HubSpot was founded during a time when people were under constant attack from aggressive outbound marketing tactics.

I'm sure nobody misses the unwanted ads, spam emails, and cold calls that used to interrupt their day back in the mid-00s.

Ad retargeting wasn't a thing, so we all had to settle for repeatedly seeing the same ads for products we had absolutely no interest in.

Marketing has changed a lot since then. Thankfully.

Nowadays, companies have the ability to develop engaging advertising campaigns that complement their inbound strategies and speak directly to their audiences' needs. The concept of journey-based advertising has been widely adopted and marketers can now create customized content for individuals at every stage of the buyer's journey.

Targeting has become more sophisticated, meaning that ads are now less interruptive and more informative — so sophisticated, in fact, that that we now take for granted the quality of the ads we get served in our Instagram feeds and YouTube videos.

Dare we say it — in some cases, the ad suggestions are actually really useful: "Oh, hey ad for that new running watch that I didn't know I needed but now am obsessed with." There is still a lot of bad advertising and mediocre marketing out there, but it's important to recognize just how far we've come.

But, as advertising capabilities have evolved, so too has the digital landscape. And that has created a host of new challenges for marketers.

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Cutting Through the Noise

There's more choice online now than ever before, and what was previously helpful has, in many cases, become noise. Where we were once served two ads a day for a new jacket, we're now served 22. Where there was once three restaurants in the local area offering takeaway menus, there's now 30.

In 2020, this trend has accelerated due to COVID-19, as more and more businesses have moved online and added to the ever-increasing competition for attention. This increased volume of noise is causing consumers to tune out, and customer acquisition costs to go up. And marketers are struggling to make an impact.

To overcome these new challenges, marketers need a new approach — one that allows them to adapt the way they advertise to how consumers like to buy.

Today, the buyer's journey is rarely linear. Consumers now interact with brands on laptops and smartphones and via social media, websites, and third-party influencers on the path to a purchase. And they still expect a consistent brand experience throughout.

Nowadays, the only way advertisers can break through the noise online and deliver a seamless experience across multiple touchpoints is with extreme relevance: both in terms of content and location.

Relevant messaging is the key to grabbing consumers' attention, engaging them, and guiding them to the next stage of the buyer's journey. The first step towards delivering this is meeting the audience where they are. With over four billion people worldwide now working from home, consumers' purchasing behavior and content consumption habits are changing rapidly.

In the U.S., staying home has led to a 60% increase in the amount of content consumed — Americans are now watching roughly 12 hours of media content a day, according to Nielsen data. Knowing where an audience is paying attention is as important as knowing what messaging is likely to resonate.

Once a marketer understands where their target audience is spending their time, the next challenge is to create ad content that addresses their needs in an engaging way and is tailored to whichever stage of the buyer's journey they are at.

For example, if a prospect is at the attract stage, an ad that helps them become more familiar with a brand name and core value proposition would probably perform much better than a niche ad that highlights a specific new feature. That type of ad would likely work better with audiences that are much closer to a purchase decision and comparing the feature sets of different products.

However, most companies today are struggling to deliver the type of relevant, engaging ad content that resonates with consumers. And, in most cases, the cause can be traced back to a disconnection between their marketing, website, and sales efforts.

When these elements aren't working in unison, it becomes extremely difficult for marketers to get a clear view of where prospects are spending their time and which stage the buyer's journey they are at. This makes it virtually impossible for them to deliver relevant messaging and leaves them with little choice but to resort to those dated outbound tactics I mentioned earlier.

In 2021, the secret to delivering better advertising lies in marketers' ability to unlock the data at their disposal and leverage it to deliver hyper-relevant messaging and a unified buying experience.

At HubSpot, we call it 'CRM-powered advertising.'

A Data-Driven Approach to Advertising

CRM-powered advertising enables marketers to create more relevant, engaging ads for prospects in three key ways:

  1. By providing them with up-to-date customer data, which allows them to understand their audiences' preferences and purchase intent.
  2. By giving them reliable reporting based on holistic customer data, which provides insights into what's working and what's not.
  3. By enabling them to automate their ads based on live CRM data, which allows them to continually deliver relevant ads as prospects move to different stages of the buyer's journey.

Let's take a look at an example.

Say you're a demand generation specialist working at a B2B company. Competition is rising in your industry and you've seen a decline in the number of qualified leads coming from your ads each month. You know that a more targeted and personalized approach is needed. And you turn to CRM-powered advertising.

As a first step, you create a different campaign for each stage of the buyer's journey. For the attract stage, for example, you use data in your CRM to create a lookalike audience based on your happiest customers. This will be your target audience. You know that your company's security features are a key differentiator in the market so you create ads that highlight that aspect of your value proposition.

Because the target audience you've created is reflective of your best customers, you get a high percentage of click-throughs. This leads prospects towards the next stage of the buyer's journey, where they get the opportunity to download an ebook to learn more about your company's products and services. Your software gives you the ability to create custom fields on the download form, which helps you to gain more granular preference data, and ultimately, get to know your prospects better.

You have set up your campaign to automatically route these new leads to your sales team, and because you're working out of a shared CRM, you see a number of prospects move into the "demo" stage of their journey.

Again, using your CRM data, you sync these lifecycle stages to the display network you're using, which automatically begins to serve a new set of ads to prospects based on the next stage of their journey. This allows you to deliver hyper-relevant messaging that addresses the pain points that are specific to prospects who are on the verge of making a purchase decision, such as social proof from happy customers.

As deals close, you then use attribution reporting to see exactly which new customers engaged with your ads and report to your leadership team on the number of deals your CRM-powered strategy influenced.

How to Get Started With CRM-Powered Advertising

HubSpot's Marketing Hub is built to enable marketers to launch CRM-powered advertising campaigns and deliver a seamless experience for prospects — from the first time they see an ad to the moment they become a customer and beyond.

It offers ads tools that allow marketers to build deeply segmented audiences, serve different ads for different stages of the buyer's journey, and precisely measure the performance of every campaign — all informed by rich CRM data.

Advertising has come a long way since the days of interruptive, irrelevant, and irritating content that once dominated our screens. A new era is unfolding — one in which consumers expect relevant messaging across every touchpoint and in which companies must find new ways to cut through the ever-increasing volume of noise online.

A CRM-powered advertising strategy, driven by a CRM platform built with this purpose in mind, empowers marketers to not only gain deeper insights into their customers' needs, but to turn those insights into engaging content with the potential to delight prospects at every stage of the buyer's journey.

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Originally published Nov 23, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated November 23 2020