by Frank Cowell | Updated Mar 31, 2024


This is a chapter from the best-selling book
Building Your Digital Utopia by Frank Cowell.

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In the twenty-plus years I’ve been in sales and marketing, I’ve seen the development of some amazing technologies that are empowering people like never before. Solopreneurs and companies with small budgets have access to an increasing number of channels, allowing them to compete with even the biggest players. The landscape has changed dramatically.

However, we’ve reached a point where the abundance of tools and the number of available channels has become overwhelming. Everyone seems to be confused, and companies are so obsessed with finding the right tactics amidst all the options that they’ve forgotten what is most important.

What’s most important is creating a strategy to better serve your buyer by letting them drive everything you do.

To help you do that, I want to introduce you to a tool you can use to build that strategy. It’s called the Digital Utopia Blueprint, and it will guide you through the process of developing one digital brand experience for one buyer persona around one pain point or topic. I will walk you through each of the levels of the blueprint, so you can elevate the relationship with your target buyer persona and create raving fans in the process.


To download a free copy of the Digital Utopia Blueprint, which you can use to apply the strategy discussed in this book, go to

Buyer Persona: The one person you’re going to engage through content and offers. This is your ideal customer.

Business Math: The fundamental economics of what it’s going to take to drive engagement and, ultimately, create customers at a profitable rate.

Digital Brand Experience: All of the content, offers, and campaigns architected around one buyer persona and one pain point (as mapped out on your Digital Utopia Blueprint).

The Digital Utopia Methodology Buyer Persona and Business Math Example

The Digital Utopia Methodology Content and Offer Stack Example


Practically speaking, how can we create value in such a way that we elevate the relationship with our target buyer at every step? Traditional funnels are mostly focused on metrics, conversions, and optimization. While those things are important, they don’t lead the strategy.

The problem with the old funnel is that people almost never flow through the steps of the funnel perfectly. An individual might flow down, then back up, then flow down again. It’s rarely a direct linear path from end to end. This reality has led many in the industry to declare, “The funnel is dead!”

Relationship levels, on the other hand, will never be dead because they are based on the normal progression of human relationships. These relationships form the core of your digital growth blueprint.

Utopia is defined as an imagined community in which everything functions perfectly at every level. That is the ideal we strive toward at every relationship level with our contacts. We’ve been speaking of this philosophically, but now we’re going to speak of it in terms of implementation. To begin, I recommend mapping these specific relationship levels in your database, so you know where all of your contacts stand.

Specifically, there are seven relationship levels in your digital ecosystem. Notice that they are listed in reverse order, with fans and customers at the top. That’s because it’s a relationship-driven focus, and the highest relationship you can have is a fan. The seven levels are:

  • Fans
  • Customers
  • Opportunities
  • Qualifieds
  • Leads
  • Visitors
  • Strangers

As you can see, at each of these seven levels, your buyer has a heightened relationship with your brand. While this may look like any other marketing-to-sales funnel (in reverse order), the five core philosophies we spoke of in Part Two (Service Mindset, Hyper-specificity, Slow Down to Speed Up, Top-Down Optimization, Commitment, and Consistency) are a major aspect of what makes the Digital Utopia Methodology so special. When you apply these philosophies, you create a tightly-focused experience that allows your target buyer persona to move from one relationship level to the next in a natural, logical manner, so much so that it becomes your buyer’s idea.

Let’s take a look at each relationship level, starting at the bottom, because it will be easier for you to understand them from the buyer persona’s experience. Remember, these relationships are at the core of the Digital Utopia Methodology.

When reading through each of these levels, keep the idea of hyper-specificity in mind, because elevating relationships is about honing in on one buyer persona and the one pain point you are solving for that buyer.


To elevate a stranger into a website visitor, the goal of your content should be to drive awareness and engagement around helping your buyer persona take steps toward alleviating their specific pain point. At this stage, you should produce content that shows differentiated value in the marketplace. To some extent, it’s okay to produce content that is similar to your competitors’ content, but at this level you’re better off showcasing your brand’s differentiated approach to the pain point.

We refer to content at this level as “Cornerstone Content.”

Examples of Cornerstone Content include:

  • Blog Posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers
  • Podcasts

When done right, cornerstone content goes beyond content that simply fills an “SEO gap.” Instead, it exposes your brand’s unique philosophies and approaches and communicates the message, “Here is how to solve your pain point.” Bear in mind, making this content well requires having the lens of a teacher, not a promoter.


Empyr, a technology company that enables companies to generate more revenue and delight their users with card-linked offers, has a buyer persona named Loyalty Liz. Liz is a VP of Loyalty Programs at a retail chain who wants to increase customer retention.

