Programmatic display: essential ‘breakwater’ for moving opted-in leads toward closed business

Ken Lordy

With Ken Lordy, Senior Vice President, Product Management, True Influence

Programmatic display advertising is a staple of B2B marketing. We often say here at True Influence that programmatic lifts all your marketing efforts, from market sizing to brand awareness to high- and mid-funnel engagement.

And programmatic display ads’ value doesn’t end when a prospect opts into a first-party relationship with your company. Smartly targeted display ads enforce your value proposition throughout the purchase journey, both at the individual and account level, even after your sales team engages with a key decision-maker.

In this post, I’ll look at the best uses of programmatic display advertising after a prospect opts-in to a first-party relationship with your company. Some display campaigns should focus on the persona of the opted-in lead, while others should aim to move the entire account toward a purchase decision. But in every case, programmatic acts to reinforce your brand and message and make your direct marketing and sales efforts more effective.

One-to-one messaging is still King in marketing

Before I go any further, let me say that personalized email is, by far, the most effective channel to move an opted-in prospect toward a purchase decision. For starters, you can address the prospect by name. And you can tailor your messaging, both in text and supporting graphics, with all the explicit, one-on-one behavioral data you can gather after they opt-in.

In an email:

“Hello, Sara. I just wanted to remind you of the webinar we have coming up tomorrow afternoon. The author of our whitepaper, which I see you downloaded, will be on hand to answer your questions …”

Is a pretty compelling opening. You just can’t replicate that with display advertising, no matter how deftly you segment your audience and craft your creativity.

With display, you are targeting the general personas that you know fit into your Buying Group models and Account-based Marketing (ABM) and sales strategies. Depending on your DSP, you can also target on a device level, but again, email is still a better choice for that one-on-one connection.

Programmatic display’s real strength is the ability to create background buzz, if you will, for the response you are trying to create with email (or voice or even direct mail – we here at True Influence are firm believers in multi-channel campaigns). Programmatic is a breakwater. When it’s time to take that next step, prospects will be familiar with your brand, or your specific pitch, depending on where they are in their purchase research. And that comfort level will yield better results.

Do I focus on brand or offer

My last statement raises an interesting question about the content of your display advertising: Should I stay broad and focus on brand awareness, or push the next offer I have queued up for the prospect?

As always, the correct answer is that it depends on your audience.

If you are a well-known brand, you can probably afford to start by talking about your solution, at a high level, from the outset. No one needs to be introduced to Microsoft or Oracle, but buyers may not know about every niche product or new release they have in the queue. The same principle applies to your current customers – you can certainly focus on the specific value of your current offering with this audience.

For new logos, you may want to stick primarily with brand reinforcement throughout the buying cycle. That’s particularly true at the account level, where you will most often be serving ads to third-party targets. And even for prospects who have opted in with you, just making the impression that you are a serious player in the market may well be the biggest payoff you’ll get from programmatic.

So, it’s all about context.

With that said, let’s look at a few scenarios and how programmatic display fits into your overall strategy once a prospect opts in.

Nurturing an early stage opt-in lead

Let’s assume that you’ve just got your first opt-in at a named account. You’ve not done business with this company before, and your firmographic and field intelligence tells you that it’s using an outdated solution in your market, let’s say project management software.

Opted-in prospect

At this point, focus on a mix of brand and general value proposition, with a lean toward brand, as you target your opted-in lead’s persona.

The prospect is probably getting a lot of similar information from your competitors, so building affinity with your brand is key. Remember, B2B buyers never stop shopping – you’re not the only one sending them personalized emails about infographics and whitepapers.

It’s smart to be broader with programmatic to build rapport, rather than simply hammering home the next step in qualification. Rely on email to send offers of additional use cases and stuff to your opted-in contact.

Rest of account

Continue to target other Buying Group personas at the account with very high-level engagement display campaigns, with a primary focus on branding and name recognition. You want them to know your name, at least, and have a positive association with it when your opted-in prospects come to them to discuss your solution.

Even if you are working with a content syndication partner, now’s probably not the time to send large volumes of email to those personas. Let your message sink in and organically spread to other users as you speak directly to your opt-in. You don’t want to oversell.

Moving toward sales qualification

Here, we’re working on our opted-in prospect, who we suspect is our Champion in this sales cycle – a manager who works with this stuff every day.

Opted-in Prospect

As a lead moves closer to sales qualification, begin to use display as a spearhead for the next key interaction. By now, they’ve interacted with your brand enough to evidence some trust in you, so it’s a safer bet to get down in the weeds a bit. Got a webinar coming up? Hit the opted-in persona with a display campaign that offers what amounts to an advanced briefing, or focuses specifically on the problem / solution set you are gonna tackle.

Rest of account

If you’re working with a content syndication or database augmentation partner – and you should be  – by now you’re sending email to these third-party contacts, with support cover from programmatic. As your opted-in leads progress down the funnel, you can become a little more specific about the high-level value of your specific solution. But don’t try to press these personas into catching up with your opted-in lead with one big transaction.

If you do have some gaps in your Buying Group model, programmatic is the most cost-effective way to blanket the account to at least ensure that the big boss knows your name.

After Sales Qualification

Our Champion is fairly well engaged with our content, and we are seeing response and intent signals across the account that trigger an outreach by the sales team.

Opted-in Prospect

At this point sales is the face of your brand. Occasional programmatic ads about how great you are can’t hurt, but that ball is in sales’ court at this point.

While sales is further building your relationship, programmatic can help fill the gaps in your prospects decision / knowledge path. Most B2B marketing content actually goes unread, or even unused. Reminders about assets that support your current sales talking points are a great use for programmatic here.

Rest of Account

Continue to hit buying group member personas with high engagement offers on brand, but also slip in some ads that emphasize some very high-level differentiators.

If the prospect comes to the other buying group members about their opinions, it will work in your favor if you’ve injected at least a few of your key talking points into the conversation. Of course, these talking points vary by buying group persona. And you should be working on getting these prospects to opt in with third-party mail at this point.

Display at large scale for ABM

In the examples above, I’ve looked at a revenue campaign that targets a mid- or small-sized company, with a clearly defined Buying Group model. These principals can be applied to almost any campaign, depending on your success metrics and goals.

But, as always, context is king. If you are operating ABM at scale, you may find that more aggressive use of display to push prospects to the next purchase journey step is the way to go – especially if you need to hit near-term revenue goals. 50,000 first-party leads generated from an initial display / email run probably gives you strong footing to push specific offerings more aggressively, based on historic conversion rates.

Programmatic display paves the way

In this post I’ve discussed various scenarios of how programmatic display advertising can help advance both and opted-in lead and the overall account down toward won business. Of course, these scenarios are just a few examples of how display helps build brand and reinforce offers. Wherever a lead is in their purchase journey, programmatic display should be a pivotal part of your B2B marketing and sales strategy.

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