Developing YOUR audience targeting strategy

We all know that remarketing is a powerful tool for connecting (and reconnecting) with online audiences — especially those customers that come close to converting, then change their minds.

But there is much more to remarketing than abandoned shopping cart visitors, which is why I’ve been saying for the last several years that every campaign could and should be an RLSA campaign.

So, what is the most important audience of online searchers? Yours. 2017 has been a year of growth for what is possible with remarketing, as both Google and Bing have released innovative features to help you create a custom audience that speaks to your exact business needs.

Creative features such as exclusions, custom audiences, in-market audiences and similar audiences enable retailers to find their perfect target market online.

In light of all of these updates and changes, in my next few articles on Search Engine Land, I want to dig into remarketing to help you think about defining, mapping and segmenting your audiences, so you can create and shape the most important online audience in the world: yours.

Developing your audience targeting strategy

Who are you customers? What do you know about them? I mean really know about them. Do you know their pain points, what motivates them, and why they want or need whatever it is that you are offering to them?

Just because you think you know who your audience is, it doesn’t mean you’re right. Your hunch might start you down the right path, but to really get to know your ideal and target customers, you’ll want to analyze the available information from your CRM system and analytics account. Use this data to identify key insights about your customers, the actions they take, and what makes them YOUR ideal customer — or not.

Defining your audience

Of the thousands of marketers I’ve spoken with about remarketing in the last year, very few started by documenting and defining their audiences. Instead, they start with a specific scenario they are trying to solve with a remarketing campaign, such as trying to re-engage cart abandoners, cross-selling products and services or re-engaging previous customers who might not understand their full business offering.

In my opinion, while this strategy does work, it’s not the most effective way to utilize remarketing. You’re starting with the problem and trying to build a solution instead of starting with a customer-centric view and with all of the possibilities that remarketing has to offer. It means that the remarketing solutions you come up with might be tainted by Maslow’s Law of the instrument:

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Abraham Maslow

So then, where do I think you should start with developing your remarketing strategy? In my opinion, the art and science of remarketing come down to two things: questions and data.

I think that you should start with a set of questions to help you segment your audiences, and with access to data from your analytics platform and database/CRM to get transaction insights. Then, armed with data, you can look at the potential audience pools to determine if you have the minimum 1,000-cookie base to activate an audience list.

Using positive and negative bid modifiers on top of each audience segment, you can shape your campaigns and the flow through your website, helping customers throughout their decision journey.

To help you get started with your audience development, I’m sharing a set of carefully crafted questions I’m calling the “Ultimate Audience Development Questionnaire.” I’ve broken the checklist down into five sections based on the types of questions I explored when I was auditing and developing a remarketing strategy.

The Ultimate Audience Development Questionnaire

Part 1: Conversions

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

  • What are your conversion actions?
  • What is your average purchase/order size?
  • What is the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer?
  • How frequently do customers make purchases on your website (in a week, month, year or lifetime)?
  • How many of your customers are return customers?
  • Do you know which customers return purchases/orders?

Part 2: On-site behaviors and actions

Recommended data source: Analytics platform

  • What are the actions you want consumers to take on your website?
  • What do you consider a short website visit? A long website visit?
  • Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is already a customer?
  • Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is more likely to convert?
  • Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is not your ideal customer?
  • Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone wants to cancel a service or return a product?
  • Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is not happy or satisfied with your company?
  • Do you know when someone is no longer interested in your products/services?

Part 3: Consumer decision journey

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

  • What is the length of your typical purchase journey?
  • Is there a specific timing window you need to reach consumers during their purchase journey?
  • How long do consumers spend researching your products/services before purchasing?
  • How long do consumers spend on your site researching and comparing products?
  • How frequently do visitors return to your website during the purchase journey?
  • How frequently do visitors return to your website after the conversion event?
  • Are there pages on your website that would help identify which stage in the purchase journey the consumer is in?

Part 4: Ideal customers

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

  • Who are your BEST customers?
  • What identifies your best customers?
  • What identifies your less-than-ideal customers?
  • What are the characteristics of your best customers (age, gender, location, martial status education, job title, income, etc.)?
  • What are the characteristics of your less than ideal customers?
  • Are there customers you don’t want to re-engage with marketing?

Part 5: Personas

Recommended data source: Analytics platform, your internal CRM tools/database, social media data, and your internal marketing team!

  • Who are your target personas?
  • What are the characteristics of your target personas (age, gender, location, marital status education, job title, income, etc.)?
  • What are their interests and likes?
  • What devices do they use?
  • What actions signify that someone is part of your persona groups?
  • What motivates this persona to take action?
  • What is their pain point?
  • Who isn’t your target audience/persona (and their characteristics, behaviors, interests)?

Note: If you don’t know much about personas, check out “The Complete, Actionable Guide to Marketing Personas” by Kevan Lee.

Mapping and documenting your audience questionnaire results

After you’ve researched and investigated who your audience is and what they want/need, it’s time to organize the data in a way that makes it easy to mine for insights.

It was important for me to create an XLS spreadsheet to track the answers to the audience development questions, because while I set up the accounts and created the structure and strategy, I work with account managers and specialists who manage and optimize the accounts.

Where I was able to pull data from my analytics platform, I included my unique visitor count for the previous 30–90 days to act as a somewhat decent proxy for potential cookie pool size.

Pro tip: Choose a look-back window based on either the length of your customer decision journey or the purchase window. In the e-commerce accounts I managed, a 30- to 60-day window was sufficient for my clients; however, I worked with an automotive dealership where the average consumer went from researching to purchasing a new car in 128 days, so I would select a 130- to 145-day window for my audience analysis and for my actual cookie duration when I created audiences.

Next, I created an audience map in Excel, which includes two columns for the name of the audience (one column for Bing and one column for Google), the definition of the audience and what it represents, what stage in the consumer decision journey the audience is in, and how I’m expecting to use that specific audience list. (Is it a standalone audience segment, or do I expect to layer it with other audiences? Am I planning on using it as a positive or negative audience? What are the goals I have for the segment?)

While this exercise is time-consuming, it helps with auditing and tracking audience implementation. It also helps you to not see all audiences as “nails.” Instead, you’re able to see the potential of how to reach your customers with unique messaging and landing pages, enabling you to create customized (and seemingly personalized) marketing campaigns.

You’ll be able to shape your campaigns with positive and negative audiences to help guide searchers along the purchase journey and provide them with the answers they are looking for.

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