Cross-Interest Targeting

Credit: Larry Kim, Wordstream

What Larry Kim calls the inverted unicorn ad targeting method, I call cross-interest targeting. Tomato, tomahto.

It hinges on the idea that you can maximize Facebook relevance scores by not only targeting the right people (e.g. marketers with director titles), but by also layering in completely unrelated interests.

The example Larry uses to illustrate this strategy is “liberals who watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine”. Those are two big audiences, and the trick is to focus on the overlap.

Then, he created a campaign highlighting the dangers of fake news.

What does Star Trek have do with liberals? Nothing.

But it allowed him to target people who would might understand this obscure joke.

“If you have no clue what this joke is all about, that is the beauty of this strategy,” Larry says. “You would have never seen the ad in the first place! It was engineered to appeal specifically to this audience. It worked: the Star-Trek loving liberals engaged with the post, leading to strong engagement metrics and a Facebook Relevance Score of 7/10.”

At Vendasta, our content team tried something similar with Game of Thrones.

We wrote a blog post that played on themes from Game of Thrones (called Game of Agencies) and put together some sweet posters as the lead magnet.

Little did we know at the time, we weren’t the first to do this…

Before the campaign launched, my CEO forwarded me an episode of the SaaStr podcast with Sangram Vajre, Founder & CMO of Terminus.

Sangram’s story is a cautionary tale for cross-interest targeting:

“I have a great example that shows how wrong it can go. I have a customer, previously, who created an infographic for Game of Thrones, and it was an incredible Game of Thrones infographic. And they had over 10k or so people download it, and the marketing team was excited.

They said, ‘We have crushed every single record in the history of the company for generating leads.’ And they went to the sales team and said, ‘Here are 10k leads. You guys should now close so much more given our close rate.’ And the sales team was excited—high five. The week was all about festivities.

At the end of the week, the sales leader came back to marketing and said, ‘Never ever send me those leads again.’ And the marketing team is like, ‘What are you talking about? You got 10k leads!’ He said, ‘Yes, they’re all interested in Game of Thrones. Nobody even knows about what we do, and the sales team is not even able to create opportunities with the majority of them.’”

-Sangram Vajre, Founder & CMO of Terminus

Do I think that Sangram’s story means you shouldn’t cross-interest target?

No. Absolutely not.

The problem with Sangram’s example isn’t the cross-interest targeting—it’s that they delivered too many top-of-funnel leads that weren’t ready to talk to them. Their marketing team could have used the Game of Thrones theme to develop more middle-funnel or bottom-funnel content instead and still captured the interest of their audience but tied it to their business in a more meaningful way.

Let that be a lesson: cross-interest targeting is powerful, but like anything, if it’s not tied to your brand, it can generate unqualified leads that sales won’t be happy with.