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While many marketers view dark marketing as a scary unknown, clued-in companies of all sizes are using dark marketing practices to build stronger relationships with their audiences — away from the prying eyes of the competition. This isn’t about using black hat social media techniques, like buying Instagram followers from Russia. It’s about segmenting data to deliver targeted messages to interested audiences — and interested audiences only.
Dark marketing, or posts published only to targeted individuals, relies on highly specific targeting practices to create the most personalized advertisements possible. People share all sorts of information online, especially on social media. Marketers can use information ranging from demographic categories to dream vacation goals to develop campaigns that speak to individuals on a personal level. Also called unpublished posts, dark ads can promote an event or a product in a consumer’s news feed without posting anything on the company’s social page.
Jennifer Tomlinson, senior manager of channel marketing at Microsoft, recently wrote about the value of dark marketing, saying, “Dark marketing is too powerful to ignore, and savvy business leaders are looking to integrate it into their marketing operations quickly and effectively.”
This technique is tricky because companies can’t just look at their competitors’ websites to see what they’re up to. Done right, dark marketing immediately drives revenue without revealing to the rest of the industry how it was generated. Imagine a massive campaign that covers millions of people; then, imagine that only the targeted consumers know the campaign is happening. Closing the curtain on your competitors: That’s the power of dark marketing.
How to Use Dark Marketing Effectively
Ready to make a huge splash with your target audience without your competitors detecting so much as a ripple? Embrace these principles as you put dark marketing to work for your company.
1. Velocity is your friend.
Speed is the name of the game in dark marketing. Opinions and opportunities shift quickly, so to transform those ephemeral feelings into revenue, you have to strike while the digital iron is hot.
Create workflows that allow you to take an idea from concept to execution within a few hours; namely, minimize the approval process so campaigns don’t get stuck. It will help if you’re only targeting one or two defined audiences. Let’s say you’re in charge of marketing for a boutique hotel in Philadelphia. On a day when an airline unexpectedly drops its flight costs to that city, you have an opportunity. You can advertise your hotel to potential customers who’ve been searching on your website and searching for flights to Philly.
Spend the morning developing a message for each audience, and then spend the afternoon targeting and executing that campaign. The faster you move, the more likely you are to beat your competitors to the invisible punch.
Keep your marketing team updated on the latest in segmented marketing. Every member needs to know how to isolate and attack different channels with different techniques. Retain specialists in segmentation, retargeting, and personalization to maximize the impact of your reach.
2. Targeting finally hits the mark.
In the past, targeting was mostly limited to demographic information. Dark marketing offers a whole new layer of targeting precision that makes old targeting techniques look as antiquated as town criers.
Use dark marketing to go beyond traditional methods, and seek audience members with highly specific traits. Go after prospects based on their job titles or their online behaviors, and show different audiences different ads for the same campaign.
It might sound strange, but it’s not as hard as it may seem. For instance, let’s assume you sell crochet supplies. You want to target retired women in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, but you also want to get a piece of the 20-something market in Portland. Dark marketing allows you to not only target both groups, but to also show them separate ads. The Texas grandmas see ads about making hats for new grandbabies, while the free spirits in Portland see countercultural uses for their yarn.
With dark marketing, who sees what is all up to you — and that’s great for your ROI.
3. A/B testing delivers clear insights.
Dark marketing is highly specific, which means it’s also highly variable. Rather than waste money and confuse your audience, use A/B testing to create multiple versions of ads for your audiences to see which ones perform better.
In traditional campaigns, A/B testing is far more difficult. How can you know whether one ad really performs better than another without consistency in both your audience and circumstances? Dark marketing removes that uncertainty by focusing closely on specific audiences. Test multiple ad variations within the same group to find out exactly which ones work — and which ones flop.
Thanks to dark marketing’s personal nature, you can test as many variations as you want without everyone wondering why you have so many different ads. Create multiple variations on your theme; when the campaign is finished, analyze the data to make your next attempt even more successful.
One final note: With all this talk about personalization, be careful not to overstep your bounds. New data breaches pop up every month, and regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) put the onus on businesses to safeguard the data they collect — and to delete that data for good if consumers ask them to. To avoid the worst kinds of backlash, don’t collect any personally identifiable information that would allow you to over-personalize your messaging.
You don’t have to stay in the dark when it comes to dark marketing. With a bit of research, you can transform your public campaigns into targeted masterpieces that drive more revenue and keep your strategies out of the limelight. Keep your competitors guessing and your targeted audiences interested — before long, you’ll wonder why you were ever afraid of the dark.
December 20, 2018 at 06:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs