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  • Aleksander Mitrovic

What is Microtargeting and how is utilized in B2B marketing?

Microtargeting as a form of marketing allows companies to address their target groups in an extremely personalized way. B2C companies and political actors have been using this data-driven strategy with success for some time. But microtargeting is also rapidly gaining importance for B2B companies. In this article we provide you with a definition of microtargeting and show in this article what microtargeting is and how it is used in marketing using examples, solutions and technologies.

What is microtargeting?

The definition of microtargeting is very versatile, because it describes various data-based marketing strategies that address target groups identified through cluster analysis and data mining with tailored advertising and image messages. This method has been used for decades, but the new, more sophisticated technologies for data collection and linking offer more possibilities these days. The enormous potential is shown to its full extent in the age of the Internet, as the Internet provides an increasing amount and quality of available data. The accumulation of immense amounts of data - so-called big data - is the prerequisite for microtargeting. Customer needs and wishes become more transparent, which allows the identification and addressing of the smallest target group segments. Communication can thus be perfectly tailored and also reach very heterogeneous target groups. All conceivable communication instruments and channels are used.

There is a term for this immense volume of data and, in particular, its processing: Big Data. This term does not only describe the volume as such. The term is more complex. The word “big” alone encompasses the sheer extent of the volume of data, the speed with which the volume of data is generated and distributed, and ultimately also the sources from which it is generated and the data types from which it consists.

Microtargeting offers the opportunity to use appropriate communication to influence the behavior and attitude towards their own products and services of these identified groups. It is not surprising that this targeted approach and influence is not only used in marketing, but also increasingly in political election campaigns.

Barack Obama's presidential election campaign in the USA in 2008 is therefore an excellent example of microtargeting. The campaign team was deliberately put together to lead a successful campaign. In addition to the classic election campaigners “from the street”, they also included scientists, communication specialists and database engineers. In total, the campaigners had access to data sets on around 150 million people, including those from electoral registers. These were analyzed, put together in interest groups and specifically addressed. They were addressed via telephone calls, e-mails, advertisements in social media, house calls, but also topic-related advertisements on radio or television. This practice is almost a common practice in elections today. This is also used in Europe, however due to stricter data protection guidelines than in the USA to a different extent. This complexity creates the central characteristic of big data: it cannot be processed with conventional IT methods. The conventional methods either cannot handle such volumes of data, are too slow to process, or have problems with capturing a wide variety of data formats.

Big data stands for complex and weakly structured data

This characteristic of big data simply exceeds the limits of the methods, especially those that are still done manually. In this way, the data can neither be processed, analyzed, nor visualized. This is where the particular challenge lies. The so-called “Big Data Analytics” must be able to segment the data accordingly and also to visualize it in order to identify patterns within this data. Only on the basis of this analytical processing of the data is it possible to use its enormous information potential, for example to work out product quality or price transparency. If this succeeds, competitiveness, efficiency and the intensity of competition can be sustainably increased.

The areas of application of this data are diverse. These are particularly valuable in climate research, the control of traffic flows or the various production processes. But also in marketing. The data required for this comes from many possible sources, for example:

  • Search behavior in search engines

  • Activities in social networks or on websites

  • Use of customer and credit cards

  • Telecommunication connections

  • Use of devices with, for example, GPS functionality

  • Smart applications

  • Data from the Internet of Things, such as smart homes and much more ...

However, data can not only be generated online, it is also possible offline, for example in trend and opinion research through simple and classic questioning of people on the street. The collection of the data for the subsequent data mining can take place in a wide variety of forms depending on the subsequent area of ​​application, i.e. whether, for example, data is required for B2C or B2B marketing.

From big data to microtargeting

Regardless of the high demands on the complex processing of the huge amounts of data, the available information potential is gigantic. First and foremost, a good analysis of the data enables an overview of the complex whole, the interrelationships of the existing as well as the detailed prognosis for the future. This gives companies the opportunity to design their products and services according to the needs of their customers. In addition, these customers can be specifically addressed in a further step.

