Cookie Cutter: Achieving Marketing Success in a (Third-Party) Cookieless World

With cookieless advertising becoming an issue for marketer, what do you do?
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Written by Jon Searle

May 28, 2021

The announcement of Google Chrome eliminating third-party cookies as part of their privacy sandbox initiative might have been the second biggest disruptor to the digital landscape in recent memory (There are no prizes for guessing what was first).

Although the actual implementation won’t take place in full until 2023, the scramble to adjust is on and no marketing organization wants to be dead last – especially as other leading browsers such as Firefox and Safari have already made privacy-centric moves.

For marketers like us, unfortunately, that means losing the ability to easily record user preferences, retargeting ads, tracking and attributing leads, and more for a particularly wide swath of your site visitors and prospective customers.

It doesn’t mean, however, that the digital conversation is over. Smart marketers understand the opportunity this presents to leap ahead of the pack by embracing first-party data opportunities, and we want to make sure that you’re in that group as well.

So, let’s talk about what this truly means for you and meaningful steps you can take to ensure that your marketing operations thrive amidst the challenge of losing third-party cookie functionality.

First, it’s important to remember that collecting first-party data and third-party data is simply a means to an end. What truly matters is what you do with that data and how it will inform the journey you take your customers on.

Creating a self-sustaining customer journey that speaks directly to their pain points is the prize you seek, and creating a deep, durable relationship with your customers in their journey is how you get there. Without third-party data, you must change how you guide your customers.

Where do we begin?

With cookieless advertising and browsers ... how do you avoid losing ground? With proper fundamentals

Avoid False Starts

Most customer journeys rely heavily on cookies to show us when a prospect has visited before, and on subsequent visits to suggest the right “next step” of content on the journey. Without cookies, return visitors don’t pick up where they left off. Instead, they start over. It’s like traveling in a circle that always takes you back where you started.

One way to avoid this is to ensure that you’re hitting two very important markers at the same time:

  1. Leveraging UTM data properly. UTMs are attached to links and are supported by Google Analytics, which means you get solid tracking and intel that works with the valuable analytics data you’re already used to. UTMs are relatively simple as far as functionality goes, yet we’ve seen companies large and small waste tens of thousands of dollars through improper usage.
  2. Crafting customer-centric content for each stage. Too often, marketers fail to consider the respective decisions that their customers face when evaluating new tools or services. It’s essential that your content is served in a progressive manner that transitions seamlessly from building awareness to serving information to persuasion.

You need both to engage users and to gain visibility of the customer journey.

Meet Your Customers Where They Are

Third-party data collection makes tracking a customer’s arrival a breeze. What if, however, the mindset of waiting for your customers is the wrong one to have in the first place?

The emerging first-party data landscape requires a proactive perspective that values digital engagement of your customers where they are rather than a reactive perspective that prioritizes cookies that require a customer to approach you first.

The proactive perspective doesn’t just signal a new way of thinking…it demands a new class of tools to make it work. It’s time to value platforms and providers that allow you to find the channels your customer profiles value most and to offer actionable insights to shape how you talk to them where they’re already most comfortable.

Email marketing will be a more critical lever to pull once cookieless browsers and advertising are more widespread

You Got Email. Use It!

It’s sometimes easy to forget amid debates about open rates, lead quality and other related metrics…email stands alone in terms of customer-facing channels. How so, you ask?

  • Anyone who takes the time to give you their email is more likely to show interest in your message.
  • You’re in control, and with email, you’ve got the floor to make your case without competition from other content on the channel.
  • Everything in email is trackable. Create a compelling CTA, add a UTM, and watch the analytics roll in on how your message is being received.

The flipside of this is that email has a low “signal-to-noise” ratio, as your target customers are inundated with plenty of solicited emails every day in addition to all of the unsolicited marketing-oriented ones they receive.

That’s why it’s imperative to make sure that your email content is personalized, targeted, relevant and unique. Be intentional about taking a unique approach in every aspect.

Related: Get the most out of your email marketing

Don’t Be Content….With Your Content

It takes a lot of collaboration, ideation and production to produce content that gets across your brand value, brand proposition and unique solutions to customer pain points.

Our cookieless advertising eBook goes far deeper into actionable steps you should take

Don’t make the mistake, however, of falling in love with content simply because you poured a lot of resources into it. A compelling story usually gets copied, and each time dilutes the value of the original. Always be ready to audit content for effectiveness, and relentlessly test the effectiveness of existing campaigns and messaging.

Your customers’ pain points change over time, and so do the right messages to get through to them. Be prepared to explore new tweaks on existing messages, new channels and new approaches to earn the few minutes it takes for them to read and engage. Stay focused on all metrics of performance and trust the numbers when they tell you something isn’t working.

Related: Nail your SEO content audit and see why we deleted 1/2 our site

Develop Lead Management and Outbound Capabilities

Your tools are up to snuff, and your content is engaging and timely. Now come the leads! Keep in mind, however, that lead management is also significantly affected by the transition away from third-party data collection, so you’ll have to tweak your methodologies to keep up.

Lead scoring algorithms will be less effective if someone isn’t cookied. Prospects won’t score up when they’ve visited repeatedly and consumed a lot of content.

That means you have to think of “scoring” or assessing the quality of the leads in a more holistic manner. It also means that Sales and Marketing must be more aligned and responsive than ever to take advantage of these leads since you’ll be missing background data that cookies typically provide.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all workflow that magically solves for this, so be prepared to experiment and fail fast to find the optimal way forward in terms of lead scoring.

Related: This is what good lead management entails

We’ve Only Just Begun

These areas are just the tip of the iceberg!

Consider all of the touchpoints your customers have with your content/messaging, then multiply that by the various marketing technologies needed to reach them and the various dashboards you use to measure effectiveness of content, efficiency and lead quality. That’s the scale you have to account for when adapting your marketing operations to a world beyond cookies.

All of that means now is the time to get ahead of this major paradigm shift. You simply can’t afford to wait! That’s why we’ve compiled an extensive look into the techniques and technologies that will help your marketing efforts make the transition. It’s everything you’ll need to consider when using first-party data to inform the third-party data-driven decisions you’re used to making.

It’s no time to panic! We’ve compiled an extensive look into the techniques and technologies that will help your marketing efforts make the transition. It’s everything you’ll need to consider when using first-party data to inform the third-party data-driven decisions you’re used to making.

Want even more?

Our Trending Topics page is for you, or look into how our inbound marketing consulting can realize much more revenue for your company!

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