It’s good to know human beings are nowhere near as predictable as marketers like to think we are.
Despite the vast amount of data sites like Facebook hold about members, the social network’s data-driven adverts are still way off target.
OK, I may be in my forties and engaged to be married. But that doesn’t mean I’m into anti-ageing products. I don’t want a massive great meringue of a wedding dress either. Nor am I interested in celebrities or concerned about my weight: I honestly couldn’t give a stuff how much blubber Cheryl Cole has lost. I have better things to do with my life.
Big data conclusions are far too simplistic
These days marketers have access to ‘big data’, which by rights should make targeting offers tightly to people’s needs, preferences and lifestyles much easier. But in real life, it doesn’t. The conclusions they come to are still far too simplistic.
In reality Facebook’s efforts are no better than thirty years ago, when data driven targeting was the direct marketer’s holy grail and we only had postcode, sex and buying history to play with.
If Facebook filled my account with adverts for stuff I’m really interested in, things like 1950s German art pottery, ’60s and ’70s oil paintings, antique rugs, craft materials, tickets for Radio 4 comedies, garden stuff, wood carving gear and good books, I’d be a happy bunny and would probably click through. That’s what I’d call targeting!
I fell into direct marketing more or less by accident back in 1989. Part creative, part logical, the bit I found most exciting was the concept of targeting: tailoring your offer to a carefully-chosen bunch of people who should be more likely than average to respond.
Targeting makes sense in principle. For example, I love gardening. So when I get an offer from a gardening-related business, by rights I should be more likely than average to buy. On the other hand I don’t drive – I never have – so firms who send me information about breakdown services are on a big, fat hiding to nowhere.
It’s logical… but it targeting really as effective as marketers say?
While it’s a logical concept, marketers have been banging on about targeting for more than two decades. So why is effective targeting still the holy grail for so many of us, more than twenty years down the line and despite the wonders of the interweb?
Targeting isn’t a silver bullet
I suspect targeting might have a relatively small part to play in marketing success. It’s handy. It helps maximise your chances of conversion, along with numerous other common sense factors. But it ain’t – and will never be – a magic marketing silver bullet.
Why? Economists are currently busy revising the world’s financial models, taking human frailty and lack of logic into account for the first time. Perhaps it’s time to admit that it’s equally difficult – if not impossible – to accurately second guess individuals’ buying behaviour. While I love grubbing about in the garden my buying triggers are multi-factoral, involving much more than just a general need for garden-related stuff. However fantastic your offer, if I don’t need or want it at the point you contact me, for whatever reason, I won’t buy.
How will big data affect targeting success?
Having said that, there’s a shiny new kid on the block. ‘Big Data’ is here, born of the mind-boggling amounts of information collected online. Fingers crossed the sheer volume and depth of data will help marketers unravel fresh information about what motivates us to buy. But I won’t be too surprised to see another twenty years of self-congratulation and pseudo-science, prettily wrapped around a tiny core of common sense just big enough to perpetuate the myth.
Yes, targeting helps. Without doubt it’s better than nothing. But will Big Data deliver astounding practical insights that marketers can use to increase sales? We’ll see.
These days when you hunt for something online, Google and co. tailor the results according to your search and click history.
We tend to click on stuff we like, approve of, enjoy and are familiar with. Search engines assume we want more of the same, which has its advantages. But the downsides are clear. We’re either being deprived of a whole load of potentially interesting stuff because it’s demoted and we never see it. Or being deluged with so much of the same kind of stuff we get stale, bored and frustrated.
Facebook does it too, applying invisible algorithmic editing to what we see. As does Ebay, which recently provided a case in point. I donate every time I buy something and Ebay throws up an animal charity button during the process. Fine so far. But when they started tailoring the ads that appear next to my Ebay searches to animal charities I disabled the targeting straight away.
How come? Having to scroll past a steady stream of charity banner ads showing horrific images of animal cruelty was sickening. So despite Ebay’s best efforts it was an example of targeting gone wrong. I still give to animal charities. But there’s no way I’ll authorise Ebay to tailor ads for me again.
Is the net’s personalisation a bad thing? Are we missing out on the richness and variety of information online because search engines and so on filter it so heavily… and so heavy handedly? It’s a hot debate right now and the jury’s still out. But if I was God of Google I’d give people the choice of switching filtering on or off. And I’d be very wary of making sweeping generalisations and assumptions. We humans don’t work logically like algorithms. We’re natural explorers – we enjoy roaming free-range!
Here’s some food for thought on the subject: http://www.webpronews.com/facebook-google-filter-bubble-2011-06#comments
What is segmentation?
Segmentation means splitting your prospect or customer data into chunks – segments – so you can send a specially tailored marketing message to each.
How can you segment your data?
Here’s a few examples:
- customers / prospects
- recent buyers / frequent buyers / people who haven’t bought for ages
- marketing responders / non responders
- people who have bought specific goods (useful for tightly targeted up-selling and cross selling campaigns)
Why segment your data?
- targeted marketing almost always out-performs non-targeted work. Which means you make more money
- targeted campaigns and everyday communications deliver better customer service. Which means prospects are more likely to become customers. And customers are more likely to come back for more
Like all direct marketing principles, targeting is entirely logical.
Yes, the world is your database. But it makes sense to aim your products at the people you know are likely to be interested instead of blatting your message out to everyone in the known universe and beyond.
Offline, targeting has serious cost implications. It saves a bomb on direct mail postage costs by contacting people who are statistically the most likely to buy. Mass email marketing costs less than nothing, but spamming is just lazy when there’s so many great opportunities for intelligent online targeting.
Targeting has SEO implications too. Say you sell freelance copywriting services in Sussex. Instead of choosing the key phrase freelance copywriting, which is very competitive, pick key phrases that directly reflect your niche. These will be longer by nature. Including phrases like freelance copywriting in East Sussex gives you a much better chance of getting your site in front of searchers looking for exactly what you’re selling. Not just something in the ballpark.
How can you tell if people are probably in your target market? If they…
have bought your products before
have bought products like yours before
have shown an interest in buying your stuff, or stuff like it
have bought complementary products. For example you might sell a tie to someone who has just bought a smart office shirt
imply their interest by registering for your newsletter
enter your competitions
have contacted you to ask a question
belong to a professional body, forum or network that’s relevant to your products, services or industry
subscribe to relevant websites or trade magazines