Gold Fever: The Case for Prospecting

John_Mracek_NetSeer CEO newFor most advertisers, retargeting has become second nature, a practice long-ingrained in the online ad culture.

Yet any advertisers who rely predominantly on retargeting are limiting the number of their prospective customers. That’s because the retargeting pool, almost by definition, is limited to people who have already checked out a brand online without actually “checking out.”

But what about prospective customers who have not yet thought of your brand? For those completely new prospects, you need to go prospecting.

As with the gold prospectors of bygone days, your goal is to hit paydirt. But unlike them, prospecting online is no hit-or-miss affair. In fact, there’s a definite prospecting technique that advertisers can use to bring home the gold.

You start by digging deep into the data you already know about your current customers. The aim? To determine their “mindsets” – common interests and actions that drive intent. You then use predictive analytics to find people with the same mindsets who are not already on your retargeting lists.

Let’s say you sell sports jerseys. Your customers might have such diverse interests as fantasy football, beer drinking or clothing accessories interests related to luxury brands. Defining these concepts enables you to target “look-alikes” – people with the same mindsets and intentions as your customers. These look-alike segments become your prime prospects.

Or what if you sell mattresses? By looking at your converters behavior, you learn that there are some obvious traits such as doing renovations, buying a house, sleep issues. While some of these may be more obvious than others, you can discover less obvious traits such as people dealing with back pain issues. To do this properly, you have to let the predictive analytics tell you what will work and not let your biases keep you from believing other behaviors are good predictors as well. The result is a new “lookalike” segment that you can then target.

But how do you put prospecting into practice? Change your own mindset!

Prospecting represents a fundamental shift in the customer acquisition process. With retargeting, you’ve focused on reaching “hand raisers,” but non-converters. With prospecting, you start with the converted, and then find others that appear most aligned, similar.

Here are three keys to successfully shift from retargeting to prospecting:

1. Make context at least as important as cookies. Rather than following people around the web, you want to reach prospects with the right mindset in the right environment.

2. Change your attribution model. Replace last-touch attribution with an upper-funnel attribution model that includes first-touch and every subsequent touch. Upper funnel impressions lead to conversions. The right attribution will show which tactic or partner brought the new buyers into the funnel.

3. Make viewability a reality, not just a buzzword. The tools exist to do this and it’s a matter of advertisers requiring it as part of the buy. What good is it to provide a media supplier with credit when all they did was deliver an ad into a user’s browser that is unviewable—yet that is how a significant fraction of conversion credit is given.

When advertisers buy viewable impressions with the proper attribution model, the right context falls into place. Prospecting thus fits perfectly into the programmatic premium buying process. Its precise targeting means you can buy ads on premium sites that users will actually see and engage with. Instead of buying 100 million impressions with retargeting, for instance, you can buy 10 million more precisely targeted impressions with prospecting. It may cost a bit more, but in the end, you’re quite likely to strike gold.

As NetSeer’s fearless leader, John Mracek has seen his fair share of the digital media evolution John joined NetSeer from, where he ran the company’s ad network, business development, and merchant sales as VP and general manager of distributed commerce. Prior, he managed ad products and the introduction of Yahoo SmartAds as VP of advertising products at Yahoo!. Previous roles included CEO at Covia, president of AdKnowledge, and executive posts and entrepreneurial residencies at market-leaders, Adobe and Apple Computer. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT. Little known fact: back in the Jurassic Era of videogames, Mr. Mracek programmed the Atari Game Phoenix for the Atari 2600 system.