How to Leverage Interest-Based Marketing

Being relevant is no longer good enough. 

As marketers, we need to be useful. That means being honest and open with our audience, and always adding value.

That’s where interest-based marketing comes in. It’s all about targeting passive customers with highly personalised messages and experiences based on extensive audience research.

At its best, it sits at the intersection of marketing and customer service, because it feels more like advising and helping an individual than targeting thousands of people through a single, generic campaign.

You can probably imagine how powerful this approach can be when executed effectively. Here’s how to do it:

Understanding What People Like

The first piece of the interest-based marketing puzzle is identifying who you’re targeting and what appeals to them. We can break it down into two separate steps:

  1. Segment Your Audience

Segmentation is crucial, because you can’t personalise your marketing if you’re speaking to everyone — that’s the opposite of personalisation. In fact, marketers have found that segmented email campaigns deliver up to a 760% increase in revenue vs. non-segmented campaigns.

Even if you only sell a single product, you almost certainly have multiple audiences. 

For instance, let’s say you offer cold email software. Your overall audience is effectively ‘anyone who sends a lot of emails’, but that’s far too broad for personalisation. With a bit of thought you can segment it into categories like:

  • Salespeople
  • Link-building marketers
  • Public relations professionals

Brainstorm all the possible audiences that exist for the product or service you’re marketing, then move on to step two…

  1. Profile Their Interests

You know who your audiences are. Now it’s time to figure out what they like. What resonates with them? What would persuade them to click your ads?

Don’t rely on guesswork; dive into all the data you can get your hands on. Different data categories will provide you with different insights and understandings:

1st Party Data

Examples include:

  • Website visitor data
  • Newsletter subscriber data
  • Existing customers and prospects (from your CRM)
  • Point-of-sale records
  • Analytics reports

Typically used for:

  • Gaining audience insights
  • Understanding customer behaviour
  • Personalising existing campaigns

First-party data is unique to your brand. It accurately demonstrates the paths your customers take to convert, and the points where non-converters drop off, which makes it highly valuable.

However, by its very nature, it only demonstrates the results of your previous actions. If you’ve mostly been targeting a single type of customer through previous marketing activity, they’re the people who’ll show up in your first-party data. So it might not provide the insights you need to reach new audiences.

2nd Party Data

Examples include:

  • First-party data (mailing lists, CRM data, etc.) shared with you by other brands

Typically used for:

  • Improving campaign targeting
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Predicting customer behaviour

This is effectively another company’s first-party data. Brands in similar spaces, with similar audiences, often team up to share data with one another.

For instance, let’s return to the example of our cold email software provider. To acquire more data on salespeople, you could strike an agreement with another software company that offers productivity and time-tracking solutions for sales teams.

It’s valuable because it furthers your understanding of your existing audience, and potentially enables you to tap into entirely new audiences and behaviours.

3rd Party Data

Examples include:

  • Audience lists purchased from data providers

Typically used for:

  • Expanding existing audiences
  • Discovering entirely new audiences
  • Increasing targeting accuracy

This data is purchased from an aggregator, which in turn accumulated it from numerous original sources.

Because it comes from so many different sources, third-party data can give you a much broader understanding of consumer behaviour than you’d ever get from first and second-party data.

However, it has its downsides, particularly where quality is concerned. Indeed, two-thirds of people say the third-party data about them is only 0-50% accurate.

Zero-Party Data

Examples include:

  • Customer experience surveys
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Consumer preference questionnaires

Typically used for:

  • Augmenting other datasets
  • Gathering insight into customer needs, interests and intent

A relatively new piece of terminology, zero-party data (ZPD) is the information that consumers willingly and proactively provide because they trust your brand. 

Often, there’ll be an incentive for a customer to hand over data in this way. You might offer them a discount or free sample in exchange for completing a questionnaire.

While less well-known than the other three types of data, ZPD is becoming increasingly important in a world where consumers demand greater transparency and control over how their data is used.

Adding Value Through Ads & Content

Analysing data from some — or ideally all — of those sources should help you build a clear picture of exactly who your audiences are and what influences them to buy. Now, it’s time to put that into practice:

  1. Identify the Right Channels

All that data will be useless if you’re not advertising in the right places.

With interest-based marketing, you’re not just looking for the platforms your audience have signed up to; you need to find the places where they actually enjoy hanging out.

For instance, it’s easy to assume your audience lives on Facebook — after all, it has 2.7 billion monthly active users.

But those figures are highly skewed toward users in certain demographics. Whereas 96% of Baby Boomers log into Facebook at least once a week, only 36% of Gen Z-ers do the same. So if your audience skews younger, YouTube is probably a smarter bet.

  1. Build Tailored Campaigns

Finally, it’s time to create bespoke campaigns that tap into the interests of your audiences, and are relevant to the channel(s) you’re targeting.

Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving this. An auto brand might leverage ideas like design, driving, and racing to engage their audience, whereas a design brand would align to things like concepts and innovations.

Importantly, whatever messaging you

eing relevant is no longer good enough. 

As marketers, we need to be useful. That means being honest and open with our audience, and always adding value.

That’s where interest-based marketing comes in. It’s all about targeting passive customers with highly personalised messages and experiences based on extensive audience research.

At its best, it sits at the intersection of marketing and customer service, because it feels more like advising and helping an individual than targeting thousands of people through a single, generic campaign.

