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On-Demand Webinar: Advanced Geotargeting Strategies: Dramatically Impact Share of Volume & Campaign Performance

On-Demand Webinar Overview

Smart geotargeting lets you achieve maximum campaign efficiency by focusing your resources on generating inquiries with the propensity to convert and be retained. But today’s geotargeting is drastically different than the geotargeting of five years ago. Extensive data resources, mapping capabilities and campaign experience have provided opportunity to move away from the typical radius-style targeting and develop custom strategies that deliver more of what you need and less of what you don’t.

Join this webinar presented by Jeff Meola, a Sparkroom account director, to discover new geotargeting strategies and learn what approaches are (and are not) worth your time and effort.

Note: After the recording of this webinar, the Sparkroom agency was rebranded to DMS Digital Agency. Our award-winning. performance marketing technology retains the name Sparkroom.

Presented By

Jeff Meola - Business Intelligence and Analytics Director @ DMS

Jeff Meola is the Business Intelligence and Analytics Director at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Jeff is responsible for managing and analyzing DMS industry data and customer trends. 

Webinar Transcript

Michelle Verlin:             Good afternoon, my name is Michelle Verlin, and I'm the Marketing Manager here at Sparkroom. I'd like to welcome everybody to today’s webinar, Advanced Geotargeting Strategies, Dramatically Impact Share of Volume and Campaign Performance. Sparkroom is a leader of performance marketing, providing fully transparent analytic space strategies that achieve challenging marketing objectives. Sparkroom provides both marketing services and marketing software allowing for improved efficiency of data-based marketing campaigns through sophisticated strategies, inclusive of advanced geotargeting.


Today’s presenter if Jeff Meola, an Account Director with Sparkroom who has spent over a decade partnering with schools to help boost their cross-channel marketing performance. Jeff has extensive experience working with clients and media partners to develop effective strategic approaches to enrollment marketing challenges. His enthusiasm for diving deep into campaign data to solve client’s challenges is rivaled only by his equal enjoy of hockey. Thank you for joining us and now, I'll pass things over to Jeff.


Jeff Meola:                     Thank you, Michelle, so here's what we’ll be covering today, we will start with the basics of geotargeting and how it has evolved. Then, we will move on some advanced strategies, as well as strategies specific to online business with large marketing coverage across the nation. Lastly, how to optimize those strategies and using technology to help you execute it. Okay, let’s dive right in, so what is geotargeting and why do it? I won't read you the definition verbatim, but its catering your marketing campaigns to the geography surrounding your markets.


For brick and mortar locations, this will take on a different look than nationally targeted or online campaigns. Not all campaigns are created equal and require customized approaches. Geotargeting strategy has evolved over the years to get to custom targets that are best practiced today. Gone are the larger 60 mile rings around markets. Over the years, those have tightened to restrict under-performing volume. Typically, a high percentage of any campus starts are coming from a close proximity to the location anyways. The best approach is to heat-map your data and create a custom geotarget that can as detailed as you want.


Focus on areas where you are buying leads and driving conversions. Eliminate the ones where you have few or no conversions. You'll want to continuously repeat this process, refreshing your data set with a sample size that’s large enough. Also, know that no two markets are the same and you need consider several of these factors when laying out your approach. For starters, you have demographics, one of the most important factors in knowing the areas and zip codes around your market.


You need to understand where your demo stops and starts. It's important not just to target the zips within your demo, but also, not to be wasteful over targeting the ones that are not. Next, you have traffic and congestion when commuting to and from your location. This plays an important role in two specific ways. First, if there's a lot of traffic to your market, prospects are unlikely to attempt to get there from further distances. Secondly, it makes it all the more important that you are aware of the transit options to get to your locations.


Public transportation, by train, bus, et cetera, gives customers different ways to access your market. It doesn’t directly tie to a specific mileage outside that location. So these have to be considered when creating your custom geotarget. Other transit options to consider in more rural areas are highways. If you have an interstate that passes right through your location, it affords you the opportunity to extend further in those areas. You do also want to consider how this could impact neighboring markets of yours, as well as competition.


