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The Conundrum Facing Targeted Marketing

June 20, 2017


Common sense leads one to the conclusion that targeted marketing (i.e., providing ads based on consumers’ tastes, preferences, and buying habits) is best for both the consumer and the seller. Yet a report from BlueVenn found, “Despite the growing availability of online and offline customer data, 3 in 5 consumers (58%) think that brands and marketers are failing to target them effectively.”[1] According to Kym Reynolds, a senior marketing advisor for SmartFocus, addressing this conundrum is important if companies want to foster loyalty among their customers. “Marketers,” she writes, “need to work smarter to drive customer loyalty — harnessing actionable insights from multiple data channels to create engaging and relevant conversations with customer. And the more personalized the experience, the happier the customer. A happy customer isn’t just a someone who wishes to purchase more, they are a customer that is retained, upsold to and — perhaps most importantly — a customer who becomes an advocate for your brand.”[2]


Personalization and Targeted Marketing


“Marketers today face many challenges, no matter their industry,” writes Michel Benjamin (@micheltben), director of Marketing at Lotame. “With competition coming from all angles and unshakable consumer ‘ad blindness,’ brands must find ways to reach niche audiences with the right messaging at the right time. Audience targeting is synonymous with online advertising today. If you aren’t sending your message to a specific audience, you are ‘spraying and praying’ — a technique that works well if you have an unlimited budget and no one to answer to for campaign performance.”[3] Since personalization is so important in today’s marketing environment, Reynolds offers six tips for how to do targeted marketing better. They are:


1. Remember that every customer is on their own unique. “Motivations to try, buy or stay loyal change depending on the individual making the choice. But marketers can own that moment by using technology to harvest and interpret data and create contextualized campaigns that are triggered by customer behavior, not by their best guess.”


2. Take a holistic view. “Marketers have to gain a holistic view of their customers to enable them to deliver even more personalized marketing interactions that increase brand engagement and sales. They need to interpret big data to automatically personalize and contextualize marketing communication that will help their brand engage and build relationships with customers.”


Remember it’s real-time or it’s out of date. “It’s important to remember we live in a real-time world where consumers have information at their fingertips, and hold the purchasing power to select one brand over another. So, when they do choose to engage with your brand, you need to ensure that the communication back to them is as close to real-time as possible.”


3. Build trust with your customers and don’t track people who don’t want to be tracked. “The first step to creating a personalization project is to gain the trust of your customers. This way they will offer up more personal information about themselves that will allow true personalization to occur. The more data a retailer is able to gather about its customers, the more refined and targeted marketing messages become.”


4. Create segments of one. “Marketers have been used to creating segments of their customers based on common traits they share. Now with greater amounts of data being collected about customers, we are seeing segments of one being developed.”


5. Offer real-time personalized promotions and offers. “Customers are much more likely to respond to an offer or promotion if it is personalized and sent to them while they are actually shopping for a product or purchasing a service.”


Clearly, the only way to accomplish what Reynolds is suggesting is by leveraging cognitive computing capabilities. Cognitive computing platforms can gather, integrate, and analyze both structured and unstructured data and act on that data in real- or near-real time. The right cognitive computing platform can also help marketers personalize messages without crossing the creepy line. Consumers may want to be targeted correctly (i.e., receive only messages relevant to them), but they don’t want to feel like they are being stalked. The BlueVenn study concluded, “Research suggests that the current lack of targeting is more likely down to limited investment in sophisticated tools to deal with the customer data. 87% of the marketers surveyed agreed that until they adopt the right tools, effective customer data analysis is impossible.”


Targeted Marketing is Online Marketing


It should be obvious that you can’t target your message using traditional mass media outlets. To conduct targeted marketing effectively, you need big data, cognitive computing, and the ability to reach consumers across online platforms. Increasingly, the most important platform being used by consumers is the smartphone. Benjamin offers five steps marketers can employ to help achieve successful audience targeting. They are:


1. Pixel your campaigns. “Before you can start targeting your ads, you need to place a pixel on your properties (including your website and campaigns) to gather data about the audience. Pixels are small blocks of code on a webpage that allow websites to read and place cookies, which then passes anonymous information back to you about the person’s behaviors online, including what pages they viewed.”


2. Identify your clickers or converters. “Pixeling your campaigns enables you to build an audience of ‘clickers’ or ‘converters’ — highly engaged audience members who are more likely to become your customers. … Most marketers have a good idea about who their target audience is. But the insights gathered based on your customer’s online activity may tell another story. Until you get information on who your online audience really is, you may be targeting the wrong people. And that won’t get you anywhere.”


3. Personalize your messaging. “In digital marketing, one size does not fit all. Not every customer responds to the same message. The goal of any campaign is to get the most bang for your buck, and send a message that resonates most effectively to your audience to drive sales or leads. The insights gleaned from your audience can be used to customize your messaging for further enhanced engagement, or to find more of those people who may also become customers (known as ‘lookalikes’).”


4. Identify lookalikes. “Once you have identified your ideal customer, you can purchase third-party data to reach more of your target audience that hasn’t already visited your site or interacted with your brand. Lookalike audiences are new people who are likely to be interested in your product, because they are similar to your important customers. You can base your lookalike audience on a variety of sources, but the clickers and converters mentioned above would be a good place to start.”


5. Retarget. “Retargeting is the most basic use case of audience-based marketing: You target ads to users who have previously visited your website or have shown some interest in your product or service. Retargeting refers to targeting those people again, in the hope of bringing them back to your site.


Again, cognitive computing platforms can help put these suggestions to work.




Anthony Botibol, Marketing Director at BlueVenn states, “Even though marketers have heavily invested in many technologies, our findings show there are clearly still issues with using data effectively. … With such a variety of big data available, marketers have the opportunity to learn as much as they can about their customers from all different data collections from online source. The tools are available to collate this data, analyze it and help produce targeted campaigns to give an end result of a more enjoyable customer experience.”


[1] BlueVenn, “Targeted ads: 3 in 5 consumers think marketers fail to target them effectively,” Netimperative, 23 May 2017.
[2] Kym Reynolds, “Six Tips on Personalizing Your Marketing Campaign,” Mobile Marketing Watch, 8 February 2017.
[3] Michel Benjamin, “Five Steps to Successful Audience Targeting in Online Ad Campaigns,” MarketingProfs, 7 April 2017.

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