Building a user centric digital strategy from your owned, earned and paid data

A key challenge of digital marketing is to ‘humanise’ data, in other terms using the data your brand has on existing customers or prospects to make your offering more relevant to them. A focus on the customer will ultimately drive better return on investment from your marketing budget.

In the past, we have been pushing the same advertising message regardless of the audience, the content or the user journey. For example, if you were visiting a News website, you’d be served the same messaging whether you were in the Sports category or the Fashion one. Not the most efficient response rate!

With the (r)evolution of data tracking and analysis through automated technology, we are now able to identify and target a specific audience based on a multitude of criteria, making the segmentation more granular and accurate, and therefore broadcasting a message that’s more personalised and relevant for the user.

In theory, it seems pretty simple, but in reality, very few companies are getting it right, as marketing functions are still siloed across brand, products and digital. So where to from here? I’ve summarised below the three key go-to-market strategies to develop a user-centric approach across your owned, earned and paid media channels.

1. Understand and utilise data from your website

  • Identify if your website visitor is a first time visitor or a returning visitor
    • If they are a returning visitor, provide them with customised content based on what they viewed previously,
    • If they are a new visitor, ensure you are able to track and identify which content they interact with.
  • Identify if they are an existing customer or a potential customer
    • If they are an existing customer, offer them to create an account or to log in once it’s created.
  • Identify where your visitors come from using Google Analytics, Omniture or any other solution that provides website analytics
    • Typically, the digital channels driving visits are organic search, paid search, affiliates, advertising campaigns, lead generation, social media, PR.

More generally, it’s important to have all your content pages tagged so you can track the content your audience is interacting with and make an ongoing improvement on your website based on those learnings.

2. Understand and utilise data from your CRM

Once a visitor is identified as a customer, you can provide them with completely personalised content. Similarly, when you have done the right segmentation across your customer’s database, your EDM campaigns should be personalised based on the customer’s need state – including up-selling and cross-selling as well as delivering relevant content in relation to their existing products or services.

Additionally, I would recommend developing a Test & Learn plan to identify the performance across your website, as well as your EDMs. A lot of marketers oversee the benefit of improving their content or look & feel based on real data, not just assumptions.

3. Understand and utilise data from your media investments

Advertising plays a crucial role in the customer journey, from brand awareness through to conversion and advocacy. In order to best optimise your budget towards the channel in delivering on the business objectives, marketers need to have a very good understanding of the data that you can use to become relevant to their audience.

What data?humanise-data

  • First-party data: using your owned data i.e. from your website, social media, CRM or any other subscription (example: newsletter program).
  • Second-party data: an exclusive exchange of data between you and a partner, which usually has an interest into your product (example: Samsung providing their data to a Telco company to promote their new phone).
  • Third-party data: a paid third-party vendor that provides you with additional data, enabling more granularity in terms of demographics, revenue, gender, geo-location, hobbies & interests, life stages, etc. (example: buying data on people who use a premium credit card).

What strategies?

Currently, any media across Display, Mobile, Video can be bought programmatically (and soon TV, Radio and Outdoor). This term simply means that media buying is automated through a stack of technology platforms leading to better performance and efficiencies.

Firstly, map out the data points that you have access to through your owned data (first party) and then your external data (second or third-party). Once this is defined, segment your audience and draft each user journey along the purchase funnel – which is not necessarily a linear one and is most likely to be different for each audience segment.

While mapping out the multiple user journeys for the media buying, you should also define the creative messaging to make it relevant to each target audience.

For example, you’re launching a new credit card campaign targeting multiple segments, you will need to define the creative messaging for each single of them across their user journey: millennial, family with young kids, empty nester, etc.

Lastly, you should develop a few creative variations for each segment and each step in the journey to see which one works best. This way, you will be able to not only optimise the media buying, but also the creative messaging.

The two other variable to define in your strategy are the frequency: how many times the same user is likely to be targeted with the same creative, and the retargeting: set up some rules to avoid becoming an annoyance to your prospects and make sure the message is timely (for example: make sure to negatively retarget people who just bought your product).

Now that you are clear on your data touch points, target audience, media reach and creative messaging, your strategy should pretty much work like a decision tree. This decision tree is the first step to build a strong, integrated user-centric strategy that can be shared and implemented across your business.

Feel free to get in touch to discuss your digital strategy or any specifics around programmatic technology and data-driven marketing opportunities!

Is retargeting turning off your customers?

retargetingIn a recent survey, RAPP UK and InSkin Media highlighted the potential drawbacks of retargeting and its impact on people’s attitudes towards a brand, revealing 55% users were deterred by retargeted ads. However, based on my previous experience with both the travel and retail industries (who pioneered this model), retargeting campaigns can drive successfully higher conversions and increased ROI. With the rise of programmatic buying technologies we see higher quality, variety and relevancy of retargeted message served to customers in real-time, so what are the key factors that marketers should be aware of in order to deliver a successful, sustainable retargeting strategy?

