Suppress your Audience, Liberate your ROI

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Okay, we're not saying to keep your audience in a isolationist state, only informed by media you put out. Although, getting them to sing a theme tune for you every morning could be cool. 

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No, what we're saying is to craft a special group of your BFFs (Best Fans Forever). You've got to be a bit cut-throat. If you've not made the guest list, then you're not getting in. 

So, all of this involves filtering data, and using it to create well thought through target audience segments for your ad campaigns. You remove specific people, or groups of people, from these campaigns, and by reducing the amount of repetitive ads. This can:

  • Increase campaign effectiveness
  • Improve brand reputation 
  • Reduce wasteful ad spend

If you're paying for everyone to see every ad, then you're wasting time and money. Be it someone who has already made a purchase, or someone who was never going to convert at all, audience suppression can help avoid wasted resource spend. 

Customers who have already purchased are often advertised to again because they have been identified by the brand as a potential target, but haven't been removed from the marketing campaign for product.

Sometimes, the customer may just be unprofitable. Buying ad reach that will never convert is one of the big efficiency suppressors in paid media campaigns. So, you've got to identify these groups, and exclude them from future campaigns - or at least shift them to retargeting campaigns. 

For example, you might advertise complementary products or services to their previous purchases. This way, you get customers that feel attended to. This is the opposite effect of allowing repetitive ads; this reveals to customers you are trying to personalise your marketing, and are using stored data, but you're not even using that data properly. All this leads to a negative perception of your brand. 

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So, the two benefits tend to be this: saving money, keeping customers happy. The usual, right? If you've got a real budget for your campaigns, then omitting unsuitable customers means less wasted spend. And this means that customer avoids feeling annoyed with your ads. Win-win. 

Remember, this is all about data. to suppress the right audience from the right campaign, you need a complete view of customer's interactions with your brand. To do this, it's vital you connect web data from all your sources, and onboard data from a bunch of different places; sales, emails, events, etc. You need to see the person on the other side of the screen. 

Okay, we've gone through the reasons why. But the question is - how? You could start by:

Suppressing frequent buyers from branded search

"When a recurring customer searches for your brand on Google, it’s usually pretty safe to assume that they’re looking for your website," says Elizabeth Burnam, writing for CPD Institute. 

"We call these “lazy clickers.” Rather than typing into their browser and going to your website directly, they type Brand Name into Google and click on the link to your website from there." 

So, if you've got a pretty unique brand name, she explains, then your website will almost always be the top organic search listing. If this is the case, it doesn't make massive sense to continue to advertise to these people, if they're seeking you out regardless. 

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"Using a customer data platform (CDP), you can define an audience of your most loyal customers and feed that audience into Google’s suppression list for branded searches. You know they’re going to visit your website via organic search anyway, so it doesn’t make sense to bid on them with paid ads."

If someone has frequently purchased from you before, you can assume you're on their radar. Plus, you can use the money you would've spent advertising to them on serving ads to new, or infrequent, customers. 

Something else to consider is understanding customer behaviour across devices. If campaigns are based on device IDs or similar, the ad is based on that device, not the person using it. So, you've got to tie the devices to the customer, in order to avoid retargeting them by mistake. Avoid this by crafting your device graph, detailing how devices are connected to people. 

Understanding non-buyers

Most people have an idea of what their buyer profile is. She's an upper lower upper class woman, aged 23-23 1/2, 6 foot 2, loves long walks on the beach and vegetable chow mien. So, it stands to reason that a brand could craft a non-buyer, right? In the end, they tend to be just as important to identify as buyers. 

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They might have categories that are universal, or legally regulated. For example, not advertising your exotic lizard business to children under the age of 16. Or not advertising baby food to people who don't have babies. Or not advertising hair oil to bald men. It just makes sense. 

But these aren't always so generalised. You might put down non-buyers of solid gold bars as people earning an average wage. Or people who buy comic books not buying the latest journal on land law.

Over time, non-buyers can begin to show patterns in demographics, interests and behaviours, which can be key in figuring out who wont buy from the category as a whole, or from your specific brand. 

Using Application Programming Interfaces

Some businesses are even using APIs to conduct their audience suppression. Kyle Morehouse notes that this "eliminates the need to drop a file and wait for it to process. Daily processing might take 24–48 hours to notify the DMP to say, “This person has purchased that product; please stop marketing to her.”

“One of the most common mistakes is the time lag between the conversion and removing them from the prospecting pool and retargeting pool,” says Serge Del Grosso, SVP of media services at Merkle. So, campaigns require constant management to make sure customers are moving in, and out, of the right suppression buckets. 

Knowing when not to retarget

Okay, we've kind of been through this before. But you've got to consider the scenarios your customer might be in - don't overgeneralise.

So, you might think - my customer has booked a room in my hotel, therefore I don't need to advertise to her again. But, she might be a frequent flyer, or a business traveller, or even just a hotel blogger/influencer or whatever people have for jobs nowadays. But, if the visit was put down as 'holiday travel', then it's safe to assume you wont be seeing her for another year. 

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Different products can also have different lifespans, and might be purchased at different intervals. You might only buy a good pair of shoes every so often, but a month's supply of multi-vitamins is bought, well, every month. For products like these, you can change the suppression based on need and likelihood that person will need to purchase again. 

And also, remember to suppress, not exclude. I mean, if they legally can't buy your product, you're probably good to go. Statistically, at least a few non-buyers might consider making a purchase.

Sending fewer impressions to low-value customer groups

It's all about give and take. Consider adjusting your advertising spend to match the value you're likely to receive from specific customers. 

"Commonly, the customer value distribution for brands and retailers follows the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, in which 80% of revenue comes from only 20% of the customer base" says Elizabeth Burnam.

"Even if your brand doesn’t follow this rule perfectly, you’ll always find that there’s a small segment of customers who spend at significantly higher average order values and frequencies than the rest of your customer base."

So maybe examine whether your low-value customers are worth the time, effort or budget. 

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