than they would be with demographic and psychographic data alone.

Valuegraphic Archetypes

Value Graphics in Action. This chart shows "The Adventurer" archetype.
Value Graphics in Action: Adventurer Archetype.

With the valuegraphic profile for your target region, you’re ready to uncover the most and least dominant valuegraphic archetypes of your audience. Let’s say you’ve surveyed members of your audience and determined that the dominant valuegraphic archetype among them is the Adventurer. This is the 7th most common archetype globally representing 10% of the population. So you’re already getting much more narrow than the regional profile. When you get down to archetypes and the values they contain, you’re tapping into a currency that not only drives human behavior, but drives it in remarkably similar ways for those who share these values. 

Comparing the regional valuegraphic profile of the US with this specific archetype, two points of meaningful distinction in the top 5 values are immediately apparent. Experiences aren’t in the top values for the region at all, so focusing on this value will be uniquely resonant to this group. Personal growth is in the top 5 values for the region, but it’s ranked much higher for this particular archetype. Tapping into these values will create an engagement strategy that’s uniquely relevant for this specific audience. So in this example, we’ve deployed a valuegraphic survey to the kinds of customers we want to find more of. And in analyzing that data, we uncovered the Adventurer as the dominant archetype. How do we get from here to a values-driven persona that marketing and other teams within our business can sink their teeth into? 

Building a Better Customer Profile: Valuegraphic Personas

We’ve taken this process one step further to create personas based on the valuegraphic profiles we’ve built around specific audiences. One of the first things that makes these personas stand out from the traditional fare is what they don’t include. What you won’t see in this kind of persona are the demographic elements you typically see (a picture, fake name, age, and bio). That’s by design because they generally have nothing to do with the action we want to compel. And including them can imply that they do. Best case scenario, it’s not helpful. Worst case scenario, it can cause us to arbitrarily limit our audience and cut us off from engaging with values-aligned prospective customers.

Here’s what you will find in one of our valuegraphic personas:

  • The valuegraphic archetype(s) represented and a brief description of it, including contextual statements from people who share the archetype(s)
  • Statistics on how common this persona is in your region and their degree of values alignment
  • Highlights of the most and least dominant values, which serve as driver and detractor values respectively
  • A list of qualities and characteristics that are virtually certain (in that they’re true for 90%+) and highly likely (75-89%) to be shared by people who represent the persona and implications for your brand

The information in the first three bullets helps us start to get inside the minds of this persona. But the last bullet contains the gold nuggets that have actionable impact on marketing and beyond. The certainties and likelihoods for valuegraphic personas cover broad and sometimes unexpected ground, from unique perspectives on values to common behaviors and preferences related to travel, mobility, money management, leisure, the list goes on. And they can inspire insights that can influence everything from product and service innovation to content and creative, targeting, affinity and partnership marketing, and more. And these insights aren’t the product of a handful of qualitative interviews; they’re the product of a massive global research study that included analyses on massive quantities of research data at a level of statistical rigor that would exceed the requirements of most major universities. 

Beyond B2C: The Value of Valuegraphics for B2B Brands

It’s easy to see how a valuegraphics-based approach to target audience research and persona profile development applies to B2C companies. But the applicability to B2B companies might not seem as obvious because in these scenarios, we tend to adopt an institutional view of our buyers. In reality, purchase decisions for businesses are still made by human beings (and in most cases, multiple human beings). That means that not only is the concept of connecting with the values of your buyers still very much in play, one could argue that the impact is compounded given that purchase decisions are made by multiple decision makers. So if you’re engaging in a way that’s not aligned to your target audience’s values, you’re going to hit the same snags over and over again with multiple decision makers. 

In the context of the traditional approach to target audience research for B2B companies, it would be typical to develop buyer persona profiles for the different stakeholders who play a role in making purchase decisions and develop distinct persona-specific value propositions for those different decision makers. In the context of valuegraphics, the same logic holds. Illuminating the values that drive decision making for your cadre of B2B buyers will make you more successful in aligning to those values and compelling the desired action.

