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5 essentials for successful microtargeting

Chris Golec
5 essentials for successful microtargeting Chris Golec

In this age of information overload, crafting a message that cuts through the clutter, resonates with the recipient, and lands in the right inbox is absolutely critical in today's high-stakes business-to-business marketing game. With budgets stretched to the limit, smart companies realize the best way to improve marketing ROI is to increase campaign relevance -- and sending targeted messages to generalized groups just isn't enough.

Conversely, microtargeting messages enables businesses to communicate to individuals or small groups with similar business needs. This technique is shown to better engage customers, build brand awareness, and increase sales as much as 5 percent, compared with the less-than-1 percent industry average.

Direct marketers that drive sales by acquiring qualified leads can especially benefit from microtargeting techniques by sending highly relevant emails to a small group of people who share similar business needs, are located in the same city, operate in similar industry segments, or have demonstrated certain behaviors when visiting their website.

Let's say a database software company has a handful of highly targeted sales leads -- for example, IT directors at San Francisco-based companies that use open-source database software -- and sends them an offer for a new open-source database application, and an invitation for an in-person meeting with a sales representative in San Francisco. This group would be more likely to open this email and engage with the software company than, for instance, all IT directors in California who received a blanket email.

So, once a company has decided to try microtargeting, how can it get started? Here are five essential components to consider.

1. Focus on relevance
For microtargeting to work, every contact should be classified into a relevant category, even if that category includes just one or two people. These categories can be based on demographics, business interests, brand segment, level of historical responsiveness, or behavior on your website (e.g., did they spend most of their time in the "work at company" section or reviewing product and service options?). Businesses should choose a data provider that filters leads based on narrow categories so only business contacts that matter are delivered. Marketers should also be sure that messages are tailored to a target's interests and behavior so that communication is highly relevant to his or her specific business needs.

2. Focus the audience
Marketers may be anxious to get their message out to the masses, but a highly targeted campaign may mean an audience of hundreds. Over-sending to thousands will end up costing a company more, and may also run the risk of alienating clients with email blasts that don't relate to their specific needs. For people who have visited your website, you have the benefit of being able to craft customized messages based on visitors' viewership activity, making your message even more relevant.

3. Leverage multichannel campaigns
To increase effectiveness, marketers should integrate campaigns across several channels. The most successful campaigns follow each email open or click-through with a phone call or printed letter. Companies should ensure that all contact information is acquired through multiple channels and that every marketing touchpoint reinforces an offer, perhaps offering deeper incentives further along in the campaign. Working with a data provider that includes full contact information is essential for effective multichannel marketing.

4. Know your targets
Be a strategic marketer, not a spammer. Have the people you are targeting agreed to be contacted? Be sure to work with reputable providers that offer opted-in contacts and always provide an opt-out option in your email. Avoid sources that acquire contact data from noncompliant practices such as website scraping. Once you make contact with someone, it is your responsibility to win their permission. Follow CAN-SPAM procedures on every communication you send, and promptly remove any person who no longer wants to be contacted by you.

5. Quality, quality, quality
Microtargeting only works if you have fresh, high-quality data. Business contact information decays at the rate of 2-3 percent per month, on average, and can become more than 25 percent out of date after one year. Each out-of-date record may end up costing $10-$20 in phone calls, data maintenance, and mailings. To ensure freshness, ask your provider for a continual validation process that shows a time-and-date stamp for each email successfully delivered.

Above and beyond demographic, brand, and job title information, some providers are also beginning to offer behavioral data on each contact, such as responsiveness to email and special offers.

Regardless of the economic climate, focusing on targets with the highest propensity to click, open, or buy will dramatically improve your campaign results. A microtargeting strategy attracts the right prospects and clients by offering a message that is relevant to their specific needs. Through microtargeting, you can boost satisfaction and drive more qualified leads, ultimately leading to more loyal, long-term customers.

Chris Golec is CEO of Demandbase.

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