The BackBONE of Digital Marketing

Last updated: May 10, 2024

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins is a dynamic digital marketing expert and a driving force behind The Evergreen Agency's success. With a passion for technology and a deep understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape, Aaron has become a trusted name in the industry.

Read Aaron's bio here

Buy it. Own it. Nurture it. Earn it.

Discover the ethos behind The Backbone of Digital Marketing, what it is and how brands can use this framework to transform their approach to digital marketing.

Use this guide to understand where your traffic, sales and ultimately revenue is coming from and where your strategies are over reliant on one or two channels.


Welcome to The BackBONE of Digital Marketing

There is a great quote by Albert Einstein that says; “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Keeping it simple, stupid (KISS), was the motivation behind this digital marketing resource. That and a desire to highlight to clients how risky their marketing strategies are through an over reliance on one or two channels.

In digital marketing, brands – and agencies – love to overcomplicate things. It’s one of the main reasons that the industry has had to overcome its ‘smoke and mirrors’ reputation for years, and why brands can be sceptical about digital marketing, not only as an entity, but as a service full-stop.

When I started Evergreen more than a decade ago, I wanted to find a way to speak to the brands we worked with, to communicate our way of working and share the subsequent results in a way that cut through the noise.

This method still forms the basis of how we run Evergreen today. We call it the BackBONE of Digital Marketing.

Brands have a myriad of digital marketing channels and platforms at their disposal and with so many channels and so much data, we needed a way to simplify everything so we could highlight to a client what their data was telling us in a clear, concise and consistent way.

This desire to analyse all of the available data and yet still retain control of the bigger picture would later manifest itself into a core philosophy, which is at the heart of this guide, and is represented by the Four Pillars that make up the BONE structure that we use throughout all of our client strategies.

They are Buy It, Own It, Nurture It and Earn It pillars.

These pillars and this model allow us to ask a very simple question;

“Where is your growth coming from right now and how reliant are you on any one channel?”

The BackBONE of Digital Marketing

  • Bought leads offer immediate and predictable results. Paid media, such as paid search, or social media advertising can provide immediate and predictable results.
  • Owned traffic usually in the form of branded search terms provides full control over content like websites and blogs and can be cost-effective in the long run.
  • Nurtured traffic builds loyalty and a community. Nurtured revenue includes emails, social media, or subscriptions and memberships which facilitate two-way dialogue with the audience and helps build community and loyalty.
  • Earned traffic brings credibility and brand awareness. Earned traffic from non-branded search terms, back links or PR coverage brings credibility and high exposure to a brand. However, it is difficult to secure and control the narrative.

The BackBONE model is not about marketing tools or specific platforms per-se, but rather a model in more simple terms allows businesses to capture and measure their marketing efforts – and results.

We ask brands to quantify their marketing investment and subsequent returns across the four interconnected pillars, and from a purely attributional standpoint, highlight how reliant they are on traffic, leads and revenue that is either bought, owned, nurtured or earned.

Initially we don’t then split out the pillars into their separate channels and platforms, but instead put all bought revenue, owned traffic, nurtured clients, and earned traffic into one space.

This insight, combined with real time data provides a comprehensive and clear picture of activities across various channels. By incorporating results on bought, owned, nurtured and earned traffic and revenue, organisations can distil a multifaceted marketing strategy and various audience engagement plans that are layered across diverse digital touchpoints into four distinct, easy-to-understand pillars.

From this position we can identify spend, and return from each pillar and if necessary, recommend a more balanced, integrated strategies that reduce the reliance on any one pillar and instead combine the pillars to work together to create more optimal results.

Like I said, keep it simple, stupid.

There was only one way to start this guide; by sharing some pretty incredible stats with you, so here goes.

It’s estimated that UK brands spent £13.8bn on digital advertising in the first half of 2023.

The digital advertising market in the UK is projected to reach £55bn by 2027, representing an 8.33% annual growth rate between 2023 and 2027.

Looking specifically at digital search advertising (think Google Ads) in the UK, Statista is predicting this to rise on a global scale from $11.7bn in 2021 to $17.9bn in 2026.

The numbers are vast and difficult to comprehend. What’s also difficult to fathom is that 47% of brands do not have a defined digital marketing strategy.

