Why B2B must think outside of demographics


By Benjamin Irvin, Sr. Behavioral Marketing Data Analyst

benjamin irvinTechnology is bringing a revolution to the world of advertising. Big data continues to produce new insights in audience targeting and Web analysis, all the while making everything more automated. A primarily data-driven approach to digital marketing is inevitable, and it’s being promoted through the use of programmatic technologies. As programmatic channels continue to increase their market share in the digital marketing realm, B2B advertisers are tasked with finding the most efficient targeting techniques using a decidedly consumer-oriented technology.

Using programmatic channels in B2B advertising can quickly become complicated and inefficient. There are many tools today that make ad serving fairly straightforward. It has become simply a matter of identifying the segments that make up a target audience, usually by selecting a product’s demographics and launching the campaign. Everything else is taken care of by algorithms and the occasional segment change or creative optimization. But typical audience segments and demographic choices rarely apply to products tailored to specific industries or technologies, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed in a sea of segments that don’t properly identify a desired audience. In many cases, the programmatic platforms may say that the correct audience is being reached, but Web analysis tools are saying otherwise, or saying nothing at all. So what if the goal is to promote something strictly B2B, and it isn’t defined by any specific age, language or ethnicity?

In my experience with display advertising, it’s best to identify a B2B audience through the use of website data, keyword search terms and contextual terms. Today, websites collect an immense amount of data on users’ interests that can be included in programmatic campaigns, but often at a high cost. Search and site retargeting are my preferred tools for identifying and serving display ads to a B2B audience without having to rely on expensive data sources, and I try to avoid broad audience segments altogether if possible.

Site retargeting is very straightforward: Serve ads to anyone who has reached our website to encourage brand recall and brand preference. But while site retargeting generally returns a high ROI, it’s usually limited in volume. Many B2B companies lack the organic traffic or Web presence to run an effective site campaign.

Search retargeting has proven to be a powerful tool in reaching B2B audiences that have yet to hear about an organization or product. The concept is fairly simple: Define an audience by serving ads to anyone who searches for or reads about specific terms and phrases. Much like SEM practices, an advertiser can serve display ads to anyone who types in a specific keyword. Better yet, advertisers can exploit industry trends through the use of contextual keywords. This is important because it allows the advertiser to add and adjust on the fly. It also offers the opportunity to build a model based around specific browsing behaviors rather than a predetermined set of audience pools that may or may not be the right fit.

However, a common hiccup clients experience is the inability to reach pacing goals using words and phrases that define what is being promoted. Rarely does a B2B product or service generate significant search volume by itself. These cases require a more thoughtful approach to targeting. My favored strategy with niche clients is to define the industry that we apply to. What associations or industry resources are frequently used? If we can’t serve ads directly on an industry’s digital magazines or publications, then what are some of the topics that are commonly found in their articles? What are some technologies that are disrupting the industry, and who provides them? These all get searched by relevant individuals, and they can be developed into a model that defines our audience.

Programmatic continues to grow, and it will likely always be geared towards B2C campaigns, but that shouldn’t demoralize B2B advertisers. B2B targeting doesn’t have to be difficult, and it certainly doesn’t have to be limited to segments and demographics. Site and search data are invaluable when defining an audience that doesn’t fit any particular demographic mold.

Want to learn more about outside of the box targeting? Check out the MultiView Resources site. 

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