Learning to Think Backwards: What Sales Can Teach Targeting
by Phil Leggiere, May 19, 2006, 4:15 PM
Many envision behavioral targeting as the enabling technology of "friction-free" marketing, whereby advertisers can use hyper-analytics to push their message to the most receptive consumers, bypassing the messiness and "inefficiency" of the traditional sales process. Olivier Chaine, founder and CEO of Salesbuilder.com, disagrees. As he explains below, the next step forward for behavioral targeting involves a step backwards from high-flown marketing models to a focus on sales. Behavioral Insider: What do you see as the main limits to behavioral targeting as it's currently deployed? Chaine: The instinct that leads online marketers to behavioral targeting is a healthy one. It starts when marketers realize that just getting more leads isn't enough. They need quality leads. But in the online world it's been acceptable to just stop once you've located a good prospect, to essentially say, here's the product--now, you figure it out. All the energy in targeting has been based on marketing, that is on framing a message you've decided is the most relevant and attractive one about your product and presenting it to likely prospects. BI: So you see most targeting solutions out there now as being skewed towards marketing issues, but ignoring the sales component? Chaine: Yes. Good salespeople inherently know how to read potential customers and how, by asking questions, to modify and alter their "pitch." They know by instinct that you have to not only categorize customers by what they've done in the past. but engage them in terms of what they're looking for now and notice HOW they look for it. They look for cues [from] behavior that the marketing person, focused on the product message, might not notice. They pick up who's in a hurry, who needs their hand held, who wants to be given more room to browse on their own. Through experience, they build up a great store of knowledge about when to sell "hard" to keep people from leaving the lot or the showroom, and when to sell "soft". This is ancient knowledge, which is still ignored incredibly often online. BI: Can any of these kinds of knowledge be encompassed by targeting? Chaine: It involves taking the step beyond merely locating who's out there on the Web and likely to be a higher quality lead based on where they've been online to stage two, which is a better understanding of how to convert more quality leads once they've come to your site, based on how they behave in getting their information about your product, or how they engage [with] the product. So what we are trying to do is get clients tools to work backwards, starting with sales first and then thinking about marketing. Often the sales dialogue can profoundly alter the targeting model that marketers went into a campaign with, as far as who these customers are and what the really relevant segments of the market are. BI: How might this make a difference in a real-world situation? Chaine: We have one high-tech client which sells enterprise software for server farms.... They found out there were three kinds of buyers. For CIOs, the ROI the product could provide was all important. IT managers were worried about how it would be implemented by their staffs. Systems administrators were concerned with how the product was going to change the division of labor between job categories and what skill sets would need to be mastered. Once these concerns were understood, much more detailed and relevant messaging about the product could be customized for each group. BI: Much current work in Web site optimization is being done to engage customers more deeply. Where do you see targeting working into this process? Chaine: The answer is not just to keep people on your Web site until they get lost. Another key area in targeting behavior is how to funnel qualified prospects through the sales channel. By studying how different kinds of customers interact with the sales process, how they move through the funnel from qualified lead to live prospect to buyer, we can discern different patterns that, among other things, can help us figure out when to leave people alone to browse and when to try to move them off the Web site to live sales help or some other "offline" destination. BI: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities ahead for sales-based targeting? Chaine: There are a lot of great analytics platforms that can provide rich data into customer behavior patterns but don't provide a response system. At the same time, there are now very innovative ways to stimulate customer interactivity and site "stickiness." But up till now, very little work and knowledge existed that actually helped us learn from that dialogue to become more responsive marketers ourselves. Great targeting in the future is going to come from finding better ways to relate these two processes.