Evolving Your Approach to Understanding and Driving Consumer Behavior

With the execution of the Valuegraphics Project, we now have a way to leverage a much bigger body of data in the art and science of developing persona profiles. As marketers and growth drivers for our businesses, that gives us the ability to develop a deeper understanding of our audience at scale and parlay that understanding into action both within and beyond our marketing strategies to align better, resonate more, and compel action more effectively. As the world around us grows increasingly privacy-sensitive and the data at our disposal to drive reach with our audiences becomes more limited and nuanced, the brands who know their audiences best will have the greatest advantage. 

If you’re ready to evolve your approach to target audience research and harness the power of valuegraphics data to drive your market engagement strategies, I highly recommend checking out David Allison’s book, The Death of Demographics. Or better yet, give us a call for the CliffsNotes and our playbook for putting it into action.

Categories
Customer Engagement Reaching New Customers Strategy

Customer at the center: Why human-centric CX matters now more than ever

Customers continue to be dissatisfied with digital experiences. The Wall Street Journal reported on the National Customer Rage Survey in March about the increasing issues Americans are experiencing with products and services. There are so many things to think about when we talk about “Customer Experience”, it is easy to misplace goals like “Best in Class Customer Experience.” At times, it just feels like a buzzword that digital products must use.  When you take inputs into account (like usage data, retention metrics or KPIs) without considering the human customer at the center, you put the quality of your CX at risk. Putting the customer at the center of all experiences will allow companies to return to excellently designed customer experiences. Learn what’s at stake when it comes to CX and how to put and keep the focus of your digital product strategy where it belongs: on the wants and needs of your customers.

The customer has spoken: Experience is everything

Customers care about experiences and they are not afraid to report on those experiences online. Social media and review sites are full of issues and complaints about experiences that fell short of customer expectations. And they’re not afraid to deploy “revenge” tactics to make companies pay extra for their bad experiences. 

To avoid negative interactions (and their cost to brand reputation), companies need to put customer problems directly in the center of their digital experience. Don’t solve for the perceived problem, solve for the human involved. Great digital products and services come from a human-centric approach to design that will take your customer’s experience from good to great. As Tallwave CEO, Jeff Pruitt, outlined in a LinkedIn article earlier this year, there are three key considerations for leaders who want to put their customer in the center.

Curate great automation

Automation can relieve the burden of live customer support on teams and lower costs for operations. It seems so simple to line up a workflow that customers experience often and give carefully scripted responses to their questions. When it works, it can save customers time and save companies money. Unfortunately, automation can easily fail. One misplaced automation step or edge case can trap customers in a maddening circular workflow or drive them to give up altogether. 

Automation can and should be used for straightforward and simple scenarios, but there should always be an exit strategy. Don’t let your customers get caught in a loop of wrong answers or assumptions.  Automation creation and testing is a great time to utilize cross-team collaboration. Working with multiple teams illuminates biases so you can eliminate them. Your customer support team probably has lots of examples of workflows that could be built into automation that would be good for customers. Giving a variety of teams an opportunity to test automation will bring a unified approach to automation experiences. 

Unify data collection

Many, many years after the Big Data revolution, we are still trying to figure out how to collect, manage, and utilize the vast amounts of data available to us. In digital products, we can collect and curate data on the usage of our own product as well as many other contributing factors to the customer experience (demographics, device type, traffic, etc). When we leave the marketing data up to the marketers, the usage data to the product team, and the support data to the service team, we miss the opportunity to visualize the entire customer journey through all relevant lenses. Centralizing and using quantitative data as an input in all company decisions, but especially decisions about digital product strategy, is critical for keeping the customer at the center of CX. Quantitative data isn’t the only input— research, field studies, and classic conversations about experiences are still important—but it can drive internal discussions across teams to act in a holistic way to enhance customer experience.

Fix organizational silos

How often has your company reorganized its teams in the last 5 years? Especially for growing companies, re-orgs feel like second nature. Your team may do it to shake things up or to re-align as priorities move or the market changes. While changing your organizational structure can certainly be commonplace, organizational silos shouldn’t be. Don’t let the company changing around you break your focus from cross-team collaboration and overall company strategy toward great customer interactions. 

