Almost five years ago, I started my business. It took a lot of groundwork to get clients in the door. To kick things off I decided to attend a plethora of networking events. At first the events were fun and invigorating, I was new to California and many folks were welcoming. After a while I started to see patterns emerge among the attendees of these events. Every event had a few snobby people, a few job seekers at various levels of desperation, there were always a few salespeople, freelancers, etc. Mostly people were friendly and many of them seemed interested in what I had to offer. After a while I burned out, so I stopped attending. When I slowed down a little and started minding my inbox, I noticed how many newsletters started appearing, then the cold calls started.
The influx of unwanted communique was a result of trusting the people I met and then handing over my business card at networking events. My cards landed with some people I like to call card harvesters. It’s a numbers game for these people. First it’s a generic (or bulk) thank you email, then phone calls about webinars or white papers. There’s also typically several invites to social networks and groups, including ones you’ve never even heard of. What I’ve learned is these people have no interest in actually networking with you, they’re networking AT you. Trust me when I say that you do not want to get into their ‘machines.’ Stumbling upon the card harvester was the first moment in my career when I felt creeped out.
Not until recently has the creep factor commenced once again in my life, with ad retargeting and data collection. Paid search remarketing has become a new and powerful addiction for corporate advertisers.
We’ve all been witness to bad ad retargeting after a search. Imagine this scenario…you search for something and then all of a sudden it’s EVERYWHERE on your screen. It’s like the web has harvested and subsequently tried to champion you back to your last query, because all every page displays exactly what you’ve just searched. Without realizing it we’ve given a tacit cookie-consent and it toys with what we see.
You’ve almost certainly seen a remarketed advertisement in your browsers or social networks. Let’s say you’re watching a tv show and a pizza commercial comes on. You dutifully search the web for some pizza delivery.
Maybe you’re a stronger person than me and stop yourself from ordering food right then. Even if you are, temptation looms! This is because Facebook and countless other sites will continue to remind you about missing out on tasty pizza.
The similarity between the ad remarketing creepers and aforementioned card harvesters is that they’ve failed to ask for your buy-in or permission. It can be creepy. Your personal search data seems to be anything but personal. Crawlers and bots do not stop to consider our feelings. For this reason I’m a big fan of Seth Godin’s permission based marketing approach. With opt-ins from interested parties you can market more strongly to them. However, it’s not necessarily possible to get permission when doing paid advertising.
Therefore I’ve put together a few helpful tips:
- Timing is crucial. Set a reasonable time period for your remarketing ads. Don’t be a needy stalker, try to be a subtle one.
- Know your audience. Did you know statistically some age groups and different regions of the country respond better than others? Use the data within analytics to tell you if retargeting makes sense for every potential client. What does your funnel actually look like?
- Be straightforward. Use an uncomplicated call to action with a strong value proposition that incentivizes a potential client to act quickly, because otherwise they won’t.
- Limit yourself to just one vendor at a time. It’s tempting to say ‘the more the merrier,’ but that’s not actually how it works. Try a service and if you don’t like it then move on…
Paid advertising is a great tool for business and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. If you’re simply playing the numbers game then remember it is one you can lose. Use the hard earned data to make better decisions about where to target. We may not all know what is creepy to those around us, but we can use our best judgement. Just like Justice Potter Stewart said many years ago, “I know it when I see it” (when discussing the threshold of obscenity). Blatant overuse of remarketing ads can almost ensure you’ll be overstaying your welcome in someone’s digital life.
Don’t be a creeper!
Featured Image: Zoltan Pataki via Shutterstock
screenshots taken by author April 2014