The See - Think - Do - Care (STDC) Model is a simple yet powerful business framework, designed for optimal effectiveness and maximum impact.
My first exposure to STDC was via Google executive Avinash Kaushik's writings, then later in training I took from Kaushik via his Market Motive enterprise. The more time I spend with it, the more I admire it.
Kaushik, who also works as a global consultant, has used the framework to help corporate clients drive innovation rapidly. You'll also now find it's a foundational component of much of Think Google's work. (See this and this.)
At the core of STDC are two principles:
- There are 4 different audience intent clusters.
- You need to solve for all four in order to be successful.
The 4 audience intent clusters are consideration stages. Each intent cluster has a specific scope and definition.
Note: Take some care to figure out the "qualified" factor that defines your audience. What expressed behavior qualifies them to be in your LAQA (largest addressable qualified audience)?
The audience intent clusters were named See, Think, and Do to facilitate viewing everything, from start to finish, through the lens of the customer's perspective. This is a subtle yet profound difference (not the only difference) with other models. What is it like for a consumer to see your brand for the first time? What do you want their experience to be like? What will it be like for them to become engaged and to begin to think about your brand's offerings? What causes them to move from considering your offerings to taking action (the do stage). What is that experience of taking action like for them?
This is fundamentally different from the old "AIDA" model (awareness - interest- desire- action). That model, associated with marketing/sales "funnels" and with one-way mass communications, pre-dates the Internet and the remarkable array of information we have now about the customer intent. (AIDA has been dated variously to the period between 1898 to 1911.) It thrived in an era of mass advertising when big brands had to rely on massive blitzes across billboards, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines: the one-way 'megaphone' that spoke but couldn't listen.
The STDC framework will help you adapt to the hyper customer-centricity required for today's brands to succeed. To take full advantage of the promise of digital means capitalizing on audience intent signals: capturing the intent, understanding it, knowing how to respond to it in your content, marketing, and measurement. You'll be able to treat your prospect with intelligence, in a way that feels authentic them, and keeps them in the driver's seat for the entire customer journey.
The framework will also help you break out of departmental silos and move beyond legacy (“But, we’ve always done program X”) activities. Silos create obstacles to integrated marketing, fragment your view, and prevent teams from being able to grasp, and effectively address, the complete customer journey.
Lastly, realize that STDC is not a "funnel." We know today that the customer path to purchase is non-linear. And most people who speaks of funnels are missing the "See" stage and most of "Care."
THINK, THEN FISH
This STDC framework was created to teach you how to think about the complete business of digital. It facilitates capturing, in an optimal way, the complexity of digital marketing and measurement, but can cover all offline initiatives as well.
This framework not primarily a "fill in the blank" form or matrix: it's the thinking behind the framework that is critical to your success.
The framework will lead you to build audience intent-based strategies:
- You will craft content, marketing, and measurement strategies to match each consideration stage.
- For each specific consideration stage, you'll use only channels that are optimal for that stage.
As you work through the framework, it will help you reach these goals (for offline and online), framed by its founder:
"1. Identify gaps in your content/engagement/channel strategy on the web,
2. Reflect on whether your marketing and advertising initiatives are broad enough and optimized enough for each customer consideration stage,
3. Answer the question: Are we truly measuring the efficiency/outcome/value from each stage optimally, or are we judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree?"
Now: print this wisdom out and frame it:
Non-profit tip: If you are a non-profit, then add to that foundation this precursor: a crisp, clear purpose. A scattered, unfocused purpose, will not be 'fixed' by applying the STDC framework. You cannot work through STDC effectively or rationally without a clear purpose in place first. Ask: What are you doing on a daily basis, and for whom, and how is it impacting situation X? A vague mission, no matter how lofty, will set you on a circular track to nowhere. Get amazing clarity. Attempting STDC without a clear purpose is like trying to Beat Bobby Flay without your main ingredients. ("I present my chicken cordon bleu! - sans le chicken!" said no one ever.)
Content, Marketing, and Measurement
Now let's return to our audience intent-based strategies. We mentioned that this framework covers content, marketing, and measurement. Here's a closer look at what's included in that.
- Advertising content (creative, copy, targeting strategy, calls-to-action);
- Landing page content (creative, copy, calls-to-action), whether dedicated or on your website;
- Content pushed to social media channels;
- Email content (and we could include multi-channel marketing automation content);
- Metrics and KPIs used for each consideration stage;
- Channels used for each consideration stage (channels include advertising, marketing, and social media channels);.
