Just-In-Time Target Marketing

  |  November 18, 2009   |  Comments

Tips on how advertisers can identify their target audience by using today's behavioral targeting tools and methodologies.

"Get the right message to the right consumer at the right time."

It's almost become a rallying cry for the modern marketer. Regardless of what we want our campaigns to do, nothing really matters unless we can get the right message in front of the right person at a time that's relevant and meaningful to them...personally. In truth, this has been the goal of all advertising since the dawn of time (it's just been harder to implement until recently).

With today's behavioral targeting tools and methodologies, advertisers can not only do a better job of identifying their target audiences, but can also take greater measures to ensure their messages are aimed specifically at that audience and not a universal audience of "everybody."

At least this sounds nice in theory.

The challenges that online marketers face, even with the ability to position their advertising right where they want it, is that it's often hard to determine when "the right time" has arrived based upon an individual consumer's needs. The reality is that consumers want and need things when they want and need things. In many cases, it's very hard to predict when those needs arise. In other cases, however, specific events and a glance at the calendar can give marketers the insight they need in order to identify when "the right time" has arrived.

Identifying the right time to engage consumers is often based on a predictive analysis of what events motivate consumers to take action. Sometimes, it's as easy as checking the weather forecast.

Weather triggers are one of the more common forms of event targeting being used by advertisers today. While it requires a very flexible media buy, there are a number of products and services that can truly take advantage of extreme changes in weather and position offers so they arrive the same time as when the consumers need them.

For example, advertisers like Starbucks have been very proactive when it comes to using upcoming weather events, mostly heat waves and cold snaps, to sell different products. (To see examples of some of these ads and other event targeting examples covered in this column, check out this post on my blog.)

Weather-triggered events might also include hurricanes, hailstorms, wildfires, flooding, ice and snowstorms, and drought. For marketers who sell emergency supplies like generators, "bug-out" kits," winter and foul weather gear, water purifying systems, home protection equipment, etc., these are often tailor-made opportunities to position advertising in front of a highly motivated target audience.

One of the most valuable forms of event advertising is search, due to its quick turnaround time. For example, a savvy marketer for a business that replaces auto glass might notice that there's a massive hailstorm slowly drifting through the Midwest. By quickly positioning topical ads and positioning search buys geographically for those areas, that marketer can reach a significant number of motivated consumers who will be very receptive to the offer.

Search and keyword driven advertising are an obvious ally here. By putting a finger on the pulse of the market, advertisers can take advantage of news events. For example, by buying the keywords "swine flu," an insurance advertiser may find a highly targeted and motivated audience suddenly looking for supplemental medical coverage.

Obviously, what an advertiser is selling will greatly affect opportunities. Not all products and services lend themselves to extreme weather or natural disasters. However, there are plenty of friendlier annual events that don't require the participation of terrified or overly concerned consumers.

For example, there are a number of giving holidays that create consumer needs that can be fulfilled by savvy marketers. Valentine's Day often serves as the perfect reminder to let people know that if they really love their partners, then shiny bling and candy are the perfect way to demonstrate that love. Also, consumers like to feel special. Advertisers who are able to collect birth date information from visitors to their sites and landing pages get a built-in opportunity to send a highly targeted e-mail campaign offering a value add on that consumers' special day. Not only are birthday messages and offers highly relevant to these individual consumers, but they also add exclusivity to the offer, and that lends a greater appeal.

Marketers should beware of trying to hijack events that don't naturally fit their messaging or offers. Too often we see ludicrous examples of back-to-school gun sale offers or Halloween car sale specials that seem as contrived. But on the other hand, opportunity is always knocking. For marketers who are willing to answer the door, they will find themselves in the right place at the right time.

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Rob Graham

Rob Graham is the CCT (chief creative technologist) of Trainingcraft, Inc., where he heads up development of customized training programs for a wide range of digital marketing, entrepreneurial development, and digital media clients.

A 20 year veteran of digital media, Rob has served as the CEO of a multimedia development company; an interactive media strategist; a rich media production specialist; a Web analytics consultant; a corporate trainer and seminar leader; and a chief marketing officer.

When he isn't on the road presenting training workshops, Rob teaches at Harvard University, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell where he teaches classes on Digital Media Development, Web Store Creation, Software Programming, Business Strategies, and Interactive Marketing Best Practices.

He is the author of "Fishing From a Barrel," a guide to using audience targeting in online advertising, and "Advertising Interactively," which explores the development and uses of rich-media-based advertising. He has been an industry columnist covering interactive marketing, digital media, and audience targeting topics since 1999.

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