Even without the fracturing effects of restructuring, preventing siloing between teams that all play a role in CX delivery is important. Product-led companies, in particular, need to align on problem statements across marketing, customer service, product development, and support. If a single team is out of step with the others, customers end up confused or misguided by the experience. When the customer problem statement is forefront in everyone’s mind, the alignment can be spectacular. Every single team across the organization working to solve customer problems with great customer experiences can create really powerful momentum and the collaborative relationships it fosters between teams can help solve automation and data issues that can pop up. When you focus on creating great cross-team dynamics, you will be surprised at what else will start to fall in line.

(Want to know more about AI/SGE trends, data collection and silos, and CX heartbreak? We have more on these topics, too.)

The bottom line: Delight and ignite

Keeping the customer at the center of digital experiences is more vital than ever. It won’t just create loyalty from both customers and staff, it will also change how you consider customer experience design. People learn and change every day and we must stay ahead if we want to succeed in delighting them. Being thoughtful and inclusive about when and where to deploy automation will break down organizational silos and keep customers feeling supported. Unifying data collection and usage across teams will keep alignment on the central issues and ensure teams are talking realistically about what the data is telling you. Keeping the customer at the center of the experience will create opportunities to work across teams, solve problems together and create great experiences that delight your customers and ignite your products. Are you ready to create human-centered solutions and experiences for your customers? We’re ready to roll up our sleeves to delight and ignite. Let’s chat.

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Strategy

Building bridges between business and technology

There’s often a substantial divide between business and technology teams. It’s more than mere miscommunication; it’s a foundational misunderstanding of each other’s domains and a lack of shared context for each other’s needs and goals. Imagine architects striving to convey their visions to builders without comprehending the construction process, or builders attempting to decipher architectural blueprints without a sense of the broader design. This disconnect between business and technical realms can lead to frustration, costly errors, and missed opportunities. This is especially true for marketers and developers or technology partners.

There’s a unique power that comes with aligning technical teams with marketers to ensure a seamless and productive collaboration. When these two crucial functions get on the same page, the results can be transformative. Clear communication and a shared context for business goals, needs, and priorities eliminate confusion, accelerate project timelines, and enhance innovation. By bridging the gap between tech and marketing, you unlock the potential for more creative and data-driven strategies, resulting in a competitive edge. In case you don’t happen to have a magical marketing-to-tech translator, here are some tips for achieving shared understanding.

Speaking in Tongues: Bridging the Understanding Gap

There are many reasons communication breakdowns occur between business and technology teams. In many cases, divergent communication styles and thought processes are responsible for misunderstandings, but there’s often more to the story. Here are three common gaps and possible solutions to align teams and come together.

1. Language and Jargon: Standardizing Terminology for Clarity

One thing business and technical teams have in common is they love their jargon and acronyms. Ironically, that’s also the root of many communication breakdowns that occur between them. In many organizations, seemingly straightforward terms can have very different meanings when used in different ways or by different teams. For example, will terms like “lead” or “account” be interpreted the exact same way to your sales, marketing, and engineering teams? Odds are they won’t.

Standardization of terminology: Bridging this language gap requires standardizing terminology across organizational departments where possible, especially for terms that apply to the business as a whole. Ensuring a shared understanding of standard terms within the organization can eliminate a significant hurdle to effective communication and collaboration between business and technical teams.

2. Lack of Context: Fostering Alignment with Business Goals

Miscommunication often springs from a lack of context. This can happen when team members occasionally lose sight of overarching business objectives. But more often, the challenge is that different teams don’t understand one another’s roles in supporting shared business goals and the intersection points between them. This context deficit can lead to misinterpretations and misaligned efforts and expectations, impeding collaboration between business and technical teams.

Clarity in business goals: Shared context begins with a shared understanding of business goals. Whether achieving growth, reducing costs, enhancing customer satisfaction, or another objective entirely, each team needs to have a clear line of sight into business goals. Connecting actions to goals: Besides clarifying the business goals, teams need to understand their roles in supporting them. For example, a developer or technical SEO optimizing website performance may need help to grasp how their work directly impacts customer satisfaction and revenue growth. 

