Behavioral Targeting Conversation Starters

No one considering online marketing in today’s environment can avoid the hype surrounding behavioral targeting’s merits and methods. For the behavioral newbie, introductory conversations play a critical role in setting expectations both for immediate decision makers and those in the C suites. By explicitly covering some of what we take for granted, you can ensure the campaign will be read in the same light by all parties, and the program results greeted with equal enthusiasm.

Here are some key messages every new behavioral marketing candidate needs to hear.

It Takes Time

Through the magic of client portals and near-real-time reporting, marketers can follow campaign results on an hourly or daily basis. Marketers launching a new or first behavioral targeting campaign may anxiously watch the first days or weeks of a campaign and fret over initial results. The nature of a behavioral program relies on audience and the learning gained over time. Use the snowball analogy to relate how building customer pool will eventually provide the campaign momentum needed to get the desired results.

Lesson learned: Prepare the client (internal or external) for the expected time frames for results. Schedule performance reports and reviews at appropriate intervals.

It Takes Commitment

Small test programs may not have enough resources or time to prove the model. For retargeting programs, you need enough site volume to make it work. That often requires demographic or contextual targeting programs in concert with behavioral to infuse the site traffic with likely behavioral targets.

Lesson learned: Don’t embark on a program with insufficient resources or time. The lessons will be absent, along with any meaningful results.

Good Creative Matters

The best targeting won’t overcome bad messaging or poorly conceived or executed creative. The same principles of good ads apply and can even be extended to include some of the profile data variables that will be collected.

Lesson learned: Invest in the creative thinking in advance to create engaging ads. Creative testing is just as important here as in any other media campaign.

A Good Site Matters


Lesson learned: Don’t send potential customers to a site that isn’t prepared to receive them.

This Campaign Will Have Broad Impact

Behavioral targeting doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Other recent on- and offline marketing programs affect behavioral results. Likewise, the behavioral program will affect other campaign results. In a typical analytics report, the last consumer touch point before a conversion often gets the credit for that conversion. That is a larger industry issue that favors search results because often consumers are exposed to ads, do their research, then go to a search engine when they’re prepared to take action. Your search results should see a lift when you implement a good media campaign.

Lesson learned: Measure aggregate results across tactical elements to get an accurate read on the program influence.

Don’t Handicap Results

A lot depends on seasonality, brand, level of consumer awareness, market and budget size, messaging, and promotion, but most consumers don’t take a direct path from ad exposure to sale. You must, therefore, have some way to measure the effects of all the consumer touch points that don’t result in a direct sale. Like any other media campaign, you need to have a consensus on appropriate success metrics to establish an optimization plan and evaluate the program outcome. If you don’t recognize the broad impact and look only at directly attributable conversions from behavioral ad clicks, you may miss a good part of the program value.

Current technology allows us to attribute consumer action to ad exposures that didn’t result in an immediate click. If those view-through actions exist within a reasonable window of time, then it’s a reasonable assumption that those ad exposures were influencing factors. Don’t count them out.

Lesson learned: Agree in advance on the cookie windows and the measurement of view-through conversions.

All Sales Are Good

There’s a good defensive reason to consistently address current as well as potential customers. Repeat sales from existing customers are sales that may not happen if you’re not top of mind. If you ignore customers, you may be opening the door to competitors who invested in the placements that find your customers when they’re ready to buy.

Lesson learned: Be wary of microtargeting to new customers to the exclusion of existing customers unless you’ve addressed them with other program elements.

There’s No Magic Bullet

Lesson learned: There’s no magic bullet.

Nominate your favorite product or campaign for the 2006 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards, October 16 through close of business (EST) on October 24. Final voting begins October 30.

Related reading