Using the See-Think-Do-Care framework to optimise the Buyer’s Journey

Time to update your marketing framework?

An inbound marketing strategy is only as good as the model of reality it’s based on. And every now and then, our marketing models need to be updated – or even replaced – to keep up with the changing reality. Of course, not just the models, but the way we think.

It seems some marketers still use the good old AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action) model of the buying process. AIDA was developed by a door-to-door cash register salesman, John Wanamaker, long before the digital age. One of its problems is that it doesn’t encourage us to take a customer perspective or consider how the customers mindsets change when they move through the buyer’s journey. Old-school sales centric marketing, where the entire audience is spammed with the same “buy now!” content whether they are interested in buying or not, simply doesn’t work today.

Why not?

Well, first of all, it makes our content irrelevant to the majority of the people who might become our future customers, instead of engaging them. Only a fraction of the total audience will have the intention to buy in a certain moment, since most of it will be in an earlier stage of the buyer’s journey. Yet many routinely optimize their marketing only for this tiny group of people. If we’re lucky, they’ll think we are pushy and ignore our content. If we’re less than lucky, they’ll actively avoid anything with our brand on it for all future.

My advice to brands is: Don’t slug it out with everyone else solely at the I-want-to-buy part of the lower funnel. Reach these customers long before your competitor does, such as during the I-want-to-know moments, and build brand affinity. (Acronym CMO Mike Grehan in an interview with Scribble 2015)

Second of all, chances are that they’ve already developed a preference for competing brands earlier in their buying process. If so, it might be too late to woo them at this point – you’d be well advised to build a relationship with them much earlier.

But who am I to tell, you knew this already, right? 😉

Then here’s my next question:

Is your inbound marketing strategy based on a relevant framework? One that reflects how B2B decision makers and influencers actually behave on their digital customer journey 2020?

The See-Think-Do-Care Framework

Our audience will have different needs and intentions depending on which stage of the buying journey they’re in. So to engage with them, we need to adapt our content to each stage, but not only that. We should also consider using different channels and KPIs for each stage, unless we want to leave most of the potential business to our competitors. To reflect this reality, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik came up with a customer centric “business framework” he called See-Think-Do-Care (STDC). He calls it business framework since it’s not really limited to the Marketing department. It seems to have survived its trial period gracefully, used by many for seven years or so. It basically divides the customer journey into the same steps most content marketers are using: Awareness-Consideration-Action-Loyalty. At a glance, it actually doesn’t seem to be that much different. The obvious thing is that the names of the stages reflect the intent or mindset of the audience (very customer centric indeed). But there’s more to it.


In the See-phase (corresponding to Awareness), we aim for the Largest Addressable Qualified Audience (LAQA), those who will discover your brand for the first time. Example: key decision makers and influencers at all companies that need a business system.

In the Think-phase (Consideration), we aim for the entire LAQA with mild commercial intent, those who are thinking about your brand’s offerings. Example: key decision makers and influencers who consider getting a new business system and are looking into the alternatives.

In the Do-phase (Action), we aim for those who are ready to transact, that is, those who are willing to purchase or in process of purchasing from you. Example: key decision makers and influencers who have decided to buy a business system in the near future and are considering your system.

In the Care-phase (Adoption, Loyalty and Advocacy), we aim for repeat customers with an affinity for your brand. Example: key decision makers and influencers at customer companies.

Now for the really good stuff. For each phase, the STDC framework proposes a content strategy, a channel (or “marketing”) strategy and a measurement strategy.

First we simply ask ourselves what content will best match the intention of our audience in each stage. For instance, content should be broad and not about your brand early in the buyer’s journey. As you interact more with the reader and gather behavioural data, it can be more personalized and related to your product and company. When creating content for those who hit the Do stage with money burning holes through their pockets, it’s about making their purchase as easy as possible.

Kaushik also recommends different channels for each stage. It’s probably no shocker that social media and search are key for getting a good reach in the See stage. Later on, as prospects trade in their email address for valuable content, we can use marketing automation and nurturing programs, dynamically adapted to their individual behaviour. And of course, expect the most essential customer experiences – the moments that matter – to take place on a mobile device outside an office context, like on a train, in an airport or a hotel room.

STDC Recommended Channels. Source: Signalfox.

Finally, we need to look at relevant KPIs to be able to set goals and measure the success of each phase. A tip: ask yourself what you want your audience to do in each buying stage. Then figure out how how to measure that. Just don’t just asssume that the same set of KPIs apply through the whole customer journey – they probably don’t.

In the See stage, you typically want to achieve awareness, so you will want to optimize reach and share of voice.

In the Think stage, you want people to search for your brand (number of brand searches), and to engage with your content (click-through rate, engagement rate etc.). This is probably where you might expect to start creating leads, so number of leads (MQLs and maybe SQLs) is probably relevant.

In the Do stage, where you just want them to buy, a sales metric like closed deal rate or net sales might align nicely with your business goals. What’ are your company’s most important financial KPIs?

Finally, in the Care stage, you want your customers to buy more, so optimise your marketing efforts to increase the repeat purchase rate or yearly purchase volume. Since advocacy in a way is the “final outcome” of the perfect buyer’s journey, it wouldn’t hurt to measure it too, perhaps by having recommendations as part of the customer satisfaction survey.

Reasons for using the STDC framework

As recognized in content marketing, it’s key to identify the moments when decisions and preferences are being made, and then to be there in those moments to help the customers move forward on their journey. These “moments that matter” take place at any time and any place that suits our audience, and we usually have to make use of the tiny screen of a mobile to make the magic happen.

The STDC-model encourages us to take the customers’ perspective. It urges us to consider that they will have a different intent in each step of the B2B buying process, and that each step requires different content, channels and KPIs. All in all, it’s a framework built for a holistic approach where we can make all moving parts work together in unison and prevent costly sub-optimisation of marketing and sales efforts. It well-suited for cross-department initiatives – Marketing, Sales, Customer Service – since it covers all customer touch points.

No doubt, even an excellent and relatively new model like the STDC needs to be updated, complemented and adapted now and then to match our new challenges. But it’s a good reference framework to adapt to your needs.

In my upcoming articles, I’ll share some tips on how you can work out an effective strategy for inbound B2B marketing based on the STDC framework. We’ll be planning the buyer’s journey starting with a destination, a group of travellers, a map, a means of communication and finally, a way of tracking their whereabouts.

We’re all learning from each other. If you’ve any questions, comments or tips, I’d love to hear them – just reach out to me on Linkedin.


Stay tuned!
/Erik