You need to know where your competition is located in each market. You will want to make sure you’re targeting carefully balances being competitive with being efficient. Make sure that the area to consider here is strategies at the channel level and in addition, the program level. Maybe a nearby competitor offers 70 percent of the same programs you do. The other 30 percent represent areas you have the opportunity to be more aggressive in, without being wasteful. Speaking of being wasteful, we now come to the most important factor, performance.


How is the location performing? What are your needs to fulfill certain goals? How strong is your branded search and website in driving a high percentage of conversions to that specific market? These are all questions you should be asking when defining what your targets should be. The larger percentage of starts coming from your first party channels, offers you the opportunity to be more restrictive on your third party campaigns. Performance should be a heavy informant of the custom strategy you choose to deploy. So if you're used to a standard when targeting your markets, this may all sound like a lot of factors. So why does it have to be so complicated?


Let’s take a look at percentage of total inquiries across Sparkroom global data and how far out they're coming from. As you can see, regardless of the different types of markets present here, a large majority of inquiries are generally coming from within 30 miles to the locations. Looking at the same style of chart, but swapping out inquiries for conversions, we see the exact same pattern. Now on to conversion rate, this on the other hand, looks a little different. The overall trim line is going down, indicating that conversion rate is highest closest to the location. However, as you travel further out and data sample sizes are lower, you can see some strong efficiencies.


Like the blue line for 40 to 50 miles outside of Salt Lake City or the green line for 60 plus miles outside of Chicago. So now, let’s take a look at a couple sample markets. Here's Sparkroom global data for Philadelphia, now this market is located in a highly populated city, which has to be considered when outlining a strategy for optimizing geotargets. As you can see, the generic 35 miles is not as effective as the first custom geotarget. However, it's important to take your analysis a step further, like you see in custom geotarget two. Because that’s where you really pick up efficiency by cutting out as much waste as possible without sacrificing your conversions.


And when we say waste that is referring to zip codes with a higher volume of inquiries and lower or zero number of conversions. Also, if you have neighboring locations, don’t be shy to have overlapping zip codes shared between the two. You do need to make sure you have a good contact strategy to support this, but leaving the choice to customer is always best. That way, they can take into account any personal factors that would drive them to one location over another. Let’s take look at another example, this time we are looking at Sparkroom global data for Austin.

A more spread out area, which will require a different approach than a city like Philadelphia. Whether at 30 or 45 miles, this market is producing a ceiling of a 3.1 percent conversion rate. In custom geotarget one, an attempt has been made to cater towards the patterns and trends of this market and discard the generic ring. The results actually decrease the conversion rates at 2.82 percent. It's not until the more surgical cuts made in custom geotarget two that the conversion rate eclipses any of the previous options at 3.21 percent. The lesson here is to make sure you remove enough of the underperforming zip codes to make an impact.


So what are some of the reasons why such spotty targeting strategies are most efficient? It varies by location, but if you go back to some of the factors we've talked about so far, demographics, transit options, or competition for example, you're bound to find one of these impacting your zip by zip performance. But just don’t stop at the custom geotarget, there a lot more tactics you can deploy, so let’s go bigger with some advanced strategies. A secondary geotarget functions as an additional zip list for a specific market. If you recall the generic rings, versus the custom geotargets on the previous slides, imagine targeting primarily with your custom geotarget, but expanding to the generic ring to make some exceptions.


Here's some examples of how and why you might want to do that. Let’s say you have a top performing program that also has seats available for your next startup. So not only is the program in need, but you are also at significantly less risk because it's already performing well, so try exposing it to a larger geotarget. The same can be used at the channel or vendor level. Best practices are generally to have larger targets on your first 40 channels and more restrictive ones for your third party campaigns. You can even deploy this segmenting among your third party sources to create more exposure for SEO based or other high converting partners.


Generally, you want to be more flexible and geographically open for your first 40 channels and apply those restrictions more freely for third party. Always let the data inform you of that first and don’t be shy to apply these approaches inside the third party channel at the vendor or campaign level. One thing to keep in mind when expanding out and creating that secondary geotarget. Don’t open up the zip codes that have never proven to convert in the past. If you're going to expand, make sure you vet the performance of the program, channel or vendor in those areas before doing so. The secondary geotarget is not just an idea, we have deployed strategies for clients and they have proven to drive results. For education clients of ours, we put a specific program into an expanded secondary geotarget and grew inquiry volume by almost 70 percent, while start work volume rose nearly 20 percent. So let’s move on to discuss online business targeting strategies.


