Targeted advertisingI’ve talked a lot about target marketing here on the CEM blog, but I’ve also delved into the idea that the use of demographics and big data needs to go beyond just analytics. In this article, I’ll look at two factors that, used in conjunction with targeted demographic marketing, can help your business bring in the ROI with a more evolved ad campaign.

The Problem With Targeting

An article from Clickz, published last week, highlights some of the issues with relying solely on targeted, demographics-based marketing. First of all, there’s a sea of advertising out there, and consumers have gotten incredibly used to tuning it out and avoiding it. No matter how accurately targeted your campaign is, an ad is still an ad for most of your potential customers, meaning that it’s one more annoyance they’re bombarded with.

Another issue is the whole concept of targeting. The author at Clickz invokes the original meaning of “target”: where you’re aiming a shot you’re firing. This sort of “one way street” isn’t particularly useful for today’s market, where customers are seeking out more interaction with businesses that they’re buying from through social media and other avenues.

Targeted marketing, then, has in some ways become an outdated strategy. We’re not saying don’t target, of course! It remains important for businesses to think about whom they’re marketing to. However, there are other strategies that need to be integrated into any targeted campaign for it to be successful.

Optimization vs. Targeting

One potential way for businesses to get away from the just-another-ad-among-millions problem is to focus on optimizing rather than targeting. This is a multistep process, but in concept, it rests on the idea of using demographic data to determine the best context and use of ads in addition to figuring out whom to direct them at.

What would that look like? There are a number of concrete things your business can do to optimize your marketing instead of targeting it.

  • Use metrics and feedback to determine what works and what doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter if a potential customer looks at your product online; it’s more important if they bought it. Did they share it or talk about it via social media? What did they say? Following up and modifying ad campaigns is absolutely crucial to optimization.
  • Rely on users’ interest in trustworthy sources. Customers know that the goal of an ad is to sell them something. Reaching out to objective reviewers is a great way to get the word about your product or service out, and is incredibly useful as potential buyers do more and more research on sites like Yelp or through reviews on Amazon.
  • Understand the importance of context. Leverage data to understand what customers are looking for when they search on a smartphone versus a desktop at home, or at different times of day, and shape your marketing efforts accordingly.

Creative Content vs. Social Push

These days, a lot of demographic research is going into where to direct social media advertising. Services like the FBX exchange and the up-and-coming Facebook Graph search rest on the idea that social and demographic data is the driving force behind target marketing, and that businesses’ top marketing strategy should be pushing further into the social arena.

But this Super Bowl themed article from Forbes cautions that businesses may want to be doing things the other way around. Instead of focusing their efforts on compiling demographic data sets to better reach into social networks, marketers should be working on creative content that will essentially go socially viral by itself.

How might you do so? We can’t quite teach creativity, but consider these options for leveraging your creative content well:

  • Be intentional and prolific. One fantastic ad can earn you a following, but to preserve it you need to plan and execute well. This means, yes, targeting, and understanding context, as I mentioned above. Then, it means continuing an output of high quality content, which could involve hiring a content production service or designing an editorial calendar for your own staff.
  • Be personal and passionate. Consumers can tell the difference between salesy pandering and content that comes from businesses who really care about what they do, fully stand behind their product or service, and completely understand their customers’ needs.
  • Encourage participation. This is the link between creative content and that all-important social reach. Follow up your great content ideas with a strong call to action, which could involve anything from encouragement to share user-generated content, to an avenue for potential customers to learn more and engage with your brand.

Going beyond targeted, demographics-based marketing will help you raise the bar on your social media strategy as well as your overall marketing activities. And in today’s market, creating a two-way street full of context and creativity isn’t just good marketing; it’s a good business practice.

Is your business going beyond demographic targeting with your marketing strategy? What techniques are you using?