  • Excessive ad frequency will leave people feeling annoyed or angry at your brand.
    • Use a Test & Learn strategy to define the maximum ad frequency for each of your target audiences. By deploying A/B tests for different frequency caps and analysing CTR and Conversion in real-time marketers are more likely to identify gaps and optimise on the go.
    • In the absence of this testing, the study suggests capping your ad frequency at 3.
  • Tread carefully with incorporating sensitive information such as the customer’s income and location.
    • Personalisation can be tricky when it comes to sensitive information. The use of a user’s name or personal details in a display ad will not be as well received as their use in a personalised email. Brands should always be transparent and seek permission for the use of people’s data.
    • A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if your messaging feels ‘creepy’. Starting the conversation with a question can be a great way to avoid that e.g. Still looking for the best car insurance?
  • The context in which a retargeted ad is shown to a person needs to be relevant to the ads content
    • According to the study, ads served on sites unrelated to the product or service being advertised are over 11 times more likely to discourage than encourage purchase.
    • Media side, this means having better control and visibility on the site & the content where your ads appears. Creative side, the content in the ad also needs to be relevant to the person’s need state at that point in the path-to-purchase.
    • Continually retargeting someone with a product they just bought would quickly become annoying and reflect badly on the brand. On the other hand, promoting a customer service message post-purchase to the user is likely to build brand advocacy.
  • Consider the right mix of retargeting techniques in your strategy
    • There are multiple ways toretarget. Picking the right mix given your objectives, budget and the customer’s point in the path to purchase is crucial. Think about the following techniques:
      • Site retargeting: Based on visits to your website – the most commonly used but least effective
      • Search retargeting: retargeting messages relevant to search keywords used
      • Email retargeting: retargeting based how customers interact with your emails
      • CRM retargeting: retargeting existing customers who have not interacted with your emails, but are browsing online
      • Social retargeting: retargeting through custom audiences on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter

In this context, it is the role of agencies to always partner with their clients to define an audience-centric strategy that utilises retargeting technologies to the benefit rather than the annoyance of their customers. By creating messages that strategically story-tell rather than harass customers not only will your campaign be more effective, but your overall brand advocacy will also be improved.

Source: Familiarity, Frequency and Fine Lines – InSkin Media & RAPP

What do agencies need to change to be successful?

Looking back at my latest post in October, it seems like this subject keep coming again like some vampire after blood. Last Friday, Digiday published an article on the future of agencies, quoting some major companies CEOs on ‘how to find innovative ways to keep ad agencies relevant’ (read here). There is a lot of truth in their vision: the clients have gone smarter and the agencies have lost their legitimacy in some ways as to how to drive the strategy, the technology or simply their business. However, this doesn’t explain we got into this situation. I believe there are some deeper reasons for questioning our current ad agencies model.

Clients don’t choose Partners, Procurement select Suppliers
The trust is broken between client and agencies. It is no more question of working with the partner agency that can best deliver the campaigns or the strategy. Clients don’t go to the best agency anymore, but to the cheapest. Procurement has won the power to select the agency they will contract with, over the marketing director. As a result, budgets are smaller and smaller, timelines are tighter and tighter – despite the fact that the technology has gone smarter – and agencies staff is paid less to deliver more. Even publishers have tightened their lunches’ budget and tend to go direct to the client to close the sale (Google just to name one example).

Client Services are struggling to deliver
Client services are no longer leading the client. They are tyrannised between creative queens, production nazis and clients whims. I believe client services teams – to which I belong since I started in this industry 10 years ago – has a massive worry around the orientation agencies are taking. Despite our great records and knowledge, despite our seniority and the number of direct reports we have, it is time to admit that the current model is not working for any of us. We have become the soldiers you send to the front on the battle, and who rarely survive and come back. The Millennial Generation is very unlike to find any stability in companies where we change constantly: the management, the strategy, the client, the budget… The reality is that there is too much turnover to sustain the agency model.

There is no Talent Management and Retention
No, this in not linked to a lack of skills or to being too slow to adapt to the technology. We have the right talents in agencies but there is a total waste of them because there is no talent management as such. Human resources are nonexistent in providing ongoing training and support, even mentoring which is the new trend we are meant to buy in has no reality. As a result, we now train young prodigies to better let them go to our competitors. In brief, agencies struggle to identify, select and raise the talents of today to make them the starts of tomorrow.

Diversity in agencies is a utopia
We see 90% of women on the bottom of the pyramid while only 1% of them reach the board. Again, agencies have evolved with the technology but have failed to evolve with the way we live now, which is having more balance and flexibility. The old model is dead ; we need to review how we work together. With the explosion of digital over TV and print, it is clear that we don’t need to physically go to our office anymore to be able to deliver the work. Our clients have already adopted this, but we are still locking people to their desk and providing them with little options to manage their spare time or their families. Agencies have failed so far to keep women in the industry and to bring them to top management level, as a result boards have become a boys club where you can hardly enter unless you have sacrificed your born or to be born children.

To summarise, yes the current model of agencies is obsolete. Yet, advertisers still need agency to work with them and to bring this spark of innovation into their day-to-day work. It is for the senior management and CEO to urgently wake up and bring a real change to how they manage their staff and their clients. They have all the tools, but a lot of them lack leadership skills to bring Generation Y and Millennial to follow them. The new model is maybe emerging under increased freelancing and 1:1 consultancy work…