How Relationships Are Built Online

How to be successful in an omni channel world

We know you've heard it

The dreaded buzzwords. CMO’s shouting about FUNNELS, and BRAND AWARENESS, but what is actually going on? How does “Brand Affinity” actually work in digital marketing relative to old mediums?

What We Know

There are a few key things that seperate Digital Marketing from old mediums, and a few trends that have changed how people buy in the 21st century.


Digital Marketing:

  1. Provides concrete data on return on investment and the customer journey from “awareness” to “purchase.”
  2. Allows brands to control who sees ads and when
  3. Provides one to one marketing where substantive relationships can be developed with consumers


A few key things about marketing and human nature that also tie in are:

  1. People don’t want to be taken advantage of
  2. People are very lazy when given the opportunity

Stop Calling It A Funnel, It's A Relationship

Yes, the same visualization of a funnel CAN apply, but it’s much more productive to think of each and every person a brand interacts with to be part of a relationship. How does a brand’s relationship work? First, because people are inherently selfish, a brand needs to give the potential customer something. Whether it is valuable information, entertainment, or even a special offer, the potential customer needs to be given a reason to actually like the brand. If you look at your marketing strategy and can’t point out exactly where a customer would start to like you, there is a huge opportunity for improvement.


After someone begins to like you, what happens next? Conversation. How a brand continues the relationship is essential. You’ve got their attention, how do you proceed? Don’t make a move after making one good joke to that girl you just met at the bar, maybe just ask her a question or tell another joke. A brand needs to build trust and authority after they first provide value to a client. Like I mentioned before, people don’t want to be taken advantage of. Providing users with content that supports your brand’s legitimacy answers their fundamental desire to be safe.


Alright, now that you’ve got their attention and their trust, what do you do? A sale? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T JUST DO A SALE. YOU’VE WORKED SO HARD TO GET HERE. Think of this situation as a relationship! They like and trust you, all you need to do is show them what they found so cool when you first met in an appealing way.


Now’s where the good life begins. You’ve got a sale from someone who trusts you, but what you really need is a customer. This is an individual that you don’t need to spend money to educate on your brand, you’ve got them. You can leverage your brand, depending on how well you educated them, to cross-sell, resell, upsell; the whole nine yards. People are inherently lazy, and they know that they can trust you. By being there for them with other products, you can overcome their potential objections that occur for different brands, and appeal to their laziness as they wouldn’t have to research anything else and could just buy from you.

I get it, this all sounds great but how is it actually done? Let’s look at all the channels and how they interact with each other and a few examples of what successful relationship building looks like.

The art of the Introduction

People are practically begging for you to give them information about your company. Everyday, people fill their free time on social media, on YouTube, on Reddit, googling random stuff about things they’re interested in. People love to consume media, information, and products. You need to fulfill their needs, and be what they want to see. This means if people are searching for things related to your product or service, you need to be found and have web content that stands out amongst your competitors. When people who are interested in your company are scrolling through their Social Media, you need to capture their attention by bringing them value, entertainment, infotainment, information, or something else they will care about.


Bottom Line: To have a successful introduction to a potential customer, you need to stand out and provide value.


Further Reading:

“Social Media Marketing: What Executives Need To Know”

“Search Engine Optimization: What Executives Need To Know”

How to Build a Relationship Online

It takes, on average, 7-12 exposures to a brand for someone to buy


While many things have changed, the old marketing wisdom of people needing to see a brand 7-12 times before they purchase remains true. This number does change relative to each vertical, but the underlying reasons remain the same: people need to feel comfortable with a product before they purchase. The big question remains, how exactly does a brand build trust with their users in a multichannel world?


It’s all about the message.


At this point in a marketing strategy, a brand should have hundreds to thousands (at least) of pieces of data of people that are interested in their brand. This data can present itself in a number of forms:


  • A New Email Subscription
  • A Simple Web Visit
  • An Interaction With an Advertisement on Social Media
  • A View of A Video on Youtube
  • A New Follower on Social Media


Each and every one of these points of data can be dumped into the “trust building” campaign, where users are “retargeted” with relevant, soft selling messaging. When building trust, the primary goal should be to elicit emotion. Fill the users with desire over your product, show the emotional benefits of what you have to offer, even compare yourself to your competitors directly to show transparency.


This stage of the relationship is best done through email marketing, website content, and video marketing. If people have just given you their email, find a way to not be ignored by producing such great content that people have to see what you have to say. As people are scrolling through Social Media/ browsing Youtube, target them with engaging video content that catches the eye and puts your best foot forward. Lastly, as people continue to search, continue to be there for them in their journey to learn more about how your product works and how you stack up against your competitors.

A quick note on cross channel connections. One study done by Facebook in August of 2018 showed that users who saw a Facebook ad, and didn’t necessarily engage or click with it, had a 19% uptick in clicking on the brand’s website relative to users that did not see the ads. Even if one aspect of a campaign is performing moderately well, the connections between each channel must be analyzed to determine overall effectiveness.

Sealing the Deal

The amount of revenue generated from the above efforts is minimal compared to the amount of investment put in. Unless you can cash in on all of the trust you’ve developed, your marketing efforts have produced nothing. Luckily for us, once we make a sale, Social Media and Website analytics offers simple ways to track complex customer journeys.