As a result, the huge amounts of data open up a variety of uses for marketing:

  • Very precise and detailed target group definition

  • Customers can be more involved themselves. It is easy to see when and where customers have obtained a service or information.

  • If, for example, the information from customer cards is used, it can be determined whether customers were active in special campaigns. This allows conclusions to be drawn about customer loyalty and its optimization.

  • At the same time, the performance of past activities can be measured. This opens up potential for optimization, also with regard to the required budget and thus an earlier ROI.

  • It becomes possible to react to customer activities in real time. For example, if a customer makes a search query at mail order company X, a personalized offer from another provider can then be displayed to him immediately.

  • There are also new opportunities in content marketing. Due to the amount of data, not only are the target groups clearly recognizable, it is also possible to analyze which parts of a text were particularly effective.

  • It is possible to precisely determine the effect that your own brand triggers. For this purpose, tweets or other messages can be used, for example. As a reaction, this can be used to build customer loyalty. In addition: Such analyzes are also possible for the competitors.

With Big Data Analytics, companies have the opportunity to continuously analyze and evaluate their marketing activities and to increase their efficiency. In addition, they get to know their (potential) customers and target groups much better and can assess their activities and behavior. It also creates the opportunity to establish personalized communication. This is exactly where microtargeting comes into play as a communication strategy.

Big data - the prerequisite for successful microtargeting

In addition to the immense volume of data, “Big Data” also means the diversity and quality of the data sets that can be brought together from very different sources. Data from search engines, social media activities, smart apps or GPS can be merged. Product information from competitors, changing needs of customers, trends and scientific progress, the latest results from opinion and behavior research and other information relevant to marketing can also be mapped with data support. The information obtained in this way offers enormous potential for strategy optimization and target group-specific diversification of marketing activities.

In order to be able to use this potential, in addition to data acquisition, the technological equipment and the necessary know-how are required, because big data is complex and weakly structured data. For many companies, this is a challenge, because the existing technical and human resources are often insufficient to structure, visualize and usefully evaluate the data volumes.

“Big data analytics” must be mechanically supported by tools due to the complexity and volume of the data. Which data is collected and according to which criteria it is processed and evaluated depends on the purpose and the questions to be answered.

Here, too, the following applies: the success of microtargeting is also determined by the clear definition of corporate goals and target groups and the resulting information requirements.

The communication channels used are diverse: e-mails, telephone calls, personal contact, targeted advertisements, anything is conceivable if it serves the core message conveyed. Whether the microtargeting strategy is used in B2C or B2B marketing is basically irrelevant.

Microtargeting strategies

It is quite rightly stated that the B2C and B2B sectors differ in that many B2B companies deliberately refrain from proactively using social media. However, the employees do this themselves anyway. Examples are the direct networking between employees in sales and procurement via social networks. The frequent use of search engines for the procurement of industrial goods should also be mentioned, which has been proven in numerous studies, as well as the importance of brands and the associated stable brand image. An online reputation is therefore important.

The B2B area is more complex with regard to a microtargeting strategy, since not only personal needs have to be known, but also those of the company. In addition, it is often several people who are involved in the decision-making process. In this respect, personalization in the B2C process is easier. The basic requirement is that the specific problems that the target group is dealing with and the effects that their own products have on these problems are known. In this respect, the content asset in microtargeting communication should be geared towards this and, ideally, will not address all problems at the same time, but rather different micro-problems one after the other.

The following steps of the microtargeting strategies can be used for this:

  • The creation of granular information is an important basis of the strategy. This includes knowledge of everyone involved, their role in the company, their specific problems and approaches, their objectives and ultimately the way in which they intend to use the product. One way to do this can be via LinkedIn, for example. A granular targeting option is integrated here, which allows different target groups to be created, for example based on decision-makers or job functions. Separate and different campaigns can now be started here. It is advisable to test certain content assets in order to check the effect and to further improve the assets and also to use other channels.

  • A top-of-funnel prospect list must be drawn up. This means that not all problems have to be solved, but the content assets concentrate on individual solutions. Ideally, the list is visualized, possibly interactive, takes up the daily challenges and can be disseminated via various channels. Such lists can be disseminated very well via Facebook or Twitter. This must be combined with an established remarketing strategy. This is particularly useful for knowledge transfer and building trust.

