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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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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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