Growth Hacking
Aug 16, 2021

How to Market to Audiences Across the Sales Funnel Without Using Third-Party Cookies

Tori Stroup

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

With the announcement from Google that it will stop tracking third-party data, the way we target our audiences is changing. To stay ahead of these coming changes, you need to find new ways to capture valuable customer data and adapt your marketing strategies.

For many companies that rely heavily on third-party cookies to reach new audiences and retarget current customers throughout the funnel, these changes may take a big hit to their current efforts.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reach your audiences from the top to the bottom of the funnel -- all without the need to tap into third-party data.

In this article, you’ll learn a few techniques that will help you to better prepare for the changes coming and start building full-funnel campaigns that provide you with the results you want to see without relying on third-party data.

We’ll cover everything from:

  • How to reach news audiences at the top of the funnel
  • Ways you can nurture and drive audiences in the middle of the funnel towards a conversion
  • How you can use post-purchase communication and loyalty programs to target audiences at the bottom of the sales funnel

Top of the Funnel Audiences

Compared to the other stages, your efforts at the top of the funnel may be some of the most impacted by the new data privacy changes coming. That doesn’t mean you can ignore the other stages, but when a customer is at the top of the funnel, they’re just beginning to identify and explore the problem at hand.

This means that many of the audiences you’ll be trying to reach don’t know who you are yet.

Many companies used digital advertising through Google to tap into third-party data to target new audiences. But as this capability is phased out, you’ll have to find new ways to reach people in the discovery funnel stage.

So how do you do this? Here are a few examples of ways you can continue to reach new audiences at the top of the funnel.

Use First-Party Data to Identify New Customers to Target

You don’t have to rely on third-party data to identify new lookalike audiences. You’re already collecting valuable data from the customers you already have. Now you just need to reconsider how you can use this data to help identify new audiences.

That’s why tapping into your first-party data can help fill the void that comes with the loss of third-party cookies.

With the help of first-party data, you can identify trends and similarities within your audience groups and then create designated segments. These segments will allow you to take a closer look at who your audiences are and what they value.

While it can be time-consuming to build these segments and identify trends among your current audiences, it doesn’t have to be. Using technology such as machine learning, you can automate this process to make the most out of your time and data.

Once you better understand your current audiences, you can put that data to work to attract new users through contextual marketing.

Contextual marketing is placing advertisements on relevant websites based on the content of that site rather than the cookies collected for the customer.

More and more companies are starting to adopt the idea of contextual marketing to reach new audiences. Because it’s been such a challenge to deliver content to the right audiences at the right time, many have found this type of targeting very successful. Image courtesy of Komarketing.

This means that your advertisements will be served to audiences on websites relevant to what the user is looking for based on the interests of similar audiences -- a perfect way to reach someone who is just beginning their search for products just like yours.

Consider Other Marketing Channels to Reach New Audiences

Google advertising isn’t the only way to reach new audiences at the right place and time. Various other channels can help you target new audiences while continuing to grow and acquire new customers.

Here are a few other marketing channels you can shift your marketing emphasis towards:

  • Organic social media
  • Influencer marketing
  • Over-the-top advertising (OTT)
  • Connected television (CTV)
  • Out-of-home advertising (OOH)
  • Public Relations
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)

As we shift from third-party data, now’s the perfect time to start experimenting with a more personalized experience through these other channels.

Not only will finding new channels to reach your audiences allow you to gather more data and improve interactions, but it will also provide you with higher response rates and more effective multi-channel campaigns. Image courtesy of Optimove.

Reallocating your previous marketing spend to these channels will allow you to test and learn what channels current and potential audiences are most active on. Then, as you continue to understand what platforms and capabilities perform best, you can begin to forecast and budget accordingly.

From there, you can begin to create customized experiences across various platforms that reach new audiences right when they need it the most.

Improve Your Current SEO Efforts

As mentioned above, improving your SEO can be a great way to reach new audiences. That’s because when done right, you can get your content in front of your audiences at the very beginning of their journey.

That’s because consumers start their purchasing journey with search engines, and 70% of online shopping journeys start with Google specifically.

When it comes to solving a problem or finding the products needed, most people start their journey with a search engine. That means if your content isn’t optimized and ranking, new audiences aren’t being exposed to your content early on in their journey. Image courtesy of Vividfish.

By optimizing your content to meet SEO standards, you’re increasing the chances of your content ranking higher when someone searches for a related topic. When done right, you can easily attract new audiences simply by being one of the first search results they see when trying to solve their problem.

Not sure where to get started with improving your SEO efforts? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Take measures to improve your page load speeds
  • Create high-quality content that your audiences are looking for
  • Use headers to break up  content and provide a clear content hierarchy
  • Have a link building strategy both internally and externally

The higher your content ranks, the more prospects you can reach early on in their purchasing journey. Once they know about your brand and the products you have that can solve their problem, they’re much more likely to come back and complete a purchase.

Middle of the Funnel Audiences

The next audience type you’ll want to consider is a group that is the people who know what their problem is and are actively trying to find the solution that is right for them.

If you played your cards right during the problem identification stage, aka the top of the funnel, then these audiences should already be familiar with your brand. You need to convince them that you have the best product to solve their problem and guide them towards the purchasing journey.

During this stage, you really need to think about how you will turn this person into a purchasing customer.

What do you have to do to get them to convert?

At this stage, there are specific things you’ll want to be doing to improve the chances of converting new leads. Here are a few examples.

