8 steps to winning with data
A BLOG PIECE BY ANDREA GHIBAUDI, MANAGER, CONSULTING + DATA STRATEGY
Marketers across the globe may have their differences in industry focus, yet one thing is abundantly clear; everyone is experiencing the digital revolution. The marketing department is arguably undergoing one of the biggest and most fundamental structural changes, due to the fragmentation of the contemporary user journey. The unprecedented ocean of known and unknown data being generated at every single touch point, is growing exponentially - submerging our businesses with incredible, yet disjointed insights around consumer engagement.
So, how can marketers build smart audience strategies to drive powerful campaigns, whilst keeping afloat of this data tsunami?
Let’s crawl inside a marketer’s head to find out.
As part of this transformation journey, you have likely invested heavily in a new, or revamped marketing technology stack, after months of reviewing different technologies and assessing the best possible architectures. A core component of this new setup is an enterprise DMP (data management platform); the essential intermediate layer that enables you and your team to unlock the power of your data. This new tech helps to enrich your 1st party data with valuable 2nd and 3rd party data to create a centralised segmentation strategy which can be activated across both paid and owned digital channels. It sounds promising, right?
Now let us focus on the segmentation strategy for a second:
You’ve worked endlessly with your talented internal teams and trusted SME (subject matter expert) partners to create the most sophisticated audience segmentation strategy yet.
You have managed to break the internal siloes in your organisation, creating a task force of people from Media, CRM, BI and Strategy to truly understand the best solution for your business.
You have selected all the audience signals to translate your strategy into actionable segmentation which now exist in your DMP.
Your hard work is looking likely to pay off, and your audiences are finally ready to be activated across your best performing media channels. It’s time to let the magic begin.
Except, things haven’t quite panned out that way.
What’s going on?
The reasons are likely to be down to activation and optimisation issues. Activating data campaigns via the DMP requires a thorough understanding of your martech setup and audience strategy. Why? Well, it relies on the application of very specific optimisation tactics which would not necessarily be deployed on a standard media campaign.
Whilst it’s important to stress that each marketer will experience unique challenges based on their individual set-up, here I want to highlight some key steps that will apply to everyone.
1. Quality and quantity win the race
Paid media is all about scale - the more unique users you have in your segments, the more likely you’ll be able to target in the wider digital ecosystem. Yes, the DMP allows you to extend the reach of your CRM programs beyond the traditional channels, but there may be some very small retention audiences with only a few thousand users that are best activated in direct marketing. It’s a balance of quantity and quality.
2. Strive for amazing match rates
Match rates between platforms can be a real pain for marketers. Whether you are working with best-in-class point solutions or a fully integrated stack, you never seem to be able to find 100% of your audience. And this seems to be an agreed “norm” among the industry. In fact, availability has many dependencies beyond match rates, such as bid and frequency settings, unique access to inventory, pacing, seasonality, etc. But you shouldn’t settle for good enough, being content with the “norm”. You should strive for amazing.
3. Understanding the nuances of integrations
During the DMP implementation you have probably heard several times about “server to server”, “pixel based” and “URL based” integrations between the tech and chosen activation platforms. There are some very fundamental differences between these types of integrations, which have an impact on how your audiences are passed to your campaign activation tools. In some instances, data is passed in real-time, and in other with a daily batch. For example, with S2S (server to server) integrations, your segments are typically readily available, whilst with a pixel approach you need to wait for said audience to build up over time. These differences should heavily influence your activation strategy and the timings for mapping segments according to your campaign flight dates.
4. Test different activation platforms
Most enterprise DMPs on the market have excellent testing tools which allow you to split an audience in 2 or more mutually exclusive groups, in order to run A/B or multivariate testing. Why not leveraging this tool to test the same audiences across different activation platforms in each channel, to see which one provides the best performance?
5. Optimise, optimise, optimise
This is kind of obvious, but it’s often side-lined. Sometimes optimisations can be somewhat sluggish. Proprietary algorithms in your activation platforms will do some of the job based on the KPIs and budgets you input, but a great deal of optimisation insights still come from human insight and ingenuity! Therefore, you really want to make sure that your teams who are in charge campaign optimisation, are totally committed to the task. They need to be looking at campaigns daily and uncovering unique insights to improve performance. Ultimately, they need to truly understand your business goals and what are you trying to achieve, in order to optimise and achieve powerful results. And let us be honest, that is not always the case.
6. Create a feedback loop for measurement
The insights generated from your campaigns should not only be used for optimisation in that channel. Your media teams are sitting on a goldmine of valuable 1st party data, which you should without a doubt scan, qualify and bring back to the DMP. Whether it’s simply valuable campaign insights that you are leveraging to fine-tune your DMP segments, or a full log level export of raw data from your adserver or DSP back to the DMP – either way, you need to make sure you have a robust feedback loop in place before you start activating audiences.
7. Don’t ignore the value of other targeting tactics
It’s great to move to a consumer centric approach, leaving broad targeting behind. But there is still a lot of value in using “old school” tactics such as contextual targeting, day parting, location, and other types of openly available audience signals. Make sure you leverage all the targeting weapons in your arsenal and combine them in the most efficient and performing way.
8. Get creative
You might have the most sophisticated segmentation strategy in place, but if you are showing the same creative to all audiences, your hard work is unfortunately going to have minimal impact. Personalising creatives should be a key component of your strategy from day 0. You don’t have to start from complex DCO executions including other technology in the mix. Often, simple decisioning based on a few creative iterations is a good place to begin. And you only need your adserver to enable this approach. And once again, the testing tool in the DMP can be very useful for running A/B and multivariate testing, analysing which creative iterations work best and why.
In order to achieve the best possible performance and maximise ROI, your audience management and activation teams need to be closely aligned, understanding the full process for segmenting and activating your audiences, and most importantly truly understanding your business goals. Here at SBDS we have developed the perfect solution for your needs in our Canvas Product Suite; Data Activate. We partner with best-in-class technology and activation partners, leveraging data science to create bespoke solutions for your needs. If you are interested, check out the details of our solution here, or drop us an email here.