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A Simple Guide to Reaching Your Customers

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Let’s face it: There’s quite a bit of negative sentiment around targeted advertising. It’s not unwarranted — consumers often complain that collecting information from their individual browsing behaviors, such as page visits and searches, to optimally select which advertisements they see, is invasive and, some might even say, “creepy.”

Done right, however, ad targeting has the potential to attract new customers, help retain existing ones and boost your brand profile. Here’s how.

Where Can You Publish Targeted Ads?

Brands have a host of options when it comes to publishing targeted ads. For customers that have opted-in to newsletters and offers, email is a great way to serve up advertisements to consumers that are already interested in your brand.

To reach a broader audience, meanwhile, marketers can pay for targeted advertisements to be shown on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.

Other options include publishing targeted ads in users’ Google search results or via the Google display network, which reaches 90% of Internet users worldwide. Both fall under the larger banner of Google Ads, and costs are based on an auction system. Marketers input the maximum amount per click they’re willing to pay for an ad, and Google then determines ad pricing and position based on overall ad quality and maximum bid. Worth noting? Brands are only charged when someone clicks through on your link.

So how do you put ad targeting to work for your business? Here are 10 best practices to boost your ad impact.

1. Give Consumers Content They Care About

Instead of telling customers what they already know, use targeted ads as an opportunity to provide consumers with new information and other offers that might interest them based on their previous buying and browsing behaviors. Make it clear to your customers that you care about them by giving them content that is carefully targeted toward what they would want to see in an ad.

The takeaway: Consumers want new, fresh content .

2. Keep it Interesting

The reason they call marketing “creative” is because it should be exciting, attention-grabbing, and anything but boring. We all know that ads are easy to ignore, so for a targeted ad to perform well, it has to really stand out from the rest.

The takeaway: Make your ads eye-catching.

3. Set a Cap on Frequency

You need to remember that while proper ad targeting should provide a benefit to your customers, too much of it will most likely have the opposite effect. Consider the perspective of a consumer and think about how annoyed you would be if you were constantly served the same ad on dozens of different websites.

The takeaway: Don’t bombard your customers with ads.

4. Find the Right Place

Not every platform is the ideal place for your ads. While simple and streamlined ads make sense on Google search results, it’s worth taking the time to craft more intricate advertisements for Instagram or Facebook marketing campaigns that are more likely to see users stop on scrolling when they reach your ad and click through, either to a new page or to watch a video.

The takeaway: Just like real estate, effective ad targeting is all about location, location, location.

5. Pinpoint Your Audience

The key to any targeted advertisement is finding your target audience. If you’re serving up ads to customers that don’t match their preferences, you won’t see the click-through rates you’re looking for. As a result, it’s critical to do your research: Find tools that let you create custom ads based on personalized customer data and also help you see the bigger picture by identifying common traits among your audience.

The takeaway: Even the best ad won’t work on the wrong audience.

6. Don’t get too Specific

On the other side of the coin, it’s important to make your ads broad enough that they capture a decent segment of your target market. For example, while you could create an ad that specifically targets redheaded men between 20 and 22 living in Kansas who own golden retrievers and drive electric cars, the specificity of this ad is so high that it likely won’t show up on many social or search feeds and won’t capture a large enough audience share.

The takeaway: Effective marketing walks the line between targeted efforts and too-specific ads.

7. Think Outside the Box

Building targeted ad campaigns means thinking about what your audience wants. Let’s say you own a real estate company and you’re looking to help customers sell their current homes or buy new ones. Your obvious target market is people searching for realtors in their area or checking out the home prices in their neighborhood.

But it’s also worth considering parallel markets that are tied to your primary target. When it comes to real estate this might include searches for moving boxes, truck and van rentals, or storage lockers that could indicate customers are preparing to move. By thinking outside the box to include parallel markets, you can expand your reach without losing your focus.

The takeaway: Targeted marketing relies on both depth of personalization and breadth of interest.

8. Test, Test, Test

Even the best-laid advertising efforts don’t always go to plan. As a result, it’s worth conducting regular A/B testing to see which ads perform the best in specific scenarios and which can’t keep pace. Once you’ve identified frontrunners, you can tweak them even more through ongoing A/B testing to get the best return on investment.

The takeaway: Nothing works perfectly the first time. Test your ads to improve their performance.

