Audience data is widely recognized as a critical component of a successful marketing program. Businesses both new to the concept of audience data and those that already use it for personalized marketing can benefit from a better understanding of what these data source really are and how it can best be used to deliver meaningful experiences to your customer base.
Start with first party-data
For those just getting started, it can be difficult to know where to begin with audience data, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available. The most useful data for building a solid foundation for your audience profiles is your own first-party data. This data is going to be free, simply because you’ve collected it. It is also going to be reliable because it consists of data from people who have voluntarily shown some level of interest in your products and services. The goal is to get a good understanding of your audience through your first-party data and then fill in any information gaps using available second- or third-party data.
Getting your online and offline data compiled into the same data-management platform (DMP) will help you understand your customers. There are generally two ways people do this:
- First, you can sync self-identifying users with offline info whenever they are authenticating, such as when they’re filling out a survey, opening an email, or logging into a portal.
- Second, you can work with third-party match providers, who can help you identify and match users within your offline data when users don’t authenticate or self-identify online.
Either way, fully leveraging your first-party data is essential to establishing a foundational data repository for audience targeting.
Fill in the gaps
Once you’ve got a basic understanding your first-party data, what next? This is when you can start filling in information gaps with second- or third-party data.
- Identify key use cases that you want to better understand and develop segments against those use cases.
At the most basic level, this takes the form of your current customers versus prospective ones. Suppressing your existing customers from prospecting and customer-acquisition campaigns alone is going to provide a massive lift in terms of return on investment (ROI) and demonstrating the value of the platform. Although you will eventually have a DMP that contains hundreds or thousands of segments that define discrete portions of your customer base, the establishment of these major pillars of broad audience definition is essential to have in place before conducting more granular targeting.
- Use a centralized management team or DMP power-user that is responsible for syncing all of the data and content across an organization.
Most organizations have siloed personalization initiatives such as one for site personalization, one for email, perhaps one for social … etc. The key is to avoid having fragmented definitions of your audience across all of these different lines of business. A unified DMP team will be able to more effectively run cross-channel marketing initiatives by ensuring that there is a core set of defined audiences across channels. They’ll be able to pull in requirements across personalization initiatives to unify experiences for individual segments, no matter how they are interacting with your brand.
- Have realistic targeting goals.
One big mistake is to set out to create segments that are too narrowly defined and only contain a minute subset of your entire customer base. A program needs to design experiences for each of their audience segments, and too granular of a look at your audience can quickly create an insurmountable effort just to keep up with your initial segments.
A few best practices
One benefit of a DMP is the ability to aggregate all of the available data and define these extremely small granular audiences. However, you need to make sure that you have the creative and operational component within the organization to run more personalized campaigns and that you’re doing it at a granularity that is scalable. It’s much better to have five very, very strong personalization options tied to those different segments, rather than a thousand weak, half-key personalization offers that aren’t coordinated and don’t make a lot of sense.
Regardless of where you are with leveraging audience data for targeting, it’s also important to have a well thought-out strategy. Your strategy needs to be aimed at satisfying specific business objectives.
Your personalization program should be all-encompassing in terms of understanding who any given individual is through previous history, advertising engagement, and content engagement and all the way through to purchase or conversion. Having all of your online and offline data consolidated and well organized enables actionability across all channels, including more traditional communications — like direct mail or in-store engagement and purchase. This allows you to really understand that cohesive view of the customer and enables further analysis and attribution against that larger profile.
Overall, knowing where your first-, second-, and third-party data fit into your DMP is essential to the success of your program. By starting with first-party data segments and then filling in any gaps with second- or third-party data, you’ll be able to truly understand what’s driving conversation across your channels and optimize against that information.