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Programmatic display turbo-charges all your ABM channels

By Craig Weiss, COO, True Influence

You’ll often see programmatic display advertising described as the “grease” of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaigns. You can target programmatic display to virtually any audience segment, and at an affordable price, lift performance of a channel that’s lagging behind expectations.

In this context, I think it’s actually more accurate to describe programmatic display as the accelerant for a successful ABM strategy. You should always be running a baseline of ad buys to promote your brand and services, but you’ll occasionally need focused bursts of programmatic display to keep other channels performing and your revenue pipeline healthy.

In this post, I discuss how programmatic display can elevate your other ABM channels, from initial conversion to cooperative nurturing and then toward closing the deal.

Programmatic is a must-have

First off, I should note that if you aren’t running programmatic display right now as part of your B2B marketing strategy (ABM or otherwise), you’re ignoring a key channel for lead generation, nurturing and sales support. It’s not just for B2C anymore.

Programmatic display technology has advanced to the point of reaching highly targeted audience segments – based on demographic and behavioral data, including intent – at an attractive price point. As I mentioned in my last post, this makes programmatic a great tool for sizing your in-market audience and finding ABM target accounts not currently on your radar.

This also makes it a great flexible channel for building a little brand awareness or reinforcing the value pitch of your current lead gen and content marketing efforts. Display is easy to manage on a day-to-day basis (that’s why they call it “programmatic”); its immediate impact is easy to measure; and you can burst and throttle display runs accordingly.

A 2018 report by Dun & Bradstreet found that more than 60 percent of B2B marketers were investing in programmatic at that time, and that well over half planned to spend more on the channel in 2019. And about half were personalizing their ad runs, which of course is essential in advanced B2B methodologies such as ABM. Given how quickly COVID has fueled the rise of digital advertising, this trend will only continue.

So, programmatic’s time has clearly come.

When is the right time for your programmatic campaign?

In considering when and where to spend your programmatic budget, my best, most important advice is this:

You should always be running programmatic display campaigns across most if not all of your ABM programs.

Data-driven ABM dictates that you stay active in all your channels: email, syndication, display, social media and voice. It’s just too cumbersome to try to build out a new channel after you realize you need it. Ultimately, you have to reach people where they live; there are always unique leads to be had in every channel. Some B2B decision makers simply don’t respond to email anymore. If you want them to see you, you need to have a fairly constant display presence.

The trick is to accelerate or pull back on your spend based on performance metrics. (That’s the best argument for employing multi-channel “cloud” solutions that give you near real-time reporting across all your channels.) And display has earned its reputation as a great tool for lifting other ABM channels.

How ABM lifts other B2B channels

There are two primary ways programmatic display improves the performance of other B2B marketing channels:

  • It builds general brand awareness around your offer or brand
  • It covers initial engagement behavior and down-funnel follow-up for conversion

Of course, you can also use it as the tip of the spear for initial engagement – I talked a lot about this approach in my last post, so for now I’ll focus on programmatic display’s impact on other marketing channels and buyer stages. Remember, the gold standard for most of these marketing channels is an opt-in to your in-house database, not booking a sales call right off the bat.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and as you refine your customer profiles and campaigns, you may find other great fits for programmatic. So take these points on where to go with programmatic as general guidance.

Social Channels

You most often want to target prospects at mid-funnel here, after they’ve already engaged with you at least casually. If you reach them on social, that means they’re willing to talk, but not on the deeper level of a content download – yet. It’s a good time to push the conversation forward with a reasonably detailed offer that you might also push to a prospect who’s already opted-in at the high funnel. 

Voice / Teleprospecting

Here at True Influence, we get between 12 to 15 percent higher performance on a telequalifying lead gen campaign when we run a programmatic display campaign out in front. These are usually devoted to brand or solution awareness – you want your prospects to know your name and quickly recognize who’s on the line when they answer the phone. I can tell you this channel is where we see the greatest lift with programmatic; it’s really a powerful combination.

Content Syndication / Email

In general, we see somewhere between a 3-6 percent bump on email performance when it’s supported by display. Of course, this depends on a lot of factors, including the quality and relevance of the content being offered.

Use display to reinforce your purchase-stage appropriate offer. It’s a second touchpoint you can use to catch the prospect’s attention.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM leads are always going to convert at a high rate – if someone is searching on topics related to your product, they are most likely in-market. But there are only so many of these people out there. So you may want to consider a display ad run to elevate brand awareness and make your Google Ads placement stand out. Again, these ads should be high-funnel and drive the prospect to the consideration stage.

I think it’s interesting to note that most SEO/SEM pundits suggest targeting display runs to prospects who aren’t actively searching. This raises an important caveat about using all this data and technology to hyper-target your most desirable ABM prospects. At some point, you run the risk of alienating this person and wasting impressions. Move on to another channel.

In ABM, you have to have a plan B, C, D … you get the idea. And at some point, the answer may be to adjust your ABM target list.

After initial conversion, keep going

You should be putting display ads in front of your prospects until they sign a deal.

In ABM, you never really stop marketing or nurturing a prospect, either before or after an opt-in. Cross-channel nurturing is critical on the contact level, because that contact is likely influencing other decision-makers and buying group members in the account. More than half of B2B marketers surveyed for a benchmarking report last year said that coordinated programs across marketing, sales development and sales are the most important element in ABM success.

And these programs should include a steady, but innocuous diet of display. It’s a great way to stay front-of-mind as you go head-to-head with competitors for a deeply engaged account. But, again, be mindful that these are largely self-directed learners at this point. Offer the same high-value content assets and decision support with your programmatic runs as you do in your other channels as you push them further down the funnel.

Full speed ahead with Programmatic and ABM

Programmatic display advertising is an essential tool in all aspects of account-based marketing. When smartly targeted and used in conjunction with other channels, it can accelerate your overall conversions and ROI and ensure your ABM pipeline stays healthy.

What’s next on your ABM and programmatic journey? How about this piece from our CEO, Brain Giese, on running ABM with the help of a marketing cloud

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