Lately I've been thinking about targeting and marveling at how far we have come ... and yet how far we still need to go. The concept of targeting is far from new. As an email marketer you probably consider yourself pretty savvy in this space. Our traditional database marketing friends have been doing it through direct mail, catalogs, and call centers for years. Retailers are getting better at cross/up-selling thanks to the proliferation of recommendation engine technology. And thanks to online data exchanges, media folks are feeling more confident their media buys are actually targeted. Yet, these are all only single channel efforts.
Four years ago I remember a great multichannel case study. We employed digital display, email, and onsite ads and multiple messages, tied together with cookie data. With a carefully laid out testing plan and a client willing to iterate over time, we discovered customers were most likely to buy if they saw three different messages. Because everything was tied together through cookie data, we were able to present each message the right number of times, regardless of the channel.
We know as email marketers that targeting increases results. We know it works in other channels. We know integrating channels makes marketing dollars work even harder. So, why aren't more companies taking advantage of this seemingly simple concept? Well, in my many years of creating targeting strategies for companies, I have found that it is easier said than done.
Data is locked away.
Many times data is trapped in another department's database. B2B companies have grappled with this for years as marketing sends leads to sales, never to be seen again. As more B2C companies see value in nurturing prospects, they are now experiencing the same pain.
My other favorite is when companies say they don't want to release their data because it increases risk. A friend of mine the other day scoffed at this, saying, "You give your money to someone else, don't you? If you trust the bank enough to have the right security in place, why don't you think you can trust a database company with your data?" Okay, this oversimplifies things a bit, yet you see his point.
Creative approval process.
For many companies, legal/finance needs to approve every single promotion. And yes, there are still big brands out there where the CEO wants to sign off on everything. This definitely puts a crimp in your plan to take an iterative approach and react quickly if the test does not beat the control.
Marketing and IT (cats and dogs).
Cats and dogs have been known to live together and tolerate one another, yet their priorities are a bit different. How many times have you asked to make a revision to a landing page? Now imagine (some may not need to imagine) asking IT to add a line of code or change the structure of a page. Now you are affecting a carefully laid out release schedule -- and your desire to do contextual targeting won't be realized for another six months.
As I talked about in my previous article, organizations have built departmental silos around each channel. Each department has its own objectives and detailed plans. And all of them have monthly goals they must achieve. The thought of spending time with multiple departments to agree on a single objective -- let alone laying out business rules, ensuring IT is confident the new line of code isn't going to break anything, and spending the time needed to truly gain insights and optimize the multi-channel effort is sure to give any overworked marketer hives.
We can all agree that unless drastic organizational changes are made, integrated, targeted marketing campaigns are not going to happen overnight. Yet, we can be the standard bearer and help move targeting forward one step at a time. Try starting small. Make sure each channel is maximizing its targeting capabilities. Team up with your advertising friends to ensure you are using their tags in your emails. Work with IT (before they lock down requirements) to include code and space for targeting so you can link email, media, and onsite together. At each step of the way have an objective, a measurement plan, a testing and optimization plan, and be sure to post that case study on your standard and wave it away.