What’s even more surprising is that a singular digital marketing strategy is rarely sufficient these days.

Brands need to rethink their approach to digital marketing strategy so it is absolutely comprehensive in covering the four key areas that drive success.

At Evergreen, these are also known as The Four Pillars.

The Four Pillars Explained

For years, Evergreen has grouped a brand’s traffic, visibility, sales and revenue into four Digital Marketing pillars, which created the acronym BONE:

In simple terms brands can:

These four pillars create the BackBONE of Digital Marketing.

They serve as the digital foundation for every brand, regardless of size, sector or service.

By taking the various platforms and channels and grouping them by type into one of the Four Pillars, it enables us to see very quickly which areas of a digital marketing strategy are working and where more work is needed.

It also shows whether there is a reliance on one or two specific channels and the levels of potential risk associated with the current activities based on an algorithm change, software update, or an increase in price.

Essentially, the first step to improving your digital marketing performance is knowing where you stand today.

The Four Pillars will help you do just this.

They also help to improve diversity in a strategy.

The Importance of Diversification

Diversification is essentially a risk management strategy that aims to balance risk and reward within any marketing strategy.

Businesses must be nimble and adapt to stay ahead of the curve in the constantly-evolving digital landscape. One of the key ways to do this is by diversifying marketing efforts across multiple pillars and multiple channels.

Over-reliance on any one pillar- or even one or two platforms- can be a high risk strategy and instead, brands should cast their net a little wider in order to reach their target audience more effectively.

Think of the canny investor; they diversify their investment portfolio to limit an exposure to any single type of asset, therefore helping to reduce the risk and volatility of their portfolio.

By ensuring your brand isn’t over-reliant on any one of the Four Pillars, you can be confident your brand can withstand changes in consumer and competitor behaviours and market fluctuations if that particular pillar and associated channels experience a sudden decline in popularity or effectiveness.

The BONE model is an excellent tool for achieving this diversification. By incorporating Bought, Owned, Nurtured and Earned revenue into a single, overarching strategy, it ensures that businesses can understand their reliance on any one pillar and instead spread their efforts, maximise their reach and optimise their results via other sources, generating a greater return on investment.

Each of the Pillars in the Backbone of Digital Marketing concept offers businesses unique strengths and opportunities. By utilising them together, brands can quickly map out how each marketing activity, or pillar, contributes to an overall brand growth strategy.

By knowing where your growth is coming from, and your brand’s reliance for each marketing channel, you can better align to the Four Pillars and distribute your marketing efforts accordingly.

Diversification also leads to improved engagement, as customers are more likely to interact with brands on the platforms they’re most comfortable with. The traditional sales funnel has evolved and customers no-longer follow a linear journey from awareness to sale.

While the discrete stages remain; awareness, research, consideration, purchase decisions and advocacy, the process a buyer goes through is no longer as simple as from Point A to Point B.

Many sales now rely on inbound leads generated through adverts, content and automated lead nurture applications instead of outbound cold calls. The customer is in control and decides when they get to your product, whether they are ready to buy or not.

Therefore, it may require a number of touch points, from across the four pillars, to get them there, but it also means that an abandoned cart may not be the end of the line.

Data Driven Growth

GSC Graph Upward Trend

“If the BackBONE model provides the structure of your marketing strategy, then your data is what brings it to life.”

In today’s data-driven climate, tracking and measuring the success of all marketing activities is more important than ever.

This statement won’t surprise any seasoned marketer and in truth, we ummed and ahhed about adding in this section – it was accepted as a given that ALL digital marketing should be driven by data.

If you aren’t using your sales data, customer data, engagement analytics you are missing a trick.

Data can be used to inform all marketing decisions and personalise the customer experience. Data should also be used to help understand, as a brand, how reliant you are on any particular pillar; what’s working, what’s not, and ultimately what you need to do about it.

The BONE structure, with its integrated approach, serves as a fantastic framework for businesses to effectively measure and analyse their marketing efforts across different pillars and associated channels and platforms.

From a purely attribution standpoint,  one of the many strengths of the BONE model is that it allows for a clear and organised structure when it comes to tracking and measuring campaign success.

By categorising marketing activities into Bought, Owned, Nurtured and Earned, businesses can more easily pinpoint which of these pillars and their associated tactics are driving the best results, and where adjustments might be needed.