Transparent communication: Transparent and consistent communication on progress toward and contributions to business goals can be a potent tool for bridging the context gap. Regularly sharing updates on progress toward goals and highlighting how various teams’ contributions fit into the broader strategy can help drive alignment across groups and foster shared understanding and ownership over goals. 

3. Communicative Friction: Creating a Safe Space to Negotiate Meaning

Miscommunication is typically unintentional. Individuals introduce their own mental models, biases, and past experiences into what they say, hear, and interpret. People also tend to prioritize their own perspectives, needs, and priorities without considering the viewpoint of others, often without realizing it. This can lead to misunderstandings, even when the message seems clear. For example, a statement about cost-cutting measures may be perceived positively by one team and negatively by another, depending on their prior experiences.

Fostering a culture of open communication: Encouraging empathy, active listening, and open dialogue can help individuals become more aware of their biases and better understand the perspectives of others. Organizations should strive to create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable seeking clarification and providing feedback. This can help prevent misunderstandings from festering and becoming more significant issues foster a more positive work environment, and enhance overall productivity and collaboration.

Come Together / Connect / Bridge the Gap

Understanding the three common challenges outlined above can help you avoid some of the most frequent culprits of the divide between tech and business teams. Here are a few actionable steps you can take across your organization to further bridge the gap, prevent miscommunication, and drive shared understanding.

Set shared and aligned goals

They say what gets measured gets done. If that adage is true, what gets measured collectively gets done collaboratively. In setting goals, ensuring clear connections between individual goals, team/department goals, and company goals can help get disparate teams rowing in the same direction. And when appropriate, establishing shared goals that require collaboration to achieve can incentivize teams to work together toward a common objective. 

Establish clear communication protocols

Develop and document communication protocols that outline the preferred methods of communication, frequency of updates, and responsible parties for different types of projects or initiatives. This will help ensure everyone understands the expectations and processes for sharing information.

Implement a project management tool 

Invest in a robust project management tool to centralize project-related information, tasks, and progress updates. This tool should be accessible to both technical and business teams, making it easier for everyone to stay informed and track project status.

Cross-train team members 

Encourage cross-training between technical and business team members to enhance mutual understanding. When team members understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, they are better equipped to communicate effectively and anticipate each other’s needs.

Foster a culture of transparency 

Promote a culture of openness and transparency within your organization. Encourage employees to share information, ask questions, and provide feedback without fear of repercussions. When information flows freely, it reduces the chances of misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Conduct regular feedback sessions 

Organize periodic feedback sessions where team members can discuss their experiences and challenges related to communication. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

Use visual aids and documentation 

Encourage the use of visual aids, diagrams, and well-structured documentation to convey complex technical information more efficiently for non-technical team members.

Monitor and adapt 

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your communication strategies and adjust them as needed. Solicit feedback from team members and stakeholders to ensure that the solutions you implement address the specific challenges in your organization.

By implementing these solutions, you can foster better communication and collaboration between technical and business teams, ultimately bridging the gap and reducing the chances of miscommunication that can hinder your organization’s success.​​

Let a strategic partner facilitate clear communication

Just like a therapist can provide a trained, empathetic ear to overcome discord in personal relationships, enlisting a neutral third party can help break through the silos between business and tech teams to achieve mutual understanding. With a team of experts proficient in technical, marketing, and business strategy, our ability to translate between business stakeholders and technical teams is just as valuable to our clients as the work we do as data, marketing, and business strategists and practitioners.

By partnering with Tallwave, our clients gain more than an intermediary; they acquire a strategic ally capable of fostering collaboration and alignment across cross-functional teams and projects to create real impact for their businesses. Just as architects and builders seamlessly collaborate based on a shared blueprint, Tallwave facilitates the fusion of business and technology worlds, ensuring that your organization’s goals are not just spoken but realized.

