What Can We Learn From the Websites of Behavioral Marketing Vendors?

This article The Language of Behavioral Marketing, Part 1 by Brian Massey originally appeared on ClickZ.

There is a great deal of information, but you have to decipher the code.

There appears to be some amazing solutions in the behavioral marketing industry. In this article, I parse the language of the behavioral marketing world and find out once and for all what it all really means.

I use the websites of a number of behavioral advertising vendors in an attempt to clear the fog that surrounds this marketplace.

I can already hear the groans.

Yes, the behavioral marketers’ children have no shoes, to borrow from a famous euphemism. The websites of the behavioral marketing world aren’t necessarily the best examples of advanced marketing techniques. But I am not interested in casting stones at individual sites. I’m on a search for meaning and truth.

Here are some general observations about why it is so difficult for marketers to narrow the list of behavioral marketing vendors based on their websites.

Everyone’s a Leader

As ClickZ author Tessa Wegert points out in her survey of ad networks, there are a lot of “leaders” in the market. In fact, most of them call themselves the “leading provider” of something. We’ll see if we can find clues to what each vendor is a leader in.

Shooting at the “Other Guys”

Behavioral vendors spend a lot of time describing what they are not. They’re dealing with an industry that has exploded over the past several years, a market with few barriers to entry. As a result, aggressive vendors have entered the market creating privacy issues and abusing their customers’ brands in an effort to get “reach” at any price.

More reputable vendors go out of their way to differentiate themselves from these “pray and spray” approaches, writing about “premium ad networks” and “comprehensive technologies.” For those of us who don’t know the history, this language sounds like bravado and manipulation.

Everyone Does Everything

From their websites, it’s very difficult to tell what these vendors do and don’t do. In general, the claims to fall into these categories:

  • We have a network of online publishers — websites — that let us place ads on their sites.
  • We collect data from the people who have been to the sites of our ad network.
  • We collect data from publishers that help us target ads at visitors across an ad network.
  • We have a special technology that makes us better at targeting ads at visitors across an ad network.
  • We develop the strategies and/or creative that will make you better at behavioral marketing.

All of the vendors provide some combination of these services, but they all do them differently. Most are also courting publishers, which I am ignoring for this series. Their websites have a complex message to deliver, making it difficult for any vendor to differentiate themselves. They should try harder.

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Valueless Value Propositions

Anyone who subscribes to the “eight-second rule,” a rule that says you have only eight seconds to engage a Web visitor, is in for a communication challenge. Behavioral marketing vendors adhere to this rule, trying to fit everything they do into a sentence or short paragraph. The result is that their value propositions sound remarkably similar.

  • “patent pending, dynamic ad optimization technology”
  • “comprehensive suite of targeting technologies to reach target audiences across a Premium Network
  • “The technologies we use to deliver, target, and optimize your campaigns go far beyond established norms and standards for performance”
  • “the leading targeting platform and advertising marketplace that connect people to engaging advertising.”
  • “increases the productivity of each customer interaction through our industry-leading predictive marketing solutions

In contrast, the “self-serve” sites get to the meat quickly. “Hundreds of millions of impressions a day on hundreds of thousands of sites. Click here to get started.” Now, that’s works in eight seconds.

Playing It Safe

The majority of the sites I’m reviewing would be called “brochure sites.” The main goal of a brochure site is to look professional and successful. However, this encourages a vendor to be very careful with the content it places on the site. This is certainly the case for the behavioral marketing industry.

Roy H. Williams of the Wizard Academy says, “You’re not communicating effectively if you’re not pissing someone off.” I’d like to acknowledge those vendors who take a chance in the interest of communicating more clearly.

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Brian Massey is the Founder and Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences. He is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses were developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker and writer.