Monday, December 21, 2009

Part 2 of Latent Pipeline: Digital Topography

The latent pipeline concept that I layed out last week is one that sounds good on its surface, but as a German colleague of mine would say, "where is the detail?" The key to operationalizing latent pipeline is having a really good grasp of marketing from the customer's perspective, that is, online. What I call this (and this is my term) is online topography. I call it this because it reminds me a lot of a topographical map. You have features on the map (mountains, streams, trails) and you also have altitude, a scalar field that permeates the whole two-dimensional plane.

This is similar to what a fully fleshed out online topography looks like. To make one, you need three things:
  1. A use case, for example, moms searching for nursery schools in Washington, DC
  2. A pipeline, from the customer's perspective
  3. A map of all the places customers go to achieve this use case

Then, you sum all of the customers up (i.e. integrate the function) and you have your topography. There's a lot of math that can go into this, and there's a lot of research that must, but at its simplest, we're still just talking about a graphical representation.

I've included a B2B-relevant use case below, in this case "IT Professionals Purchasing Blade Servers." I totally made this up, and it's based on 30 minutes of research, but it gets the point across. Notice, it uses the same type of graphic as we used to describe latent pipeline:

On the left-most side of the pipeline are "company sites". This would include all of the places customers go on specific companies' sites. I also threw "tele" and "field sales" in there. Notice this is a small piece of the pie. Then there's "relevant public universe" which is where all the pretty icons are. These are the topic-specific sites that customers use to research, price, discuss, and decide through the buying process. These are important for two reasons: (1) you can get on these properties, either through PR or straight advertising, and, (2) you can cookie users on these sites and retarget them on the third slice, "other public behavior." This is the long tail that I discussed in detail in this post.

What's not shown in this visual is the importance of each area of the map, the "altitude". For example, I've got Google on here, which would disaggregate into all of the search terms people use for blade servers, which might be the highest mountain on the map by a long shot. I have mixed display and search together here, because I think that's OK. This is not an internet taxonomy, it's a map, which is different. We'll do taxonomies another time.

So, once a marketer has a topography, it becomes possible to start thinking about marketing mix optimization from a whole different perspective, that is, from the customer's perspective and totally digitally. New dimensions of targeting also open up when you think of your site, relevant internet, and audience non-relevant internet together, but linkable via cookieing.

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