A businessman seemed to be checking out a 1992 Les Paul I propped up on a stand in the driveway, so I meandered over in that direction in case he wanted some more information about the guitar. I introduced myself and he did the same. After talking about the guitar for a couple minutes, he handed me his business card - from a real estate outfit - and asked me whether I was putting my house up for sale.
"Actually, no," I said. "I just moved in from New York and I don't have room for all of the stuff I brought with me."
Mr. Real Estate Guy got the information he wanted and left without buying the guitar, leaving me holding his business card and wondering why he had come to my yard sale at all. Then it occurred to me - having a yard sale must be a good behavioral predictor in terms of finding people who are about to move. Mr. Real Estate Guy was well on his way to the next yard sale when I figured this out. If he makes it a point to visit a couple dozen yard sales every weekend, he probably ends up talking to potential home sellers (and thus, customers) before any of his competitors are likely to know the homeowner intends to sell. Not bad. I bet he does pretty well.
These types of behavioral predictors exist in many businesses. Automobile makers and dealerships target new homebuyers with advertising and direct mail, knowing that new homebuyers are more likely than the general population to buy a new car. A month ago, I changed my address online at the U.S. Postal Service Web site and, at the end of the process, was presented with the opportunity to download some online coupons. (Including a 10 percent off coupon from Lowe's, which I happily printed out and will likely use to snag a discount on some bathroom fixtures I'll need later this month when I undertake a major renovation.) Kudos to these marketers for knowing their target market beyond the demographic criteria usually used to define it.
When we think about online behavioral targeting tactics, we tend to think of the most obvious ones. An automobile manufacturer might target the folks who visit the various manufacturer sites or auto review sites. But do they use behavioral targeting to go after the new homebuyers who are likely to make an auto purchase in the coming months? As a tactic, that's less obvious, but could serve as an anchor tactic for a behaviorally-targeted campaign that introduces prospects to a brand right as they're a mere step ahead of the consideration process.
What behavioral predictors can help your brand preempt the competition? I'm sure you can think of a few. The trick is determining how that behavior manifests online, so that you can use that information to create opportunity.