Driving Behavior-Part I of II

Two perceptions many advertisers have are: "Behavioral marketing is something you only buy from a publisher or ad network." Behavior is a "hands-off" observation like a science experiment in a glass case.

Instead, advertisers should consider a broader view of creating their own behavior tracking programs and directly influencing (not simply observing) to move prospects deeper into preplanned behavioral segments. In fact, every company should have a behavioral marketing plan, regardless of whether they are buying behaviorally targeted media or not.

It is widely accepted that one-off marketing initiatives are generally less effective than well-planned broad campaigns that use a sequenced presentation of information over time. Similarly, behavioral marketing campaigns should involve detailed planning, from identifying behaviors that a marketer is interested in to tracking and influencing a series of subsequent behaviors.

I will use a cellular telecommunications provider as an example. Their goal: to increase family-plan sales with a broad behavior campaign. The well-known telecommunications company, XYZ, has already invested heavily in sports affinity and celebrity endorsements. They expect the behavioral marketing campaign to unfold sequentially over a period of several months.

Reaching The Right People

The first step is obtaining qualified leads. To do this, XYZ can leverage its existing sports/celebrity investments to create online engagements (information, entertainment, games, contests, and prizes). This can be done by starting with the right people--by buying demographic and behaviorally targeted ads on online media properties, or they could target a wider swath of fans of the sports/celebrities they endorse, and ask visitors qualifying questions upon their arrival at the online engagement. For instance, you might use a narrow-cast approach by buying demographic, contextual, and behaviorally targeted ads on a popular parenting Web site to prequalify your target audience. Conversely, you could also broad-cast ads on sporting Web sites, or even search engine keywords for that celebrity to attract your audience and then use a landing page of questions to sort out which people meet your profile for belonging to a family cell plan.

Understanding Who You Reach

Many companies are not skilled at obtaining consumer data. First, they tend to ask demographic questions such as age, sex, and income, because that is how they are used to purchasing media, as aggregate averaged demographic data. Second, they tend to ask blatant and upfront questions, causing the consumer to balk (Example: is an online "American Idol coloring game" worth giving your personal data and time?). Instead, XYZ should ask questions such as: "Who is your current provider?" "What do you hate most about your current provider/phone?" "How many people could be on your phone plan?" "What new technology do you like?"

To save time, many of these questions should be dropdown choices. Also, don't ask all the questions at once; rather, ask a few questions at various points in the engagement to minimize balk rates and demonstrate value. Consumer data sharing is a very "Quid pro quo" arrangement. Many times consumer data questions can become part of the engagement, where the viewer chooses the color of their cell phone shell or indicates that they would rather win a "hot new phone" rather than "5000 free minutes". Consider using tools such as ZIP code analytics to act as additional overlays to avoid excessive direct consumer questions. Once consumers are engaged and willing to share information, reacting to and shaping their behavior is critical at this point to establishing ongoing relationships for future marketing efforts.

(The continuation article will detail an example of how to format questions to proactively react to consumer behavior and drive results.)