By analysing data from across the marketing and sales ecosystems, within the BONE framework, businesses can gain valuable insights into their customers’ behaviour, preferences, and trends.

This information can then be used to make informed decisions and adjust marketing tactics to better align with the target audience and maximise ROI.

Some examples of data-sources:

  • Targeting digital ads based on your past customers’ demographics
  • Using insights from paid search campaigns to guide your SEO strategy
  • Creating personalised content from user data in the form or subscription emails or membership offers
  • Emailing customers about products they’ve left in their online carts

Here are some of the ways we help clients to effectively analyse and optimise their campaigns using their available data:

Set clear objectives and KPIs: Before creating any marketing strategy, we establish clear objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each pillar in the BONE model. This helps us allocate resource and measure success more accurately and provide a solid foundation for analysis.

Track performance metrics: Collect data on various performance metrics for each media type, such as impressions, clicks, conversions, engagement, and referral traffic. This will help you identify which channels are driving the best results and where improvements can be made.

Leverage analytics tools: Utilise analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, social media insights, and CRM systems to track and measure the performance of your campaigns. These tools can help you gather valuable data and insights to inform your marketing decisions.

Conduct regular reviews: Schedule regular reviews of your pillar performance to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. Use these insights to refine your marketing strategies and continually optimise your campaigns.

Test and iterate: Embrace a culture of experimentation by testing different tactics within the BONE Pillars, such as new content formats, advertising platforms, or audience targeting strategies. Use data and analysis to inform your decisions, and iterate on your marketing efforts to improve performance over time.

By using the backBONE model as a framework for measurement and analysis, businesses can ensure that their marketing strategies are data-driven, effective, and continually optimised for success, while also helping to spread their investment and efforts equitably across all of their marking pillars.

GSC Graph upward trend 2

Buy It

The ‘B’ in bone, and the first pillar we consider. It is often the go to for brands large and small.

The Buy it pillars remains the number one pillar for almost all brands, because people rely on it for sales and because they can get immediate returns and instant feedback on the performance of an ad set.

Google owns over 80% of the UK search market, and digital search ads dominance is set to continue globally, predicted to grow annually by up to $17.9bn in 2026.

Buying traffic is still the quickest way to go to market with offers, discounts, new products; it offers the fastest returns and, with the right budget, is often the most scalable pillar.

Whether you are a start-up buying brand awareness before your SEO presence builds or a more mature brand trying to earn seasonal revenue, if you want to sell products you buy ads.

Brands often rely on purchasing ads to get their product or service in front of their potential customers quickly. Unlike the Own It, Nurture It and Earn It pillars, the Buy It pillar is all about creating sales immediately.

But, brands have options. These days, there are many pay-to-play platforms for brands to choose from. No matter what format this takes, most brands should allocate budget to buy their traffic in one form or another.

This may be from:

  • Google/Microsoft Ads
  • Paid Social Ads
  • Affiliate/Programmatic Ads

As a core pillar, it’s essential to know how dependent your brand is on buying your traffic and revenue.

You can identify the various channels and platforms your brand is using to buy traffic in your preferred analytics tool.

Use it to calculate the percentage of your revenue, traffic and sales that can be directly attributed to advertising scales.

Paid Search Metrics That Matter the most

This pillar is somewhat of a speciality of ours, so understandably we have an array of key metrics that we use to quantify our results.  Here are some of the most important ones.

Clicks: let’s call this one the no-brainer.

Impressions: impressions refer to how many times your ad was displayed to your assigned audience.

Click-through-Rate (CTR): Specifically, CTR refers to the ratio of how many people clicked on your ad compared to how many people saw the ad.

Cost-per-Click (CPC): The whole premise of paid search campaigns is that you pay for your audience’s attention via clicks. CPC is straightforward; it’s how much you pay for each click on your ad.

Conversion Rate: Depending on your objective for a campaign, conversion rate refers to how often your ad sets contribute to form submissions, phone calls, web chats, ecommerce sales etc,

Cost-per-Conversion:  Is the total cost of each of these conversions

Return-on-Investment (ROI) and Return-on-Ad-Spend (ROAS): In paid search, ROI is calculated as the net income/cost of investment x 100. ROAS, by comparison, divides the revenue attributed to a specific paid ads campaign by the costs of that campaign

Paid ad graphics

Own It

Traffic in the Own It pillar is generally classified as traffic arriving directly on your website.

