Top Down: Strategic Data Targeting For The Entire Funnel

Last month in my Data 101 article, I discussed myriad data targeting tools available to travel marketers. This month, let’s take a deeper dive into the different use cases for strategically applying that data throughout the marketing process. 

First: What’s the message? 

As with many industries, travelers move through a fairly specific path to purchase: awareness, interest, decision and action. Smart marketers understand that each of these phases requires a different brand message, a way to guide the consumer further down the funnel. 

To use a cruise line as an example, an upper-funnel campaign would likely focus on building brand awareness and interest with a general message about the amazing ships, activities and regions. As people become familiar with the idea of a cruise and move into a consideration phase, the brand can deliver more specific details about their cruise packages, with direct call to action messaging that promotes conversions. Then, once people actually buy a cruise deal, the brand can implement “thank you” messaging or reward campaigns that focus on loyalty and recurring business. 



Knowing it makes sense to change our message based on the customer journey, doesn’t it also make sense to shift our targeting strategy? 

The Awareness Phase 

Using the cruise example, if an upper-funnel campaign is focused on brand-awareness, the targeting strategy should be to cast a wide net and hit any consumer that could potentially be interested in booking a cruise vacation. In this situation, a heavy targeting strategy would actually be counterproductive to the purpose of the campaign. 

We saw Proctor & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser, recently face this issue. After running a series of highly targeted Facebook ads, they ultimately decided to pull back budgets as it made more sense to canvas a broader group of people than a highly targeted audience. Like CPG products, many travel categories have a highly varied audience. Applying targeting too early in the campaign can be more harmful than helpful.

In this instance, instead of using data to fine-tune an audience, advertisers can use data to increase reach and frequency. For example, cross-screen data can help travel brands understand who has been exposed to their TV ad, how many times and on what devices. With this understanding, brands can apply tactics like finding consumers not exposed, or underexposed to their TV ad and us that data to target them on their digital devices. 

Interest and Consideration

Once a branding campaign is underway, marketers can begin to narrow the target audience by capturing data based on who is visiting their website or engaging in other “hand raising” activities based on third-party in-market travel segments or seond-party endemic partners. With this narrowed audience, the brand can deliver highly-tailored messages that focus on actually making a sale. Through measurement, they can better understand if this audience segmentation is successful or needs further adjustment. 

If they want to get even more granular with a specific offer, messages and creative can be tailored based on specific travel interest, regions or available rooms, tickets or rates. 

Transitioning to your own data

At this point, the brand has hopefully reached the ultimate marketing goal of driving both brand or product interest as well as focusing on in-market audiences that ultimately culminate into sales. Ideally, the campaign has found the right balance across the full marketing funnel, tailored the message accordingly and resulted in a new customer. In this phase, the campaign can to transition the data strategy from external sources to the brand’s earned and owned knowledge through direct interactions. 

As you can see, data has a huge role to play, but that role should evolve with your campaign objectives and who needs to be reach, when. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and modern marketers should consult with their data providers, technology partners and in-house measurement teams to develop a strategy that works best for them. 

There has to be a balance between scaled reach and accurate targeting, but if you align the right message strategy with the right targeting strategy, you can sit back and watch the conversions roll in.

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