May 06, 2015

Three Types of Traffic ... Avoid Tolls Where Possible

When I run website visitor simulations for clients, I see a common theme.

That theme, of course, is the theme of "tolls".

Tolls are the fees we pay 3rd parties for the right to steer our customer base back to us. It's what we pay Google, or Facebook, or Ad Roll, or Affiliate Traction.

See, the marketing community wants us to drive on I-294, west of Chicago. They want us to pay tolls every 'x' miles. And we want life to be easy. We don't want to sit in dense traffic on I-94 in Downtown Chicago. So we pay the toll. When we do what the marketing community wants us to do, the marketing community gets paid.

Look at the table at the top of this post. I ran three simulations for this business - in the first one, I measured how 10,000 simulated direct-load-only visitors evolved in the next thirty days. The middle column measures how 10,000 simulated email-centric visitors evolved in the next thirty days. The right-hand column measures how 10,000 simulated affiliate / remarketing / social / search / SEO customers evolved over the next thirty days. This column is labeled "outside paid".

What does the "outside paid" column tell us about future behavior?

We see that future behavior is dependent upon past behavior. Each row represents days visited in the next month (for affiliates, remarketing, social, search, SEO, and email). Past "toll-centric" behavior leads to future "toll-centric" behavior. Past direct-load behavior leads to future direct-load behavior.

In other words, when you have a strong online marketing team, one that really knows how to capitalize on online marketing strategies that drive visitors via tolls, the online marketing team unintentionally creates a visitor base that is more likely to visit in the future via tolls.

Do you understand the ramifications of that statement?

Your CFO understands the ramifications of the statement!

A business leader recently told me that Facebook was making his life difficult. Well, that's a consequence of building a visitor base that wants to use channels that charge tolls. This is the fault of the business leader, not Facebook. Don't blame Facebook for becoming more and more expensive. Blame the marketing leader for building a business upon the toll booth known as Facebook.

There are three types of client traffic - you can build a business on one, two, or all three.
  1. Create a business model that the customer wants to interact with, repeatedly.
  2. Create a business model that pushes the customer to interact with your business via your push-based marketing strategies (email and catalogs are the primary driver of this behavior).
  3. Create a business model where third parties charge tolls to push customers into our world of interaction.
(1) is far more challenging than (2), and (2) is far more challenging than (3).

Given that (1) is harder than (2), and that (2) is harder than (3), we opt for (3), don't we? Let somebody else do the heavy lifting, we'll just create ads and bid on keywords. When we create a business around (3), we pay tolls, and we generate traffic that will require us to pay tolls in the future. 

This is not the optimal way for us to run our businesses.

Contact me ( if you want a customized ecosystem analysis simulated for your business.