9. Cast a Wide Net

Chances are that one advertising platform will work best for a new ad campaign. The caveat? You won’t know which one until you try them all. While it’s not worth spending your entire ad budget to blanket the Internet with new marketing efforts, it’s worth dipping your toe into multiple ad platforms to see what sticks.

The takeaway: Wide nets let you find where customers are swimming and adjust tactics to match.

10. Measure your Impact

If ads are getting seen and clicks are coming in, then everything’s going to plan, right? Maybe, maybe not. To ensure targeted ad efforts are paying dividends, it’s critical to define key performance metrics and regularly measure these metrics to ensure ads are living up to expectations. For example, you could measure the total value of conversions against the cost of a targeted marketing campaign to see if the numbers add up.

The takeaway: Track the numbers to make sure ad spend makes sense.

It’s one thing to read about best practices — it’s another to see them in action. To help you visualize what effective ad targeting looks like, we’ve collected seven great examples.

1. The New York Times

Targeted Ad Examples: The New York Times

This ad works because it targets a specific audience segment — those in their 20s — and offers actionable advice for their health. Sure, there’s part of that segment that won’t respond because they’re not worried about health habits, but those that do click through are primed to engage with the targeted content being served.

And while the Facebook reactions show a number of “mad” faces, this isn’t necessarily a downside, since it indicates the ad is prompting user interest.

2. Nom Nom

Targeted Ad Examples: Nom Nom

This ad targets a high-spending group: Pet owners. It also incorporates a customer testimonial to help convince viewers that it’s worth clicking through to find out what’s being offered.

It’s also worth noting the tagline in the bottom-left of the ad — “the only dog food like it”. This is a big claim to make but has a good chance of capturing targeted audience interest. And if the claim is backed up when they click through, there’s a solid chance of conversion.

3. Slack

Targeted Ad Examples: Slack

Pandemic pressures have made it clear that companies need to find better ways of doing work. One of the biggest productivity killers? Meetings. That’s why this targeted Slack ad works — the campaign offers the potential of 25% fewer meetings by making communication better across the company. While this kind of ad requires business decision-makers to get on board, if enough staff see and mention the ad it can generate significant corporate traction.

4. Tentsile

Targeted Ad Examples: Tentsile

Who knew that tree tents and tree hammocks were a thing? Probably not most people. That’s the genius of this ad — while it targets a smaller segment of the market looking for the “best” tree hammocks, it also casts a wider net by introducing a larger group of users to the concept of above-ground tent products.

Even better, it promises a look into “real vs. fake” products, giving visitors a chance to see what the difference is by clicking through.

5. 360Learning

Targeted Ad Examples: 360Learning

Saying that something doesn’t work in an ad is a risky bet — unless you can back it up. That’s the idea behind this 360Learning ad, which claims that Netflix-style “binge” learning can’t address the current issues with remote and online learning.

The promise of an eBook is a good way to get users to click through, and so long as there’s actionable information available it’s a solid start on customer engagement that could lead to more sales.

6. Kay Jewelers

Targeted Ad Examples: Key Jewelers

The image above is enough to give an idea of what’s going on — the dog is bringing a piece of jewelry to its owner, courtesy of their partner. The actual Facebook ad itself is a video that shows the owner happily receiving the gift and does a good job of conveying a sense of love, family, and connection.

Perhaps even more importantly, however, is that no other context is needed to understand the video. There’s no text aside from the Kay logo and tagline, and no sound is required to parse what’s happening. Here, emotions are the target and the ad hits home.

7. Peloton

Targeted Ad Examples: Peloton

Peloton had a banner year in 2020, but as pandemic pressures begin to ease the interactive bike manufacturer is experiencing a slowdown in growth. This targeted ad speaks to those interested in the bike but daunted by its high price tag.

By offering a 100-day home trial with the option to return the bike for a full refund at the end of the trial, Peloton is looking to capture and convert a historically hesitant section of its audience by giving them the chance to experience the product risk-free.

Hitting the Bullseye

Not every ad will land exactly as expected with your audience. But with targeted ad efforts that follow best practices and keep in mind the key rule of ad targeting — give the customer what they want — it’s possible to avoid criticisms of “creepy”, capture customer attention, and drive increased conversions.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2011 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Improve your website with effective technical SEO. Start by conducting this  audit.  

Originally published May 27, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated May 27 2022

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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