Use behavior rather than demographics for marketing targeting

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When you give it some thought, you realize that basic advertising and marketing demographics are largely unhelpful. There are some statistically relevant associations, but just because someone is 25-34 years old, male, in a household income 75,000 and up doesn’t automatically mean they’ll buy your product or service. Demographics data is useful for telling you your total addressable market, your overall potential audience. However, inside that massive pond are comparatively few fish. Everyone who could chew gum (people with at least2 who have teeth or teeth-like dental appliances) doesn’t mean everyone in that group will chew your particular brand of gum.

So what matters? Behavior. What people do is arguably more important than who they are, because behavior is a step further down the funnel. Let’s revisit the 1898 St. Elmo Louis marketing funnel, AIDA. Attention, interest, desire, action. After you capture the attention of your audience, you have to evoke interest in your product. That’s behavior – when someone exhibits interest.

Let’s look at a simple example. People who visit my personal website aren’t necessarily buyers in and of themselves. However, people who visit the landing pages for Marketing White Belt and Marketing Blue Belt? I’d make the argument that they’re slightly more qualified as potential buyers; you wouldn’t go visit those pages for entertainment’s sake.

In Google Analytics, I set up a custom segmentation for people who visited those two pages:


Now, let’s look at the difference in audiences, in demographics, based on what this segmentation can tell us:


Look at the significant difference between everyone (the blue bars) and the people exhibiting buying intent (the orange bars). If I ran advertising based only on my demographics overall, I’d run ads primarily targeting the 25-34 year old audience segment. The reality is that buyers skew a little bit older; there’s a 15% difference in the 35-54 brackets. If I relied solely on demographics, I might miss those potential buyers.

Think about all of the behaviors out there that would be worth targeting. What about people who visit from your email newsletter? You know they’re loyal to you if they’re coming back from emails you sent – why not make a segment for them?

I’ve said in other places that 2015 will be the year you either segment your audience or you get your pants handed to you by competitors who do. Starting with segmentation by behavior is one of the first, best places to begin.

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2 responses to “Use behavior rather than demographics for marketing targeting”

  1. Excellent, short and sweet insight Chris. Identifying behavior in Google analytics is where I’ve found the most insight when diving in to website traffic. I appreciate the reminder to look elsewhere and build out a segment accordingly.

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