How to Better Target Customers (No Bow Required)

Remember how doing business before the Internet caught on was so much different from today? Yeah…I don’t, either. Today’s business environment has always been my norm, and I bet a lot of you agree. With the readily available technology we have, there have been some changes to how companies can better target customers. To be more specific, there are five new (and newish) ways to do so.

1. Targeting by Values and Interests

This is a newish way to target customers; it’s not a recent discovery that, as a company, you should know your customers’ values and interests. By understanding them you can better predict customers’ brand interest and their possible purchases in the future. Let’s look at Jeep as an example. Think of some possible values and interests their consumers may have: outdoorsy, adventurous, courageous, and rugged. Now let’s look at a commercial for Jeep:

I’d say Jeep has their customers’ values and interests pegged perfectly and has created an advertisement that speaks to them and other people who share those same characteristics (and who are looking for an auto to buy).

2. Targeting Buyers Through Competitors

Here’s another newish method: retailers in the same industry can share their site visitation information with their competitors in order to identify more in-market consumers. I completely understand if your jaw just dropped! Yes, by doing this you’d share your customers with your competitors, but they’d also share their customer information with you. Have you ever wondered why you receive competing catalogs after you subscribe to one company’s catalog? L.L. Bean and Land’s End are great examples of this. When you order a coat from L.L. Bean, you may also fall into the values and interests of a Land’s End customer. Presto! Yet another catalog in your mailbox.

3. Targeting Current Owners

Are you targeting to the fullest?

Target consumers by predicting their buying patterns

This one is quite possibly my favorite targeting method (yes, you can have a favorite method). A company called OwnerIQ measures interest via site visits that exemplify ownership, which therefore makes it easier to predict future purchases. It’s so simple, but ingenious! By collecting information about what people already own, it’s possible to gain insights into what they may buy in the future. What exactly do ownership actions look like? Well, to name just a few common ones:

  • Searching for an owner’s manual (bet you didn’t think it’d be so simple, huh?)
  • Filling out a product registration online
  • Looking and searching for an oddly-specific item (laptop battery, computer monitor, iPod cases, etc.)
  • Purchasing an item from an online retailer

From these actions, a company that sells accessories for iPods can better target you since they have information you purchased an iPod from in the last six months. Pretty cool, right?

4. Search Re-Targeting

This is a new method for targeting your consumers since the popularity of search engines has dramatically increased. Once consumer search data is collected from search engines, then companies are able to create banner ads based on the information users are searching for. I know, I know…banner ads are distracting and it seems that no one ever clicks on them, but there are good reasons why they’re used:

  • Since consumer behavior essentially controls the search result inventory, there is only so much available before it’s gone.
  • Only one company can appear first in the results and only so many can show up in the list of results. Banner ads could tell consumers to search for “XYZ” instead and then your company may be listed first in the results.
  • Buying search words is expensive and increasing in price. For some companies, the costs are way more expensive than what is economically feasible for the company.
  • Just because someone searches for something doesn’t mean they actually clicked on a result that was given. Search re-targeting allows for brands to connect with the consumer while they weigh their options.

5. Following CTRL-C and CTRL-V Trends

Want to find out what he's been searching for?

Cut-and-paste content targeting is on the rise

Many people are surprised to find out that some companies keep track of when you cut and paste something interesting from their site into an email to share or remember. Tynt, a company that predicts consumer behavior on the Web, has pioneered this concept of cut-and-paste content targeting. They semantically analyze the information that is cut and pasted using an “advanced taxonomy” to create interest graphs, which allow advertisers to respond quickly to new and changing opportunities. If you want to see how it works, then try copying and pasting a few lines from a website into an email; you may see something that says, “Read More At” along with the rest of the site’s URL. This is really innovative and I highly suggest trying it out (not during working hours, of course). Just a forewarning though, not every website out there uses CTRL-C and CTRL-V trends to target customers!