The challenge for Liz is that it’s very difficult to clearly demonstrate ROI for loyalty programs. She knows she must come up with a solution, because her executive team expects measurable growth from her channel. Liz is in the early stages of discovering what her options are, and she’s heard about “card-linked offers,” but she has no understanding of the mechanics of how they work and
no real sense of how costly they are to implement.

To help Liz, Empyr invested in the development of a robust piece of content that provides her with everything she could possibly want to know about card-linked offers: what they are, how they work, how to implement them, the investments required, examples of ROI, FAQs, and more. This piece of content was written from a place of pure education—it’s not a sales pitch. Instead, it aims to arm Liz with the education she desires around card-linked offers. Empyr knows that this approach makes for the start of a great relationship.


Once you have a visitor who engages with your cornerstone content, you can elevate them into a lead by providing additional value related to the content they are consuming. This additional value should be an asset or resource that helps your buyer persona take a deeper step toward solving their specific pain point.

We refer to content at this level as a “Lead Magnet.” Lead Magnets should be much more valuable than your cornerstone content.

Examples include:

  • Templates
  • Tools
  • Calculators
  • Self-Assessments
  • Checklists
  • Audit Worksheets
  • Blueprints/Cheat Sheets

The best lead magnets are those that provide a missing link to your Cornerstone Content. For example, your cornerstone content might be a blog post that teaches a concept for overcoming pain point X, so the lead magnet would be a tool that makes the process of solving the pain point easier. This lead magnet content continues to communicate, “Here’s a resource to help you do it.”


My digital marketing agency, Digitopia, has a buyer persona named Marketing Mary. Mary is a marketing director who wants to get more out of her website and related digital marketing efforts. With limited resources, she needs to address the low-hanging fruit first and foremost.

To help Mary figure out what her low-hanging fruit is, Digitopia offers her a free website grading tool which instantly shows her how her website fares when it comes to technical, mobile, SEO, and security performance. From there, Mary can start tackling immediate issues that are hindering her website’s performance.


At this level, you’ve engaged with them in such a way that they’re now a contact in your database, whether through a social message exchange, a form on your website, or by email. You now have a way to communicate with them, but just because the buyer persona is a lead in your database, it doesn’t mean your job is complete. You should continue providing focused value to elevate the relationship. To do this, offer them additional content, tools, and resources that give deeper education about how to solve their specific pain point.

We refer to content at this level as “Deep Dive Content.”

Examples include:

  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers
  • Books/E-books
  • Online Courses
  • Offline Events

Buyer personas who engage at this level have demonstrated that this particular pain point is very important to them, and they’ve taken these steps on their own without a high-pressure sales pitch. A lead at this level can become “qualified” when, combined with their behavior up to this point, they meet demographic and other contact characteristics that you define based on your business requirements.

The best Deep Dive Content focuses on providing compelling social proof that communicates, “See how someone just like you conquered or achieved X.” The internal response of your target buyer persona should be, “Yes, this is what I want, and they’re just like me, so I can achieve this, too. I have to know more!”


APM, an Australian workplace worker wellness and rehabilitation company, has a buyer persona named Manager Marisa. Marisa is an injury management manager at a large Australian corporation who wants to help rehabilitate employees so they can get back to work as fast as possible. She would love to be working on programs aimed at proactive employee wellness instead of spending most of her time on rehabilitation, but Marisa is stretched too thin. She knows that if she can be proactive with the employee base, rehabilitation needs will drop, creating a healthier workforce.

To help Marisa, APM continues to nurture her with a series of thirty-second explainer videos. These videos quickly educate Marisa on nuances to consider when crafting her rehabilitation assessments so workers end up with a more holistic rehabilitation plan that gets them back to work faster.


Now that your buyer persona is a qualified lead, you can elevate them to an opportunity by offering to help them take a small but important step toward solving their specific pain point. This offer should be a natural next step that provides high value and little to no risk for your buyer persona.

We refer to an offer at this level as a “Foot-in-the-Door Offer.”

Examples include:

  • Consultations/Audits
  • One-on-One Demonstrations
  • Trials
  • In-person Seminars/Events
  • Estimates
  • Samples
  • Physical Books

As I keep saying, this isn’t the time to make a sales pitch for your offering. Instead, connect this offer to their last action: “Now that you’ve done that, you should do this.”

Here’s what this looks like in practice.

Hi Vickie,

Now that you’ve learned how and why the Digital Utopia Methodology works, you should consider talking with one of our digital consultants about how to implement it within ACME Corp.

I want to offer you a no-cost, no-obligation consulting session with one of our top consultants, who will help you figure out what it would take to implement the Digital Utopia Methodology in your company.

At the end of the session, you’ll have a clear understanding of the time, people, resources, and investment required—whether you work with us or implement it yourself—to take your digital program to the next level.

Let me know if you’d like me to reserve a session for you!

