Four Guidelines for Behavioral Marketing Newbies

Should you add behavioral marketing to your marketing mix in the coming year? If you find yourself in one of the following scenarios, you should consider it:

  • You’ve been using keyword-based search advertising effectively, but you’re unable to grow traffic through that channel.
  • You have been running display ads and are struggling to increase click-through rates and improve return on investment.
  • You have an immediate need for leads or sales that your current marketing programs don’t deliver.

I interviewed Chris Vanderhook, cofounder and COO, of Specific Media to ferret out some guidelines to help you determine if behavioral marketing is right for you. Specific Media, based in Irvine, CA, is an ad network in the business for almost 10 years. The discussion with Vanderhook produced four guidelines to consider:

Be Proficient With Targeting, Converting, and Measuring Visitors From Ads

Because behavioral marketing is designed to drive more traffic to your Web site, you should have some experience turning that traffic into leads or sales.

Businesses using PPC (define) search ads or broadly targeted banner ads tend to market primarily to the bottom of the conversion funnel, targeting prospects close to buying. Behavioral marketing can help you expand your focus.

Be Interested in People Earlier in the Buying Process

Being interested earlier implies that you are ready to help them as they consider options and alternatives. It’s natural for a travel agency to be interested in visitors who search for “discount airline tickets.” The searcher probably has a destination in mind and can be expected to buy if presented with the right price and schedule. Visitors at the bottom of the funnel like this are ready to take action.

In contrast, a person searching for “vacation destinations” may see travel only as a possibility. This person is nearer the top of the conversion funnel and will want to spend time considering her options before booking travel. Behavioral marketing allows you to reach higher into the funnel, where your messages can attract those who are earlier in their buying process.

Behavioral targeting isn’t a self-help channel like search advertising. Ad networks provide technology to divine surfers’ intentions and maintain relationships with Web sites on which your ads can be served. Ad networks develop databases that allow the networks to serve your ads to surfers who seem to be interested in what you offer based on where they go and what they read.

Behavioral targeting can be used on your traffic as well. The person who comes to your site through a search ad but doesn’t buy can be served another ad when she shows up on one of your ad network’s partner sites. She wasn’t ready to buy the first time she visited, but additional messages can bring her back to your site when she’s ready to take action.

Use Ad Networks That Know Your Industry

If your ad network is familiar with your industry, it can tell you which sites would be visited by a person in the market for what you sell and which content she would read. The ad networks track that data anonymously. When someone shows up on one of the network’s partner sites, someone who’s visited the right sites and read the right content, your ad gets served.

When looking for an ad network, ask the network to define its core value proposition in the context of your business. It should be able to tell you why its data are going to deliver the results you want and how those results will be measured. You should also ask for case studies specific to your industry or business. ClickZ’s Tessa Wegert has covered a number of ad networks to help you get started.

When you engage an ad network for a behavioral marketing campaign, expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, with some offerings as low as $2,000 monthly. There shouldn’t be a setup fee, and you should be able to see results within a month. Vanderhook recommends testing the network for 30 days before signing a longer-term contract. He advised negotiating a 48-hour cancellation policy as well. “Everything is measureable,” he says. “You’ll know pretty quickly if a campaign isn’t going to deliver.”

Have the Analytics in Place to Measure Behavioral Strategies’ Impact

Have a variety of ad creative available so you can test your way to the messages that deliver the best return. Your ad network must be able to tell you which ads are generating traffic and which aren’t. Most important, know which of your messages are bringing visitors that convert to leads and sales.

There’s more to explore within each of these guidelines, which we’ll do in upcoming columns. If predictions are accurate, display advertising costs will drop in the coming months, making it even more cost-effective. This year may be the right time to test your own behavioral marketing campaign.

Are you considering behavioral marketing? Share your situation with mefor discussion in future columns.

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