So there you have it: five improved ways to better target customers. There may be an untapped market out there full of people who could use your product or service but may have never been considered in your initial targeting strategy. Now, I want to hear your thoughts! Do any of these methods surprise you? What do you think about the companies that offer these services? Have you noticed any of these methods being used on you as you search online?

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Joseph Giorgi

    Cut-and-paste content targeting? That seems pretty cutting edge! Is there information out there as to which brands are using this type of strategy? I’d be curious to know if any big names use this method.

    Also, I agree: targeting current owners is pretty ingenious. Amazon is actually very proficient at predicting my areas of interest. Whenever I pop onto the site, there’s always a helpful list of suggestions for me based on the items I’ve previously put into my shopping cart. Oftentimes, their suggestions are exactly what I’m looking for.

    • amy

      There isn’t any master list out there (yet) that discloses all the companies that are using the cut-and-paste targeting method. However, The New Yorker was an example that I found that uses it. There are also some blogs out there that actually tell you how to disable Tynt’s targeting on your PC or Mac.

      Amazon does a great job of knowing what their customers would like. I love when I buy a book, they offer two other books that I may also enjoy (and they’re discounted when you buy them in one order together :)) It’s interesting to see how technology has changed the old way of targeting customers.

    • LK

      Amazon is crazy when it comes to your search history on the site!
      One day I search “duvet covers” and a week later I get an email with duvet covers recently added or on sale on Amazon.
      While this can be very helpful to the consumer, its also kind of creepy!

      • Joseph Giorgi

        I get those e-mails all the time, and I probably spend more money on Amazon than I should because of them. They’re too helpful!

  2. Jen

    I was aware of the first four targeting methods, but the fifth is interesting. I had no idea that this was even possible to track…

    • amy

      I had no idea either before I wrote this blog! It’s amazing what technology is doing today.

      • Amanda

        Same here–it’s crazy right?!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’m both impressed by and scared of cut-and-paste targeting. Sometimes I just Google for curiosity!

    • amy

      Some companies go above and beyond in ways to target their customers! While it may help them, it kinda creeps me out. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. Kyle

    I have to agree with everyone else here also, the fifth strategy is definitely the most interesting of the bunch. I was unaware that companies could even use this information. It’s eye-opening and kinda creepy at the same time. Great post, Amy.

    • amy

      Thanks Kyle! I’m haven’t decided yet if copy-and-paste targeting is futuristic or just creepy. I guess as long as the information they’re seeing isn’t invasive or anything, it’s okay. Time will only tell though.

  5. Amanda

    Nice post Amy! They sure do target us customers how ever they can, don’t they? I like the way companies target us based on values and interests! It makes for some loyal customers.

    And, that video makes me want to buy a Jeep! =)

    • amy

      Thanks Amanda 🙂

      It’s interesting how with technology they’re able to single us out as consumers instead of just lumping us all together. As Joe and Lauren mentioned above with Amazon, they know I like products A, B and C and will probably enjoy D and E as well. Whereas before, it was “we think you like product A and could like product B and C, maybe”.

      I love how Jeep shows these style of commercials, but I have NEVER seen anyone actually take their brand new Jeep off-road hahaha

  6. Jana Quinn

    It will be interesting to see how this type of marketing/tracking starts conflicting with privacy laws and how software blocking this type of tracking will develop. Is it really an invasion of privacy if the information is not tied to a specific user but instead a data point in a collection of information? How about when it is tied to your identity but only through an email account? What if that email account includes your name and retailers can extrapolate your full name and location?

    It will be interesting to see where the line is drawn in terms of internet user outrage and where the line is drawn in terms of changes to the system. That said, you’ve compiled a superb summary of strategies, Amy!

  7. Jenna

    These are all extremely interesting marketing tools. But the amount of information about me that companies are able to attain and share just based on what I’m searching for online has always creeped me out — the copy and paste method just takes that to a whole new level! Yikes!

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