They Do This, You Do That: How Behavioral Marketing Works


We’ve come a long way since the traditional days of advertising, when marketers and advertising executives brainstormed how to entice their audiences, ran a newspaper or radio ad, and hoped it worked. Now, with online marketing and advertising driven by statistics and metrics, we are able to get feedback instantly, often in real time, as to the success or failure of our campaigns. This allows us to constantly tweak and improve the ways we can reach out to consumers online with a message that appeals directly to them.

Behavioral marketing is one method for reaching out to consumers. This strategy relies on data from your customers, or your target audience, to analyze their purchasing patterns, interests, and where they go online.

Based on these types of decisions, you can create campaigns and website features around what your prospective customers are most interested in. The more accurate you are with your promotions, the better chance for more click-throughs, conversions, and return visits.

Below are some areas of marketing that are perfect for employing your target audience intel into useful promotions that garner interest and engagement.


You probably already use behavioral marketing in your emails.

Most people can make the connection between the behavioral marketing definition and email marketing, especially since many of us have set up email campaigns and funnels based on what a user has done on your website. This includes common actions, such as making a purchase, submitting a lead generation form, or requesting a download. Based on these actions, the visitor can be sent through a specific email funnel that caters to their needs and intentions.

The ideal behavioral marketing email needs to be a combination of timely information, personalized messaging, and a strong call to action (CTA). Once a potential customer is guided through a funnel, you can build additional funnels based on how they interact with the emails you’ve already sent.

For instance, if a customer completes a sale, they are now in the post-sale funnel. One of the emails is for an add-on purchase: a warranty package for the product they purchased. If they purchase the warranty because they clicked on the CTA in the email, they can then be placed in another funnel based on customers who buy warranties.

This new funnel could automatically remind them to renew the warranty once it runs out. It could also promote additional, helpful add-ons you’ve found correlate well with warranty purchases. For example, consumers who purchase warranties may also purchase a certain specific add-on 70% of the time.

Take the time to analyze your customers’ behavior. This includes their actions on your website, how they interact with your emails, and what they do on other digital platforms, such as on Facebook. All this information will help you better figure out how to craft more accurate messaging that drives conversions.

Behavioral marketing helps you create robust social media campaigns.

Digital platforms are great for behavioral marketing campaigns because many platforms offer psychographic targeting based on user data. Psychographic metrics are data about users’ interests, opinions, demographics, lifestyle, opinions, and beliefs, most of which can be targeted with paid social media campaigns.

If you already know a lot about your audience, you can create precise campaigns for them. For instance, if you offered an online course about urban photography aimed at attracting millennials, you could target urban locations, the specific age range, and photography interests, all within one campaign. This helps ensure that only people who are in the specified age range, in certain locations you target, and with an established interest in photography are the only ones seeing your ads.

The benefits of this kind of campaign are worth the effort it takes to put these campaigns together. By having precise audiences for social media ad campaigns, you can save money because you only pay for clicks or campaigns that are shown to the right people, instead of a larger, more general audience.

You can also experiment more with identifying your target audience. You could create different campaigns for different audience groups to see what performs best. Furthermore, you can tweak your ad copy and graphics to each specific audience for each campaign. This level of specificity helps marketers create highly targeted ads that are hard to replicate on other platforms, such as campaigns using AdWords.


Effective retargeting is helpful for both consumers and marketers.

Retargeting is another form of behavioral marketing that many people have heard of and likely experienced. Retargeting uses cookies to serve ads to users who complete a specific action on a business’ website or within an app. For instance, if they visit a page where they can sign up for a demo of your product, then close the tab, your website can run ads reminding the user of the demo, the product, or your company. These ads appear as regular AdWords ads, so users will see them on other websites they visit, even if they don’t visit your website again.

Retargeting ads only work for a set amount of time, in an interval you set, which can be tested to see if longer campaigns result in higher click-through rates. The message of the retargeting ad is tricky to get right. You are serving them ads based on their personal browsing history. Because of this, it’s helpful to test different formats and messaging strategies to see what works best for your audience.

Many businesses choose to run basic branding ads that simply share a key feature about the business. The hope is that the more a user sees messaging about your brand, the more likely they are to return and complete a conversion. Other marketers choose to show related products or services based on the user’s browsing history, or offer an exclusive discount code that’s only shown to customers who left the website without scheduling a phone call with a salesperson.

Retargeting continues to get smarter. With Customer Match on Google AdWords, businesses can upload their customers’ contact information to show them specific ads when they are signed into Google.

Suggestions based on search history are hard to resist.

One of the most promising ways you can use behavior marketing is to showcase product or service recommendations to users based on their browsing history, especially how they’ve interacted with your website. MarketingSherpa, for example, examined the success Postano had with retargeting. The company wanted to shorten the sales process and recapture prospective customers who were considering their competitors.

They used AdWords and banner advertising to make sure Postano reached the segment of this audience that was comparison shopping. Then they refined their audience and chose to display banner ads to a very specific group: marketing directors and CMOs in specific vertical industries, such as sports, fashion, events, and ad agencies.

According to the the case study on MarketingSherpa, “After the first 60 days of the retargeting effort, the company achieved 364% increase in click-through conversions and a 278% increase in conversion rate (measured by requested product demos).”

By feeding users products or content they are likely interested in, they will be more likely to spend extra time on the site, complete a CTA, or return later.

Behavioral marketing walks a fine line, and when it’s done right, customers appreciate your brand’s messaging and targeting efforts. However, if it feels too personal, users may have concerns about their privacy. Use the data and ad options you have available, but test campaigns in small batches first to gauge user reaction. If possible, get a test group together to hear their feedback about the experience.

The goal of behavioral marketing should be to provide the most accurate marketing messaging possible. You want users to engage with your brands. When your audience takes an action, you’ll know what to do, and your marketing efforts will be rewarded with more conversions and a better customer experience.

About the Author:

Kelsey Jones is a marketing consultant and writer under Six Stories, her marketing agency. She has been working in digital marketing since 2007 and journalism since 2004, gaining proficiency in social media, SEO, content marketing, PR, and web design. Kelsey was the head editor at Search Engine Journal for three years and has worked with Yelp, Contour Living, Bounty, Gazelle, and many more. Based in Kansas City, she enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.

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