Behavioral targeting is an increasingly popular marketing method whereby advertisers leverage user data to strengthen ads. This method creates a personalized user experience based on a user’s shopping history, online behaviors and additional preferences.
When used effectively, behavioral targeting makes your ads personally relevant to the user, which can ultimately increase user engagement and improve conversion rates. However, you have to approach it the right way.
Below, we asked nine members of Ad Age Collective how advertisers can make the most of this popular marketing method.
1. Respond with empathy.
Marketers often focus too much on the behavior and not enough on what the behavior indicates. A consumer's action is only part of the picture, and you shouldn't just trigger a response without broader context. In order to achieve success, brands must empathetically respond to consumers' emotional journeys to deliver the right message at the right time via the right channel. - Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
2. Consider how you're serving ads.
Behavioral targeting is a part of the battle, but how you are serving those ads is the bigger issue at hand. Even if you have pristine behavioral targeting, if you are serving those ads on cheap display inventory, it still won't perform. - Erik Huberman, Hawke Media
3. Audit real buyer behavior against your personas.
With personas broadly in use, many create user or buyer personas around ideal and sometimes imagined buyer behavior. Make sure to audit actual buyer behavior and update assumptions regularly to ensure targeting is likely to produce real results and conversions. - Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency
4. Combine behavioral science with its artistic context.
The data tells us what the audience behavior is, that's the science. As marketers, we have to combine the science with the art. The artistic step is crafting compelling content the consumer wants to see, in formats the consumer engages with, placed on mediums the consumer spends time on at the appropriate time(s) the consumer is looking to engage. What does this give us? A customer experience. - Anas Ghazi, WPP
5. Don't seem too psychic.
Sometimes big data lets our targeting work too well, and consumers can feel like they’re in the bullseye of surveillance marketing. That can do a brand more harm overall than the benefit gleaned by being very good at behavioral targeting. - Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)
6. Define your niche audience and message.
Defining the niche audience and what you want them to do is first. Saying, "We want to sell polarized sunglasses" isn't enough. We need to say, "I want to sell polarized sunglasses to fly fishermen in Michigan." Then match the image: Michigan fly fishing photos. Then match the copy: "Whether you're fishing the Au Sable or the PM (Michigan lingo for the Pere Marquette River), these glasses change the game." - Aaron Vandergalien, Deksia
7. Choose your moments carefully.
Remember there’s a thin line between behavioral targeting and stalking your customers, so choose your moments carefully, and when you appear in people’s lives, always be helpful or entertaining. Nobody wants a used car salesman looking over their shoulder. Share something useful, help customers navigate a journey, offer a better deal or just make them smile. Otherwise, mind your own business. - Tim Maleeny, Havas New York
8. Consider your audience's motivations.
Start by understanding the motivations of your audience. Two big caveats: First, drive with real data—use observed behavior, not assumptions. Second, base your strategy on trends across large audience segments rather than the behavior of a few. - Matt Smolenski, 90octane
9. Grab attention in the moment.
Behavioral targeting works best when the consumer is engaging in content and a relevant ad pops up that enhances the experience. This can help leverage a consumer to take action. Making sure your content is engaging and offers something unique to the consumer in that moment is key when you have their precious attention. - Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising