As many of you know, I’ve been touting the benefits of behavioral marketing for some time now, Behavioral marketing refers, of course, to tracking what a reader does (which white papers or Webinars they click through to) in order to better target future content to them.

Is this a service to readers, giving them more useful information than they’d get from marketers (or editors) guessing what they want to read? Or is it an evil plot to give marketers another means, and excuse, to spam prospects with information they don’t want and don’t need?

I don’t blame Congress and consumer privacy groups for casting a skeptical eye on behavioral marketing. It’s up to us in the industry to do behavioral targeting right, to make sure it provides value in return for the loss of privacy. We also, of course, need to give people an option – or maybe even the default – of opting out of being tracked, and to assure that all we’re tracking is them as an anonymous reader, not by their actual name. 

Providing the value is where we have the most work to do. Nobody objects to their 911 tag telling the ambulance crew exactly where they are because there’s a real benefit to the EMTs coming to you when you’ve fallen and can’t get up. To provide similar compelling benefits from behavior marketing we need to provide intelligent, customized responses to reader’s concerns. 

For example, I recently send an impassioned email to one of the major presidential campaigns urging a change in strategy. What did I get back? A series of pathetic, whining, generic emails asking for money. If they had sent me (and the other tens of thousands who I know wrote in with similar concerns) an email describing how they’re following my suggestion (or even why they’re not) I’d be a lot more willing to contribute or at least listen further. (I’ve actually unsubscribed to the campaign’s emails, which mean I’m less likely to “convert” – contribute or volunteer – than before I wrote them.)

It isn’t rocket science to find the two, three or four most frequent themes in the letters you’re receiving or the stories prospects are reading, creating custom content in response to those three of four themes and blasting that (instead of generic spam) back to them. I don’t know about you, but if I thought I’d get something in return for letting someone track my reading, I’d be a lot more likely to sit still for it. Would you?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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