Begin to Collect Valuable Audience Insights

At this stage, the user is actively researching products and services to help them solve the problem at hand.

We’ve discussed first-party data’s importance in identifying trends and opportunities to target new audiences through contextual marketing. Still, it’s also something you’ll want to use to target known audiences better.

To understand who this customer is and what they’re looking for, you need to start collecting this first-party data and putting it to good use.

No matter where you start to collect customer data, it’s all-important in understanding what their purchasing journey looks like. Whether it’s from in-person or mobile experiences, every data point will help you identify how to move a user closer to a conversion point. Image courtesy of Econsultancy.

There are tons of different ways to start collecting first-party data. Here are a few ways to help get you started:

  • Social media
  • SMS messages
  • Emails
  • Surveys
  • Website popups

The more times you have a chance to interact with your audiences, the better. Each interaction will allow you to learn more about their interest, wants, and needs -- then you can begin to serve them with a more personalized experience.

Having the ability to predict what each individual will need based on their location within the sales funnel will provide you with the opportunity to present the right content at the right moment to encourage conversions.

Create Nurturing Campaigns that Drive Users Towards Converting

Now that you have the contact information and are starting to gather first-party data on your new subscribers, it’s time to start nurturing them.

Lead nurturing is an integral part of your marketing strategy. It can be the step that turns new contacts into purchasing customers and eventually converts them into loyal fans. It also presents you with a variety of benefits, such as increased engagement and revenue. Image courtesy of Writer’s Block Live.

Nurturing campaigns are an extremely effective way to keep new and existing audiences engaged. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales than those that don’t.

Here are a few common examples of nurturing campaigns you can use to drive customers towards converting:

  • Welcome campaigns that are sent to new contacts
  • Product deep dive campaigns that provide users with more product-specific details based on their interests
  • Education series that help new contacts get to know your brand and how you can help solve their problems
  • Competitive differentiator campaigns that let people know why they should choose your brand over the competition
  • Discount campaigns that add a little extra incentive to get someone to convert

There are tons of different avenues to reach your audiences in the middle of the funnel. You just need to figure out what works best. Providing the right content at the right time can make all the difference and encourage someone to purchase the products they need from your brand.

Bottom of the Funnel Audiences

Last but certainly not least is the bottom of the funnel.

At this stage of the purchasing funnel, the user has already completed their research and discovery phase and determined what product or products they want to purchase to solve their problem.

But just because someone has converted and completed a purchase doesn’t mean you can stop marketing to them. At this point, you’ll want to be finding new ways to retain and increase loyalty among these audiences.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to target your bottom-funnel audiences without having to rely on third-party data.

Keep Nurturing Customers Post-Purchase

Remember how we talked about the importance of nurturing your customers?

Well, that tactic isn’t solely reserved for audiences in the middle of the funnel. You can continue to nurture customers even after they’re completed a purchase -- and it can be well worth your time.

Considering that the success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70% and only 5-20% for new customers, it’s crucial to foster your relationships.

Your customers are interested in receiving post-purchase emails from the brands they love. Whether it’s a special deal or discount, request for a product review, or tips and tricks on how to use the product they purchased -- people are interested in continuing to hear from the brands they love. Image courtesy of Marketing Charts.

Here are a few examples of post-purchase messages that you can send to customers who are currently at the bottom of the funnel:

  • Order confirmation numbers that provide the customer with the order details they need
  • Shipping confirmation numbers to let them know when their order will arrive
  • A follow-up email that provides the customer with an opportunity to give feedback or resources they may need for their recent purchase, such as a care guide
  • Cross-selling and upselling emails that share relevant product recommendations based on previous purchases and shopping behaviors

All of these messages will provide you with another touchpoint with each of your existing customers and can be done across various marketing channels. You no longer have to rely on retargeting campaigns that are run by third-party cookies -- you have all the data you need at hand to nurture customers at this stage.

Create a Loyalty Program to Reward Evangelists

Loyalty programs are another great way to keep existing customers engaged with your brand.

Not only will building loyalty programs help to increase your sales and revenue, but it will also provide you with valuable customer insights.

When creating your loyalty program, ensure that you’re providing your customers with enough incentive to join and stay.

From there, brand evangelists will be much more likely to take the time to provide you with more insight or feedback that can drive future marketing campaigns. Whether it’s simply by identifying trends in what your audiences are interested in or ways you could improve the post-purchase experience, it can all help you improve your efforts.

Growing a loyal subscriber base will provide you with several benefits, from increased recommendations and word of mouth to higher spending on future purchases. Image courtesy of Peer to Peer Marketing.

From there, they’ll do the work for you. Rave reviews and referrals to friends and family will bring new customers to your doorstep without having to spend a dollar on digital advertising with third-party data.

Choosing to ignore the power of the customers at the bottom of the funnel will leave your brand continuously reaching for new customers, which will constantly set you back.

Is Your Full-Funnel Marketing Strategy Ready for the Death of Cookies?

These tips will help you build a full-funnel marketing strategy that can live on long after the death of the third-party cookie. By developing a strategy now, you’ll set yourself up for success and will be prepared when Google flips the switch and no longer allows third-party tracking.

So what do you think? Is your full-funnel marketing strategy ready? Or will you be scrambling at the last minute to adapt your campaigns to continue reaching audiences across the journey?

The choice is up to you, but choosing to find ways to use other data sets now will make for a smoother transition and limit the impact of the customer experience.