Behavioral Insider: Have you recommended the use of behavioral targeting technologies to your clients?
Laura Patterson: Most of our customers are at the CRM or sales force automation stage in terms of the type of marketing technologies they use. Some of them have begun to use other products, but most are still in the evaluation or pilot phases.
BI: What about how they're targeting their online advertising?
Patterson: Most of them are doing it through search engine optimization and search engine marketing, using some tools that help with keyword and placement and using clickthrough conversion rate analysis to determine which ones are most effective.
BI: Do you see them getting more sophisticated about their targeting online in the future, and possibly using the behavioral targeting tools that are available?
Patterson: I think every company is looking for a variety of different ways to engage the customer and measure the effectiveness of that interaction. We have a lot of large companies as customers. We also have a lot of medium-size companies, both public and private. They just have not got the sophistication or the resources yet. They're just now getting their arms around integrating their data sources. They're making great strides but they're not there yet.
Obviously, what goes on in the b-to-c space has [elements] that are transferable to the b-to-b space and vice versa. But they are different environments. Many of our customers have pretty complicated products that involve a pretty complex sales cycle. They're not impulsive decisions. They are taking precious resources from a company; they're making a considered purchase. I think as a result, although advertising is important for creating awareness and interest and moving organizations into consideration, there's so much more that goes on in a b-to-b sale, which is why our company does so much work around behavior-based buying pipelines.
BI: Let's talk a little bit about the methodology that you use for that.
Patterson: We start with understanding the incremental commitment buyers make as they move from awareness to purchase. What we mean by an incremental behavioral commitment is something that is observable by the seller, the provider. As in all situations, it's really about relationships. We take a look at that relationship between the provider and the buyer just like it would be a courtship between two people.... You can think about [courtship and marriage] in the same way as you do for business. Obviously it will be somewhat different (and hopefully we won't envision too many first kisses), but there are common things in the b-to-b space, particularly in complex sales. There are proofs of concept; there are RFPs; there are introductions between decision-makers and influencers; there are purchase agreements and purchase orders; there are samples or trials, pilots, betas. So you could see some of those as major behavioral commitments in a pipeline, right?
So what we do is have our customers identify and map out every single one of these incremental behavioral commitments.... Then we try to put them in some logical common flow that they have experienced on a regular basis, and then we label them.
Once you've mapped your pipeline behaviorally, you can think about what would be the appropriate communication tactic or advertising tactics that sync up behaviorally for each commitment.... They then begin to say, 'we now know that here are some advertising techniques we can use in this one stage of the pipeline that will get [the potential buyer] closer to being more engaged with us.'
BI: What are some of the criteria for b-to-b companies to use these behavioral targeting technologies, and perhaps get more intricate in their targeting strategies for their online advertising?
Patterson: I'm kind of old-school, and I happen to believe that there are primary ingredients [you need] to be effective in the communication world: you have to have a well-defined, differentiated positioning and a compelling value proposition; you have to know who you're talking to and how you're going to segment them; plus, you have to be able to develop unique and meaningful strategies that will engage them. So these technologies that you're talking about, the more they leverage off of those three components, the more any company will see the value in them.
BI: So, the way you see it, these targeting technologies and the companies promoting them haven't necessarily--to use your terminology--'courted' the b-to-b market yet in the way that would be necessary.
Patterson: Maybe they could use some buying pipeline development.