by Frank Cowell | Updated Mar 27, 2024


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

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Once you have some or all of the core of your digital utopia in place, you’re ready to engage your buyer persona. I say “some” because it’s not necessary to wait until everything is perfect to start engaging your buyer persona. In fact, the demand for perfection is your enemy when it comes to engaging your target audience (or anything, really).

Because engagement tactics are constantly changing (and this book is about the strategy, not the tactics), we’ll look at the various ways to engage your buyer persona in generalized “blocks” (the blocks that surround the core on the Digital Utopia Blueprint).

I will discuss each of these blocks philosophically, since the tactics in each of these areas change often. No book on tactics would ever be worthwhile, because the information would be out of date the moment the book went to print.

Remember, this book is about the principles of elevating relationships and how to employ those principles to position and differentiate your brand, so let’s simplify the conversation! In my opinion, the digital industry has made this process far too complicated. Simply stated, these strategic blocks can be grouped into two categories: engagement and reengagement.


Think of the following three blocks as the primary drivers of engagement:

  • Advertising
  • SEO
  • Social Media

Let’s take a look at each of them.


With a buyer persona thoroughly defined, use what you know about that person to get your content and offers in front of them on relevant websites that offer advertising opportunities.

Here are the major digital advertising paths you have at your disposal:

Search Engine Advertising

Search engines offer advertising that reaches people who are actively searching for specific information. That’s the beauty of search engine advertising—your ad is placed in front of people who are actively searching for information related to your offering.

For these active searchers, it’s a good idea to present them with your Foot-in-the-Door Offer first. While I fully believe in building a relationship before asking for the sale, active searchers are telling you that they’re already warmed up. They’re ready to go.

If someone is asking to take a big step, give them the opportunity by putting a Foot-in-the-Door Offer in front of them. If they don’t take you up on the offer, you can always retarget them with Cornerstone Content as a way to build awareness and positioning so your brand stays top of mind when they’re ready to take an appropriate next step in the relationship.

Social Media Advertising

Every social media platform offers you the opportunity to place content and offers in front of audiences based on criteria you define. Unlike search engines, the advertising you do here is proactive in nature, so the audience that sees your ads hasn’t explicitly asked for anything. Because of this, it’s a good idea to warm this audience to your brand by introducing them to your Cornerstone Content or Lead Magnet, depending on your business
math, which we’ll talk about later.

Other Online Advertising Opportunities

You should consider other online advertising opportunities. There may be an industry website that contains little more than subpar articles and a message board, but if most of your industry gathers there, it could provide better opportunities than some of the standard platforms, so explore your options. It’s also possible that you’re simply not able to profitably reach your buyer persona using search engines and social media platforms.

In either of these scenarios, you should consider looking at other online advertising opportunities. Finding them is as simple as searching the Internet for websites that cater to your buyer persona. There may be associations, discussion forums, events, or other places that already engage your buyer persona. You might find that the people on these websites are already in the right frame of mind, making them more receptive to your content and offers.

Important ROI Note: In some cases, the advertising cost when extrapolated out to the point of customer acquisition may not produce a positive ROI for you. If your content and offers are truly valuable and have been written and tested by experienced advertising-focused writers, you will need to lead with the next level up in your core: the Lead Magnet. You can get a clear sense of whether or not your advertising will produce a positive ROI by doing some basic business math using your marketing and sales conversion rates. We’ll dive deep into business math in the next chapter.


Unlike search engine advertising, where you pay to get in front of searchers with ads, SEO is about getting your content to appear organically below paid listings.

Out of all of the tactics in the digital marketing industry, no other tactic has such a “used car salesman” stigma as SEO. Unfortunately, the industry is directly responsible for creating this stigma. For years, SEO shops were secretive about what they were doing. Some wanted to keep a tight lid on their “secret sauce,” and others resorted to “black hat” tactics: activities that search engines see as attempts to trick their algorithm into ranking a website higher in the search engine results.

It never bodes well when an industry adopts a secretive approach. Clients of SEO shops often felt like investing in SEO was a necessary evil, but they rarely had any idea what their SEO team was actually doing. On top of that, SEO shops often failed to set proper expectations. SEO is a long-term game, so it takes time to see results. However, most clients of SEO shops didn’t understand this, so they wound up buying SEO with high hopes, often prioritizing SEO in front of advertising, even though advertising provides more immediate results.

In the end, they were almost always disappointed by their results, assuming that either their SEO team was incompetent or their SEO team had hoodwinked them. Neither of those assumptions are good for any industry.

Today, most SEO shops are on the up-and-up and very open about what they do. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done, so SEO remains one of the more suspicious digital marketing tactics for potential buyers.

Despite this, SEO continues to be an important part of building your digital utopia. Just make sure you understand that it is a long-term game, so you’ll need to measure ROI accordingly.

Since this book is not a technical manifesto for marketers, when I describe the things you should be doing in regards to SEO, I’m not approaching it as a precise “how to.” Rather, I’m going to provide an easy-to-understand overview that I call “The Five P’s of SEO.”

Step 1: Perform Keyword Research

Find out which keywords your buyer persona uses and determine which ones you have an opportunity to rank in.

Step 2: Produce High-Quality Content

Develop content that aims to be the most helpful resource on the Internet for a given topic—develop for humans, not search engines.

Step 3: Publish Your Content

Publish the content to your website, making sure it’s formatted for maximum readability.

Step 4: Promote Your Content

Gain immediate traction with your content by announcing it to your email database, social media followers, and so on.

Step 5: Procure High-Quality Links

Connect with webmasters of relevant, high-quality websites and ask them to link to your content as a valuable resource for their audiences.