Ready to bridge the gap? Let’s talk.

Categories
News Reaching New Customers Strategy

SEO isn’t dead: How AI and SGE are shaping the future

The artificial intelligence revolution has rocked our world in a few short months. OpenAI launched ChatGPT. Bing released a chat feature. Google opened access to Bard and the experimental Search Generative Experience. As these new tools emerge, almost everything about how we seek, access, and interact with online information changes. And it begs the question…

Could all these AI-enabled changes mean SEO is dead? The answer is a hard no; it’s just different. The days of optimizing websites exclusively for crawlers and bots are far behind us. We, as SEOs and marketers, must embrace the shift toward optimizing websites, content, and online experiences for humans and their information needs. As such, search engine optimization is alive, and will become even more important in your web strategy as AI tools advance in this new era.

Living in the moment: Understanding SEO, AI, and SGE

SEO, AI, and SGE are three of the most important technologies today, and they’re all becoming inseparably linked. AI is already used in a number of ways to improve SEO, from generating high-quality content to identifying and targeting the right keywords. 

As AI develops, it will likely play an even more significant role in SEO, helping businesses reach their target audiences more effectively. By staying ahead of the curve with these technologies and strategies, companies can position themselves for success in the future of search. Before we dive into the details of what comes next for SEO, let’s look at broader definitions and how these technologies and strategies impact each other today.

What is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is nothing new. In fact, both the concept and the term have been part of the web-based world since 1997 — before Google existed. At this time, search engines functioned as directories or virtual yellow pages. And as more consumers adopted the Internet, more businesses became invested in making themselves visible on the Internet.

SEO is a complex and ever-changing field, but it is essential to any online marketing strategy.  Your web presence depends on organic SEO. Traditionally, SEO depends on fundamental factors that increase website traffic and search engine placement, which include:

  • Creating relevant, keyword-optimized content.
  • Optimizing the website’s title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags.
  • Building backlinks from high-quality websites.
  • Ensuring that the website is mobile-friendly.
  • Improving the website’s loading speed.

What is AI?

AI, short for artificial intelligence, is a technology that mimics or simulates human intelligence. There are a variety of applications for AI, from self-driving cars to automated manufacturing processes. Machine learning, deep learning, and cognitive computing all influence how AI works. 

Conversational and generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing are natural language processing tools and can communicate in a human-like way. They provide information quickly and can generate new text, code, images, and other kinds of creative content.

What is SGE?

SGE stands for Search Generative Experience. It is a new set of search and interface capabilities that integrates generative AI-powered results into Google search engine query responses

SGE is still under development, but it’s designed to make searching for information online even more helpful, instructive, and insightful. By nature, SGE hinges on providing users with a more personalized and conversational experience. It is intended to do this by:

  • Generating concise and informative answers to complex questions.
  • Providing relevant visual content, such as images, charts, and graphs.
  • Suggesting follow-up questions to help users explore their topic of interest further.
  • Translating search results into different languages.

Here are some examples of how SGE can be used:

  • If you search “how to change a tire,” SGE might generate a step-by-step guide with images and videos.
  • If you search for “best restaurants in Phoenix,” SGE might generate a list of restaurants with user reviews and links to their menus.
  • If you search for “what does life even mean?” SGE might generate a summary of different philosophical perspectives on the topic.

SGE is revolutionizing the way we search for information. Using generative AI to produce more personalized and informative results, SGE can help searchers (consumers) find the information they need more quickly and easily.

The current state of SEO: ‘It depends’

We can’t ignore the fact that AI’s emergence and proliferation are rattling to SEO as we traditionally know it. 

According to Search Engine Journal’s 2024 State of SEO report, today’s digital marketers and SEOs expect disruptions from three major trends:

  1. Generative AI
  2. Google’s E-E-A-T ranking criteria
  3. Automation tools 

For many SEO experts, these new and rapidly evolving advances challenge how we think about what it means to optimize for search.  

