In today’s increasingly consumer-centric marketing environment, it is becoming crystal clear that the customer needs to come first.
However, chances are that you’re part of the 86% of marketers who don’t believe their organization is truly customer-centric yet. That’s completely natural – becoming a customer-centric organization takes a lot of time, determination, and adaptability.
With that said, your interest in refining your marketing strategy is coming at a great time. With cookies rapidly disappearing from the online landscape and an increasing number of consumer privacy initiatives taking hold, every marketer is in a position where they must reapproach what it means to be customer-centric, and how they can use measurement to get there.
Going forward, it’s no longer going to be about getting the most specific, granular insights on a single individual and using that information to push them to the next step. Instead, you’re going to need a much more holistic understanding of your audience and how to reach them through a practice called audience-level management.
What is Audience-Level Management?
Audience-level management describes a process for collecting, vetting, analyzing, and activating customer data for your campaigns. It’s a crucial component of a customer-centric approach to cross-channel marketing, as it helps you define the best audience to target with a specific message, then allows you to deploy it on the channel they’re most active on. If done correctly, a solid approach to audience-level management will allow you to become more operationally efficient and enjoy better campaign outcomes.
Why is Audience-Level Management Important?
In short, audience-level management is important because it will help you build a seamless customer experience. When you have a plan to bring customers to their next step in their journey, regardless of the channel or platform they’re engaging with you from, customers will have a much more harmonious experience. This inherently helps you become more customer-centric since you’re always keeping your focus on the customer.
In the end, audience-level management helps you make the most of your ad spend by making the path to purchase clear to that audience segment.
Nailing down the right approach to audience-level management isn’t easy, however. There’s a distinct need to balance your strategy, processes, data, and technology in a way that shines a light on your most valuable customer segments and how to reach them.
Steps to Build Your Audience-Level Management Strategy
Once you understand the basic concepts underpinning audience-level management, it’s time to start building your strategy. 44 percent of marketers claim they have a “basic” approach to audience journey management – and the first step to creating a more mature strategy is properly crafting your initial approach. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Start by centralizing high-quality data
Any great data-driven campaign starts with data. For an audience-level management strategy, make sure you’re using every first-party data source available to you, turning to second-party data only to fill in the gaps. This will require you to break down data silos, and the best way to do this is with a centralized marketing measurement platform.
Look for a platform that will help you quickly and easily store the data produced by all of your channels – your social media pages, webpages, television ads, offline adverts, and more – all in a single place. This will help you get a better idea of where you’re allocating spend, who is engaging with your media buys, and where the best growth opportunities are.
2. Define your target audience
Once you’ve compiled a collection of high-quality data, take a deeper dive into your audiences. Ask yourself a few questions: What type of people will bring my team the most value? Should we look into new customers? Try to expand the order size from loyal customers? Or should we work to retain at-risk customers?
Once you know which group you’d like to target, dive into who they are from a demographic perspective, and define a clear path that you’d like them to take. For example, if you wanted to expand order size from loyal customers, dive into your marketing measurement solution and start breaking their aggregate identity into a few key segments based on shared demographics. Then, dive deep into the relevant behavioral data, and learn the circumstances they prefer to engage under. Once you’ve done that, begin building a map of touchpoints that eventually lead to a sale.
3. Set multiple KPIs to understand how engagement impacts success
Think about the outcome you’d like to get from this audience – maybe you want to improve sales by 20 percent during this fiscal year. That desired outcome will become your campaign’s overall goal. Then, set multiple KPIs to help you track goal progress on a more granular and day-by-day level.
For many audience-level campaigns, it’s best to use leading indicators. Leading indicators will help you create predictive models that can reasonably determine how a shift in spending will impact your bottom line, helping you determine how effective your investment is before your campaign ends. However, looking at a single KPI will only provide you with part of the story – to get a deeper understanding of campaign performance, optimize several leading indicators at once.
Looking at multiple KPIs at once will grant a granular view of how various marketing activities affect various parts of your marketing strategy – for example, ensuring your short-term sales initiatives don’t come at the expense of brand equity. This will allow you to gain greater control of your campaign while it’s in-flight, allowing you to constantly optimize as new data rolls in.
4. Test and learn
With cookies quickly becoming a relic of internet history, much of the person-level measurement that used to underpin audience-level management is quickly becoming unattainable. Marketers are going to need to turn to experiential methods of marketing analysis.
However, historic experiential marketing techniques leave a lot to be desired. For example, pre-post analyses require marketers to wait until the campaign finishes to measure its success. While this tactic will be a useful post-campaign analysis, marketers will be at a significant disadvantage if they can’t track campaign performance while the campaign is in flight.
That’s why testing and learning is quickly becoming one of the leading ways to measure and optimize the success of your campaigns. You can crunch the numbers and put your confidence in predictive models, but nothing can surpass the accuracy of true campaign outcomes.
Start by using small, well-targeted segments for these campaigns. If changing the budget or copy for a certain touchpoint in your campaign nets you more engagement and a better bottom line from the desired customer segment, slowly grow your audience and invest more money proportionally. If it’s not working well, scale it back, accept that the occasional misfire is inevitable, and test another hypothesis.
Certain marketing performance measurement solutions can help with this. For example, Marketing Evolution will work with data from active campaigns and run it through a proprietary data engine that provides more accurate and granular measurement, allowing you to quickly analyze live campaigns with a high degree of confidence. With customer data becoming increasingly scarce, this campaign-focused approach will provide the data you need to predict your success.
There are a lot of solutions on the market that offer audience-level management – but don’t start with a solution and learn your strategy from there. Rather, start with your strategy, then find a solution that provides what you need to make the most of that strategy.
Once you’ve outlined your strategy, however, it is crucial to find the technological solutions that will bring your strategy to life. You need a provider who can actively demonstrate their ability to meet and exceed your expectations for audience-level management. Your solution should be able to provide multi-KPI optimization, link awareness to purchasing activity, and provide predictions of what might happen if you shift spending toward different audiences or different activities.
When all is said and done, you’ll have a strategy that will prepare you to become more customer-centric, even as person-level data becomes scarce. This will set you on a trajectory to gain and maintain a competitive advantage for years to come.