Put another way, not every social channel, or advertising channel "works" for a particular consideration stage. Same for content, copy, creative, calls-to-action. Same for targeting strategies and metrics.
One error some businesses fall into is to spend the majority of their marketing resources on just one consideration stage.
- If it's the "See" stage, the result may be lots of traffic with few conversions.
- If it's the "Do" stage, your targets (in the "See" and "Think" stage) may be put off by your "buy from me now!" messaging, leading to high acquisition costs and low sales.
Another error is to plan all of your marketing through the lens of demographics or psychographics, which do not correlate with customer intent. Segmenting and targeting your audience according to levels of intent and interest will enable you to identify and find your future customers and loyal supporters.
Let's look at a simple example of defined audience clusters, using one of Kaushik's consulting cases: The Becel company.
Now let's walk through the assessment process.
This process will always use the same two questions (as framed by Kaushik).
Let's assume you are reviewing your "See" strategy. You have been using display advertising to target the "See" stage only. You can begin the assessment process with these two questions:
1. Is our ad creative, targeting and purpose properly aligned with the consideration stage and audience?;
2. Is this all we can accomplish from display advertising on the Internet?
Regarding Question 2: Display advertising can be an effective channel for all consideration stages. If you were to expand your display advertising to encompass the remaining three consideration stages, you'd need to craft creative, copy, targeting, and metrics, separately, for each remaining consideration stage: Think, Do, and Care.
Let's assume you are using a Facebook strategy to reach your See intent cluster.
You begin to assess by asking the same two questions:
1. Is our content, targeting, advertising, and purpose for Facebook properly aligned with the See consideration stage and audience?
2. Is this all we can accomplish on Facebook?
Remember, in the "See" stage we are targeting the broadest addressable qualified audience. Let's assume we are running Facebook advertising campaigns to drive brand awareness: our goal is for those new people we find to see and know our brand. We're saying "Hello, nice to meet you." Simple.
- Is our advertising creative and copy broad enough?
- Does our targeting strategy match this audience intent cluster?
- If we are drawing this cluster to our Facebook page, will they find content there suitable for their consideration stage? (Broadly targeted content with a light touch providing utility, information, or entertainment?)
- How are we measuring success for this strategy? If you are expecting short-term sales/revenue from this strategy, you're using the wrong measuring stick. Sales/revenue comes from the "Do" intent cluster, which Facebook is not a good channel for. The number of Facebook followers is a terrible metric as well as for this stage (and for any stage). Let's use the hybrid metric of amplification + conversation + applause: all three, not just one. (Amplification refers to sharing rate, conversation refers to commenting rate, applause refers to "liking" rate.)
Next, in our assessment, we would ask:
- Is this all we can accomplish on Facebook?
Noting that Facebook is an effective channel also for the Care intent cluster (see the graphic in the next section), we would then look at creating distinct Facebook strategies for our Care cluster.
Let's assume next that you want to review all of your social media strategies (instead of starting with a single intent cluster).
You begin the assessment by asking:
1. Is our content, targeting, advertising, and purpose for social channels properly aligned with the consideration stage and audience?
2. Is this all we can accomplish in social channels?
MATCHING CHANNELS TO THE AUDIENCE INTENT CLUSTER
This graphic highlights which channels work well with each of the 4 intent clusters. Note: this channel information is drawn from Kaushik's consulting practice, with some slight modifications by me. We can view this as representing a set of best practices, but as with all digital, treat best practices as a starting point. There are exceptions. Test and confirm which channels are optimal for your business, then create your own diagram.
*AFF = affiliate advertising
A few sample takeaways and questions you can draw from the above graphic and the STDC model generally:
- Do you have top content and engagement points for all 4 clusters?
- Social channels are great for See. What's your strategy for Think and Do?
- What are you doing with PPC?
- Do you have a retargeting strategy?
- Does your "Think" content for Display match that intent cluster? Does the creative?
- What's your Facebook "Care" strategy?
Why You Can No Longer Define Your Marketing Strategy By Channels
The businesses that can innovate, truly understand today’s consumer journey, and address consumers’ needs at every touchpoint are going to find themselves in a position to win. Think with Google