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In the first post in this series, we explored some accessible opportunities for businesses to leverage their customer information to reach and re-engage those customers. A solid, engaged customer base is the foundation of any successful business, and you can never underestimate the value of remaining engaged with past and current customers.

However, you can’t rely on your existing customer base to sustain — not to mention grow — your business for many reasons. This can be particularly true depending on the nature and life cycle of your product or service.

For this reason, most people would agree that awareness is critical for the success of a business. After all, if customers don’t know you exist, you’re pretty unlikely to get their money.

Accuracy of awareness targeting parameters

The massive nature of awareness-driving efforts can be challenging. How do you make sure you’re reaching prospective customers and not wasting spend on people who will never be interested in your brand? Digital advertising has made it possible to speak to a large, new audience while still being very targeted.

In the past, awareness ads were largely targeted based on geographic and demographic data. A person’s age, gender, marital status, occupation, income and location information served as general predictors of their purchase habits. If your business usually sells Vespas to 25- to 34- year-old urban professionals, you probably don’t want to speak to a 70-year-old rural retiree. Right?

The problem is, demographics are inherently limited. They allow us to make assumptions about individuals based on data that has no direct tie to actual behaviour. Customer interests and behaviours are varied and diverse, and these traditional predictors of purchase behaviour aren’t all that accurate.

Maybe that 70-year-old rural retiree does want to buy a Vespa. Maybe not. The point is, we want to target people based on their actual behaviour — not how we think they’ll act because of whether or not they check the boxes of a “typical” customer.

Lookalike targeting

Do you ever wish you could see into your customers’ brains for a minute to see why they decided to purchase your product or service? What matters to them? Why did they walk through your door (or visit your website)?

Lookalike targeting, in a way, does just that.
As you may have guessed, all you need for this is a big file o’ customer data — emails specifically. This can come from a brick-and-mortar POS, from customer records on your website, or if applicable, from a list of email newsletter subscribers.

This targeting functionality is not exclusive to Google and Facebook, but since these two behemoths dominate the digital advertising landscape and reach the vast majority of all internet users, they’re a great place to start.

Using customer data effectively

Their self-serve advertising platforms allow you to upload your list(s) of customer data, then rather than making guesses about a person’s behaviour based on the aforementioned list of external traits, they take your list of customers, match the email addresses to emails used on their platforms/networks, aggregate the data for anonymity and look for patterns in their online behaviour.

They analyze the data from this group of people who are already buying from you and build you an audience list of users who “look” like those people. That is to say, the audience they build demonstrates similar online behaviour to those who are already bought-in. They visit similar websites and conduct similar online searches. Rather than taking a surface-level look at prospective customers, this allows us to make targeting decisions based on deeper levels of “alikeness.”

Taking it a step further

Awareness is important. We’ve established that. However, simply telling someone that your brand exists will not likely be enough to turn them into a customer. And that’s ok! It doesn’t mean your awareness-driving efforts have failed — it’s simply the first step in the “purchase funnel.” (If you’re not familiar with the concept of the purchase funnel, Google it.)

What it does mean is that you should run awareness-driving efforts in conjunction with your consideration- and conversion-driving efforts (like the ones we discussed in the first post in this series). When you advertise to these “lookalike audiences,” some of them will engage with your ads, follow you on social media or visit your website.

Using remarketing efforts

Once those users have interacted with you, you can follow up with remarketing ads — now that they’re familiar with your brand, show them something that’s going to make them want to consider you for their next purchase.

If a user visited your cosmetics website and viewed organic face products, you can show them an ad that’s relevant to what they were viewing. If you’re a paint supply store and a user watched the video you posted on how to apply patterned wallpaper, show them an ad showing them your new seasonal patterns.

You get the idea — it all works together.