Rethink Onboarding. Rethink Activation.

As marketers battle the ever-rising acquisition costs on Facebook and Instagram, I have come to realize the new importance in eliminating the friction in user on-boarding and the critical role that marketing has come to play in shaping digital UX.

The bull market, and boom in VC capital deployed across Silicon valley has stuffed Facebook and Google’s coffers with ad revenue, and the subsequent explosion in cost has led the most data-savvy companies to rethink the acquisition funnel.

It’s no longer feasible for a founder or VP of Growth to run quality traffic – whether lookalike or targeted search — on their offer and hope to receive a good return on their investment via the most price inelastic users.

Brand authenticity is a word I keep hearing from VCs to standout amongst the crowd. But more than authenticity, I think “persuasion” is the new buzzword we should be coining when talking to founders.

This is where rethinking the funnel comes into play. Just think of it as a slower sell.

Now what’s the ideal first touchpoint? And, how do you nurture from there? These are the new questions to answer.

Needless to say, the answers will differ depending on product or vertical. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on mass market B2C (pretty much, the hallmark of IoT).

In my mind, everything is on the table…that’s how expensive ad inventory has become.

Likes, video views, conversations started, web visits, app store visits – we can consider all of them (you read that right, I even said “likes”).

Given my disdain for the friction in the app store, and the cookie cutter template you have to deal with in regards to your app store page (not to mention slower mobile connectivity in general)…I have a strong preference for focusing on the experience you create with your first ad unit or web visit.

We could split the rest of the conversation between ad content (paid) and owned content (web visit) but of course they should be integrated. So it’s still really one conversation, especially as it relates to the first touch point.

As mentioned above I love web-based on-boarding flows, but if your key activation metric can be achieved in a chat conversation in messenger, no need to take them off Facebook I say.

I am not going to go into a “messenger is the future” rant here, my main point is simply to start the conversation wherever you can showcase the value of your product fastest and get them to convert. This isn’t the app store in a lot of situations.

And if your conversion window is long due to the nature of whatever your selling, then starting the conversation wherever you can engage your target audience fastest and convince them to keep the conversation going is critical (i.e. collect e-mail, phone #, or messenger opt-in) – this could be in a landing page or messenger chat.

My point is to leverage all available platforms at your disposal in your marketing funnel.

Given the proliferation of internet connected devices, it is likely that your most effective marketing funnel will consist of multiple platforms, each leveraging their own native strength to deliver some portion of your value proposition. The most common example here would be desktop web as a means of user on-boarding (account creation and personalization), and mobile app as a key part of long-term engagement or retention.

Of course there is a multiplicity of potential funnels out there, the above is just a common pattern given the usage of devices out there. It is here where marketers are increasingly playing a role in UX and even product design.

This isn’t something new per say, as digital marketers have been playing a key role in design via optimizing conversion in web apps for over a decade now. Not to mention, optimizing discovery via SEO and social-sharing.

That said, the proliferation of computing platforms have taken a marketer’s role to the next level, to build a seamless digital experience that flows through the entire IoT landscape.

This realization has fueled the rise of cross-device marketing automation SaaS. A number of 3rd party platforms have built their value proposition around streamlining communication across the entire digital ecosystem – I am referring to the likes of Iterable, Braze, Marketo, and even Salesforce. Communication is personalized by user-behavior, and thus effectively engages your users no matter where they are.

But beyond mar-tech vendors, the importance of cross-device engagement has led to the rise of growth-product teams. These are folks responsible for merging distribution with the core product, this includes everything from reducing friction in on-boarding to porting the core product to new platforms – especially those with built-in distribution channels.

As capital continues to flow freely, and we continue to see the inevitable “commodification of everything”, the teams who understand how to best leverage digital platforms to go-to-market and grow will surely have an advantage over those who don’t.

Finding the right talent, especially early on in an organization’s lifecycle is becoming increasingly important. Throwing money at old distribution mechanics will not be a winning strategy to scale.

The race to pioneer new digital experiences that are seamless across devices and intuitive in on-boarding will without a doubt yield the winning growth strategies of the future.

Buckle up.

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