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Programmatic Display Targeting Is About Reaching Prospects Where They Live

Craig Weiss, COO, True Influence 

If you’ve adopted Account-based Marketing (ABM) in your B2B sales and marketing operations, you need to target your widest possible market with programmatic display advertising.

You’ve likely already heard this. Certainly, B2B programmatic is having a huge growth spurt. A 23 percent bump in spend this year alone can’t be ignored. About half of B2B sellers now employ display ad retargeting and personalization, and that’s only going to keep growing.

Here on our blog at True Influence, I’ve recently discussed how programmatic display can lift all your ABM lead gen and engagement channels by reinforcing your brand and offer to pinpointed targets. I’ve also talked about how programmatic, when coupled with purchase intent intelligence, is one of the most powerful ways to identify new ABM targets, even if they are not on your account wish list.

All of this depends on successful targeting of your ads. When we talk about programmatic, we sometimes take this simple fact for granted. But with new and constantly emerging technology, targeting criteria are almost limitless and can be a little overwhelming.

Of course, once you clearly engage with a prospect, you let their behavior drive your ad creative and retargeting. As a marketer, you want to inform and influence their purchase journey, not dictate it.

In this post, I’ll offer some tips about how to use programmatic display to find the folks whom you haven’t met yet. As always, my best advice is to go wide – but not too wide.

Targeting table stakes

As you read this post, you’ll see that I am totally focused on programmatic ad targeting that reaches new, unexpected prospects anywhere they live.

That said, there’s clear benefit in being where you’re supposed to be.

When setting up your high-funnel programmatic campaigns, maintain a presence on key trade publications in your B2B verticals. You can’t afford to let your competition control all that brainspace. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that we partner with highly reputable publishers in our content syndication lead-gen programs. So there’s a definite virtue to brand association. It’s just not the competitive differentiator for programmatic as an ABM channel.

And, by all means, dedicate a percentage of your display to the absolute sweetest spot in the ideal customer persona mix. In multi-channel ABM, you should be reaching out to these folks with every tool in the box, and display is certainly a key component there.

So, running your ads in the obvious places is key to competing in ABM. But smartly targeting ads in the not-so-obvious places is how you win.

Find the people, not the place

I’ll say it again: Programmatic is about finding prospects where they live, not where you want them to be.

If someone has already read a blog post or two about the HR vertical you are in, for example, you want to talk to that person, even if they’re currently looking for a great chili recipe. That’s the power of demographic and behavioral ad targeting – you don’t have to wait until the precise moment they are researching a purchase.

B2B decision-makers are busy. They’re not going to spend all their time on blogs and the trades. I’m an IT executive – any ad impression delivered to me is a valuable impression. If you can find me while I’m watching a soccer match on my connected TV service, that’s effective, even though soccer has nothing to do with my day job.

There’s really no other ABM channel that can do that, particularly at programmatic’s price point.

So, don’t limit yourself to targeting ads to sites and content that are a keyword match for your service. New targeting systems offer this level of granularity, even down to the page or page section, but that’s an impression where the benefit likely won’t match the cost.

In the old world of print advertising, if I wanted to reach an IT audience, I’d call up and pay a premium price to be on page 14 of PC Magazine. Believe me, I know – my first job in the industry was building out subscriber lists for Ziff-Davis.

Now paying that premium is just not worth it.

Display finds prospects before you miss them

Because programmatic and inbound marketing both operate on a large-scale, algorithm-driven basis, it’s tempting to think that your target audience for both channels as being more or less the same.

They’re not.

Inbound is downstage, late-funnel tactic. When a prospect comes to you for the first time via inbound, you’ve already missed your best chance to connect with them. And by “you,” I mean marketing, sales, everybody.

There are some people who start with search, sure, but you’ll find these folks typically fill operational or influencer roles in their organization’s buying groups. Key influencers or decision-makers already have a short list of possible vendors in mind before SEM or SEO is going to send them your way.

Inbound is an interesting data point for your programmatic targeting strategy. It’s a launching point, maybe even a predictor, for how you want to target. If you see a lot of inbound coming in that’s converting, there are a lot more of those prospects out there. Use programmatic to go find them. And be sure to extend your targeting personas beyond direct matches on your conversions. Go wide.

Programmatic is relatively cheap. It can be done at scale, you can quickly throttle it back or amp it up, and it does not have the audience fatigue or attrition that you can incur with email. It’s simply the best tactic for your large-scale budgets for branding or for fishing just to see what’s out there.

Programmatic, privacy and the future of display

As I wrap up my take on programmatic display targeting, I need to address the perceived elephant in the room – the ongoing war on behavioral tracking in the name of “privacy.”

I live in a world of connected media. I haven’t been served an ad about a random health condition I don’t have in two years. I haven’t seen an ad for beer in five years. I’m sure they still advertise the stuff, but I don’t see those ads. Because I am not their customer.

The smart advertisers have found me and are serving me relevant business ads where I spend my time. And I don’t mind, because I am legitimately interested in their products.

I believe that people are beginning to realize that targeting data is anonymized enough that it presents no serious privacy threat. And (as I’ve said before), I believe much of the public posturing about consumer privacy is really an attempt by a few large platforms to monopolize the industry

And ad platforms are going to keep sending you ads, whether or not they know what you’re interested in. And innovation will keep programmatic alive as a key channel for ABM and B2B rev ops.

But, if you like spam, be sure to turn off your cookies.

Programmatic opens the door to ABM

As you can tell, I am a huge believer in the power of programmatic display advertising to drive your ABM strategy. It’s cost-effective, it’s scalable, and – if targeted correctly – it reaches prospects who are interested and receptive to your message.

If this is an important topic for you, here’s another of my pieces on programmatic practices: “Programmatic display turbo-charges all your ABM channels.”

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