There are a few ways to convert a lead into a buyer with digital marketing, and all of them greatly benefit from the relationship building done thus far. While there are many strategies to getting the job done, you either need to proactively show someone your product, or be there when someone is searching for what you have to offer.


With Email and Social Media marketing, this process is fairly simple, all you need to do is put your product in front of someone, potentially with messaging that implicates some sort of time sensitivity or scarcity, and if you’ve done your job right, they will likely buy.


With search, it’s a little more complicated. There are three reasons people could be ending up searching for your product/ you instead of responding to a proactive approach:


  1. They didn’t like you enough to be sure they wanted to buy from you
  2. They don’t remember who you are, but they are searching for what you offer
  3. They think you’re the inferior option


While there isn’t much you can do about number three, the top two are easy to manage. If you don’t show up organically when people search what you offer for whatever reason, it would be smart to have a Google Search Ads campaign specifically built for people who you have built a relationship with on your site to take advantage of their brand affinity. This campaign would be less expensive and produce more profitable results than other campaigns.

Cash In On All of Your Hard Work

I just bought a nice pair of shoes from Adidas. In one or two years, when I grow tired of them, Adidas is not going to have to try hard to sell me another pair of shoes. All they need to do is restart their conversation with me, build a little excitement over the next pair they’re pushing, and I’ll be likely to buy it.

This is the same for every brand. If you’ve developed a relationship, sold an excellent product, you can do it again and again. Send more emails, target them on Social Media, continue to be there for them on Google, and you can cut out half of your expenses relative to other consumers. This, is where digital marketing really becomes profitable.

People Buy Online in More Than One Way

While the above example is the most common way people buy things online, there are notable exceptions that provide a brand the opportunity to make a sale.

The Reverse “Funnel”

Yes I used the word Funnel, and no, it is still not the best thing to call what marketing really is, but it does illustrate that we are starting from someone who is at or near the “point of purchase.” I would be remiss to not talk about the group of people that just realize they want something, and simply search for it. These people are much more likely to buy from you (or someone else) right away than other people you’ve seen when a relationship kicks off, but there is still a high likelihood that they are in the research stage. This group’s defining characteristic is that they made a Google Search relating to buying a product.


If you show up for the user through a search ad or an organic position and the user doesn’t buy from you right away, don’t fret. Chances are that in the few days following their initial exposure to you, they didn’t buy anything from your competitors either. Treat this the same way you’d treat any other person that has just been exposed to you. Retarget them with relationship and trust building content, and be there to make the sale when they are ready.

Poaching From Competitors

Imagine going to a bar, seeing a girl who’s on her third date with a guy, and walking out with her number and plans for dinner the next day. Sounds like a win, right? Well the same thing happens with digital marketing.

While the strategy can be unpredictable and expensive, running a Google Ad Search campaign that shows your ad while people search for your competitor and boldly comparing yourself to them can produce incredible results. While you can’t directly mention your competitors name, you can call out their lack of a feature, your competitive advantage, and anything else that will catch a consumer’s eye is a quick way to build a relationship with someone who shows a high buyer intent.


Why not just skip directly to the Relationship Building/ Selling phase?


Look I get it, the whole “entertainment” aspect to digital marketing comes off a little fluffy and unnecessary. But the truth is, having a killer piece of content that does more entertaining than anything else is by far the cheapest way to market online. While we only touched on Google Search Ads and SEO briefly, the truth is that the competition is so intense for the searches where people are looking to buy, that expanding to other searches and building a relationship that cuts out that intense competition just makes sense. And really, that entertainment isn’t all that separate from the “relationship building,” it’s just so important that brands understand what a first impression needs to look like and how it should differ from the rest of the relationship building that takes place after someone knows you at least a little.


Do we really need multiple channels?


Maybe not, but probably. If you are running ads from Social Media, but ignoring your web presence, you are missing out on a massive percentage of revenue from people who search for your products after seeing you on Social. If you only rely on organic search and don’t retarget users across the web again you are missing out on a large percentage of revenue that comes from retargeting. Understanding how the platforms interact is a huge step in actually making a profit.


However, the ONE example that I can think of that I would be confident with only two channels, is an organic search + email campaign. If a website is capturing hundreds of thousands of users every month with free content, but has a product they sell related to their free content, using an email campaign to deliver fresh content and sell users access to better content/ products could work very well. However, if their content is so great, they should really be on Social Media as well.


What’s the cheapest way to do it?


Without a doubt, viral video marketing is the least expensive way to do it. While the cost of a good video is high, the virality means there is almost no limit to who will see it. The second option, that is more predictable than “going viral,” is a quality video based Social Media campaign. It is three times cheaper to reach an individual with video than with photos. Combine the inexpensive cost to reach an individual, with the precise targeting and you have a real opportunity to make an impact on someone.


Do we have to use video?

Yes. By 2020 75% of all internet usage is projected to be video. It is more engaging and less expensive to reach users with. It also increases conversion rates on landing pages and ecommerce pages.

Find out how we can put solutions like these to work for you.