As I said, there are many technical aspects of SEO that I have purposely left out, but my goal is to simplify SEO for non-technical people, providing an understanding of the process at a high level.


Unlike social media advertising, where you pay to proactively place your content and offers in front of target buyer personas, social media is about engaging people who have specifically elected to follow your brand’s social media page or profile.

The problem with social media is that social media platforms throttle your content. In other words, when you publish content on your page, very few of your followers will see it, because social media platforms want you to pay them to promote your content. Yes, you have to pay them to promote your own content to your own followers. Even though the platforms are ostensibly free, promotion comes at a price, so keep that in mind.

Does that make it a waste of time to engage in unpaid social media activity? No, because some social media platforms have features you can use to build an online community, and your posts aren’t throttled in these communities (as of this writing). The key is to develop a community around a specific topic that is of interest to your buyer persona. To do that, you’ll have to create a resource that delivers value.

For example, I’m part of an online community for growth-driven entrepreneurs that provides a means of sharing information and resources about growing companies. Of course, the company that created this community hopes to sell us their services, but they almost never make a pitch in the group. The resource is so valuable that we are aware of the brand anyway, and that awareness is a positive for the brand.


Generally, you can think of the following two blocks as the primary drivers of reengagement:

  • Retargeting
  • Email Marketing

Let’s take a look at each of them.


Once your buyer persona has engaged with any of your content or offers, you can stay in front of them as they move around the digital universe. To do that, you retarget them with ads. This works the same as the “Advertising” section above, except you’re offering next-level content and offers based on how they’ve already engaged with you.

Note: On the Digital Utopia Blueprint, “Retargeting” is grouped with “Advertising” as these two almost always go hand-in-hand. This approach ensures that you remain relevant at every stage of the relationship. It’s also an effective and affordable way to build overall brand awareness and positioning, particularly due to the fact that a large percentage of your buyer persona will not move to the next relationship level in a rapid fashion.

When this happens, you want to add proof and positioning content to your retargeting mix. This approach will help cement your brand awareness and positioning so that when your buyer persona is ready to take things to the next level, your brand will be top-of-mind.


Email is a way to engage people who have already had some sort of interaction with your brand, whether that’s something as minor as subscribing to your mailing list or something major like making a purchase. According to the Association of National Advertisers, email remains an effective tool in today’s data-driven world:

For years, there’s been the expectation that email marketing would eventually go the way of the DVD, AOL, and other tech from the 1990s, especially as millennials and Gen Z gravitate toward social, mobile, and other communication platforms. But more than twenty years after the first branded email message hit inboxes, email marketing remains stout as a business-to-business outreach and lead-generation tool.

This isn’t limited to B2B. When executed well and delivered with relevance to engaged audiences, email consistently delivers the highest ROI. According to a 2018 survey by Litmus, “By most measures, the ROI for email marketing is roughly twice that of other digital channels—if not better—and blows away the returns seen with traditional media channels like TV, radio, and direct mail.”

It’s important to send timely, relevant content and offers based on the behavior of the person you’re engaging with. The Digital Utopia Methodology is about applying human psychology to digital engagement, so don’t always be in your subscriber’s inbox with a sales pitch. Be there to provide value based on what you know about them and their interactions with your brand.

There are five types of emails you should send to your subscribers:

  1. Immediate Follow-ups. Whenever someone interacts with your brand, they should receive an immediate, specific follow-up based on their interaction. For example, if someone requests access to a free resource, your immediate follow-up should include an email that provides the resource they’ve requested, with one to three emails afterward to recommend the next logical step in the relationship. As I discussed earlier, don’t forget the, “Now that you’ve done that, you should do this,” framework.

  2. Welcome. The first time someone enters your database, welcome them to the family. A quality welcome is a series of one to three emails that introduces your new contact to a human at your company, tells a story about why your company is passionate about what they do, and provides immediate value. This is your opportunity to let your subscriber know that your intent is to give value to them, not make constant sales pitches.

  3. Nurturing. Most contacts won’t take the next logical step in the relationship. It’s normal for people to “hang out” at a relationship level for a while. When that happens, don’t give up. Stay in front of them with valuable content and resources related to their topic of interest. As long as you’re providing relevant value on a consistent basis, your brand will receive a build-up of goodwill that will help you stay top-of-mind when people are ready to engage. When crafting nurturing emails, remember that your content should reinforce the need for change. The number one “competitor” you have is status quo, so you’ll have to help your buyer persona make the transformation from “do nothing” to “do something.” Where possible, leverage third-party, non-competitive content to help you reinforce your key messages.

  4. Extraction. If a contact has been disengaged for a long period of time, you’ll want to make a last-ditch effort to extract some sort of value from the relationship. You’ve given a ton of value and, up to this point, it has been a one-sided relationship. Now, it’s time to get something back by asking for feedback, referrals, completion of a survey, or something similar. You can also use this as an opportunity to direct them to content and offers from affiliated partners, if you have those kinds of relationships in place. Contacts that are still unresponsive for a period of time after these last-ditch emails should be considered “dead” and marked for removal at some point based on your company’s database maintenance preferences.

  5. One-offs. Up to this point, we’ve talked about emails that are automated, meaning they are created and sent automatically based on certain triggers. One-off emails are emails you manually send on a periodic basis to deliver timely content, resources, and offers. These emails can be more like newsletters, containing a round-up of content, or more of an email “blast,” focusing on one piece of information such as the announcement of a new offering, event, or resource. Make sure to segment your database to ensure these emails are relevant to your subscrib-
    ers, of course.

Important note: Generally speaking, emails should come from a person, not a brand. You want your subscribers to know that there is a real human being on the other end. One-off newsletters or blast emails can come from the brand, but you still want them to seem like they were written by the person your subscribers are used to receiving emails from.

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

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