Getting Yourself a Stickier Wall

November 4th, 2009

We all know the expression: “throw something at the wall and see what sticks.” This is typically not the best way to approach a successful marketing or advertising campaign. But too often, that’s exactly how it happens. The good news is that it’s getting easier and easier to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and really hone in on targeting your core audience.

In the marketing and advertising industry, we call it “contextual and behavioral advertising.” The concept is simple and it’s been around for a long time:

If you want to reach your customer, put ads where your customer goes.

Sounds pretty straightforward. In theory, it is. To properly execute, however, it’s important to make sure that you’re combining all the right elements so your efforts are successful.

The Web is certainly the biggest advancement in contextual and behavioral advertising in our lifetime. Google has built their entire fortune on the revenue generated from this very practice. Put relevant ads in front of people and they will click on the links. The more relevant the ad, the more clicks. Let advertisers pay for those clicks and they will make better ads that generate more clicks. Everybody wins, right?

Looking at contextual advertising we can see several things. First, it’s a little less scientific and more mechanical than behavioral advertising. If you sell dog treats and your ad is displayed next to a story about puppies, it has been displayed in context. Hopefully:

The ability to track this entire interaction is what makes online contextual advertising so interesting. We can see how many times the ad was displayed, how many times somebody clicked on it, and what the person did after that. Did they purchase? Did they leave your site immediately? Did they browse and then buy? All of these things are very important to know if you want to increase your advertising effectiveness.

That’s what takes us to behavioral advertising. Putting things in context isn’t enough. It’s just a great start. You’ll get more responses from a targeted audience than a wide one. When you start to target specific behavior, though, you’ll increase responses even more. Understanding someone’s behavior allows you to more accurately predict their actions.

Online, it’s possible to follow behavior. We can track clicks, pages viewed, forms filled out, how long you stay on a page, what order you visit pages, keywords you use in search and more. It’s an essential part of successful campaigns, and it gets amazing results compared to just trying things until something works.

So what approach are you taking toward your marketing mix? Are you throwing things at the wall and wondering why your approach isn’t as effective as you’d like it to be? With the tools and resources available now, the best approach is to find out exactly who your target customer is, where they are going to be and throw them exactly what they want to catch.

Facebook, for example, is doing an amazing job of contextual and behavioral advertising. Their entire platform is perfect for it. Every user has to have an account. Their account has anywhere from minimal to an entire cornucopia of detailed information about the account holder. Where they live, their job, friends, special interests, and a never-ending stream of comments, links and other information voluntarily handed over in real-time on an ongoing basis.

That’s what makes their advertising platform so effective. The very nature of their site allows you to define context and behavior on such a micro-level that the ad response rate is much higher than average. Twenty different people can be on a fan page about basset hounds and they can see twenty different ads, with each one being specifically tailored to their individual interests and behavior.

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