These concerns check out, too. Google’s recent Helpful Content core algorithm update, which began rolling out in August and has extended into September 2023, is making one fact glaringly obvious: SEO no longer means optimizing content and website experiences for search engine crawlers and the only way to win top-ranking spots, boost CTR, gain qualified organic traffic (and lift conversions) is to optimize for the human experience.

While AI, generative tools, and even search algorithms gain a better understanding of what kind of content is helpful and informative to people, the notion of keyword-stuffed web copy created just for search engines is on its way out, and helpful content written by people, for people, has gained momentum as what it takes to win in the competitive SEO space. 

Welcome to the future: Embracing content strategy with SEO, SGE, and AI in mind

As more web users turn to AI and SGE tools to do research and make informed decisions, it is increasingly important to be visible to searchers no matter the medium they’re using and aware of how your business is perceived by both artificial and human intelligence in this new virtual realm. 

The only way to achieve this goal and prepare for future advancements is to embrace a website content strategy intricately interwoven with forward-focused SEO. This is evident with each Google core algorithm update as they increasingly move toward rewarding sites that relay information in an easy-to-understand, conversational, and unbiased tone.

Next steps for content strategy, SEO and SGE success

It might sound counter-intuitive, but embracing an organic content strategy with a human element is vital to success in today’s AI-driven landscape as SGE emerges. This especially rings true when your business and website tie into YMYL (your money or your life) topics like health, medicine, finance, and current events.

Google’s algorithms are designed to reward websites that provide high-quality content that is informative, comprehensive, and relevant to users. To appeal to Google’s E-E-A-T criteria, comply with Google’s Helpful Content updates, and succeed in SGE, businesses need to focus on creating content that is genuinely helpful to humans with UX and CX in mind. There are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Understand your customers’ journey. Linguistic profiling and search journey analysis can help you define your target audience’s journey.  Where are they in their conversion journey? Understanding their needs and offering solutions improves their experience on-site and with your brand.
  • Write for your target audience. Before you start writing, take some time to think about your target audience. What are their needs and interests? What kind of content would they find helpful? What are the values that drive their decision-making?
  • Do your research. Make sure that your content is accurate and up-to-date. Cite your sources and link to other relevant content.
  • Be clear and concise. Get to the point quickly and avoid using jargon.
  • Write in a conversational tone. Imagine that you’re talking to a friend or colleague.
  • Break up your text with images, videos, and headings. This will make your content easier to read and scan.

Does this sound familiar? We’ve touched on the factors you see above before and it’s helped drive success landing at “position zero” in the SERPs. Learn more about featured snippets in SEO strategy.

Take the next steps in SEO and SGE now

AI is poised to revolutionize SEO, empowering businesses to reach their target audiences with unprecedented precision. Businesses must ethically embrace AI and other innovative technologies and position themselves as leaders in this rapidly evolving field. This requires an online strategy inextricably linked to forward-thinking SEO created by humans for humans.

Offering SEO solutions and website and content strategy is just part of how Tallwave wants to drive your success. As a leader in providing integrated marketing solutions and more to both established and up-and-coming brands, Tallwave is ready to deploy our customer-centric and cohesive approach in a way that is unique to your vision and creates exceptional experiences for consumers of all kinds. 


From conversion rate optimization to paid media services to product design and beyond, we’re ready to partner up and strategically future-proof your digital strategies.

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Reaching New Customers Strategy

Swift Moves: What Marketers Can Learn from Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

The suspected budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce has become a major media moment. Whether you’re team “ Tayvis” or “Swelce” (or you remain unaffiliated), it’s almost impossible to escape the very real effects this speculated pairing is having on pop culture, whether romance is real or not. But what does this celebrity romance have to do with marketing? Well, hang on to your Eras tour T-shirts, because there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Let’s explore how the “shipping” of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce by both music and football fans alike has sparked newfound engagement within the NFL community and the lessons marketers and growth leaders can draw from this phenomenon. …Are you ready for it?