Typically this is represented by a search engine query that contains the name of your brand or product.

It’s reasonable to assume that the majority of the traffic arriving via brand searches directly onto your website is from customers who already know you; potentially returning to your website following a previous interaction with one of your other marketing pillars – or searching directly for your brand via a bookmark or by typing in your URL.

Every brand will therefore own the majority of search traffic by loyal and returning customers who search for them by name. In other words, it’s traffic that a brand owns by association.

The data always looks great for brand searches. Brands see higher-than-average engagement numbers, good purchase intent numbers and high recurring revenue.

This will stem from:

  • Returning customers
  • Brand searches
  • Brand advocates

Most brands have a sizeable reliance on brand searches and returning customers. These customers are important, but can also limit your brand growth.

However one of the problems with brand searches is that they often lead to some common misconceptions in that brands think they are getting better SEO results that they actually are.

We always encourage brands calculating their own it and earn it pillars to remove branded search traffic from their results to see how well they are really doing.

It can be hard to pinpoint precisely where the gaps in the Own It and Earn It pillars are,  but by cross-referencing in this way  brands can see what reliance they have on a returning customer group versus generating new ones with their more organic activities.

Share of Search

Share of search might be one of the most important metrics you’ve never heard of.

Share of search is the volume of branded search queries you receive as a percentage of the search queries for all the brands in your sector or category.

In some ways share of search resembles market share. But whereas market share looks at actual sales or revenue in relation to the overall market, share of search only looks at search volume and search engines as a landscape.

In this way, share of search is a metric of importance for several teams, including SEO and demand generation, but also brand and product marketing teams.

Nurture it

So much is written about the importance of customer lifetime value (LTV), average customer value and customer return rates.

In a bid to reduce the reliance on paid ads, or discounted sales to encourage impulse buys, building a long-lasting rapport with consumers who become long-term customers and latterly brand advocates is a highly effective strategy.

One of the best ways for a brand to do this is to Nurture its customers.

You can nurture your customer base through recognised and practised techniques including:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media & influencers
  • Referral & partner relationships

Users generate data when they visit a website or landing page, place items in their shopping cart, follow an influencer, or respond to a marketing email or social media promotion. Nurture campaigns then use this data along with other customer insights to create more personalised communications.

In this way, nurture campaigns seek to create high-quality leads by fostering long term relationships rather than attempting to get quick sales conversions like a Buy It campaign.

Instead of lead generation as a focus, this pillar focuses on turning the most promising leads into loyal customers.

By grouping these techniques into one pillar, brands can understand their reliance on these channels to identify what data you’re working with and how successful your more customer-focused activities are.

Nurtured traffic is hugely important for many brands, yet it is often an underdeveloped pillar. Some brands do this incredibly well, while others largely ignore or discount the nurturing phase of digital marketing, and set their focus elsewhere.

Depending on the channels in the Nurture pillar, there are a range of key metrics brands should focus on:

  • Email-based nurture campaigns rely on subscriptions, opens, clicks, and conversions.
  • If you have a relationship with an influencer on social media, then common metrics include the number of account followers or subscribers they have, the reach of their posts, but more importantly their engagement rate per post.
  • And if you have any affiliate or referral partner relationship set up with promotional codes attached to the partner’s account, it’s important to be able to measure the number of direct sales made through that link.
  • Overall, regardless of channel, it’s important to be able to calculate the overall lifetime value of a client, average order value, (and whether this increases over time), and frequency of purchase

Home and garden newsletter examples

Earn it

Organic traffic is the hardest traffic to get, but it has the potential to yield the greatest overall lifetime value for a brand.

Everything arriving on a brand’s website via organic search is the traffic you ‘earn’.

By their very nature, the traffic and subsequent sales that are earned are often the hardest to gain.

The tools we use in this pillar include:

  • SEO
  • Content creation
  • PR

SEO is the primary driver for brands ‘earning’ the organic traffic visiting their website.

It naturally plays an integral role in how brands can analyse, benchmark and ultimately elevate their digital marketing performance.

When a brand gets its organic strategy right, it can increase visibility and generate huge online brand awareness, opening the floodgates to new customers.

