Identifying Your Target Audience

One of behavioral marketing’s biggest challenges is properly identifying specific members of a given target audience. Yet this is fundamental to the way behaviorally targeted online advertising works. Observe behavior. Identify a profile. Match the ad to a profile.

You don’t have to a mind like Linnaeus to run behaviorally targeted advertising. All you need are some ideas about what makes your audience’s behavior special to them.

“In today’s marketplace, the opportunities for marketers to buy valuable audiences — like in-market auto buyers, SMB owners, and technology enthusiasts — have become more scarce than ever,” says Ross Sandler of (Revenue Science. “Fortunately, today’s behavioral marketing solutions allow marketers to precisely identify these users and expand reach against them utilizing a number of techniques.”

An instructive example comes via recent discussions I’ve had with agency media planners, media owners, and behavioral targeting service providers about different ways to target SMB (define) executives.

Three approaches to identifying and targeting SMB behavior:

  • A media owner can set up several purpose-specific pages of SMB content. For example, pages could feature entrepreneurs or high-growth companies. Ads can then be matched to users fitting a profile such as “two-plus visits to two different SMB articles.”

  • An advertiser can supply a list of keywords that would identify interesting content for SMBs, such as “grow business” or “cost savings.” Users who read articles with these words over a period of, say, three months can be identified. Ads can then be matched to those users. If the campaign includes paid search, the keyword list probably exists already.
  • The publisher or behavioral targeting service provider could infer visitor information from IP addresses and look to include (or not) based on this information. For example, the publisher screens for “business users and not Fortune 500.”

None of the above ideas requires media owners to regularly publish content for SMBs. All imply a good deal of collaboration between the advertiser/agency, online publisher, and behavioral targeting service provider.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’ve set aside the problems everyone in the marketplace faces when defining SMBs: should they be defined by annual revenue, number of employees, or something else? They’re somewhat irrelevant at this level. Your takeaway is this: there are good ways to target an audience that aren’t limited to placing ads in or around relevant content.

Certainly, content targeting continues to work well for advertisers. In cases when regularly published and directly relevant content isn’t available, behavioral targeting can offer a variety of helpful workarounds.

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