Advanced life event marketing is a once in a lifetime opportunity
Life events offer momentous marketing opportunities, but to seize them marketers need razor-sharp messaging and targeting
In marketing terms, a life event is any transition in a person’s life that creates consumer opportunities relevant to the brand. The usual suspects for life events marketing are engaged couples, expecting parents, and home buyers and movers. But the scope is constantly expanding to include prospects such as new drivers, high school graduates and prom-goers, the newly weds, the newly divorced, the home renovators etc.
Of course, with each of these events come new and exciting—and often intimidating—challenges for the individual in question. For the companies they do business with, these challenges mean more opportunities to engage with the individual.
Emotionally, consumers in a state of change due to a life event feel they have “permission to buy.” When one is planning a once-in-a-lifetime event, budget consideration that may often rule his decision making processes are cast aside. But this isn’t merely a one time opportunity for the brand: associating a brand with a happy life event (e.g. the vendor you bought your first sofa from as a homeowner) can produce loyal customers for the long run.
That’s why life event marketing isn’t exactly a brand new tactic. Case in point, jewelry company De Beers famously brought diamond rings back into favor in the late 1930s by marketing them as engagement rings to be given at such a special moment in a couple’s lifetime.
Of course, this is a rather rudimentary example of this kind of marketing. In this scenario, the focus is on marketing to a generalized audience based on the assumption that they’ll experience a certain life event at some point in time. Other examples include promotions surrounding college graduations, birthdays, and holidays. Sure, they’re effective—but the approach is still rather generalized.
No easy feat
In recent years, advancements in technology have enabled life event marketing initiatives to become more targeted and individualized. Now, brands can target individual customers with content and offers relevant to specific life events they are experiencing individually.
Say, for example, a husband buys his wife a clock for their one-year anniversary as per modern custom, and has it engraved with their wedding date. Eleven months down the road, the store he purchased the clock from might then send him promotions relating to fine china (knowing he’ll be in the market for the customary second-anniversary gift around that time).
Of course, this is just one example of one life event, as experienced by one customer. The challenge for brands is using the data they collect on all of their customers to uncover and keep track of all milestones they experience throughout their lifetime with the company.
Needless to say, this is no easy feat.
Perhaps this is why, as discovered by Royal Mail Data Services in 2016, only 24% of marketers implement life event marketing within their marketing initiatives. This, despite the fact that 55% of respondents say they understand how impactful such initiatives can be to their sales numbers and bottom line.
Most companies know that life event marketing provides major opportunities for growth—but relatively few have discovered how to truly take advantage of these opportunities as they arise.
Falling back on ad platforms
At the heart of brands’ ability to engage with individual customers as they encounter life’s many milestones is the amount and quality of the data they collect on their customers. Basically, the more you know about your customers, the more “ammo” you’ll have for your life event marketing initiatives. Cashing in on life events depends on picking up the cues that the an event is approaching, and getting there first with the right messaging.
The big publishing platforms offer some shortcuts to this data-heavy process. Brands can now create ads aimed at individuals who have recently experienced a certain life event, then use Google or Facebook's targeting features to identify individuals who have recently updated their profiles to reflect such a life event.
Google Ads introduced Adwords Life Events in 2017, and brands can currently use it to target individuals who have recently graduated college, married, or moved to a new area.
Facebook’s ad targeting is much more comprehensive, allowing brands to target individual customers based on a long list of life events (as per the individual’s Facebook profile):
It’s worth noting that these campaigns operate reactively, in that they rely on the customer to provide the info being used upfront. So, for example, an ad campaign meant to target Facebook users who have recently moved would only actually those who recently moved and updated their contact info on the platform.
The obvious downside to this is that it overlooks customers who do fit a certain criteria (in this case, having recently moved, but simply haven’t updated their profile accordingly). The other key downside is that, as detailed as these lists are, they only mention a fraction of the events, milestones, and moments individual people experience throughout our lives.
In both cases, the overlooked data leads to missed opportunities for the company.
Owning your life events segments
In order to reap the full potential of your customers’ and prospects’ life events, brands need to take their audience analysis into their own hands.
The first step in owning your life event marketing is to ensure that your current customer database is as complete as possible. This will allow you to cross-reference your entire customer base for commonalities that can be traced to a certain life event they’ve all experienced. By reverse engineering these commonalities, you’ll be able to identify them in advance and target relevant customers in good time. Emerging technology, such as AI and predictive analytics, play a huge role in a company’s ability to do this.
To improve your life event marketing even further, you’ll want to consider additional customer attributes that aren’t necessarily related to the event itself. While life events present huge marketing opportunities, they are rare and far between. That’s why marketers need to be razor focused in their targeting and messaging for life event conversion.
Even though many of your audience members do experience the same life events, they don’t all experience these moments in the same way. Creating just one campaign per life event simply isn’t going to cut it for everyone. In order to seize the opportunity you need more data to inform your messaging and targeting.
Enriching your life event intelligence with additional data layers (demographic, behavioral, psychographic) will help your campaigns resonate with your audience. If you’re selling bridal gowns, and you’ve identified a newly engaged prospect, targeting her with a long-sleeve romantic design will do nothing for her if she’s an extrovert living in Florida and planning a summer wedding.
As with most marketing activities, the more multi-layered your segmentation is, the more personal and therefore effective your campaign can be. In the case of life events, which often pose for the brand a once in a lifetime opportunity per customer—it’s even more so.