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July 21, 2020
Programmatic Media Buying for B2B Marketing
Mark Robinson

This is part five of our series Marketing in the Service of Sales – about how marketing professionals can demonstrate to their sales counterparts and the rest of their organization that they bring real value to the table as an equal partner in the marketing-sales relationship

For the B2B distribution channels of many companies, lead generation is often one of the top priorities for marketing. And it’s understood that a directive exists to maximize budget efficiency as a part of all marketing initiatives, even if that’s not directly stated.

In the world of lead generation, the best way to accomplish this is to focus on channels and tactics, such as paid search, that have the potential to connect you with in-market buyers. But for industries where product demand exists in both consumer and commercial markets, it can be a struggle for B2B marketers to come up with a list of paid search keyword targets that allow them to discern whether the search was performed by a member of their target audience. And since there’s no way to apply an audience targeting filter when choosing keyword targets or setting your bids in Google Ads or Bing, they could waste a large portion of their budget on clicks from the wrong type of buyers.

A trade show booth is another good way to generate leads from in-market buyers, as well as prospective buyers that might not be in-market yet. But little needs to be said about the crippling impact that the current global pandemic has had on the exhibition industry, other than the fact that organizers’ ability to produce leads has been equally crippled.

Luckily, we can provide a number of proven alternative strategies. Through a combination of marketing technology, integrated third-party data services, content strategy and some creativity, you can still be very effective at producing viable leads.

Increasing Conversions through Favorable Awareness

As demonstrated in the example below, the percentage of opportunities you will be considered for increases as the favorable awareness of your product offering increases. That’s why it makes sense to focus on favorable awareness as one of your lead generation strategies.

Let’s assume that a treasure trove of immensely valuable content awaits your promotion, and an optimized landing page has been created to help prospective buyers and influencers to understand the value of your content and get easy access to it. Now, all that’s left to do is figure out how to locate prospective buyers and influencers so that you can introduce your content offering and invite them to download it.

Strategic Audience Targeting for B2B Demand Generation

It wasn’t that long ago that B2B audience targeting meant finding a handful of business publications and shelling out $75 CPMs for the privilege of showing your ads.  Then came the ad exchange, DSPs and SSPs (circa 2007) which provided the opportunity to purchase media at a much lower cost, though early versions of the technology were geared toward buying cheap impressions and optimizing through bid adjustment, frequency caps and the like.  Of course, the ability to refine audience targeting parameters is central to the success of most marketing efforts, so the ability to integrate with data management platforms was quickly added as a core feature of the DSP.

The next major evolution was the direct integration of third-party data targeting. This has been a big win for organizations with smaller marketing budgets that wouldn’t allow them to license a DMP.  These direct integrations allow third-party data companies to provide the data management services behind the scenes and deliver ready-to-use audience segmentation directly into the DSP for campaign targeting.

Initially, audience segmentation from third-party data companies was primarily focused around consumer audiences.  While this is surely still the case, the availability of B2B audience segments has expanded to the point that most segments are either readily available for targeting, or can quickly be created, simply by requesting them from your DSP.  Following are some of the ways we’ve successfully used our DSP for B2B audience targeting and demand generation:

Geofencing and Geo-framing


Unfortunately, it isn't exactly clear how long it's going to be before trade shows return to their pre-pandemic levels. As soon as we recognized this impact, we began discussing the strategies we would use to replace these shows in our marketing plans. This is where geo-framing comes in.

So, despite the fact that your industry's biggest event has been canceled this year, you can use geo-framing to

  • target last year's attendees
  • share updated messaging and product updates
  • continue to keep your brand top of mind

ABM Data Targeting

Keyword and Contextual Category Targeting

If paid search isn’t a strong option for your B2B marketing plan due to the existence of product demand in both consumer and commercial markets, using a keyword list to target content will likely have the same conflict.  That said, it’s usually worth the time it takes to check to see if contextual targeting might be an option by specifying a commercial-specific variation of your product, which can intersect in-market prospects conducting research on features, benefits and potential providers. Response rates to such tactics are generally higher, and it takes less time to move these prospective buyers into active product evaluation.

In Data We Trust

The first internet display ad was a 468x60 static banner, purchased by AT&T in 1994 as a part of their amazingly accurate, future-predicting “You Will” ad campaign. It’s been reported that the company paid $30,000 for the banner to run on for three months, during which time it supposedly received a 44% clickthrough rate. It was the catalyst that kick-started the internet advertising industry.

That CTR was driven by novelty. Over the years, clickthrough rates fell to an industry average of 0.05%.  At a $75 CPM, that works out to $150 per click, which is some tough math to make work in the lead gen world.  But through data targeting, clickthrough rates are commonly five times that number.  Throw in a juicy content offer and they go even higher.  Couple that with a cost that’s less than 10% of buying publisher-direct and you could be looking at a cost per click of around $2 to $4. That’s math that most lead gen campaign managers would be happy with.