How to Make Subscribers Appreciate Behavioral Targeting!

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Poor behavioral marketing…so misunderstood! Apparently lots of consumers think behavioral targeting is a total invasion of their privacy. But then why do they respond in such HUGE numbers to targeted campaigns?! Perhaps it’s because they didn’t know you used behavioral data to tailor their messages and offers? So is there a problem? Let’s take a closer look and see how to make sure subscribers never think your messages are “creepy”.

In a 2009 survey of 1000 adult Internet users titled, “Consumers Dislike Behavioral Targeting”, we get a literary “earful” from consumers about behavioral marketing. If we ever doubted the emotional component to marketing (see “SPAM” blog), this will remind us all!

Let’s look at the initial results:
·    Most US adults (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests, and only 47% appreciated getting discounts targeted to their interests.
It’s get worse:
·    When respondents were told about three typical ways that consumer information is gathered in order to tailor ads to their interests, even greater percentages—between 73% and 86%—said they do not want to see such advertising!

Again, why do they respond to your targeted email campaigns? It’s all in the definition! Here’s PCMagazine’s: “Delivering ads based on a user’s online habits.” Notice the word “ads” in all these results? That’s the original application of behavioral targeting, but now we know that behavioral marketing isn’t limited to increasing ad views and clicks. For most email marketers, customer behavior includes purchasing history, open and click rates, product purchasing practices, even hobbies and interests, in addition to Google Analytics. So what’s causing the negative publicity? The narrow definition and the one consumers fear is the “online tracking and monitoring” applications, such as cookies, domain tracking, etc. Why? It feels like Big Brother. So better to NEVER mention how you noticed “Julie” clicked on this link, or spent time on this page, because that would push dear Julie “buttons” as follows:
·    Even when told their online behavior would be tracked anonymously, aversion remained with 68% “definitely” not allowing it, and 19% “probably” not allowing it.
·    69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
·    92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”

As email marketers, we want to give “Julie” what she needs and wants. So what should we conclude from this study? Resistance to behavioral targeting is really tied to:
“A general antagonism to being followed without knowing exactly how or with what effects.”
Wow, but does this mean we can’t use online or even email analytics to determine which sites, pages and content customers prefer? Isn’t that the whole point of being “relevant”?  And didn’t consumers tell us in our last blog that the #1 reason for unsubscribing was lack of “relevance”. What to do?

Once again, solutions and techniques are available and you already use them! We can’t emphasize enough the importance of building brand recognition and relationships before getting very personal and specific with your email messages. We also would remind you to find out what customers want and like before assuming too much, remember? Same lesson applies here! Capture as much information as you can, but use it with discretion, and always clearly state your Privacy Policy!

We’d also like to recommend using a basic tool in a new way to ensure you don’t invade subscriber’s privacy.  In your regular survey, or a standalone version, ask your subscribers if they would appreciate product offers and content based on their preferences.  If they “opt in” to receive targeted promotions, they’ll never be “creeped out” and you keep a customer!

We think GetResponse surveys are the perfect solution to creating “Openness”. But we want to hear from you. Let us know what targeting techniques you use and if surveys can help!

*Published on October 12, 2009: a study of US opinions about behavioral targeting conducted by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley.

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