How to Reap the Advantages of People-based Marketing While Keeping Control of Your Customer Data

Ever since Facebook first coined the term “people-based marketing” in 2014, the phrase has encompassed the most pressing needs of advertisers today.

People-based marketing enables advertisers to target individuals rather than broad demographic categories or a nebulous collection of cookies. It means delivering a more personal customer experience, reaching consumers with customized messages in real time wherever they are, be it on their desktops, their mobile phones, email, or in brick-and-mortar stores. In short, it’s about meeting the customer wherever they are in the sales cycle.

For most advertisers, people-based marketing starts with your ability to identify customers across their myriad of devices at home and at work, and tie it back to a user-level profile. Despite constant technological advancements, it remains difficult for most marketers to do this kind of customer-oriented marketing, particularly across channels and devices.

Let’s take a look at some strategies for people-based marketing.

Facebook’s Custom Audiences has been a digital starting point for many brands trying to reach known customers, rather than cookies. Twitter offers a similar service, Tailored Audiences, to reach its users. And Google recently rolled out its Customer Match targeting option for advertisers to reach individuals via email addresses tied to Google accounts.

These companies offer the ability to upload an advertiser’s offline customer data (CRM, email addresses, etc.) and match it to their huge pools of authenticated user data, making it possible for advertisers to find their customers at scale across multiple devices.

These products are certainly logical avenues to advertise to customers on those particular platforms. But as you consider your broader cross-channel marketing strategy for all stages of the funnel, these advertising products, known as walled gardens, have very real drawbacks.

Here are some common problems marketers face when working with walled gardens:

1. You don’t get to know who clicked.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are called “walled gardens” for a reason: Advertisers lose sight of their data inside these platforms. For many marketers, the ease of running an inexpensive ad campaign on Facebook or Twitter is undercut by the shallowness of the data that they get back in return.

When you run a campaign on one of these platforms, the reporting you receive is simple and, well, minimal. You can see aggregated “reach” stats, but not who you reached. The walled garden knows who clicked, but they don’t share that data with advertisers, and you certainly do not get the information back in a way that can be connected to your other marketing efforts. At best, you get demographic and interest level data.

Facebook can potentially provide you with overlays of audiences that interact with your media (demographic, interest, etc.), but what it won’t do is give that information to you in a way that’s usable for anything other than buying more of that audience in its platform. In some ways Facebook is justified in doing that – it wants to protect the audience it created. However, in other ways this is prohibitive to advertisers, particularly in that it prevents full user paths, as we describe below.

2. The result – it leaves your attribution efforts in tatters.

Why does it matter that these social behemoths keep their cards so close to their chests? It’s not that you need to see the name and profile picture of everyone who clicked on your ad, though that might be fun. The real problem is that without any data on who clicked, you can’t close your loop on attribution.

Walled gardens are great at tracking transactional activities and helping you execute targeted ad campaigns within their walls, but they tend to ignore what the consumer does outside their respective platforms.

While it’s not surprising that Facebook is best at reaching and recognizing customers when they’re on Facebook, a walled-garden-centric strategy makes it difficult to get a 360-view of the customer. If you only get a 20-degree view from each walled garden and nothing connects between platforms, you can’t really tell what you’re looking at.

Effective people-based marketing depends not only on your ability to find your customers across their various devices, but also on getting a full picture of how they behave on those devices, across all of your marketing activities. If you can’t get a clear view of where your customers are in their journey, you can’t conduct effective attribution.
Closing the loop means determining which activities are generating leads and what ends up happening to them. Do they convert? Do they fall off? Where in the sales cycle are you losing customers? Who are your best customers? These are insights you limit when your view of the data is limited to only those actions within Facebook, Google, or Twitter.

3. If you can’t do attribution, you can’t determine ROI.

Let’s say you spent $500 on a Facebook advertising campaign. How can you know if those dollars were well spent? Assuming that Facebook (or Twitter or Google) is not your sole marketing channel, how do you know the impact that your Facebook ads had on your email marketing, or vice versa?

You don’t really know which customers are most likely to convert, at what cost to your operation, and the value of individual users to your business over time. You’re left with ROI data that is more reflective of broad demographic categories and their interactions with that platform, than representative of actual individuals and your customer relationships.

If you can’t follow the customer, you can’t follow the money. You may be able to make some high-level inferences, but without user-level data, you can’t determine ROI with confidence.

Brands Work Together to Gain Greater Reach

There is strength in numbers. While few brands have the scale necessary to match the sheer number of identifiers in Facebook or Google’s possession, together they do.

By working together to share anonymized identifiers in a secure, controlled manner, brands are not only able to maintain control of their proprietary data, but also close the loop on attribution and do so across all consumer engagement channels. This offers advertisers an option that better matches identity to their needs—and helps brands retain a greater measure of independence, too.

To learn how brands can deliver unparalleled experiences and drive conversions, read our ebook, The Advertiser’s Guide to People-Based Marketing.


Originally published December 01, 2015

Todd Luchik

Todd Luchik was a Digital Marketing Consultant for Signal. His previous experience includes the Family Office Exchange, Deloitte, and Arthur Andersen.

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