Targeting as a “first class service”

The evolution of targeting

Marketers go through a typical evolution in their targeting.

Maybe you come from using an ESP (Email Service Provider) where targeting was either not really all that targeted or alternatively the targeting was filtered down in some other system and uploaded into the ESP each time there was an email send.

Or you may be at the point where you are executing automated nurture. And if so the targeting for this nurture has its own evolution. At one end of the spectrum the nurture communications may be very broad or possibly your nurture targeting is well developed and you are engaging prospects in a very targeted manner.

Then there is the Website targeting. You may have inherited a website that was built years ago and had little or no input into this targeting. Maybe the website targeting is organized by departments in the organization vs. how potential customers really should be targeted and communicated with.

You get the idea and this applies to any marketing activities and any targeting you may be doing.

If any of this resonates with you – you are not alone! The most common situation is one in which targeting is determined case-by-case depending on the marketing activity. What if targeting across all your activities could be harmonized?

The power of targeting

Once you have a marketing automation platform in theory you can take advantage of powerful targeting. This is because your platform has access to much data about your prospects:

  • You have access to any activity that happens in the platform (for example it can see what emails a prospect clicked on)
  • You have access to information from other systems (for example your Website or CRM) and often this information comes across via a native integration
  • You have access to any third-party information as well (for example you can refresh a prospect through a third-party data provider)

And all this information is constantly being updated in the platform meaning you can automatically update your targeting as new information comes in.

Even though you may have all this targeting power, you likely face challenges in making full use of it.

The targeting framework

The targeting framework should define your most optimal targeting for your organization and guide your targeting into the future across all your activities. The framework could be as simple as I have several products – iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch and I want to target my marketing based on these products. Below we will show an example of a framework that a client of mine created.

At some point when you are ready you will want to create a targeting framework that will span across all your marketing activities.

This is what is meant by making your targeting “first class,” – defining a targeting framework for your organization and allowing it to guide all your marketing activities. 

So let’s get into a bit of detail.

5 suggestions to make targeting “first class”

So if you want to venture into the targeting woods and make your targeting first class, here are 5 suggestions that should help:

  1. Get agreement on a targeting framework that makes sense for your organization. My experience is that this framework differs by organization. Here is an example of a framework one marketing team created with our assistance:targeting image
  1. Prioritize these targets. For example our marketing team prioritizes interest targeting over other forms of targeting. This makes sense because if you know a prospect’s interest, you should engage them based on this interest.
  2. You should factor all available information into your targeting. As mentioned above your marketing automation platform has access to a large footprint of data and all this should be factored into the targeting decision. A very powerful example here would be to track web page visits and factor this into a prospect’s interest.
  3. Your targeting should change real-time (or near real-time) meaning for example if a prospect’s interest changes, we should make the change and adjust how we communicate with this person automatically.
  4. You will want to deploy this targeting across all your marketing activities. So for example if you know a prospects interest, this should drive all your engagement whether it be email, Web content, outbound calls, or even advertising. It may take time to get to this but most importantly the agreed framework should be guiding this over time.


Treating targeting as a “first class” citizen has many implications. The first is that it is a standalone process with its own legs. And it is harmonized into all your marketing activities. It has it’s own maturity that you need to recognize and develop. It is timely as it is factoring all available information into a targeting decision as new information comes in.

There are not many marketers that have advanced to this point so I hope you find success and if so you can count yourself among the pioneers!

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