Know your inventory – targeting an audience

I work in an online marketing company leading the team responsible for our online advertisement inventory. That means we segment our audience into different channels and try to deliver the best offer to each person. We work both with contextual and behavioral segmentation, which means we analyze what people look at (like google does with the sponsored ads) or what they were most interested in in the past. We try to figure out what a person is interested in at this very moment. This means of course, that the segmentation is not static. A person that yesterday was interested in cheap flights to Rome, today might be interested in books. And this is something our partners (and even our own traffic managers) sometimes like to forget. We are segmenting audiences, which means people. The traffic generated within a specific channels is entirely dependent on the interest of real people. People who search for things, surf on the topic and thus generate the traffic. So it is not computers that do the traffic, nor is it something that can be incremented indefinitely. For each segment there is a natural limit: the maximum amount of people interested in the topic.

What we do now in inventory management is to define those segments, analyze where there are possible synergies and shifting traffic from one channel to another to optimize the revenue. But we do not change the interest of our users. We figure that somebody buying a flight might be interested in also renting a car, so we can expand the segments “car rental” a little into the segment “flights” if needed. But we cannot make more people interested in “car rental” just for the sake of it. There always needs to be a connection to what we actually want.

Believe it or not, I have learned something from this for my daily life. Because some way or the others we all do inventory management when building relationships, talking to people, making connections. And we all can shift the inventory if needed, addressing different topics with different people, but we cannot expand the inventory indefinitely. Because not everybody is interested in everything, and sometimes a niche segment with a limited amount of interested people is just more profitable for ourselves (in terms of conversation, contact, sharing time, hobby,…) than when we expand it. So here are my personal highlights I learned through my job as inventory expert.

  1. Try to understand what the other person is interested in (behavioral) or what s/he wants to talk about at this moment (contextual). Once you understand where the other person stands, it will be easier for you to respond. Important: this does not mean you have to respond exactly the way the other person expects you to do, but you will be able to judge way better the reaction you get and how you could phrase your own experiences/perceptions/wishes.
  2. There are some topics, where the audience is broader than for others. If you are on the company party of your spouse, you might want to talk generically about your work in online marketing. On your own company party you can get into depths about the specific targeting technology you are working on. If you find out that your spouses colleagues have the same background as you, you can still retarget your conversation to a more segmented level.
  3. Remembering people can give you the chance to go more specific the next time you meet them. Write on their business card what most impressed you about the conversation. Try to associate their name with the topic you talked about (or any other mental trick you can use to remember). You will be able to get to the interesting parts much quicker the next time you meet. If you remember the shared background, the chance is high that your counterpart will remember quickly as well.
  4. There are some segments that just don’t work well abroad. The channel pet insurance works well in Germany, because it is mandatory to have one. Hence people are interested. In Spain this channel sucks, because nobody would ever ensure a cat or a dog. Likewise there are topics that run well in one country and might not run well in others. You can’t know in advance, but once you find out, keep the knowledge.
  5. Just because you are part of one segment, it doesn’t mean that your counterpart is interested in the same things. This does not mean s/he is boring. Just different. Move on, or try to get into her/his shoes to find some synergy.

After all, we all segment and target the whole day. But it is good to think about how we do it, so we can do it better in the future. Another goal to go for.

PS: Rereading my post, probably any training on how to talk to people delivers the same conclusions. But hey, that is just not my channel 😉

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