Electric Touch: The high-voltage power of unexpected partnerships

When marketing strategies get a little stale and your standard playbook starts gathering dust, a creative and unexpected partnership can be an effective way to shake it off. This is an approach Swift has deployed herself in collaborations with unlikely artists like Kendrick Lamar in “Bad Blood.” The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

The media attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s apparent joining of forces is a great reminder that successful marketing often involves unexpected partnerships and the value of being open to collaboration opportunities outside of our comfort zones. 

While the generated media attention  is great for driving cross-audience awareness for Swift’s and Kelce’s respective personal brands, is there a more substantial quantitative impact behind the hype? Absolutely. Consider this: the NFL, a sports giant with massive brand awareness and a highly engaged core audience, is experiencing increased engagement from Taylor Swift fans because of her connection to Travis Kelce. In fact, the Chiefs vs. Bears game where a cheering Swift first caught the attention of viewers and sportscasters was the most watched game of the week with nearly 25 million viewers, including a 63% increase in female viewers aged 18 to 49, according to Roku. This unexpected alliance demonstrates that sometimes, the most fruitful partnerships come when you’re willing to break the ice and think outside the box.

Emotional Connection: How soulful and authentic storytelling hits different

When it comes to authentic storytelling and connecting with people on an emotional level, Taylor Swift could teach a master class. She’s poured her heart and soul into her music, sharing her life’s ups and downs through songs like “Love Story” and “All Too Well.” Her lyrics and melodies tap into the human experience, making listeners feel like she’s singing about their lives and her uncanny ability to connect with her fans on an emotional level has turned them into a community of loyal followers.

In marketing, it’s crucial to tell your brand’s story authentically. Customers connect with brands that share their values and experiences. Marketers can create emotional connections with their audience through storytelling, relatable content, or simply empathizing with their customers’ needs. Finding that end game of emotional engagement can make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to share your journey and be as fearless as Taylor when it comes to opening up to your audience.

Staying Relevant: ‘Tis the damn season for a reinvention

In marketing, adaptability is key. Both Taylor Swift and the NFL have showcased remarkable adaptability in reaching and engaging their expanding fan bases in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape. From her country beginnings in Tim McGraw to her pop reinvention in 1989 and her indie-folk venture in folklore, one thing Taylor Swift is known for is her ability to adapt and evolve with the times. She’s consistently changed her style, not just to stay relevant to an evolving audience base but to reflect the evolution of her own identity as an artist and brand. She seamlessly transitioned from country to pop, experimenting with indie-folk, and all the while, leveraging digital platforms to release surprise albums and engage directly with her fans on social media. The result has been a resounding and quantifiable success.

For its part, the NFL has recognized and responded to the shifting media consumption habits of younger generations and embraced digital platforms to livestream games, share highlight reels, and interact with fans in real-time on social media. Travis Kelce specifically has showcased a remarkable ability to engage effectively with a digital-native audience, elevating his status as both a sports personality and a brand. Kelce’s active presence on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok allows him to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of his life, showcase his unique personality, and connect with fans beyond the football field. And New Heights podcast with brother and Philadelphia Eagles center, Jason Kelce, has become a dynamic platform where the Kelce brothers engage with their fans on various topics, including sports, lifestyle, and personal experiences. By leveraging the podcasting medium, they’ve created a space for candid conversations, special guest appearances, and authentic storytelling, further solidifying their status as relatable sports figures in the eyes of their fans. The podcast serves as a prime example of how athletes can use modern digital channels to connect with their audience on a deeper level and bridged the gap between traditional sports and the digital age, appealing not only to sports enthusiasts but also to a younger, tech-savvy audience.

By adapting to the digital era and staying attuned to their fan bases’ preferences, Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, and the NFL as a whole have proven that flexibility, digital prowess, and a willingness to reinvent are essential for sustained success in an ever-evolving digital marketing and entertainment landscape. And you must be ready to pivot and reinvent your strategies to keep up and you can’t be afraid to begin again when necessary.

