Just When You Thought Your Audience Targeting Was Sorted – Along Came Privacy

Identifying and getting in front of your target audience in B2B marketing can be challenging at the best of times. Once you have identified your personas, tested as many targeting options as you can, and eventually found what works it can take many months.

The thought of having to do it all again is not the most appealing however, that is exactly what we will need to do due to technology changes that are happening to comply with privacy laws and regulations.

How Will Audience Targeting Be Affected?

People’s expectations around data privacy, data breaches and scams have all led to a tightening up and introduction of new privacy laws and regulations. One casualty is audience targeting and remarketing, which has enjoyed many powerful targeting options enabling digital marketers to show ads only to the most relevant audiences.

One of the key pieces of technology used to track visitor behaviour, cookies, is the victim of these changes. It has been known since 2019 that the 3rd-party cookie is doomed to disappear introducing a gap in tracking behaviour. This, combined with visitor consent, which is required for us to be able to use any data that comes into our possession, is forcing marketers to rethink how to continue to make any targeted advertising campaign return the leads and sales expected.

Apple and Mozilla have already taken steps to prevent the reading of 3rd. party cookies in Safari and Firefox, respectively. Google was due to do the same in Chrome in 2022. This has now been postponed until mid-late 2023 whilst the relevant technologies that will fill the tracking gap are developed and implemented.

The introduction of privacy laws and regulations is having an increasing impact on the ability to target audiences with the level of sophistication marketers are now used to. If you are targeting internationally, you will also need to understand the privacy laws in the countries you are targeting, and ensure you get the relevant consent from citizens in those countries too.

In the US, California have introduced a privacy law like GDPR other states are looking at doing something similar, Brazil is in the process of introducing privacy laws and no doubt other countries are too.

We are in danger of going back to interest only and generic behavioural targeting unless we possess more meaningful data about our customers and their behaviours. This is where 1st-party data becomes important to successful targeting.

1st-Party Data Will Be Key to Effective Targeting

Data we possess about our customers, our website, and social media visitors, obtained with their consent of course, will play a bigger role in our campaigns. Using this data to create lookalike and customer match audiences is one obvious usage of this data, but also using this data, together with sales or leads generated offline, will also be essential to help the advertising platform we are using to better understand our audience, and will be key to ensuring our ads are seen by the businesses we want to engage with.

If you do not currently collect such 1st-party data, this must be your priority over the coming 12 months.

Interest targeting will be one of the few ways to expand audience reach because building groups of people with common interests anonymises identities by the sheer size of the audiences, satisfying privacy regulations.

You must think about how this will affect your digital marketing campaigns moving forward. What can you do with your 1st-party data that is going to make your targeting less generic than interests and making your targeting more impactful?

To me that says we need to put more emphasis on really understanding who our audiences are and the interest groups they are likely to fall into. This has been more the domain of the B2C lead gen world. Understanding interests in detail must come through a really in depth understanding of personas and this is where the data being generated by ABM campaigns can also help.

You really need to look at your foundation again by understanding your audience to get better at targeting them again in this new world.

What if I have not got any personas or audience targeting data, or it is not particularly good? What do I need to do to fill it out?

The first step, of course, is really understanding your customer personas and the issues that are driving them?

It is also important to be telling more about the story of yourself as a business, providing the human side to your business. Why do you do what you do, and the why is not features, benefits or what makes you unique, it is your philosophy, your beliefs and how those drive your business.

It is not all about features in comparison lists and tables and technical information. People buy people, that’s just business.

The Role Artificial Intelligence Will Play

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a much larger part in digital marketing, which is inevitable given the volumes of data being generated by online behaviours, and the value locked-up in that data, which is increasingly harder to analyse in a timely fashion. The challenge for digital marketers is how to harness the data that is most relevant to them and their world.

AI will play a bigger role in the privacy argument as the gaps in tracking data appear. AI has the possibility to provide modelled behaviour based on interest groups and historical behavioural data whilst abiding by privacy consents, which can be used for audience targeting.

Targeting algorithms are very clever, but they will not necessarily get your ads in front of your target audience all the time. Tailoring the algorithm to targeting that is unique to you will be key in the future. This will be done by feeding 1st-party data and offline conversion data into the algorithm, which Google is implementing in their Google Ads platform, for example.

What You Need to Do Next

To prepare for the drop in campaign results due to gaps appearing in your ability to target your audience with the changes being introduced you must:

  • Start collecting 1st-party data if you don’t already.
  • Evaluate the 1st-party data you possess and come up with a strategy as how best to use it once 3rd-party cookies disappear.
  • Create buyer personas or revisit your existing personas to make sure they are still relevant to the business.
  • Understand the businesses you sell to from an interest targeting perspective, and the issues that drive them.
  • Understand how you are targeting your audiences now and evaluate how that targeting will be affected by the introduction of these privacy changes.
  • Understand what role AI can play in your campaigns and how you can start to take advantage of it today.

If you are not clear on the steps to take or how you will be impacted, contact us for more advice.

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