  • Remarketing and lead nurturing play an important role, i.e. the measures that are suitable for providing the relevant information to potential customers at the right time and guiding them through the buying process. The content can be passed on in a wide variety of forms, but will vary in the individual phases of the purchase decision. It is important that authority and recognition value are built up through cross-channel communication. Remarketing should also be designed in such a way that it creates brand awareness and encourages customers to take action at all times. Ultimately, the remarketing must be monitored in such a way that the sales department via a CRM platform always knows which phase the respective customer is in.

  • It is essential for success that the personas created in the first step are constantly updated and expanded . To do this, you have to deal with the people behind the target group. Contents are therefore to be formulated in such a way that an understanding of the worldview of the corresponding person can be achieved. Empathy is helpful here.

Microtargeting as a potential for marketing

If the above-mentioned data can be processed in a meaningful way, they will provide the basis for successful microtargeting and the potential to sustainably increase the efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness of a company.

There are many fields of application for marketing. In addition to a detailed target group definition (using analysis and clustering of user behavior), customer activities can be registered and responded to in real time, e.g. through SEO measures. Past and current marketing activities can be analyzed and optimized. In content marketing, for example, statements can be made about which part of the text was particularly effective, and social listening enables the brand image of a company to be analyzed and controlled by suitable measures.

Microtargeting in the B2B area

The online presence is of great importance for B2B companies, especially with regard to new customer acquisition and brand image. While active marketing and social media presence are more important in the B2C area, personal and professional networks play a major role in the B2B area. A frequently cited example is the networking of sales employees in social networks, which often bear fruit for the company.

However, microtargeting is a bit more complex to implement for B2Bs. A major difference lies in the information available. The prerequisite for successful microtargeting is precise knowledge of the target groups. It decides which customers are addressed in what form and with what content, when and where. However, the needs of companies are often not that transparent and, due to the number of people involved, not always congruent.

The prerequisite for being able to use microtargeting successfully here is knowledge of the specific problems of the target company and which of its own services or products are suitable for solving these problems. Content formats tailored to these needs are a suitable instrument for addressing them. Case studies or white papers that address the specific problem of the target group can effectively reach potential partners.

Here we give you a number of other tools that will help you to fully exploit the potential of microtargeting:

  • Creation of granular information about all people involved, problems, objectives: LinkedIn, for example, has a targeting option that allows different target groups to be created, for example based on decision-makers or job function. These can be addressed with targeted content campaigns.

  • Create a Top-of-Funnel Prospect List: A list that picks up on individual challenges and problems and focuses on specific solutions. A visualized and interactive list can be distributed via various social networks and serves to transfer knowledge and build trust.

  • Remarketing and Lead Nurturing: Measures that give customers relevant information at the right time or guide them through the buying process. The content can be passed on in a wide variety of forms and varies in the individual phases of the purchase decision. Through cross-channel communication, authority and recognition value can be strengthened. Accompanying calls to action strengthen sales.

Used correctly, microtargeting can be a huge asset for B2B companies and create competitive advantages.

Competitive advantage through personalized knowledge and trust

In addition to these aspects, the “classic” tools should of course not be missing. This applies to analysis tools for pre-targeting and re-targeting as well as classic lead generation activities, such as obtaining addresses through free guides or whitepapers. Automated follow-up, for example through welcome emails, should not be missing.

In any case, it is important that information and the right time to pass it on are the basis for success. It's like a three-course meal in a restaurant. Here, too, the order is important and the dishes are usually put together individually. This also includes, for example, addressing abandoners and reconnecting with old customers in order to win back.

Ultimately, microtargeting will only bring a competitive advantage if the personalization of the processes is carried out consistently. A trusting basis plays a major role. The more trusting the relationship, the more information will be disclosed by customers. This form of individual customer approach requires quite a bit of effort. Likewise, collecting and analyzing data. Microtargeting is not a campaign. It requires good basic work and consistent action in many dimensions. However, microtargeting has enormous potential.

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