What Lasagna Al Forno Taught Me About Behavioral Targeting

  |  March 28, 2012   |  Comments

The recipe for success in digital marketing comes together at the intersection of relevance and meaningfulness, sprinkled with compelling recommendations or calls to action.

Just this past week I attended and spoke at SES NY. Now, anyone that knows me well knows that I love food, and that picking both the restaurant and the dish is a big deal to me. Knowing that picking a restaurant can be quite a gamble in NYC, I relied on the recommendations of other people who knew the city better than I did. If was going to pay New York prices, I was going to get my money's worth. What I found was that just as many of the best restaurants literally had a max capacity of 20 people, as did the larger, high-flying, fancy ones.

I was fortunate enough one night to receive a recommendation to go to this tiny, family-owned Italian restaurant with a very cozy atmosphere. I had just finished a long day of speaking and networking and wanted something a little more personal where I could let down my guard and relax, so I decided to give it a whirl. As soon as I walked in and saw five out the seven tables filled with Italians, I knew I was in for a real authentic treat.

The lasagna was nothing like what we have every day in America. Fresh tomato pesto, vertical pasta instead of horizontal, porcini mushrooms, and an unbelievable amount of exceptional cheeses melted to perfection on the top. I had hit the jackpot (don't even get me started on the stuffed eggplant!). A family that was friends with the owners was there celebrating a birthday and it was all smiles, hugs, and even a few wet eyes as these people truly celebrated their relationships with each other.

In the midst of this Mediterranean sensation, I realized how amazing it felt to get exactly what I was looking for in that moment and that where I wanted to eat could change significantly in a short period of time. I learned that when it came to my palette, size didn't matter. What mattered was recommendation, relevance to my current needs, and the ability to engage in a way that would satisfy my needs (personal and familial vs. fancy and formal).

If only we as digital marketers would remember that our audiences are very human. It's easy to get distracted by labels that we put on actual people in this industry like "visitors," "traffic," and "conversions." Oftentimes we get so focused on these superficial metrics that we forget about what is really going on; that real people with very human needs are trying to figure out whether or not our site and product or service can fulfill the emotional, social, psychological, or simply logical reason for any level of engagement with us.

The recipe for success in digital marketing comes together at the intersection of relevance and meaningfulness, sprinkled on the top with compelling recommendations or calls to action.

Remember that your customers' or clients' needs can change very quickly and that based on what they have been doing recently, what once was unimportant can quickly become paramount. This is easily illustrated by online search behavior. Yahoo reports that over 20 percent of its total explicit search volume each month consists of terms that have never been searched before. Can you see why ongoing insightful measurement and analytics paired with both on- and offsite behavioral targeting is so important? Think about how much better both your paid and organic search programs will do if you're constantly looking for emerging terms and needs within your vertical.

Make sure that you not only develop personas, but that you consider how each persona could progress over time, and use search, social, and other analytics data to frequently update and add layers of progression and regression to your customer personas. Ask your team how you can cater your digital marketing programs to successfully understand what your individual customers need based on recent behavior such as what products they have recently viewed, what other sites they frequent, qualitative data on whether or not they like more or less interaction with customer service reps, etc.

An important ingredient that is often overlooked is considering the emotional state that people are in when they are engaging with you. Is it excitement, grief, skepticism, survival, or something else?

Be sensitive to their emotional state and create digital experiences that are both sensitive to those states, and play off of them to increase meaning.

Create life stage and lifestyle transition programs to not only market to your customers the products and services that are relevant and meaningful to them at that time, but to smoothly transition them through each stage in the progression. And remember, not everyone's income and lifestyle consistently increases over time. Sometimes it regresses. Plan for that too.

If you're not sure how to put this recipe on the table, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have transitional content?
  • Do you have transitional advertising?
  • Do you have transitional products?
  • Do you build links from sources of transitional content?
  • Do you have custom messaging and content for each persona?
  • Do you effectively use paid search and display to nurture each stage of your customers' lifecycle?
  • Do you enable your customers to contribute relevant content that may resonate more personally with others than content that is pushed out by your company?

Just like a fine wine or cheese, your digital marketing programs should get better, develop more complex sets of taste, and become more refined with time. After a long week, it's a good thing some friendly Italians with food to die for gave us the recipe. Bon appétit!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chad Childress

Chad is a diversely experienced marketing team leader with 10 years of digital marketing experience. Chad's marketing expertise spans an array of disciplines - from usability and conversion optimization, to mobile, SEM, social media, and branding.

Chad was the CMO of an online mortgage company for five years where he drove 37 percent average annual revenue growth. Since then Chad has worked for multiple digital marketing agencies where he has led complex high profile engagements for fortune 500 companies.

While the list of clients Chad has worked on include some of the world's biggest brands such as Proctor and Gamble, Abbott Nutrition, Luxottica, Fifth Third Bank, and others, Chad also has experience in startups and the mid-market, as well as in highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare. Chad is an accomplished writer and speaker. He takes a "Think big and then prove it" approach to marketing and helps organizations understand how to successfully balance both strategy and execution to drive meaningful engagement.

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