When you think about it, advertisers have an endless list of tools at their disposal.

For instance, we might build our ads directly within Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google. Perhaps we have a budgeting tool that helps us properly allocate our ad spend. Additionally, maybe we use a tool like SEMRush to do keyword research.

There's a number of interesting reporting options out there. And I'm willing to bet when you're working on your ads strategy, you're leveraging much more than just the tools within the social media networks to find success.

We're no different here at HubSpot. Everything from keyword research tools to Microsoft Excel and HubSpot's own ads tool is booted up to aid us in reaching you with the perfect ad at exactly the right moment in your buyer's journey.

But when people ask me, "What tool has the biggest impact on your ads strategy?" -- without a doubt, it’s our CRM. Here, I'm going to explain why.

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Why Advertisers Should Leverage Their CRM

When I take a look at my most successful ad campaigns, they have a few things in common.

First, they're highly targeted. I'm not just blasting an ad out to any random group. Instead, I'm taking a look at our CRM data, and using it to create very specific segments of leads that will go into my audiences.

Second, my ad and the offer behind it is tailored to the audience I'm targeting. I don't ask every single lead to buy our software, and I don't target people who are ready to speak to our sales team with HubSpot Academy Lessons or introductory blog posts. Knowing where a lead is in their buyer's journey, what content they've already interacted with, and what touchpoints they've already had with our brand is critical for success.

Third -- and maybe most importantly -- my most successful ads have clear next steps outlined for each lead that converts. You don't see ROI on your ad spend if you don't continue to work with the leads that come in through your ads. Whether you'll pass them off to the sales team for direct outreach, or enter them into a nurturing flow, next steps need to be outlined from the start when devising an ad campaign.

These three components are hallmarks of any sound journey-based advertising strategy. If I feel confident about those three components of my ad campaign -- my targeting, my offer, and my lead nurturing -- then we push forward.

This is where a CRM comes into play. A CRM is vital for helping ensure each of those three components are working in sync.

Your CRM gives you a full overview of your customer's experience with your brand. No tool is better for gathering deep insights on your leads. With these insights, you can start to create ad campaigns that feel personalized to each person who interacts with them.

Additionally, you can use your CRM to create better alignment between your marketing and sales teams to ensure everyone has complete insights into which campaigns your customers are interacting with.

Every interaction, both online and offline, will start to feel like a natural next step along the buyer's journey. In short, the CRM is an advertiser's dream.

But how do you properly use it to work seamlessly with you ad strategy?

Using Your CRM in Your Ad Targeting

Your ad has no chance of being successful if you don't get your targeting right. Your ad content could be incredibly high-quality and engaging, but if you're targeting the wrong group of people, it's all for nothing.

Your targeting options are extensive. At the highest level, you can target your ads using either third-party data or first-party data.

Simply put, third-party data is aggregated data on large groups of people made available on advertising platforms. First-party data, on the other hand, is information that you've collected directly from your customers. Maybe it’s information they've submitted on a lead ad form, or the specific blog posts that they're visiting on your site. Because this data comes directly from your customers, it's extremely powerful when leveraged in your audiences.

Your CRM aggregates all this first-party data together into one place. Essentially, it's a one-stop shop for everything you need to create highly targeted audiences.

When I'm creating audiences for HubSpot's ad campaigns, I'm constantly leveraging data within our CRM. I do this to ensure the ads you see are contextual, and relevant -- not just promoting HubSpot for the sake of doing so. It's a better experience for you, and it ensures we're spending our ad dollars wisely.

For example, we have two groups of leads -- those who download a piece of content on HubSpot.com or subscribe to our blog, and those who sign up for our free tools. From these two "base groups", we can start layering on additional information.

For the leads who subscribed to our blog, we might look at what content they're regularly consuming, or information we know about the company they work for, in order to ensure the ads they see reflect the topics around which they've demonstrated interest.

For instance, if we know we have a group of blog subscribers who frequently read our Sales blog -- and run a Sales team at mid-sized software companies -- chances are they could be interested in a Sales Hub case study about a current customer who looks just like them. We could even go a step further and see who has visited our Sales Hub product page.

In just a few simple steps, we're able to take a group of leads who are interested in our content, and use the data in our CRM to create a highly targeted audience for an upcoming ad campaign.

For free users of our software, CRM data is just as valuable for ads targeting. For this group, information on their job roles and the content they're consuming is just as valuable, but we can also start to explore how they're using our product. Just like we track website activity within our CRM, we also track product usage.

For example, if someone signed up for our free CRM, I'll look at how often they use the tool. If they're actively using the tool and seeing value, we might decide not to target ads at them. If we think they'd find value in our paid product based on their product usage, we might target them with ads that are specific to which tools they use the most.

On the other hand, If they aren't using the CRM at all, we might explore how we can help them find value in the tool. To do this, we'll mine our CRM for information on what led to them to signing up for the free tools in the first place. Were they looking for a way to manage their deals pipeline, or were they interested in exploring our free email marketing tool? Knowing this, we can start to recommend educational content through HubSpot Academy, which can help them find success within the tool.

