Marketing Practices for Better Returns

Way back in 1904, long before marketers concerned themselves with demand generation, marketing automation and Grumpy Cat memes, Frank Hutchinson Dukesmith wrote in the magazine Salesmanship: "A sale of any kind has four essential parts: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Conviction. Take these in their proper order. Do not mistake polite attention for interest and do not assume when a desire for possession is aroused that conviction has been reached."

The 20th Century Funnel

Elias St. Elmo Lewis is generally, though perhaps erroneously, credited for conceptualizing the customer journey as a series of four stages: awareness, interest, desire and action, now commonly known by the acronym AIDA. In his 1924 book Bond Salesmanship, author William W. Townsend took things a step further when he combined Lewis' model with the now-popular "purchase funnel." This is where customers begin their journey as part of a large pool of potential buyers who shrink in number as marketing practices push them toward a final sale.

Although businesses today still look to these models to formulate and measure the effectiveness of their marketing, the Internet has forever transformed the AIDA customer journey, and new strategies have emerged to address this.

The Customer Journey in the 21st Century

Thanks to the Internet and mobile and cloud technology, product information, prices, various targeted forms of engagement and advertising, reviews and friend recommendations are available almost instantly to customers across the globe. This degree of immediacy between customers and businesses would have been unimaginable to Lewis and Townsend, although both men's concepts still provide a helpful way to map the steps, or "conversions," toward a sale.

With that in mind, here are some of today's most common, effective digital marketing practices aligned with the four stages of the AIDA model.


Social media is an incredibly effective tool for establishing brand identity and increasing customer awareness - the first stage in the AIDA customer journey. Different social media platforms encourage different types of messaging, although they may be subtle. For instance, a business' page on Facebook may be more casual in tone and more visually oriented in presentation than its LinkedIn, but both sites will serve the larger goal of establishing the widest possible audience.

Behind the scenes, search engine marketing (SEM) and optimization (SEO) increase the visibility of a business' website in search rankings through seamless incorporation of keywords, links back to the site from social posts and other "white hat" techniques. High search ranking is crucial in an age where the majority of consumers are using Google to research products and services.


Interest is the stage where a customer expresses interest in a business' products or services. A good example is signing up to receive e-newsletters and other promotional materials; or when a white paper about an industry topic or consumer-centric issue is downloaded from the company's website.

When this type of action results in a contact data capture, the marketing team is then able to analyze prospects' demographic, personal interests and preferred means of shopping. Knowing these components will help a business determine how to introduce stage three: desire.


Desire refers to a prospect's expressed interest in a specific product or service. Promotional emails and automated marketing, where direct emails are generated as a result of website activity, are two of the most popular marketing practices with this particular end in mind. The open and click rate for both methods can be surprisingly high; when combined with a robust approach to list generation and respect for opt-outs, these notifications can transition patrons to the final stage of the purchasing journey: action!


Action in the AIDA journey simply refers to whatever results a marketing campaign is designed to achieve. When it comes to online purchases, for example, the layout of a website and its button structure can make or break a sale. Businesses need to be sure consumers can take action no matter what platform they are hoping to complete a transaction from, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile device.

After action comes retention, or how a company inspires loyalty and repeat customers. All of the practices we've named can contribute to achieving this goal and, thanks to the easy availability of detailed analytics, reveal ways a business can continually renew its marketing strategy.

These approaches are still reasonably new, and the journey of a customer unfolds in a less linear fashion than it did at the turn of the 20th century. However, the ultimate ends remain the same: brand awareness, a growing customer base and increased revenue.

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