Programmatic is undoubtedly important. And the proportion of advertising bought this way will only increase. But most of what’s said about programmatic is simply not relevant to B2B marketers.
The most widely touted programmatic approaches won’t work, considering the limited nature of B2B’s target audiences.
Most solutions are designed to reach B2C audiences at scale. In using data to determine purchase intent among car and clothing buyers it’s easy to find a million individuals who fall into an advertiser’s target audience. Not so for a B2B product or service. B2B advertisers want the quality few. According to a June 2016 Kantar Media and Conectiv Study, “95% of B2B marketers said audience quality is ‘extremely’ or ‘very important,’” while “88% said the same for inventory quality.”
Here are tips for B2B advertisers who want to implement programmatic buying:
1. Understand the role programmatic plays
Programmatic is intelligent and efficient, but it won’t answer all marketing needs. Programmatic media buying helps bring B2B audiences into the purchase funnel and guide them through to mid-funnel. So programmatic shouldn’t be treated as a stand-alone tactic. Programmatic should be integrated into a broader set of communications activity so that it supports overall marketing and communications objectives.
2. Adopt an always-on strategy
Although programmatic enables a media buy, don’t think of it as a media buy. Programmatic activity takes time to warm up. Plan to use programmatic in an always-on state, rather than on a campaign-by-campaign basis as you would for a traditional media buy.
Inject your site’s visitor data into a programmatic platform as early as possible. The industry standard for gaining sufficient volumes is to ingest data for at least two weeks prior to the start of any paid activity. A month helps you achieve sufficient volume of site traffic to instruct a DSP’s engine to optimize toward best performing inventory. Doing so can also help instruct other channels such as paid social, direct display, and lead generation.
3. Failure is still success
If you don’t see results immediately, don’t fear. Optimizing to CTR will drive better conversions than optimizing to conversions themselves. And you’ll get a 50%+ higher CTR for lead generation activity compared to activity promoting service or product trials, but the reverse is true of subsequent conversions. There is no rulebook for this kind of insight, and learnings from a B2C campaign could send you on a massive detour — you cannot draw apples to apples comparisons.
4. Understand which types of inventory suit your goals
You can buy programmatically in many ways. You’ll likely want to make use of different combinations of transaction types. Familiarize yourself with your options.
5. First look vs. remnant
You can purchase inventory at a higher price and be certain of its quality, or buy it at a low price and run the risk of getting poor quality — the broad difference between “first look” and “remnant.” With programmatic, publishers can set a “waterfall” of impressions to be offered to the market, from first look to remnant. First looks are more expensive. If you are attempting to generate a lead through a form fill, remnant impressions bought on the open exchange won’t perform well when measured in a silo. However, they build a pool for retargeting. This prospecting value makes up for their early lack of performance, often outperforming premium impressions up to 50%.
6. Auction vs. non-auction
A key element of programmatic is bidding only for the impressions you want. But the more selective you are, the less available and more expensive impressions are. For many of my clients, the typical tech filters reduces available impression volumes, so sometimes removing the bid from the auction environment to fix a price might be better. This can enable you to guarantee or reserve the number of impressions in order to achieve a certain goal, but these impressions are usually more expensive, so you can burn through your budget quickly. Carefully manage the different transaction types to optimize performance against your goals.
7. Open exchange vs PMP vs premium
If you want to generate form fills, setting up a private marketplace, or “PMP,” is more effective than premium buys, due to the higher click rate. Also, tech site whitelists in the open exchange don’t always perform on a par with premium buys, despite the vastly reduced cost.
You need to decide how you plug into the exchange even before you even choose your tactics. We’ve seen DSP performance vary by up to 40% for the same tactic, so it pays to get it right.
8. Again, careful management is essential
Insights will help you make the right choices. Knowing how activity should be performing enables better performing activity. Keep industry specific insights at your disposal—comparing airlines to software won’t help your media strategy.
Programmatic can be a valuable addition to your integrated campaigns. We’ve seen the positive effect it has on MQL and SQL conversions, as it helps to drive a more targeted and more cost effective audience. Despite the automated nature of programmatic, there are many decisions and adjustments to make. Since you aren’t tied to a traditional media buy, you have the opportunity to switch things on or off in an instant, so keep tweaking until you hit on a winning formula.