Thank you,

The key with the Foot-in-the-Door Offer is to make it specific to the pain point that your content has been addressing. Generic offers that say, “Contact us,” or “Let’s talk,” won’t do. This offer must take the next logical step in your buyer persona’s journey and experience with your brand. When done right, it will seem like a natural next step after they’ve seen the social proof that you presented with your Deep Dive Content.

In some businesses, this is a free offer, while in other businesses, the offer might require a relatively small monetary transaction. Either way, it shouldn’t be one of your brand’s core offers. Instead, it should be an offer to take real action now that they are educated about their pain point and ready to do something to fix it.

Remember, as the name implies, what you’re trying to do at this point is demonstrate enough value to get your foot in the door. Your communication of this offer essentially asks, “Would you like to experience this kind of transformation, too? If so, take this important first step.”

Buyer personas who engage at this level are very serious and deserve your highest level of attention, even if they ultimately can’t or won’t do business with your brand.


Simplexity Services, which provides accounting and back office services for start-up companies, has a buyer persona named Founder Finn. Finn is the founder of a start-up that has a big goal to become the next unicorn (a start-up with a valuation over $1 billion). Finn has gotten his company off the ground, but he needs funding to take it to the next level. There aren’t unlimited opportunities to raise money, so Finn wants to make sure he goes in with his best foot forward. He’s nervous—he can’t afford to screw it up.

To help Finn, Simplexity offers a no-cost, no-obligation investor preparation consultation. During this consultation, a start-up expert will look at Finn’s books and help him craft a plan to make sure his books are ready for a thorough investor review, so he can get the funding he’s after.


Once someone has received so much upfront value, becoming a customer is the next natural, logical step for your buyer persona. It’s the final step towards solving their pain point once and for all. Make an offer that demonstrates you are the ideal resource for that solution.

We refer to offers at this level as “Core Offers,” and they are the core of what you sell in the marketplace.

As you engage your buyer persona at this level, here are some tips to ensure you successfully elevate as many people as possible to the next level.

  • Continue to provide value. It’s no longer ABC (always be closing). It’s now ABV (always bring value). As your buyer persona has engaged with your marketing, they’ve experienced a ton of value. Continue providing value by being eager to help rather than pitch.
  • Crystalize your value proposition. All of the hard work has been done. Your buyer persona is ready to buy from you. Don’t screw it up by dumping a ton of information on them. Instead, focus on articulating concepts that can be easily understood and on what I call the “big-ticket items,” which are the factors your buyer persona cares about most.
  • Make buying a little-to-no-risk proposition. If you can eliminate all of the reasons your buyer persona would hesitate to do business with your organization, your chances of earning their business go through the roof. Social proof, guarantees, and friendly terms are just a few of the major buying decision factors to examine. When you don’t win business that you otherwise thought you would, it’s usually due to some level of risk you failed to mitigate. Your goal is to make the decision to buy an extremely easy one.

As I mentioned earlier, when you follow the Digital Utopia Methodology, the decision to become a customer will seem completely natural. You won’t have to resort to old school sales tactics. In the end, you will win more of the right business and differentiate your brand along the way.

At this level, your offer is very natural and logical: “If you’re really serious and want to step on the gas, let us help you achieve this transformation.”


Once you have earned a customer, don’t stop offering value. While your company might have solved your customer’s major pain point, there’s always another level you can take them. This might be accomplished through additional core offers that help them go further, but they can also be free offerings that are available only to your customers—a “velvet rope,” if you will.

We refer to offers at this level as “Customer Delight.”

Examples include:

  • Continuing Education/Online Courses
  • Office Hours
  • User Groups
  • Private Online Communities
  • Exclusive Content/Events
  • Discounts/Perks with Partners
  • Access to Exclusive Venues
  • Industry Data/Reports

When you build your company around providing customers with this kind of value, you’ll create raving fans. Let’s face it, in a world where there’s no shortage of options for your customers, your only hope of keeping them around for the long haul is to commit to customer delight programs that go beyond the invoice.

When you continue to deliver value after your buyer persona becomes a customer, you’re saying to them, “Let’s not stop there. Let’s take your transformation to an even better place!”


Eldorado Stone, an industry leader of manufactured stone, has a buyer persona named Distributor Dan. Dan is the owner of a distribution company that sells Eldorado Stone’s products. Like any distribution company, it is important for Dan to stay up to date on what’s happening in the industry.

To help him do that, Eldorado Stone coordinates an exclusive annual event for distribution partners that they call Stone Summit. A “mini conference” of sorts, this event features education, networking, and entertainment in locations like San Diego, California, and Park City, Utah. While this event is a significant investment for Eldorado Stone, the fans created by it are priceless.


This is a chapter from the best-selling book
Building Your Digital Utopia by Frank Cowell.

« Previous Chapter  |  Next Chapter »

Building Your Digital Utopia Blueprint Chapter Guide
Topics:Digital Utopia Methodology