However, when most brands dig deeper into their data, the disparity between what we deem ‘owned traffic’ (brand related) vs ‘earned traffic’ (organic) is often surprising.

Over the years this has become more difficult to measure with complete accuracy,  due to data privacy laws, but by cross-referencing organic search data with the brand search volume data (using tools like Google Search Console), brands can estimate how much of their web traffic they are actually  ‘earning’ by excluding all of the brand and associated brand searches, which represent the owned traffic.

How much have you Earned IT – some of the key metrics we focus on in this pillar:

Conversions (Sales and Leads): depending on the objectives for your SEO campaigns, measuring the number of leads or sales is ultimately key

Organic Visibility: how visible your brand is via organic search

Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: Measuring the percentage split between the branded and non-branded traffic on your website is important for measuring the success of your SEO work.

Keyword Rankings: Keyword rankings provide granular insights into which keywords are driving your traffic and why.

Backlinks: refer to the hyperlinks on other websites that point to your website, a sort of Google validation or as a result of a placed PR article

Organic Click-through rate (CTR): The better your organic CTR, the more people are clicking on your Google listing and visiting your pages.

User Engagement: User engagement metrics include bounce rate, average time on page, session duration, and pages per session.


The BackBONE of Digital Marketing has two purposes; one, to explain how to use the four pillars of digital marketing to enhance any marketing strategy, and two, to highlight to brands the risk of an over reliance on any one pillar or channel.

By utilising the Backbone of Digital Marketing concept, brands can quickly and easily map out what role each marketing type plays in a brand’s overall growth strategy.

By grouping each activity into the four clearly defined pillars, we can identify where a brand is focused, optimised and where the sources of growth are, where the risks lie and also as we peel away the layers of the onion which channels present further opportunities for growth and development.

This approach helps when trying to measure year on year spend and return when brands move their focus away from one channel to another. Swapping a Google paid ads campaign for one on LinkedIn is hard to compare, specifically but it still represents a share of revenue and it still sits in the Buy It pillar.

We firmly believe that the most robust brand strategies ensure their digital marketing is evenly distributed across the four core marketing pillars, with 25% of resource and revenue attributed to each.

Every digital marketing channel plays an important role; each has its merits and risks. By ensuring your brand isn’t over-reliant on any one of the four pillars, you can be confident your brand can withstand changes in consumer and competitor behaviours and market fluctuations.

The BackBONE model is also designed to be agile and flexible, it can evolve year on year to incorporate new platforms in any one of its pillars. This means that as brands must continue to evolve their activities and adapt their tactics in line with their audience’s preferences, we can apply this simple model to ensure a consistent view of what is being achieved.

And as the customer journey continues to take a less linear approach and the distinction between Bought, Owned, Nurtured and Earned traffic continues to blur, it is important to be able to separate channels to create a more holistic view of your strategies, budget allocation and ultimately results.

(Home and garden images cluster)

How to use the BONE model

Now we’ve looked at the Four Pillars in detail, the next step is to understand your current resource distribution and reliance on each of the Four Pillars. Being able to divide the channels into four clearly defined pillars allows us to see where a brand is focused, optimised and most reliant.

To be as robust as possible within your digital marketing, you want to ensure you do not have an over-reliance on any one of the Four Pillars. There are many reasons why this is important, not least to ensure your brand isn’t overly effected by algorithm updates, by competitors in your market or by trends and changes in consumer behaviours. The best brands are those who have a healthy mix of reliance across the Four Pillars.

Let’s see some examples to understand how this may look for a brand. 

Example 1 – Home & Garden brand

Setting the scene: A home & garden client advises they have made £2m worth of sales in the past 12 months and want to grow to £3m in the next 12 months. A 50% growth rate in a year is ambitious but not unobtainable with the right digital strategy.

A review of their channel attribution for the past 12 months shows:

Backbone pie chart - home & garden

Summary: Clearly an established brand, they are heavily reliant on direct (owned) traffic representing 45% of their total revenue in the past 12 months. This is potentially hard to scale/grow as there are only so many people searching for their brand at any one time.

Email (nurtured) traffic only represents 10% of their revenue, so exploring what opportunities and areas for growth exist in this area would be wise.

