“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” John Wanamaker, famed department store magnate and difficult advertising client, is reputed to have said this around the turn of the 20th century.
No doubt Wanamaker spent plenty of money on advertising to drive traffic to his store, and he used the best techniques of his day – target as best you can, hope your message connects and get corresponding results if you’re lucky. Ironically, this basic marketing approach lasted from Wanamaker’s day until just a few years ago. But times have changed and so has the opportunity to target and measure marketing with precision. You’ve heard of Google right? Paid search is the most fundamental change in ad targeting in 100 years. And now Facebook enables ad targeting with arguably even more precision.
But here’s the thing: Using these remarkable new marketing tools is not enough. To get the most out of them requires a new marketing approach that lets you benefit from the precise targeting and measurability. We call this approach Marketing Intelligence.
Marketing Intelligence is a way of using data-driven decisions to guide the planning, implementation and adaptation of marketing campaigns.
Think of how you develop the marketing message. You do some research (if you’re lucky enough to have time), write the creative brief, and then develop messaging by interpreting the brief. Sounds thorough, but the reality is you’re guessing. The only way to know if a message connects is to run the ad and see if it works. Suddenly that’s possible through Google Ad Words (and other paid search services like Microsoft adCenter).
With paid search campaigns, you can create a bunch of ads with different messages, run them all, and constantly adjust your spending. You’re able to increase your investment in the strongest ads so your plan is constantly improving. But you can also do this as a way of testing messaging that you’ll use in other media. Why not run a quick paid search campaign and test three headlines to see which works best; then use the winning headline in a print ad or radio campaign.
You’ve seen the old media kits. They detail months-old survey data that projects audience delivery. And you’ve heard the standard voice over, “Oh and by the way, the numbers do include ‘pass along’ because we get multiple readers in doctors’ offices.” Then you run the ad and hope that you’ve reached at least as many prospects as the media plan said you would.
Targeting with paid search is totally different. Rather than reaching the most, you want to reach the best. There’s no point in having poor prospects consume your media budget with their clicks if they’re not going to convert. So this is where the Marketing Intelligence approach applies.
First, track website visitors you gain through paid search all the way to their conversion point (maybe a form submission or an online purchase). Then, increase spending behind ads and search terms that convert, not ones that merely drive traffic. Again, you are constantly improving your campaign as it runs.
Another targeting technique that digital media has suddenly made possible is to target based on psychographics instead of just demographics. For example, we recently ran digital advertising related to March Madness that targeted prospects based on their team allegiance. Using data from Facebook profiles, we delivered ads with headlines that included team names, “Go Bulldogs!” And as teams were eliminated, corresponding ads were turned off. In terms of results, the campaign converted site visitors to promotion participants at a healthy rate of 19%. Interestingly, site visitors who were active fans of the top four teams converted at a rate of 30%!
John Wanamaker couldn’t tell what part of his ad budget was wasted. Today, not only can you tell, but better yet, you can keep from wasting it before it is gone. Messages can be tested before they run, or adjusted in real time based on actual results. And audiences can be targeted based on fleeting interests and momentary online activities. Clearly the marketing tools have changed. And the techniques need to change with them. Marketing Intelligence is how.