Looking back 5 years I can still remember how discussions went with advertisers and how the focus revolved around clicks and impressions. Google Search was in the pinnacle era and it seemed everyone starting this kind of advertising had positive ROI no matter what the traffic was that they gathered. Then slowly Google Analytics was adopted, competition increased and suddenly e-commerce became available driving to  better informed decisions. This was at about the same time as big online stores started their push towards ROI advertising and CPA became a big word in business. Everything after that is history, we had case studies spreading on the success in digital marketing – Google search specifically.

What about startups? Do we often hear the same stories on the e-commerce side? In all fairness, we do. There are challengers in existing industries that enter Google search auctions and outperform competition with simply offering 10x better solution, driving up their conversion rate and consequently being able to obtain top rankings. In a lot of cases this were aggregators of offers, which offers an additional advantage in the auctions (more offer = higher chance of someone finding the right offer for them). The example of these advertisers are booking.com, Amazon and startups that very well challenged the industry is Airbnb.com with a better offer.

So we know now that there are business models and industries where this is possible. But if you think about it you can quickly notice that the majority of startups provide an alternative for an industry. An example could be GoPro when it entered the industry, the company was for sure not a market leader and they were not a standard camera someone would be looking for. They were niche and Google search barely existed for that industry (meaning there were very few or no searches on that topic). I can imagine Oculus Rift had a similar problem with virtual reality headset industry just a few years ago.

So how do these startups navigate between clicks and conversions. The reality is that they rely on push and branding campaigns that play on the card of virality. These products are cool enough for you to talk about them, share the news about them and actually watch a video on YouTube or Facebook and talk to your friends about them a couple of hours later. Observing the most successful campaigns on crowdfunding platforms, they are really masters at that. They complement the reach, traffic and video engagement that later translates to revenue. Do not get me wrong, they do look at their conversion rates, ROI per channel and spend per stage in the consumer journey. However they are aware of limitations and they observe ratios, as the consumer journey is similar between users, so that allows them to benchmark platforms and channels and position them on the right place in the journey, adjusting investment that way.

Here the best tool to help yourself with is the Zero moment of truth methodology and McKinsey’s Loyalty loop is nicely visualized by SmartInsights via the journey that  explains the connection between the moments:


Source: SmartInsights

This is personally one of the best models to work with when scaling startups and looking for a solutions on how to see the big picture beyond clicks and conversions.