Profiling is not a dirty word

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Keith Flint, strategy director, Sudden Impact Marketing
Keith Flint, strategy director, Sudden Impact Marketing

If I don't know you, I won't read your email. Unless what you have to say appeals to my puerile sense of self-interest. If you aren't a friend or trusted source of international cycling news, I won't look at your tweet — no matter how clever. I'm a marketer's nightmare. And I'm not alone.

Targeted messaging must be thoughtfully delivered to a carefully observed and profiled audience. It isn't creepy; it's smart. If you want to reach me, you have to know a lot about me. A generalized message won't work. I won't respond if I feel I'm being broadly categorized. You can't direct your message to a “marketing strategist” and hope to get my attention. That's superficial. Dig deeper to learn what I'll respond to.

Look at my LinkedIn profile. I'm a writer, a strategist and a musician. I'm dedicated to my jobs. But read to the bottom to see my interests. That's what appeals to me on a gut level. I am interested in anything related to human performance, and I've been a competitive cyclist and ultra-marathon runner for more than two decades. Use these facts to develop a message that seizes my attention.

The waters are turbulent in today's market. Don't cast a broad net with a generalized message and expect to pull in a pile of fish. The big ones move too fast to see it, the next level have the strength and stamina to pull away, and the small ones wriggle right through. Lowest-common-denominator messaging will get you the easy catch — the weakest, slowest, or most easily confused consumers.

This column isn't about me; it's about the need to engage your target audience in a meaningful way. I'm just an example of the challenge marketers face. Your customers won't think you're a creeper for knowing them because you'll be talking about what appeals to them most. They may be flattered.

The results of a Network Advertising Initiative study measuring the effectiveness of behaviorally targeted advertising confirms this thinking. Behaviorally targeted ads secured an average of 2.68 times the revenue per ad as non-targeted advertising. Targeted advertising was more than twice as effective at converting click-throughs into purchases (6.8% for targeted vs. 2.8% for non-targeted ads).

Keep your message topically focused and your audience will respond. To tell an academic oncologist about the molecule your biotechnology company has discovered, know that she will be influenced by multicenter clinical trial results published in peer-reviewed journals. To impress a data center manager, know whether he's more driven by his IT environment's availability or its efficiency.

If you want to reach a middle-aged endurance athlete struggling mightily to hang with the youngsters at the local races, now you know what I like, too.

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