On a blisteringly cold winter day, nine-year-old Nick trudges down the snowy sidewalk lugging a big thermos of hot chocolate. He arrives at the public ice skating rink and holds up a handwritten poster that says "HOT CHOCOLATE!!!" He walks among the shivering spectators, selling $1 cups. The ice skaters, tired and cold, shuffle off the ice to buy a cup, too.

Pleased with his success, Nick decides it's time to grow his business, so he gets into digital marketing. He wants more hot chocolate drinkers to visit the ice rink or buy a cup right from his house.

The once-simple business—based on being at the right place, at the right time, with the right audience—now becomes complex. Where do local hot chocolate drinkers hang out on the Internet? When would they like to see my ads? How do I even know whether they're engaging with my ads?

The digital world forms a maze between Nick and his audience. Though Nick might decide to give up on online advertising, we marketers don't have that luxury. We're under immense pressure to grow our audience; meanwhile, the Web is a double-edged sword... It can complicate our task, but it can also make advertising far more accurate than ever.

If you want to make sure your ads are seen by the right audience, it's time to combine some digital marketing tools and strategies that make targeting (almost) as successful as selling hot chocolate at the ice rink.

1. Behavioral Targeting

Traditionally, digital marketers have targeted places, not people. To reach young affluent mothers, we advertise on a mom blog. However, that approach ignores the rest of a mom's internet experience.

Behavioral targeting solves that problem by letting you advertise to one user profile across multiple outlets and channels. The profile—in this case, young affluent mothers—is based on thousands of attributes derived from Web searches, browsing patterns, multivariate testing, and other actions.

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image of Ted Dhanik

Ted Dhanik is CEO of engage:BDR, an advertising technology company.

LinkedIn: Ted Dhanik