Google/Meta Ads (bought) traffic represents 27.5% of their total revenue. Being able to isolate how reliant this brand is on ‘buying it’, then taking this a step further and investigating how much was invested into that pillar to generate the return will allow us to calculate what role buying more traffic can play in the overall digital growth strategy.

Organic (earned) traffic looks healthy at 17.5% in the past 12 months, knowing this we can reverse-engineer what is working and look at what else could be done and what role earning more traffic/sales can play in the wider digital marketing strategy.

The ideal scenario for this home and garden brand will be to increase the percentage of traffic and sales they are nurturing and earning, thus reducing their overall reliance on traffic they already own and encouraging business growth.

Example 2 – Food & Beverage brand

Setting the scene: This food & beverage brand is smaller with just £600k sales in the previous 12 months. They are keen to break the £1m barrier in ecommerce sales in the year ahead.

A review of their channel attribution for the past 12 months shows:

Food & Beverage Pie Chart

Summary: This brand is overly reliant on direct (owned) traffic which makes up 66% of their overall revenue. We can expect to see lots of brand search and potentially repeating customers – depending on the brand and their products. Their organic (earned) traffic is making up the rest at 33%.

This brand hasn’t yet started exploring the nurturing and buying pillars for digital marketing growth. There’s clearly huge potential for growth by exploring the untapped opportunities within the buying and nurturing pillars.

With the goal of £1m+, we can now look at what reliance we want this brand to have on each of the Four Pillars and how much value and investment each will require. This approach prevents a brand from growing their top-line revenue and having all its eggs in one basket.

Example 3 – Fashion brand

Setting the scene: This brand has had sales of £5m in the previous 12 months. They want to grow by 20% year-on-year and want to invest more in Google Ads, as they can see that yielding a return.

A review of their channel attribution for the past 12 months shows:

Fashion & Retail Pie Chart

Summary: This ecommerce brand is increasingly becoming reliant on ‘buying it’ and that’s potentially a dangerous path to follow, particularly as they have advised they want to do even more of it.

By grouping as we have we can see half of their total sales are attributed to ‘buying it’ channels. A further 25% is attributed to email (nurtured) traffic and just 5% is attributed to organic (earned) traffic.

With so much revenue being generated through advertising (‘buying it’), it highlights that the focus should be on capitalising on search trends with an organic search campaign instead of putting even more of their budgets into buying it. We’d certainly encourage exploring this and the data almost immediately highlights areas of focus and that is the point.

This fashion brand needs to diversify it’s reliance on the traffic it is buying, otherwise it runs the risk of losing market share/sales if (or when) a competitor decides to be more aggressive with their bidding strategy.

Improving the BONE model

Like any model, the pillars in the BackBONE of digital marketing provide a framework for continuous improvement.

Before you undertake a complete strategy overhaul, ask yourself some of the questions below to help determine the next steps in creating a successful digital marketing strategy.

Do you have a clear timeline?

Buying it can often be the quickest route to market, while earning it can be a longer-term strategy. Having clear and realistic timeframes in mind for each pillar is an important step to take to ensure you’re being realistic and not setting yourself up for failure.

Do you have a plan of action?

With a strategy and timeline clear, you need a plan per pillar. What needs doing, how it will be done, when it will happen and who is responsible for making it happen?

Do you have the required resources/ expertise?

This is all about your people and your budget. Most brands have an in-house marketing team to some extent but they often lack the digital and technical expertise needed to make things happen.

Understanding the resource and budget you have as well as what you’re going to need per Pillar makes everything much more achievable. You may have to prioritise one pillar over another or delay something while the resource is used elsewhere. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Do you have clear targets and goals?

This is obvious but incredibly important. You need to set clear targets and goals for each of the Four Pillars. This ties everything back to your current reliance and what you want your future reliance to look like.

If you know where you are today, you can create targets and goals so you know what needs to be achieved.

Do you track and measure performance?

It’s unbelievable how many brands have a digital marketing report, which lacks a channel breakdown. It’s imperative that you track and measure the performance of each of your pillars.

It’s only with this kind of insight that can you truly measure and track your brand’s overall digital marketing performance.

Analysing your competitors’ digital marketing channel reliance

While you’re unlikely to have the same level of data access for your competitors as you do for your own brand, there are still lots of ways for you to take this concept and apply it to your competitors. You be able to get an insight into which channels they are focusing on, how much they’re relying on owned vs earned traffic and how aggressive they are being with their nurturing (email and social media) and buying (paid advertising) activity.

