4Cs Digital Marketing Framework

What you need to engage prospects, build trust with them and increase sales

This digital marketing framework will help you plan and prioritize your activities. You’ll be able to visualize how everything you’re working on fits together.

B2B Digital Marketing Framework

The Need for A Digital Marketing Framework

A digital marketing framework helps you create your digital marketing strategy. The right framework will help you plan and prioritize your activities. It helps you visualize how everything you’re working on fits together.

Collins dictionary defines framework as “a particular set of rules, ideas, or beliefs which you use in order to deal with problems or to decide what to do.

We can define digital marketing framework as a set of guiding principles we use to decide how to promote and sell a product or service using digital channels.

B2B Digital Marketing Framework


4Ps is arguably the most popular marketing framework, taught in almost all business schools and loved by marketers. But it’s biggest strength, focus on Product, isn’t well suited for online marketing. It was meant for an era when marketers controlled information and decided when, where and what to communicate to customers.

[bctt tweet=”4Ps #marketing #framework was meant for an era when marketers controlled information and decided when, where and what to communicate to customers.” via=”no”]

Internet changed that equation upside down. Now, your customers decide what information they want, where and when. You need a new framework to engage with your customers and convince them to buy online. While it’s easy to set up an online shop, it’s a lot harder to convince prospects to buy from your site.

One of the biggest problems we face as online marketers is the lack of trust in our brand or business. The smaller your business, the bigger is this trust gap.

[bctt tweet=”One of the biggest problems we face as #online #marketers is a lack of #trust in our brand or business. The smaller your business, the bigger is this trust gap.” via=”no”]

Even though my clients are mostly SaaS / software services companies that sell to other businesses, the issue of trust comes up every time a new prospect visits their site. Technology buyers are more comfortable buying online but even they find it difficult to buy from someone for the first time. It’s an even bigger challenge if you are selling to people who don’t buy online that frequently.


The 4Cs Digital Marketing Framework

I created the 4Cs digital marketing framework based on my experience working with clients for over 10 years. It focuses on building trust with your online prospects. Let me show you what I mean through an example.

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Joe wants to buy a mobile phone. He walks into a store, looks at different phones, talks to a sales person and buys the phone he likes best. Joe walks out with the phone in his hand, secure in the knowledge that he got exactly what he paid for. He knows he can come back to the shop later if there is any issue.

Let’s see what happens when Joe wants to buy the same phone online. He first researches online to find the best phone that fits his budget and needs. Once he has decided which phone to buy, he finds ecommerce stores selling that phone. He finds your online store and comes to the product page.

He likes the price but it’s his first time on your site. Several questions are going through his mind:

  • Can I trust this seller with my credit card information?
  • Will the store ship the same phone I ordered or something else?
  • Will it come on time?
  • What will I do if something goes wrong?

These are typical questions that reflect a lack of trust in your business. Using 4Cs framework will help you build trust with your prospect (Joe) by answering these questions before he reaches the product page.

With 4Cs framework, you start with the end goal, which is to sell, but not at the end.

[bctt tweet=”With 4Cs #digital #marketing #framework, you start with the end goal, which is to sell, but not at the end. ” via=”no”]

You can’t wait till the prospect lands on your product page to build trust. If Joe did not see your brand or site before landing on your product page, it’s too late to build trust and get his business.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t wait till the #prospect lands on your product page to build #trust. It’s too late to build trust and get his business.” via=”no”]

The 4Cs digital marketing framework has four elements: Customer, Content, Context and Conversation.

4Cs Digital Marketing Framework


Customer is at the center of 4Cs digital marketing framework. This is where you start when creating your digital marketing plan.

Your ideal customer is the person (or business) who will benefit most from your product or service. This person or business has a strong need for your product and is willing to spend time and money on it.

The first step in creating your digital marketing plan using 4Cs framework is to identify your ideal customer:

  • Who is this person or business – soccer mom / CEO / local businesses / SaaS companies /bloggers etc.
  • Demographics information such as age, gender, income group and roles / title (for business buyers)
  • Aspirations, goals and challenges faced by the person
  • How your product helps them achieve their goals or face these challenges
  • Habits, interests and behavior you can use to target or reach these people

What you are really doing here is creating your Customer Personas.

A customer persona captures all relevant details about your target audience. You should create one separate personas for each group of people you want to target. We call these distinct groups target segments.

You can create customer personas in several different ways. Buffer has an excellent article on how to create customer personas.

You can create customer persona in a spreadsheet, PowerPoint or Word template or on a sheet of paper. You can also use Hubspot’s customer Persona software.



The second C in the 4Cs digital marketing framework is Content.

Content is what your prospects or target customers read, see or hear. It includes blogs, ads, videos, podcast, emails, images, case studies, white papers, brochures and anything else you create to communicate with prospects and customers.

The content has two important roles in digital marketing:

  1. Help your customers find your product / service
  2. Build a relationship with them

It’s one of the most important ingredients of digital marketing. But before you start creating content, you need to map your buyer’s journey.

[bctt tweet=”The #content has two important #roles in #digital #marketing – 1) help your customers find your product / service 2) build a relationship with them” via=”no”]

Your prospects or customers do a few things before they are ready to buy. If your product or service is complex or expensive, the buyers journey will be longer and involve more steps. The process is faster and shorter for simpler and cheaper products.

