What should this term mean?
A group of folks is working on defining 'behavioral targeting' and how to measure it. Here's what I said about it.
Working from a high level down:
I'll make the assumption that behavioral targeting is a marketing tool as opposed to a financial, operational or even a sales tool. If so, then a definition of marketing is in order first before defining the boundaries of behavioral targeting. A definition I often use is:Marketing is the alignment of needs and solutions to everyone's mutual benefit.
The above keeps the focus on the important thing and removes the tactical or implementation steps to another set of discussions: what needs, how do we align, how are we compensated fairly, where we should promote, etc.
In this context then it appears that behavioral targeting is both a method of inferring the paths used to satisfy needs and a method that allows a solution or message to be placed along the path.
An audience segment is a group of people that exhibit a similar need and is reachable in a reasonable manner.
While one-armed paper hangers is a group with a similar need, reaching them effectively might be difficult at best. People looking at and evaluating graduate programs is both a reasonably homogeneous group and is relatively easy to target.
On the measurement question, I'll go back to marketing, budgets and campaigns. The purpose of spending marketing dollars is to change someone's behavior (and I'll put attitude and awareness in that category for the moment). The other tongue-in-cheek definition I use is "marketing is behavior modification." Money is often allocated via a campaign which should have a measurable objective -- we want x people to take y action in z time frame. So, on one level Behavioral Targeting must support the metrics by which marketing campaigns are judged. In the end, this must be revenue with a few key steps in between.
Of concern, like most web analytics, is the temptation to measure that which is easy to do. We all remember 'hits' and then 'page views' and now 'time on site'.
Some other thoughts:
1. Behavioral Targeting is database marketing - using the best information available to get an offer in front of a prospect.
2. Behavioral Targeting should not be limited to the web - if we can infer a person's need and stage, then we should use all available tactics to reinforce that position.
3. The biggest challenge will be deciphering or inferring intent based on a small subset of information. Like the movie business, its one thing to watch the actions in a silent movie but quite another to hear the story. Why? remains elusive.