The examples we will discuss are based on school, however could apply to other verticals, as well. Online is a far different animal from your brick and mortar strategies, but there are some ways to differentiate. Less schools are targeting nationwide now, so how should you get more granular? Start by performing analysis on all the states you are running, reduce or eliminate entirely states that are your poorest performers. Also, areas where you have ground campus are always going to have a stronger brand presence, so generally you want to double down on the awareness you don’t have in those states versus others where you are not physically present.


And don’t forget to review performance at the channel, program and vendor level in doing so. I am now summoning Thor to assist me in hammering home just how important it is to make sure your geotarget strategies are applied and reviewed in detail at the channel, program and vendor level. This is where you'll be able to find the strategy that best matches the attributes of your school to what the marketplace can do for you.


It may sound like a lot of work going through all this data and developing these marketing strategies, especially if you don’t have the powers of Thor, which is all the more reason why you should use the powers of the Sparkroom technology and our team of industry experts to assist you. So when you're ready to start implementing, it is important to remember these factors. Significant sample sizes are crucial to laying out any of these. If you don’t have enough data at the start level, consider dropping down to enrollments or applications.


If that’s not enough, Sparkroom global data can help you. In any approach, use enough data to draw meaningful, solid conclusions. Make sure that in conjunction with using enough data, you are also utilizing KPIs that will make the most impact. You should be targeting conversions here, not leads and don’t be afraid to cut volume that’s not performing for you. For common sense, know your position as an offering, save the more complicated and layered strategies for campus and programs that are larger. That may be a good time to talk about what's worth it and what is not when it comes to laying out these strategies and finding the best ones for you.


A secondary geotarget is something everyone can do, it might work great for you at the program level or the vendor level, but you definitely need to be doing it at the channel level. Channel level implementation is a must and something easy to execute with a secondary geotarget. Expose your first party channels to a larger geography than your third party channels. Dropping a program into a secondary geotarget is a great thing to do also. Just make sure the program has enough volume to make an impact and you have the technology to support this.


Now, here's what may not be worth it, multiple geotargets for low volume partners. This takes effect in two main areas, first, your high quality, low quantity SEO-based performers. Exempt them from some of these restrictions. Don’t over think those partnerships, they are low risk, high performers and you don’t want to nickel and dime a handful of zip codes that could impact the exposure of your offer as a whole. Secondly, you want these efforts to be realistic to execute and drive results.


If you’re partnering with a vendor and only buying 30 monthly inquiries, across four campus for example, it doesn’t make sense to introduce too many layers, nor is it realistic to expect them to make an impact for you. And that ties directly into having too many variables. Don’t have more than two geotargets in play for one market in the same channel. Know the capabilities of your partners and put them in a position to succeed. Everything we have discussed requires not only relevant sample sizes, but accurate data, as well.


These strategies are being deployed to change the way you target your consumers and have a strong impact on your business. So it's super important that your data is accurate, thorough, integrated, accessible and available in real time. As I leave you today, the one thing I would recommend everyone to take away from this is to go implement a secondary geotarget, even if it takes a little legwork and more importantly, drives media results. Thank you all for your time, be safe out there.


Michelle Verlin:             Thank you so much Jeff, now, I'll take some questions from the attendees. If you do have questions, please type them into the question box on your webinar control panel. If you can't see the control panel at the moment, look for the orange box with the arrow, click on the arrow and the control panel will expand. All right, let’s see, so one of the first questions we have that came in so far is, how much data is enough?


Jeff Meola:                     Yes, so it depends kind of what level you're looking at, I would say, for specific campus, it would probably take you about six months to collect enough data. So maybe that’s about 3000 inquiries, once you lay them out into a heat-map, you will really see at a specific zip code level. You know, some of the ones closer to the campus are going to have a lot of inquiries a conversions populate, so you'll be able to draw some more significant conclusions there.