You can probably imagine how powerful this approach can be when executed effectively. Here’s how to do it:

Understanding What People Like

The first piece of the interest-based marketing puzzle is identifying who you’re targeting and what appeals to them. We can break it down into two separate steps:

  1. Segment Your Audience

Segmentation is crucial, because you can’t personalise your marketing if you’re speaking to everyone — that’s the opposite of personalisation. In fact, marketers have found that segmented email campaigns deliver up to a 760% increase in revenue vs. non-segmented campaigns.

Even if you only sell a single product, you almost certainly have multiple audiences. 

For instance, let’s say you offer cold email software. Your overall audience is effectively ‘anyone who sends a lot of emails’, but that’s far too broad for personalisation. With a bit of thought you can segment it into categories like:

  • Salespeople
  • Link-building marketers
  • Public relations professionals

Brainstorm all the possible audiences that exist for the product or service you’re marketing, then move on to step two…

  1. Profile Their Interests

You know who your audiences are. Now it’s time to figure out what they like. What resonates with them? What would persuade them to click your ads?

Don’t rely on guesswork; dive into all the data you can get your hands on. Different data categories will provide you with different insights and understandings:

1st Party Data

Examples include:

  • Website visitor data
  • Newsletter subscriber data
  • Existing customers and prospects (from your CRM)
  • Point-of-sale records
  • Analytics reports

Typically used for:

  • Gaining audience insights
  • Understanding customer behaviour
  • Personalising existing campaigns

First-party data is unique to your brand. It accurately demonstrates the paths your customers take to convert, and the points where non-converters drop off, which makes it highly valuable.

However, by its very nature, it only demonstrates the results of your previous actions. If you’ve mostly been targeting a single type of customer through previous marketing activity, they’re the people who’ll show up in your first-party data. So it might not provide the insights you need to reach new audiences.

2nd Party Data

Examples include:

  • First-party data (mailing lists, CRM data, etc.) shared with you by other brands

Typically used for:

  • Improving campaign targeting
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Predicting customer behaviour

This is effectively another company’s first-party data. Brands in similar spaces, with similar audiences, often team up to share data with one another.

For instance, let’s return to the example of our cold email software provider. To acquire more data on salespeople, you could strike an agreement with another software company that offers productivity and time-tracking solutions for sales teams.

It’s valuable because it furthers your understanding of your existing audience, and potentially enables you to tap into entirely new audiences and behaviours.

3rd Party Data

Examples include:

  • Audience lists purchased from data providers

Typically used for:

  • Expanding existing audiences
  • Discovering entirely new audiences
  • Increasing targeting accuracy

This data is purchased from an aggregator, which in turn accumulated it from numerous original sources.

Because it comes from so many different sources, third-party data can give you a much broader understanding of consumer behaviour than you’d ever get from first and second-party data.

However, it has its downsides, particularly where quality is concerned. Indeed, two-thirds of people say the third-party data about them is only 0-50% accurate.

Zero-Party Data

Examples include:

  • Customer experience surveys
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Consumer preference questionnaires

Typically used for:

  • Augmenting other datasets
  • Gathering insight into customer needs, interests and intent

A relatively new piece of terminology, zero-party data (ZPD) is the information that consumers willingly and proactively provide because they trust your brand. 

Often, there’ll be an incentive for a customer to hand over data in this way. You might offer them a discount or free sample in exchange for completing a questionnaire.

While less well-known than the other three types of data, ZPD is becoming increasingly important in a world where consumers demand greater transparency and control over how their data is used.

Adding Value Through Ads & Content

Analysing data from some — or ideally all — of those sources should help you build a clear picture of exactly who your audiences are and what influences them to buy. Now, it’s time to put that into practice:

  1. Identify the Right Channels

All that data will be useless if you’re not advertising in the right places.

With interest-based marketing, you’re not just looking for the platforms your audience have signed up to; you need to find the places where they actually enjoy hanging out.

For instance, it’s easy to assume your audience lives on Facebook — after all, it has 2.7 billion monthly active users.

But those figures are highly skewed toward users in certain demographics. Whereas 96% of Baby Boomers log into Facebook at least once a week, only 36% of Gen Z-ers do the same. So if your audience skews younger, YouTube is probably a smarter bet.

  1. Build Tailored Campaigns

Finally, it’s time to create bespoke campaigns that tap into the interests of your audiences, and are relevant to the channel(s) you’re targeting.

Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving this. An auto brand might leverage ideas like design, driving, and racing to engage their audience, whereas a design brand would align to things like concepts and innovations.

Importantly, whatever messaging you arrive at, you must present it in an authentic manner. Nine in ten consumers say authenticity plays a key part in deciding which brands they like and support.

In other words, don’t start touting your environmental credentials or shouting about your charity work unless it’s a core part of your brand. Customers are savvy enough to detect when brands aren’t speaking authentically. 

What tactics do you use to tap into the interests of your audience(s)? Let me know in the comments below:

arrive at, you must present it in an authentic manner. Nine in ten consumers say authenticity plays a key part in deciding which brands they like and support.

In other words, don’t start touting your environmental credentials or shouting about your charity work unless it’s a core part of your brand. Customers are savvy enough to detect when brands aren’t speaking authentically. 

What tactics do you use to tap into the interests of your audience(s)? Let me know in the comments below:

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