Not Leveraging Customer Lists? The Simple How and Why


For any number of reasons, there are advertisers out there not currently using their customer lists in their PPC campaigns. Maybe this has to do with getting an accurate list. Maybe it’s due to legal restrictions. Maybe it’s because they feel like the list better replicates the messy group of anonymous Lego persons like the image above. Maybe it’s simply because it’s easier to use other, tag-based lists within the channels. No matter the reason, I believe it’s a mistake to not utilize your customer lists in your campaigns, even if it’s simply for the sake of exclusion. I’d like to start off by talking about the ways you can use customer lists in your campaigns, then cover why some other methods might not be sufficient to execute those strategies. Here goes!

Utilizing Customer Lists

1.) Retargeting for Repeat Customers/Upsells

In ecommerce, a repeat customer is always welcome. By regularly uploading a customer list, I can easily look to target those folks again either through display, social, or RLSA campaigns to bring them back. Maybe we’re looking to sell them another round of what they’ve already bought. Maybe we think they might be interested in a complimentary product to the one they bought from us previously. Or maybe the shop is just so awesome we figure they might like more of what we’re selling. No matter the reason, keeping the brand in front of previous customers can be a great way to bring in more repeat revenue.

2.) Exclusions from Campaigns

On the other side of that coin, more often than not, my lead gen customers want to exclude people who have already converted on the site. These clients really only need your information once. From there, it’s OK to find their site and browse around, but I really don’t need to pay for you to click on my ads again. For these clients, I keep an updated customer list simply to exclude them from all of my paid efforts. It’s assumed that if you’re a paying customer, you can find your way back to their site without assistance and it saves the company a bit of budget as well.

3.) Lookalike Modeling

Even if you’re looking to use your customer lists to exclude those paying users, it could be worth your while to use them for lookalike models. After all, the goal is nearly always more paying customers, right? Once you’ve got your lists uploaded into the channels, create a lookalike audience based on them. This allows you to reach new potential customers that behave like those in your customer list within a given channel. It might not be a foolproof plan, but if you’re trying to prioritize new audience targeting, these lookalike models can be a great place to start.

4.) Audience Insights to Add to Net New User Campaigns

Lastly, use your customer lists to find individual insights about your customer base without going into a full lookalike model. I’ve written about Audience Insights before. They allow you to find individual insights into your audience you can use later to target new users. Lookalike models are great, but if you’re wanting to specifically test a certain segment of the market, you might not get it effectively with lookalikes. By creating a target audience then layering in a couple of insights from the audience tools could greatly impact your initial performance and give you a leg up in that net new audience.

The Case for Customer Lists

At this point, you might be thinking, “I can do all of these things she’s talking about without using a customer list. I can use a converted user audience based on retargeting and do the same things.”

And you’d be right.

But there are some added benefits to using a customer list instead of just your conversion rules that you might not have thought of. Here’s a brief list of them:

1.) Expanded Reach:

In some scenarios, once a person is a paying customer, they then have large amounts of additional users within their company to be added to the customer list. For example, if you’re a SaaS solution, one person might have been the person who converted online triggering your conversion pixel and hitting your “converted user” page, but once they sign on and add their user list, they could have hundreds of log ins at your disposal. Using a customer list instead of the “converted user” page gives you the ability to exclude all members of that organization from seeing your ads rather than just the account holder. This can prevent you from spending loads of money on brand terms, retargeting, or other campaigns simply from these non-cookied users from trying to log into the account their company is already paying for.

2.) Potential Segmentation:

When using information from a CRM system, there’s potential for additional insights you might not have thought of. In the SaaS example above, for example, you might want to try to determine sub lists of account holders versus point of contact to make better lookalike models off of. These types of segmentation are not available simply by following most cookied user lists. Using customer lists can allow you to be multidimensional with who you’re targeting and why.

3.) Cookie Longevity & Landing Page Changes:

Depending on how you set up your conversion rules, you just might not be able to account for everyone in a customer base due to cookie lengths. Long time customers, for example, would be left out of the list. Google has the longest cookie length of 540 days. So if someone has been a customer for over a year and a half, you might not be able to exclude them depending on what pages they do/don’t visit during their time as a customer.

Additionally, conversion flows are constantly changing. If you’re not continuously updating your conversion rules based on additional landing pages, you might be missing out of folks to target/exclude that won’t be missed in a customer list. Not to mention if your tracking went down for any period of time, folks would sneak through the cracks.

4.) Unconventional Customers:

Lastly, in some companies, it’s possible to become a customer without having gone through the typical sales flow. Either they were an offline referral, they are a new contact at an existing customer, or some other scenario in which they wouldn’t have hit your cookied pages to exclude them from your targeting.

In the long run, I believe it’s best to use a combination of cookied users and customer lists to ensure you’re able to accurately target or exclude your customers as you see fit in your campaigns. It might feel like a double up on work, but I believe it’s worth the effort in the long run.

I’m sure this list isn’t comprehensive of all the ways you can use customer audiences in PPC, but it rounds out my go-to strategies.

How do you use customer audiences in your campaigns? Share with is in the comments?

Comments (3)

  1. Hello! Thanks for the comment! I think the decision to retarget audiences vs reaching new ones relies mostly on what your business goals are and how those two strategies ae working for you currently. Personally, I think retargeting is a great tool, but usually try to have some net new targets out there as well to continue growing the retargeting audiences in meaningful ways.

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