In Joe’s case, before buying the mobile phone, he will most certainly do the following:

  • Realizes he needs or wants a new phone – may be his old phone broke or maybe he wants to impress someone. Or perhaps he wants to gift it to someone.
  • Decides how much he wants to spend on the new phone
  • Researches online to find out which phones are available within his budget and what are their features
  • Since different phones will have different features, even for the same price, Joe will have to prioritize which features are a must in his phone and which are good to have
  • Makes a shortlist of phones that have desired features and fit his budget
  • Researches the shortlisted phone further, reads reviews and talks to friends & family
  • Joe selects the phone he wants to buy based on his research
  • Finally, he buys the phone

In marketing terminology, we call it Buyer’s Journey.

As you can see, buying even a relatively simple and standard product like mobile phone involves multiple steps. At each step, the buyer or prospect needs different information that helps him move to the next step. Each step is also an opportunity for you to get in front of this prospect and influence the buying process.

[bctt tweet=”Each step in the #buyer’s #journey is an opportunity for you to get in front of your prospect and #influence the #buying #process” via=”no”]

Your content plan must focus on what your prospects need at each step of their buyer’s journey. It must provide content in a form that prospects can easily find, understand and use in the buying process.

When you use the 4Cs digital marketing framework, you identify steps your prospects will take in the buyer’s journey. Then for each step, you try to answer these questions:

  • What is the goal of the prospect?
  • What information he needs to achieve that goal?
  • Where is he going to look for this information?
  • Which questions he may be asking (to Google, friends or family, online forums etc.)
  • How can you provide this information to the prospect?
  • What is the best format for providing this information?
  • How do you make this information easy to understand and use?
  • How do you make this information stand out from what competitors are offering?
  • How do you produce this information?

Answers to these questions help you create a content plan that helps your prospects get the information they need and in a way they can use it.

Neil Patel has written a great post on How to create a customer journey map

[bctt tweet=”4Cs #digital #marketing #framework enables you to create a #content #plan that helps your prospects get the information they need and in a way they can use it” via=”no”]



Context is the next C in my 4Cs digital marketing framework. Understanding your prospects’ context helps you decide when to show the content you have created.

Let’s go back to Joe’s buyer’s journey to understand it better.

After Joe decides the budget, he will find his options – which phones are available in his budget. His goal is to understand which make / model phones are available in his budget and their features.

Most likely, Joe will search Google using a search term like “best mobile phones under XX?”. His intent, as you can see in the search term, is to build a list of phones within his budget. He is not ready to buy, not yet.

If you show him an ad on Google for 10% off coupon, it is irrelevant for him. By showing the coupon ad, you are telling Joe you don’t understand his context. He is unlikely to click on the ad.

But if Google shows him a page from your site that lists various phones with their features (or reviews) in the search result, Joe will be thrilled. He has found exactly what he needs at this stage and will most likely click the link to your page.

In the second case, you have showed the right content in the right context.

Understanding your prospects’ context and showing them the right content is key to getting their attention. It helps you create the right distribution and promotion plan for your content.

[bctt tweet=”Understanding your prospects’ #context and showing them the right #content is key to getting their attention” via=”no”]



Conversation is about two parties exchanging information. In traditional marketing, information always flowed in one direction – from marketer to prospects. There was no conversation.

In the online world, your prospects can talk to you. They can ask you a question, respond to your content and even spread your message. But for that to happen, you have to show them the information they want (content), where and when they want (context).

When your prospects see right content in the right context, Magic happens!

[bctt tweet=”When your prospects see right #content in the right #context, Magic happens!” via=”no”]

It starts a conversation between you and your prospect. Conversation is how you build relationship with your prospects. Building relationships is how you build trust with prospects.

To understand it better, think about the people around you with whom you’ve any level of relationship. How did that relationship start? I bet it was through a series of conversation you had with that person. Depending on the type of conversation and therefore the relationship, you will have different levels of trust in those people.

The relationship, and the level of trust, your prospects have with your business depends on the type and depth of conversation you have with them.

[bctt tweet=”The level of #trust your #prospects have in your business depends on the type and depth of #conversation you have with them” via=”no”]

Conversation is not just about what the prospect is saying or writing but also includes how the prospect interacts with your content in a given situation. It is the most delicate and important part of digital marketing.

When a prospect starts a conversation, it indicates an interest in your product or service. You have to be very careful in how you engage with and move the prospect along the buying process. You also need to keep an eye on why and where the conversation is starting (or not starting).

If Joe clicked on your page in the search result, came to the page but jumped off in a few seconds, it means your content is not god enough to start the conversation.

On the other hand, if he spends a couple of minutes on the page and clicks through to a couple of other pages on the site, it means he found the content relevant. He may leave a comment (if you allow) or sign up for your emails. This is the start of a conversation.

Even if Joe does not start a conversation, he may be open to doing that if he found the content relevant. You can show him a remarketing ad to start the conversation. You may show him another helpful post through Facebook Post Promotion ad. If he likes it, he may click through to reach the post. He may even share / Like / Comment on your post.

Your digital marketing plan must encourage and support conversations with your prospects. This includes how you identify an opportunity to start the conversation (such as amount of time spent on your site), how to start the conversation and respond to prospects.

You may have to plan for online chat, enable comments on your blogs, set up remarketing tags on the site and train employees to respond to prospects.


You can use the 4Cs digital marketing framework to create your digital marketing strategy that shows right Content to your Customers in right Context. When you do that, it starts Conversation with your customers that builds trust. When your customers start trusting you, they are more likely to buy from you.

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