Selling Behavioral Targeting: A Planner’s Perspective

I get the same call once a week:

Sales rep: Hi! This is so-and-so from such-and-such company. I understand you purchase behavioral targeting on behalf of your clients. Well, we offer behavioral targeting.

Me: Can you please clarify what you mean by “behavioral targeting”?

SR: Sure, we reach millions of Web users through our targeted network of sites. We can target through various means, including geo, demographic, and behavioral targeting.

Me: Can you explain how your behavioral targeting product works?

SR: Well, we actually haven’t launched it yet, but we’re planning to in the next couple of months. We’ll be able to target consumers who visited any section of our network. For example, we can target people who went to a car site or section.

Sound familiar?

Over the past year, I’ve received countless cold calls from companies selling “behavioral targeting,” only to learn they’re either not offering it (yet) or offering something completely unrelated. I really want to believe that voice on the phone is offering me a solution that will drive positive results for my clients. But all it takes is a few misguided calls to turn an open buyer into a pessimistic one. Therefore, as we embark on a new year, here are my suggestions on how to effectively sell behavioral targeting:

  • Be upfront. Since its inception, behavioral targeting has been mistrusted; most of it stems from consumer privacy issues. This creates an extra level of credibility and authenticity sale representatives must exhibit when they’re presenting capabilities. Any loopholes drive doubts. State the facts up front, and don’t omit important information (e.g., product hasn’t launched yet, remessaging isn’t available, etc.). Savvy planners and buyers expect full disclosure and are wary of omitted facts. In the same vein, they welcome honesty. It’s OK if you just launched, explain that up front and provide an incentive for a launch partner.
  • Be cooperative. Interactive advertising is cumbersome. It can be a lonely world for planners or buyers who need to quantify every decision they make. If the sales community wants increased revenue, partnering and supporting planners and buyers is one of the easiest ways to do so. Ultimately, it will benefit you both. Though each planner may have unique challenges, there are universal ones (hint: focus behavioral targeting pitches on helping them with the challenges).
  • Be creative. One reason advertisers flocked to the Internet was the degree of flexibility that it provides. Part of the allure was, “If it doesn’t exist, a publisher can build it for you.” I’ve worked on programs for which publishers have built entire sections that have been sponsored by clients. Advertisers still want customized programs because their objectives and target audience are often unique. They’re also willing to pay a premium for a customized plan. Be flexible and creative when pitching behavioral targeting. Don’t provide just one solution that may make your offer only slightly more creative than a run-of-site buy.
  • Be results driven. Results matter. Period. Yes, it’s everyone’s job to create successful campaigns. The number one reason we haven’t renewed campaigns isn’t due to below average results; it’s the lack of data to substantiate a renewal. Yes, you read that right. No data means no renewal. Poor results mean applying the collected information to optimize future campaigns.
  • Be willing to listen. (Warning: this may mean backing down.) Despite understanding a client’s objectives and the interactive medium, good media planners have an innate understanding of digital communications. Since the Internet continues to lack the research required to plan well, planners compensate by trusting their instincts. Good planners also communicate their concerns and provide feedback. If you’re a rep dealing with a planner like this, listen. What they’re offering may not only make the difference on this sale but also subsequent sales. If your product is inadequately suited, back down. In the long run, it’s much more important to sell with integrity and retain a relationship rather than try to sell an ill-suited buy and lose your credibility.

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