A guest post/dose from Danny DeMichele (Chairman at Elevated.com

You are all fired up to maximize the target rich environment of ad engines like Instagram, FB, etc and blow the quarterly projections off of your online business or brand. You are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to build a data-driven yet customer-centric, marketing strategy to decrease cost per acquisition and gain a competitive advantage. You don't have a dime to waste unnecessarily.

If this is you read on…

The 2002 movie Minority Report imagines a future in which the police know what crimes people will commit before they commit them. Thus, they can arrest criminals before they even have a chance to carry out their misdeeds. The whole idea revolves around predicting what choices people will make before they make them.

Wouldn't it be great if your marketing worked in a similar way? Wouldn't it be great to be able to read through the lines of what users are consuming in the way of content (interest graph) and understand what they were likely to search for next before they actually did?

That's the notion behind intent-driven targeted online advertising, and it's essential for entrepreneurs who want to remain relevant and drive successful digital marketing campaigns and stretch their limited advertising dollars a bit further in the competitive world of digital advertising.

Harry Maugans, the CEO of Clickagy, a company that serves as the engine for enterprise clients across the Fortune 1000 that demand highly surgical targeting data, said that "the average online advertising campaign sees a 73 percent lift in engagement after implementing a targeting solution."

I asked Harry how middle-market or smaller and fast-growing companies could leverage the same strategy of large enterprises. He offered the four steps below as a way to level the playing field and gain a competitive advantage.

1. Be data-driven AND customer centric

This means gathering all the data points available about the content people have consumed online, while simultaneously realizing that all of us are more wary and unnerved of the fact that every move we make and piece of content we consume is being "watched". As marketers, we have to remember that human beings buy stuff and that any data governance strategy or collection strategy that we put in place, should be in the service of making our relationship with our customers or future prospects more human.

Understanding what people are engaging with and across which devices will help you create more relevant, timely, and effective outreach across the customer journey. You should ensure that this data is collected directly by you or a source data company. That's because there are many resellers of data that simply add their markup and water-down the deliverables, thus making the data stale or less trustworthy. A common red flag is if their data platform is not branded with their domain name.

2. Be organized and Empathetic

Run an empathy-mapping session with your core team to humanize your approach and look at your top customer personas through the eyes of what they "Think, Feel, Say, and Do" as they consume current events, news, or life moments that are potentially impactful to your business.

Setup buckets of themes like people, brands, places, events, topics, products, and other concepts that are relevant to your solutions and parse the data accordingly. This will tell you exactly what the customer is interested in and how you can communicate with them about it effectively.

Avoid any modeling while building the audience lists. Sometimes, it can be tempting to extrapolate data and make broad assumptions based on a tiny sample, but don't do this. To ensure your campaign has the best success, demand your data is digitally sourced from actual web behaviors, and that it's fresh.

3. Be willing to advertise, test, and refine

Create a campaign and test it with a multivariate approach. Use the data from above to advertise to consumers online based on their interests, personas, and intentions in your uniquely created lists. As a result, your advertising messages will be crafted to meet their unique needs.

Furthermore, you need to ensure that you're advertising to people based on their raw behaviors without making assumptions about their intent. For example, just because someone has been visiting weather.com doesn't mean they're interested in learning about the recent hurricanes. You need page-level granularity with Natural Language Processing (NLP)-sourced keywords to be certain you're reaching the right people at the right time.

4. Be unquenchable in your thirst to optimize the campaign

Adjust your campaigns based on results and feedback in real time. For example, if you realize you're reaching people who are searching for apple pie recipes instead of your audience that's interested in Apple technology, you need to be able to cut out false positives and refine the specific makeup of the targeting.

Bonus as you grow up and get bigger: Leverage integrations with your DSP and DMP to drive ROI

For larger scale-up enterprises, targeting needs to be as much exact science as possible. To this end, technologies such as Demand Side Platforms (DSP) and Data Management Platforms (DMP) can enable next-level digital advertising results by automating and optimizing much of the process.

DSPs allow you to engage in real-time ad bidding so you can quickly buy ads across a wide array of sites that are targeted to specific users based on data such as their browsing behavior.

DMPs serve as data warehouses that collect and store data from all your advertising campaigns, allowing for further analysis and ad personalization over time.

Since CACHE rules everything around you we thought you should also get this shirt because it literally will follow you around even after you take it off. :)