Additionally, let's not forget about the power of lookalike audiences or exclusionary audiences. A lookalike audience is an audience type provided by the networks -- essentially, a network like Facebook will take one of your existing audiences and go out and serve your ad to similar individuals.

Lookalikes are powerful, and they automatically expand your advertising reach. Best of all, they become more powerful when paired with highly targeted audiences built off CRM data.

It's also critical you're strategic with how you use exclusion audiences. These can be used in a number of different ways. For example, almost every ad I run excludes our current paying customers. There are also key events that a lead could take, where I'll hold off on targeting them for a few weeks at a time to ensure we're not negatively impacting their buyer's journey. By doing this, I'm making sure I'm spending my ads budget wisely and efficiently.

Remember, lookalikes can also be used for audience exclusion. For example, we've created lookalikes in the past off of lists of leads that weren't performing well, and excluded them from our ads targeting.

The targeting strategies above are only possible through leveraging the data we've collected within our CRM. In practice, we'll start with broad groups of leads, and continue to layer on audience conditions, filters, and lookalikes until we've reached a group of leads in our CRM that we believe will be highly interested in the ads we have to offer.

Leveraging Your CRM in Your Follow-Up

Too many people I speak with about ads talk about an ad campaign as an isolated marketing action -- something that occurs independently from your email marketing, your content marketing, or even your sales process. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Few things can hamper your success with digital ads like ignoring the context under which someone will see your ad.

For example, consider this -- what if in the same day, one of your leads has an ad targeted at them, a marketing email sent to them, and a sales rep call them? Chances are that lead is sick of hearing from you. What's even worse is if the ad, email, and sales call all speak to different offers. Not creating alignment across each interaction your leads and customers have with your brand is a quick way to drive potential business away.

Luckily, your CRM gives you everything you need to create ads that fit perfectly into every stage of your buyer's journey. By leveraging your CRM, you can see how each lead interacts with your content across all channels, ensuring you don't miss obvious opportunities or overwhelm your leads.

Your CRM is useful when crafting your ads strategy to align with other marketing efforts, but it becomes essential when determining how you'll follow-up with and nurture the leads that convert on your ads. Each lead's experience will be unique, and the follow up that they receive after converting on your ad should reflect their experience.

Obviously, if they're downloading an e-book through your ad, ensuring that they receive that content offer is step one. But what if that's the third e-book they've downloaded this month? The nurturing flow that someone enters should look a lot different for a first time e-book downloader compared to someone who regularly interacts with your content, and shows high-buying intent.

HubSpot customer Airstream does a great job of leveraging their CRM data to ensure their customers receive follow-up that is relevant and actionable for them. Once a lead converts on one of their ads, they use CRM data to send an automated follow-up email -- delivering not only the content offer promised within the ad, but the location of their nearest Airstream dealer. Without leveraging their CRM, Airstream's follow-up wouldn't be as contextualized to each person who converts on their ads.

We use lead scoring within our CRM to ensure leads that convert on our ads receive a follow-up message tailored to their experience with our brand. Based on their score, they might enter into a nurturing campaign, or get passed to our sales team. The experience will be different for each lead, but by leveraging the CRM, we're able to ensure that our teams are aligned, and everyone who interacts with that lead has full insight into what their experience with our brand has been so far.

Using Your CRM to Determine ROI & Ad Spend

Lastly, the CRM is essential for helping us calculate the ROI of our ad spend. One of the great things about running your marketing and sales efforts out of the same tool, is that ROI calculations are simple.

Attributing an ad campaign to a closed deal can be done without having to hop between multiple systems, helping you avoid mistakes when measuring the success of your ad spend.

Additionally, when I'm calculating ROI, I often exclude the three most recent months of leads that converted on my ads. Why? Because those leads just entered the system. They're still being nurtured into SQLs, and they haven't had enough time to close. Figure out how long your sales process usually takes, and consider excluding the leads, and the ad spend that brought them into your CRM, from your ROI calculation until later on.

Another piece of data within your CRM that is invaluable to advertisers is conversion data. I use this to help me strategically plan my ads budget. When determining ad spend, it's important to keep the ROI of your ad spend in mind. The problem is that far too often, you might not have enough purchase data to determine what your ads budget should be. If this is the case, take a look at a combination of your sales and marketing data captured in your CRM.

For instance, let's say you know your sales team can convert one out of every 10 leads that convert on a form, and you know that about 20% of your website visitors will convert on a form.

Doing some simple math, you can determine that you'll need 50 clicks on your ads to generate one new customer. If you also leverage your CRM to understand what that one customer is worth to you, or their lifetime value, you can start to make smarter, more accurate decisions on what your ad spend should be.

Ads are one of the most powerful tools for a marketer, but only when executed properly. Using your CRM, you can provide your customers with targeted, contextual ads that help them make educated buying decisions, and move them through their buyer's journey.

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Originally published Jul 19, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated July 18 2019

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