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Behavioral data's new role

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Audience developers have been encouraged for a few years now to consolidate databases so publishers can use that information to grow their business. Now circulators are being encouraged to find a way to take that massive file and add the behavioral tendencies of subscribers to the mix.

“The days of marketing based on demographics alone are over,” said Bob Johnson, VP-principal analyst at IDG Connect.

Johnson said demographics are important, but audience developers and content creators both need to focus more on customer’s objectives as well as their role in buying decisions.

“What’s happening is that we’re generating lots of content in lots of delivery mechanisms for folks, and we just throw it out there and think they’ll sort through and find what is appropriate. But no one has time for that.”

Terri Smith, a circulation/audience development consultant, said behavioral data can create new opportunities for audience developers: “A whole world is opened up that could include cyclical seasonal behaviors and new trends,” she said.

But with so much consumer data out there coming from the use of the Internet and reward cards, faster computer processing and ROI measurement tools, what should audience developers concentrate on?

Patrick Kehoe, VP-business intelligence at custom publisher McMurry, said consumers’ past behavior is not always a guarantee of future events. But the more data you have, he said, the easier it is to predict what different consumers will do. “[The data] allows us to find consumers with a higher probability to want/need the service being offered,” he said. “This probability will allow you to focus your energy on a few versus the many.”

Johnson noted that IDG has found those closer to the purchasing point are considering more behavioral information generated from traditional advertising vehicles, for example, white papers, case studies and tutorials. However, social media tops the list. “The voice of the peer is always considered very important,” he said. “So if you’re looking at behavior, you also have to look into how you’re tapping into what’s going on in the peer-to-peer perspective and how you can gain better share of that conversation.”

Johnson pointed out that this data could be used to improve content that can be random, disorganized and sometimes too long. “You want to be mapping out behavior and giving them content that’s coordinated to their needs,” he said. “And you don’t want them to have to read through 12 pages of a white paper before finding something that is relevant to them.” Johnson said he envisions content as being modular so the right information can be placed at the right point on the behavioral time line of the consumer.

To get started, Johnson suggested beginning small and with a specific program, title or audience. That way, a company can erect a framework to build on. Steps should include figuring out exactly what material is in a company’s database; understanding an audience, its needs and buying behavior; knowing the different platforms a company can use to deliver information; and encouraging a sustained commitment to learning about the audience.

“They have to lurk; they have to look; they have to monitor and participate,” Johnson said, adding, “They have to continually try and understand the patterns of what is driving these people.”

Both Kehoe and Johnson said that it is crucial to test and measure the results of such targeted marketing.

Kehoe said testing is vital. Things to look for other than simply increase in ROI, he said, are increased response ratios, increased attrition or retention of customers and increase in expected revenue and/or profitability.

“The exciting aspect of having all this data is that in the near future we can custom- tailor a marketing campaign to the individual instead of the masses,” Kehoe said.

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