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Why You Should Stop Over-Targeting Your Campaigns

Advertising is all about setting and hitting targets

We set goals targeting annual growth, profitability, and new customers. Our campaigns are targeting the people who we believe can help us to meet these objectives. 

We all want to be as efficient as possible in developing our audience base and finding those specific individuals we are sure will convert. But, have we ever considered how much targeting is too much targeting? 

A good starting point is to evaluate how much audience segmentation will be healthy for your campaign. This evaluation begins with analyzing your channel selection and data sources. 

Yes, channel selection can indeed be considered a method of targeting

Gaining a good understanding of how particular channels have performed for similar campaigns in the past will allow you to allocate the right number of dollars across the right channels. Sometimes, the channel selection might even surprise you! It is important to reach your target audience where they are most likely to see an ad. But, it is more important to reach your target audience where they are most likely to engage with an ad. A target audience doesn’t mean quite as much if the results aren’t there.

We see this most often in our B2B lead gen campaigns. It is almost always an assumption to leverage LinkedIn, and at times there is hesitancy when we recommend Facebook/Instagram as a high-performing tactic. But the truth is, LinkedIn is expensive. While you can get granular job title targeting, the CPMs are high, the pixels aren’t very accurate, and the algorithms aren’t conducive to strong lead generation. 

Facebook, which actually has less job title targeting, is often a top performer on a B2B lead gen campaign. Why? Because it beats other platforms in terms of users, by a landslide— and it’s a platform that steadily produces high conversion rates.

In reality, your target audience is everywhere. TikTok is considered to be a platform for Gen Z, but there are millions of 40+ adults actively using the social media app too. You can find the right audience for your campaign on any channel, so long as targeting criteria ensures impressions are being served to only the right people. We suggest not letting assumptions about the general use of a channel dictate whether it should be a part of your campaign.

The budget-to-audience ratio

We have another perspective for the people out there who like numbers. This is based on budget. For instance, let’s look at this set of campaign criteria: 

  • $100,000.00 budget
  • Three-month flight
  • Five channels
  • Average CPM of $15

This might look feasible at first glance. But breaking this down, you’ll deliver a little less than 500,000 impressions monthly on a single channel. 

Now, we have to layer on our audiences. A question to consider is, “How many audiences can you run to collect enough data that will supply significant learnings?” The whole point about running multiple audiences is to see what might work best. Learnings are the best part about running a campaign! (Besides the results, of course).

We would argue that you need at least 100K impressions delivered toward a single audience in order to have enough data to influence decisions. That allows for a maximum of five audiences you can run at any given time per channel. This 100K impression threshold is also often subjective, and could change depending on the type of campaign and audiences in the mix.

If you think of your audience selection mathematically, it can help prevent you from selecting too many audiences to target at a given time. This is a common thread we see now that audiences can be so easily leveraged. 

Evaluate how your data is going to affect your efficiency

The granularity of targeting can be a slippery slope. Programmatic tactics have the widest breadth of audience targeting. These DSPs offer their own first-party data, along with seemingly endless third-party data segments to build your exact customer, right down to the brand of yogurt they buy. Determining your scale of targeting is a challenge in and of itself, and selecting DSPs that will be able to survive the crossover into the cookieless world, adds another layer. 

We often say, “If you can think of the audience, we can build the audience.” And, that is technically true! The question then becomes:  is it a smart audience to build?

Building these types of segments on programmatic usually isn’t a problem, as you can continue to layer on data and your CPMs don’t fluctuate too much. So, cost efficiency may not be affected. But you need to keep an eye on the estimated reach for your campaign. Low reach campaigns can result in high frequency campaigns that either don’t deliver results, or don’t deliver actual impressions.

When we build media plans, we keep a close eye on reach and over-segmentation, and we test variations of audiences at different levels of granularity to get a better understanding of what is actually going to work. Sometimes broader campaigns perform better than a hyper-targeted segment. If you have the proper tracking and reporting in place, you can also take  learnings from the broader segments that can then be applied to future campaigns.

While CPMs may not fluctuate on programmatic, this won’t be the case when it comes to Facebook/Instagram and other social media platforms. CPMs on Facebook are going to skyrocket if your reach is too small, and we see this happen most often with geographic targeting. 

Facebook will allow you to upload custom lists of locations (up to 200 per ad set), or you can target specific cities, DMAs, states or countries. The smaller you get with your geographic radius, the smaller reach you have—even if you have very little audience targeting in place. The end result is a staggeringly high CPM, which will likely yield fewer results for your campaign. 

In the case of social, it is often in your best interest to fight the instinct to tighten your target and broaden your reach instead.

1st party data > 3rd party data

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—you should always lead with your first-party data. This data isn’t used only to speak to your existing customers, but to build look-alike audiences against your existing customer set.

Look-alike audiences can be built efficiently for both programmatic tactics and Facebook/Instagram. We will always run these segments if clients are able to provide a CRM list. Another type of first-party data is your website visitor database. This can be leveraged to retarget based on-site visitors or build look-alikes against this visitor base as well. 

These first-party audience strategies allow you to target potential customers without over-segmentation and dictation of who that customer is supposed to be. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Your audience is everywhere. Don’t select channels on where you think they would be spending your time, but instead based on what will deliver performance. 
  2. Selecting channels based on the entire channels audience composition is a thing of the past… because … well …. targeting.
  3. Think mathematically about how many audiences you can afford to target at any given time. 
  4. Just because you can target an audience, doesn’t mean you should. 
  5. Audience segmentation is the death of scale, and oftentimes hurts you more than helps you. 
  6. Begin your audience strategy by analyzing your 1st party data and go from there. 

Defining the proper media mix and audience strategy are conversations we have all day, and we’d love to have one with you, too. Drop us a line if you’re ready to nerd out about data!

Written by Alysia Ehle

Alysia is all about the data. She uses it for all things, primarily to help craft the media plans and strategies that are intended to drive our desired outcome. And when she’s not developing strategies, she’s either writing, parenting or on the Peloton.

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