Digital Marketing Circle

October 2022 Update: I no longer use this within my teachings at NYU, but still believe there is an effectiveness to answering the Why, What, Where, and How. Is a circle the best form of representation? I am no longer sold on the circle but believe there are some other valuable points in here worth keeping the post live.

Circles within other circles. It’s a representative diagram of so many different meanings, one of my favorites being Simon Sinek’s version.

For the past two years, I’ve drawn this version on the whiteboard in my Digital Marketing class at New York University:

Digital Marketing Circle

This graphic is used to depict the core foundational concepts of digital marketing. I believe, respecting the bond of each – the how, where, what and why circles – is important in formulating the decision process of an effective marketing campaign.

Digital Marketing Circle Background

My first semester at NYU, I taught E-Commerce Marketing. In that class, I first used (and still do to this day) an upside-down funnel to represent the three core components of the conversion funnel – awareness, hook and payment:

ECommerce Marketing Funnel

When I was asked to teach Digital Marketing a semester later, I needed something to represent similar core components of that topic, as well. But unlike the funnel, which leads the user down the path to purchase and highlights dropoff, digital marketing has supporting components, not directional.

Digital Marketing Circle Components

What I had to do was think of the simplest considerations necessary for any digital marketing campaign. That’s where I narrowed down the list to the following four components:

Why: The lead objective of what you’re looking to promote – purchase, email sign-up, video view, download, etc.

What: The product or service you’re marketing to achieve that result – blog post, mobile app, shampoo, etc.

Where: The specific location of your product or service – website, app store, voice skill, etc.

How: The marketing tactic that you’re looking to execute – search engine marketing, email marketing, display ads, organic social marketing, etc.

In other words, ask yourself the following:
Why am I running this campaign?
What product or service am I promoting?
Where will the consumer be sent from my campaign?
How will I get a user to my “where?”

Going Deeper

I build the digital marketing circle from the inside out, starting with the core: the “why.” This is the goal of the campaign – the reason you’re doing any marketing in the first place. To remember this, ask yourself, “why are you running this campaign?”

Whatever the objective is, make sure it’s measurable. I know this seems common sense, but without metrics, there’s no measurable ROI (return on investment). This is hands down the most important part of the digital marketing circle – it’s why it’s the core.

Surrounding the “why” is the “what.” It’s the specific product or service you’re looking to promote to drive that result. Key in on the word “specific” above.

For example, if your “why” is to obtain a sale, “what” specifically are you promoting to get that purchase? It could be a blog post with an excerpt of your latest e-book or a specific product like a coffee mug.

Encompassing the both the “why” and “what” is the “where.” This is the exact location you will be sending users to find the “what.” In the above example of a coffee mug, the where could be an URL.

Finally, around it all is the “how,” the select marketing channel that you’re going to promote the product or service. Any digital marketing channel will do here. These channels will point to the location defined in “where.”

Breaking It Down

Here’s a more specific example using that $1.99 e-book mentioned above:

“Why” – Sale
“What” – e-Book
“Where” – (Note: Doesn’t exist; one day!)
“How” – Google paid search marketing

Let’s do one more, using an example of an Uber mobile app install:

“Why” – Download
“What” – Uber mobile app
“Where” –
“How” – Facebook campaign

The reason “how” is around all of it as the largest circle is there can be multiple ways to market everything within it. In the example above, you could also do social media, paid display ads, and other types of digital marketing to still drive to the website URL with a blog post to obtain a $1.99 e-book sale.

Let me be clear, however, that running a campaign is not as simple as just determining those four components. There are a lot of other decisions that must be made within each, but these set the table for the work ahead. They provide direction.

As the semester progresses, we dig into each of these much further. Since digital marketing is the top of the e-commerce marketing funnel, we focus heavily on the “how.” I use individual classes to dissect search, social, display, content, email, and more.

But no matter what the “how” is, no marketer is choosing to utilize these channels without a purpose. In other words, without a “why.” You just need the “where” and “what” to get there.

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