Crossing Boundaries: Challenging the borders of audience and pop culture

Travis Kelce’s fanbase in the NFL is predominantly sports-oriented. Taylor Swift’s is music-focused. It might be easy to assume that those audiences are mutually exclusive, but they’re not. In fact, Tallwave Product Manager, Anna McKee, sits squarely in both camps. “I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.” Anna was at the fabled Chiefs vs. Bears game and experienced the phenomenon of this pairing firsthand and then had the experience of watching it from afar catching the Chiefs vs. Jets game a week later. “It was wild how clear the effect was between the two games but in totally different ways. Without the benefit of a TV broadcast to provide a birds’ eye view while I was physically at the Chiefs/Bears game, the conversation was about Taylor the entire time. Whether it was a question out loud or a text or a tweet, everyone wanted to know why she was there, who she was with, and whether it was a PR stunt. Regardless of the speculation, the general consensus with the women I was with was that we didn’t care, we were just excited she was there! Watching the Chiefs/Jets game a week later on TV, the broadcast kept cutting to her, which made it even more real and, in some ways, more exciting.”

“I’ve been a Chiefs fan my entire life, and I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since her career first launched. I’ve seen 5 Taylor Swift concerts—two at Arrowhead—and have owned Chiefs season tickets for the last 5 years. I’m right at the center of the Taylor and Travis Venn diagram.”

Anna McKee, Tallwave product manager

The steep spike in NFL engagement among women suggests that the apparent relationship has bridged these two seemingly disparate communities, creating a fusion of interests. And Anna’s experience and those like her who are long-time fans of both found another reason to engage more deeply. If there’s one lesson here for marketers, it’s the power of tapping into multiple affinities where possible.

Staying Social: Be a trendsetter, a star

The sudden surge of engagement within the NFL community due to Taylor Swift’s involvement demonstrates the importance of monitoring and staying on top of trends, particularly when it comes to social media. And on that front, Taylor Swift is a force of nature. For example, when it comes to social following on Instagram, Swift’s following outpaces the NFL’s by an order of magnitude. She’s got 273 million, over 9 times the NFL’s 28 million. And Swift’s social power is translating to real gains for both the NFL and Travis Kelce. 

While the NFL is still trying to find its footing on how to maximize its return on the Swift halo effect (posting references to Swift’s presence at the game and then subsequently removing them after receiving some backlash), there’s no question they’ve benefitted. As just one example, with the boon of content focused on Swift and Kelce as a pair, the NFL has seen record views on TikTok content. That halo effect has extended to Travis Kelce, too, helping him pick up 380k new Instagram followers and boosting his podcast into the top spot on Apple’s charts.  

The surface lesson for marketers here is straightforward: an active and engaging social media presence on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok can help you connect with your audience, share your story, and foster a sense of community. This is particularly beneficial for driving engagement with your audience outside of high-intent moments, which can add up to real value over time as it helps cement your brand in the minds of your audience. But there’s a deeper takeaway about the art of timing. As the saying goes, “timing is everything,” and the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce relationship proves this point. Their romance coincided with the NFL season and Swift’s record-breaking Eras tour, leading to a perfect storm of increased engagement. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to anticipate, but marketers recognize the brand-building value of this kind of rare serendipitous moment. The NFL did, too. While every move they’ve made to capitalize on that moment hasn’t necessarily been pitch perfect, they didn’t let perfect execution be the enemy of perfect timing, which is a valuable lesson in itself.

End Game: Summing up 

In the ever-evolving marketing world, we can learn valuable lessons from unexpected sources, just like the budding relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Embrace unexpected partnerships, tell your brand’s story authentically, and leverage emotional connections to engage your audience, including in more casual interactions with your brand. Adaptability, engaging diverse audiences, and capitalizing on pop culture can open new doors for growth. And to complete your mastermind marketing strategy, don’t forget the role of social media, monitoring trends, and be ready to seize those rare and powerful serendipitous moments to propel your marketing efforts forward.

Whether you’re ready to see sparks fly between Taylor and Travis or you’ve got bad blood with this attention-grabbing romance, there’s something to be learned from this pop culture phenomenon. Let’s take these lessons to heart, just as we would with our favorite Taylor Swift songs, and create marketing strategies that create a lasting love affair with our audience.

Are you ready for it? We are. Let’s talk.

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