By now, every advertiser and marketing department knows that the internet is a great channel for data-driven marketing. Data and targeting options have exploded in the past half-decade, and advertisers have plenty of choices for reaching and serving customized ads based on consumer interests. Of course, hitting a consumer with a targeted ad message doesn't guarantee they'll care -- or even notice.
Trying to appeal to consumers' interests is innocent in intent, but can be damaging if done incorrectly. Overzealous advertisers sometimes get caught up in the appeal of today's technologies and actually damage their relationship with consumers -- sometimes forever. Having watched thousands of advertisers run campaigns, it's clear that there's a line between what works and what fails miserably. Here are a few things advertisers should always avoid.
Stalking your consumers
Retargeting is one of the best tactics for driving online conversions. It works because it allows advertisers to recapture a consumer's attention after they leave the site. Consumers are busy -- they get distracted by email, turn their attention away because the phone rings, or turn to another open tab. Reminding these consumers about the products they look at is a great way to stay at the top of their minds, but retargeting is frequently abused by advertisers who really, really want that conversion.
The word "disruptive" is used often when discussing online technology, but marketers have to try hard to avoid being destructive to the user's web experience. Maintain some control and don't stalk the consumer forever. Frequency capping ensures you're not hitting a consumer with messages too often. It's also important to note that retargeting becomes less effective as time goes on. There's no reason to maintain retargeting beyond 30 days, and in most cases you'll want to stop sooner.
Retargeting across too many ad networks
Lots of ad networks say that it's wise to work with multiple partners and spread the budget around -- of course, to benefit from a share of the money. Diverting the budget to several partners makes it really difficult to understand which ones deliver more effectively. Big sample sizes are the only way to tell if one network outperforms another, and that's possible only with significant investment. This isn't to say that advertisers should stay locked in to one partner forever. Advancements in ad serving technology make it easy to change networks if a campaign doesn't meet the pre-determined performance goals.
Still, advertisers that want to retarget with multiple partners would be wise to limit themselves to two networks. The previous point about frequency capping plays a role here as well. Despite the advertiser's best intentions, working with multiple networks introduces a new cap for each partner, so while one network may hit its cap and stop targeting, others will persist, resulting in a visitor getting bombarded with too many of the same ads.
Writing for search engines and not for people
Long before real-time ad buying and data exchanges, there was search marketing. Even better than paid search results was the traffic that came from optimized pages that appeared high in the search results. Sadly, too many marketers were swayed by the free traffic and brand boost received from SEO and began designing pages to appeal more to search spiders than to living, breathing human beings.
Creating pages solely for SEO isn't necessarily a bad tactic, but every page -- even those designed to capture search traffic -- needs to put people before machines. Nothing turns potential consumers off faster than a heavily optimized keyword-stuffed page. Just look at this page and try not to grimace.
This tactic is especially important if advertisers are sending paid traffic to the page. There's no sense in paying money to draw consumers to a site -- via display ads, search, contentment recommendation, or a professional optimization process -- only to repel those consumers with bad copy.
Failing to listen to customers
Targeting technology has grown parallel to the rise of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow brands to connect directly with consumers in conversation, but it also allows for brands to better understand consumers, and figure out what kind of messages and ads they respond to.
Build a social media profile, then use the platform to carefully monitor how consumers respond to the messages -- which kinds of updates do they "like," share, re-tweet, etc. If certain types of messages draw larger reactions, use those to build your marketing creative and copy going forward.
More importantly, keep track of the negative responses. Putting out messaging that draws a negative reaction is going to quickly turn consumers off from the brand. Brands will make mistakes -- it's only natural. But it's really detrimental if brands fail to actually learn from its mistakes. Look at Kenneth Cole, a brand that has made two of the biggest Twitter faux pas in recent memory. Furthermore, not responding to complaints, suggestions, or criticisms that pile up on social media is an easy way for a brand to lose its credibility.
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