The Growth of the BONE Model

As we look to the future, the BONE Model will continue to evolve in response to changes in the digital marketing landscape, further technological advancements, and shifts in consumer behaviour.

We are already seeing the emergence of AI and other new technology in every aspect of marketing and this is set to continue, but it doesn’t change the fundamental ethos behind the backbone ethos.

Whatever tools, channels or new technology is used to optimise your marketing efforts, the fundamental structure of the Four Pillars of Digital Marketing can remain useful.

Wherever your sales come from, you still either Buy It, Own It, Nurture It or Earn It in one way or another.

That said here are some of the areas of growth we expect over the next few years:

Greater integration of AI. AI will continue to play a role in all marketing activities, from content creation and audience targeting to personalisation and SEO. Therefore, it will continue to be essential for brands to understand and leverage these tools within the BackBONE of any marketing framework.

Increased importance of authenticity. As consumers become more discerning, the authenticity and quality of content created will become crucial. Perhaps as an antidote to an AI driven world, brands need to think experience, expertise, authority, and trust, (Google’s E-E-A-T model). This trend underscores the continued importance of the owned Pillar in the BONE Model.

Rise of new media platforms. While TikTok has emerged as possibly the most powerful social media and social selling platform in the last five years, other future media platforms will no doubt follow. The BackBONE model is designed to be agile and flexible; it doesn’t focus specifically on any one channel or platform nor does it exclude the use of any marketing tool. While the BONE Structure can incorporate new platforms in any one of its Pillars, brands must continue to evolve their activities and adapt their tactics in line with their audience’s preferences.

Measurement and analytics. With the abundance of data and analytics tools, businesses will continue to have unprecedented access to more sophisticated measurement capabilities. Used well, this growth in data will allow more precise targeting, optimisation, and ROI calculations across all BONE pillars and channels.

Blurring lines between Pillars. The distinction between Bought, Owned, Nurtured and Earned traffic will continue to blur, with integrated, omni-channel campaigns including digital and in-store activations becoming the norm. This convergence will help shift a reliance on any one pillar or channel to create a more holistic view of your strategies, and budget allocation.

The Wrap Up

So there you have it, the backBONE of Digital Marketing Explained.

This final section could be called ‘the death of the sales funnel’.

Of course, the sales funnel ISN’T dead but it has changed. In B2B, B2C and D2C marketing, the sales funnel is no longer linear; prospects can drop in – and out- of a marketing process at multiple stages, sometimes landing directly in competitors funnels.

Today, even adding an item to an on-line shopping cart often doesn’t represent an actual sale or, indeed, the end of the engagement or relationship with a prospect.

Depending on the route the customer has taken to your website, for example from a paid ad, an article in a digital magazine or a link in a social media post, it may only be their first or second interaction with your brand- they weren’t yet ready to make a purchase, and actually it represents the start of a beautiful relationship, not the end.

Clients ask us ‘which pillar creates the stickiest customer?’ in truth it is hard to separate any pillar from the others and put all of our eggs in that basket.

It is this quandary that best explains the need for the model in the first place.

The beauty of the BackBONE of digital marketing; is that it is an attributional model that allows us to group types of activity and establishes a brands reliance – or over reliance – on any one pillar.

But it doesn’t have to focus on any one channel, rather it offers a more bird-eye view of activities.

Over a lifetime of interactions a customer may actually engage with all four of the pillars – sometimes simultaneously- and the brands that understand this best will prosper.

Consider this, a prospect sees one of your paid ads and visits your website, but doesn’t buy. (B)

But they return a few days later with a branded keyword search (O)

This time they do buy and sign up to your newsletter (N)

They remain a customer and tell a friend about your product. The friend uses a non-brand keyword and finds an article about your business and follows a link to check your website out (E)

That is the power of this model.

BONE Customer Journey

We hope you have found The Backbone of Digital Marketing a useful resource and can take this concept and deploy it into your brand. Remember, knowledge is power, but digital marketing doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. Keep it simple, stupid.

Fancy discovering how our Backbone of Digital Marketing concept could work for your brand? Get in touch. Lastly, please do connect with me on LinkedIn.

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