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Targeted Advertising: 9 Best Practices to Find and Reach Your Customers Without the “Creep”

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

There can be a negative connotation surrounding targeted advertising, and consumers have been known to complain that collecting information about browsing behaviors, page visits, and searches to select what ads they see is invasive. We are here to say that done right, you won’t be invading privacy, and you will attract the right new customers, better retain your current customers, and boost your brand’s profile.

Yes - targeted advertising uses data collected like demographics, browsing behavior, and site interaction to determine and serve advertisements that will match customer preferences. There was a time many years ago that I was shopping for some sunglasses online. In the following days after doing a bit of browsing, I was shown numerous ads for sunglasses. At first, I found it a bit weird, but fast forward to today, and I actually like my browsing experience to be tailored to my interests and needs. If I am going to see ads, why not see ads for stuff that is relevant to me. I understand I might be in the minority on this opinion, but that said, I am here to tell you that targeted advertising is a smart move for any business or brand, and it can be done without the consumer feeling invaded, but rather appreciated.

There are many options for places to publish targeted ads. If you have an email list of consumers, serving up an ad at the end of a newsletter is a form of targeted advertising - those that have opted in are already interested in your brand.

To reach a new, broader audience, you can pay for targeted ads on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Most Google advertising is targeted, as when you pay to show up in search results, you are targeting somebody looking for your product or service. The Google display network also falls under the purview of Google Ads, and these together reach 90% of internet users worldwide.

How do you put targeted ads to work for your brand the right way?

  1. Make your ads valuable to your potential customers. They want new, fresh content, and make your offer something that might interest them. When you craft an ad that shows them you know them well, it also shows you care about them when the ad gives them what they would want to see.

  2. Be different. This may sound obvious, but ads are easy to ignore, so for an ad to perform well, it has to stand out by being exciting and attention-grabbing - anything but boring. Catch their eye!

  3. Find the frequency balance. While proper targeting with ads will provide a benefit to potential customers, too much of it will have the opposite effect. Seeing the same ad (no matter how beneficial to a customer) across dozens of different sites will be annoying no matter what.

  4. Location, location, location. Not every platform is the best place for your ads. Just like real estate, the location of an ad is key. While Google ads can be simple and streamlined, while social media ads should be more intricate to encourage the scrolling to stop for your ad.

  5. Know your audience. Ensure you are serving up your ads to the right audience - to do this you must know who your audience is. Do your research and know who your customers and potential customers are. Even the best ad won’t work on the wrong audience.

  6. Find the balance between being specific and a broad reach. Make your ads specific enough to reach your target audience, yet not so specific that it doesn’t reach enough people. You could create an ad that targets parents between the ages of 27 and 30 living in Kansas who own a Ford, but this level of targeting won’t show up very often. Effective marketing finds the balance of targeted efforts without being over-specific.

  7. Think laterally. When you build your campaign, you are trying to determine what your audience wants. When you think outside the box and explore lateral markets, you can expand your reach without losing focus. For example, if you were a company that helped people find apartments, of course, you would target people searching for new apartments and checking our apartment prices - but a lateral market tied to this would be the moving market-moving boxes, truck rental, storage facilities, etc.

  8. Test and analyze. Nothing works perfectly the first time. Any marketing campaign should include A/B testing to see which ads are performing and which should be scrapped. Identify your best performers and ensure maximum impact for your resources.

  9. Keep Track. Ensure ad efforts are paying off by defining key metrics and measuring them often. Track your numbers to make sure your ad spend makes sense.

Not every campaign or ad will be 100% smooth and perfect the first time. But when you follow best practices with targeted ads and remember the key rule of giving the consumer what they want, you will capture more attention and drive more conversions.

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