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Britt Schwartz

By Britt Schwartz

Jun 19, 2017


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9 Stages of Digital Intimacy Your Marketing Needs To Respect

Britt Schwartz

By Britt Schwartz

Jun 19, 2017

9 Stages of Digital Intimacy Your Marketing Needs To Respect

Right now, I’m totally obsessed with Digital Marketer’s Value Journey Canvas (even if I call it something different every time I say it). 

The concept seems so simple, but it’s extremely powerful in the digital marketing space. Ryan Deiss from Digital Marketer gives a talk about the 12 Stages of Intimacy, as it relates to human-to-human contact and explains how that helped inform this new journey map for consumers. 

Immediately after watching their video, I started implementing this into our marketing strategies.

Even my husband knows what this is and why I love it so much. The more I explained it, the more I bought it. Then, during an 8-hour extended stay at the Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, I re-listened to the video and the ideas of digital intimacy, what it means, and how marketing just ignores it, started rolling around in my mind.

Let me share what I’ve because to work out and jump in to help me continue to refine it! 

What Is Digital Intimacy?

In 2006, the internet was something we went to, after waiting for our AOL CD-ROM to load and cringing when the shrill dial up sounds started. In 2017, the internet is not something we go to, it’s something we live in.

Social media profiles, blogs, email inboxes, cloud storage, music playlists, they are all online and are now an extension of our physical beings.

They are our territory in the cyber world; a reflection of who we are and how we interact, and they’re all accessible practically everywhere we go.. It’s as if, like our physical personal space, they hold a piece of us and as far as our brains can tell, they do. (I’m working on backing this with science!)

If we accept that we’ve expanded our personal space to include our digital presence, then digital intimacy is the understanding that prospects could have real-life emotions, actions, and reactions when someone enters their digital personal space. 

Every interaction that we and our prospects have online are translated to real-world responses.

The 9 Stages of Digital Intimacy helps us understand what happens when strangers become advocates of brands online.

The Stages of Digital Intimacy

Borrowing the concept from Desmond Morris, I’ve laid out what the 10 stages of digital intimacy is for a prospect when engaging with a brand or company. 

  1. Eye to Brand - A logo, ad, image of the company is seen.

  2. Brain to Brand - The brand is recognized as something worth paying attention to, so the brain kicks in and starts analyzing.

  3. Brand to Thought - Now on the mind, the brain begins to create an impression of the brand. Is this for me? Can it help me?  

  4. Thought to Interest - The brain has determined this brand/company is for it and begins to assess need.

  5. Interest to Action - The brain likes what it sees enough to take action. Click a call-to-action (CTA.) Look at more pages. Follow on social media.

  6. Action to Investment - The action paid off. The prospect found relevant information during the action and is ready to invest. The investment could be time, money, or information.

  7. Investment to Relationship - After investing time, information, or money, the prospect begins a relationship with the brand during the core offering purchase.

  8. Relationship to Friend - If all goes well, the brand is no longer a brand or company, it’s a familiar friend that is allowed to move freely in the digital space.

  9. Friend to Advocate - When enough value has been shared between the customer and the company, advocacy becomes the last stage. 

Why Your Marketing Can’t Ignore This 

Desmond Morris also notably said that it didn’t seem to matter how quickly a couple moved through the stages of intimacy, but they were only successful if they didn’t skip more than three steps at a time.

Imagine having someone you’ve never met, walk up and touch your face. Now, imagine having a website you’ve never visited before asking you for your name, email, phone number, company name, job title, and biggest fear about your current work situation. 

Imagine having an new friend move in unexpectedly. Now, imagine having your inbox filled with note after note asking for attention that you’re not sure you want to give away.   

 I’m exhausted just reading that.

Now, my favorite part about the Value Journey Canvas is it respects and allows for our prospects to move to different stages of the funnel based on their own comfort level. Too often as marketers, we expect our visitors will come to the site, fill out a form, read our three follow-up emails, and call the number at the bottom of the third email to give their credit card number -- but that’s hardly ever the case.

Following the Natural Buyer’s Journey

Having easy access to data has made it more difficult (though even more important) for us to remember the human on the other side of our marketing. We see a phone number or email as an opportunity to pounce, but doing this too soon, like going in for a first kiss too soon, can be extremely off-putting.

Mentally, the buyer may not be ready to take that step and marketers need to recognize that. 

Marketing turns people away when it feels mass-produced, pushy, and like a late-night infomercial. 

It can be painful when you have monthly targets to meet and the numbers just don’t seem to get where they need to be. Traffic, conversions, leads, MQLs, SQLs - why can’t they all just go up and to the right each month?

Because your buyers’ journey will rarely ever just be up and to the right.

Their journeys will curve around our workflows, content, ads, and maybe even disappear only to come back 8 months later.

Creating digital marketing people love and respond to requires building strategies, plans, and tactics that truly understands the needs it’s solving and respects that each persona has a unique buyers’ path. These stages of digital intimacy help us humanize our approach and results in more effective marketing, but it all starts with understanding your persona

Sound Off

Tell me, do you think digital intimacy and the 9 stages are something that we should be considering in our digital marketing?

Are you totally bought in and ready to understand how to apply these stages to your marketing? Schedule a meeting with one of our strategist to explore how to best evolve your current marketing!

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