But when you get further away from the location, you'll – you won't see as much data, so there's kind of different levels to where you can start to draw that conclusion and it’ll show you once you map it out. But I would say, generally, about six months at the campus level, online, you're gonna be able to accumulate that a lot faster. You can also combine channels to draw some larger conclusions, but you also want to be careful that you don’t, as I mentioned, deploy some of the strategies you went to first party channel to a third party channel because they should be handled differently.


Michelle Verlin:             Great, thank you. So the next one is, I don’t know how to heat-map, what should I do?


Jeff Meola:                     Yeah, so I guess there's a couple ways, I mean, if you want to – if you're dead set on ending up at one of the heat-maps we looked at during the session today where you have your lead dots in one color and your convergence in another, you're gonna need some technology to help. Some technology or agency to help you kind of do that, but in lieu of that, you certainly can just use Excel, list all your zip codes out and just kind of pivot out the performance and see what the rates are in each zip code, so those are a couple of your options.


Michelle Verlin:             Great, thank you. How quickly should vendors be able to increase the geotargeting?


Jeff Meola:                     Well, I mean, it's probably gonna be – so I think you're gonna have varying results. So in one of examples where you're kind of deploying a secondary geotarget that there's really – there's more than two ways to do, but the two, I think are most applicable here, is actually just having two buckets where you say hey, vendors in group A are gonna be exposed this radius, vendors in group B are gonna be exposed to that one.


Probably two to four business days to direct the change there, if you're trying to layer in a strategy where the same vendor is gonna have all the programs targeted at one zip radius, but maybe pick one program to drop into that secondary geotarget. You know, that – I don't think you're gonna find 100 percent capability of that to be accomplished, so that’s why when I mentioned you want to discuss with your partners and understand what their capabilities are, that’s where that would become important.


Michelle Verlin:             Okay, how can I streamline the management of leads I want versus those I don’t want?


Jeff Meola:                     How can you streamline the management leads you want versus you don’t want? So, again, you can kind of role these out in any tolerance level that you want. If you have technology, like Sparkroom backing you up, you can get really granular in detail and really reject leads at a lot of different levels, but if – you could also just role them out and kind of give different lists to different vendors.


Again, I wouldn’t implement more than two of those, but without the technology to validate against that, you won't necessarily be able to stop vendor A from sending or – I'm sorry, partners and vendors in list A from sending leads maybe to a radius that is accepted for list B. so you're gonna need technology to really validate against it.


Michelle Verlin:             Okay, now any thoughts on geotargeting adjacent zip codes? For example, if we don’t have the data on the zip codes that are adjacent, would they do look demographically like those where we do convert well, what would you do?


Jeff Meola:                     So, I'm gonna assume that means pretty close by, so if that does and you don’t have data on it and you know that there's a demographics that are in that area, I mean, that makes sense to me to target. Again, you might want to test this potentially first, with your first party channels before you open up the flood gates to some more of the third party volume, but yes, any time you have the demographics that your student is there or something that looks like your customer is there, I think it makes sense. If you were not talking about something so close, just let us know and we’ll reach back out to you, directly.


Michelle Verlin:             Okay, great. All right, so I believe those are the questions that we have time for today, if anyone else does have something they'd like to ask us, please feel free to reach out to us at and we’ll feel free to contact you back. Thanks so much for joining us today and we’ll hear from you soon.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions® (DMS), the largest single entry point for martech-enabled digital media distribution, deploys a robust database of consumer intelligence and leverages massive proprietary media distribution to provide customer acquisition campaigns that grow businesses, offer visibility into the customer experience and provide accountability for every media dollar spent. DMS continues to experience explosive year-over-year growth, with continuous recognition on the Inc. 5000 list, securing its sixth consecutive ranking in 2019, and the Entrepreneur magazine 360 list. Named one of America’s “Best Places to Work” by Inc. magazine and awarded the 2018 Excellence in Lead Generation Award by the LeadsCouncil, DMS brings together some of the industry’s most knowledgeable people, efficient processes and sophisticated technology across the digital marketing spectrum. For more information about DMS, visit Keep up with DMS news at and connect with us on LinkedIn at

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