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A set of data is only as useful as the effective interpretation of that data. It’s like trying to locate your favourite restaurant based only on a photo of the Earth: sure, the point you’re looking for is there, but without context you’re just looking at a blob and guessing at your target. You can probably find the right country, but it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the precise restaurant you’re looking for.

Advertising — and extremely targeted advertising, at that — has never been so accessible and affordable. However, as digital advertising continues to increase in sophistication and a seemingly endless stream of new ad units and tactics continue to appear daily, entering the fray as a small to medium-size business can be intimidating.

It might seem like this is still something left to the “big guys” with million dollar marketing budgets and a team of data scientists — but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

With many online advertising tools available at your fingertips, you can run hyper-targeted and cost-effective campaigns regardless your business size (and marketing budget). And all this can be done using data you already own.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll tell you how to leverage your own data to:

  1. Reach and re-engage your existing customers as they browse the web
  2. Find new customers and build awareness for your brand
  3. Measure the efficacy of your existing online advertising

Reach and re-engage your existing customers

Studies have shown that it costs much less to retain an existing customer than to find a new one. In a lot of ways, that principle applies to online advertising as well. Customers who are already engaged with your brand are more likely to engage with you in the future.

Self-serve online advertising platforms such as Facebook Business Manager (which includes Instagram) and Google AdWords (which includes YouTube, among others) provide opportunities to use your data to target existing customers on the web.

Retargeting

The old standby is retargeting (called “remarketing” by Google). This advertising tactic allows you to “follow” visitors to your website as they browse the web. To get started, you need to place a tracking pixel on your website, so if you don’t have access to your website’s code you may need assistance from a web developer.

Retargeting, a heavily used (and abused) tactic, can be extremely effective when used properly. We’ve all had that experience where you visit a website once and are then bombarded with ads from that business for three months. Not fun.

But when used thoughtfully, retargeting can help a customer move along their purchase journey. For example, if you’re a home accessories retailer who is running a promotion on wall art, you can create an audience of users who visited the wall art section of your website twice or more, or added wall art to their shopping cart within the last 30 days but didn’t make a purchase. To make sure you’re not overdoing it, you can set a frequency cap to make sure no user sees your ads more than 10 times. So put together some ads, make sure you are sending users to a relevant landing page and bam, you have a retargeting campaign.

The possibilities with retargeting are nearly endless, limited only by your website data supply and willingness to experiment.

Email Targeting

A newer feature available on several advertising platforms uses lists containing emails of your customers or email subscribers to target those users with ads from your business.

The key data here is the email address. If you use this feature on Facebook, they scrub your list against their user database to view — in aggregate, for security and privacy reasons — the number of users whose email addresses match those in your list. Then you can show ads specifically to those users.

All you need is a CSV file; as long as you can trigger an export from your POS (or if applicable, the platform you use to send marketing emails), you can use this targeting.

This type of campaign is a great way to target existing customers with specific messaging (maybe a special VIP discount or a new product from a line they’ve purchased in the past). It’s also a great way to reach out to customers you want to re-engage — for example, if someone was on your marketing emails list but unsubscribed, you can target them with messaging to encourage them to re-subscribe.

What’s next

Potential new customers for your business are much closer than you might think—you just need to know how to reach them, and learning how to use your own data is a huge step toward a targeted and cost-effective digital marketing strategy.

In our next post, we’ll explore how you can use your existing data to find new customers and build awareness for your brand.