• Digital advertising spend recently surpassed TV spend for the first time
  • B2B organizations are utilizing multiple delivery mechanisms to reach target buyers
  • While cost-effective, digital advertising programs must still adhere to foundations of targeting and execution

According to a recent MAGNA survey, digital advertising sales in the United States reached $70 billion in 2016. Most B2B marketers will gloss over that number because the majority of that spend is within B2C marketing, but this statistic shouldn’t be ignored. For B2B marketers, it’s not that digital advertising sales reached $70 billion – it’s that digital advertising sales are so high that we should all take notice.

In 2016, a SiriusDecisions survey on digital advertising within B2B marketing revealed that 80 percent of organizations were using digital advertising or planned to in the next 12 months. Given the number of digital ads we all see daily across the Internet, including on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, this data shouldn’t be surprising. Combined with the $70 billion in digital advertising sales, it’s safe to say that B2B marketers are spending their fair share of money, too. But are they doing it the right way? When I talk to clients about digital advertising, I typically hear five types of comments:

“Yes, we’re doing it, and I want to spend more money on it.”

These are my favorite clients to talk to about digital advertising for a few reasons: They have budget to spend and aren’t afraid to use it, they already understand the role – and value – of digital, and they’re looking to optimize/increase their spend so we can work with them on new programs and initiatives. The digital programs of organizations in this category typically have the following characteristics in common:

  • Defined goals and objectives being measured at the program level
  • A focus on targeting
  • Measurement dashboards that are focused beyond the click
  • A culture of testing and optimization
  • An understanding of the interlock between reputation and demand creation objectives

This last characteristic is critical, because a misunderstanding of the difference in digital performance between reputation and demand creation objectives leads to the second comment I hear from clients a lot.

“Yes, we’re doing it, but we’re not seeing any real results from it anymore.”

Whenever I hear this from clients, we dive deeper to understand what exactly is going on. After running digital media for a long time, they may see a drop-off in performance, even with creative refreshes happening along the way. To overcome any drop-off, organizations should take the following steps to optimize their existing spend:

  • Revisit the program goals and redefine them if necessary
  • Analyze program and tactic performance
  • Dive deeper into digital advertising performance by media, creative, targeting and post-click Web conversion
  • Test, measure, repeat!

Success for these organizations requires taking another look at the original objectives of the program to ensure the tactic is still delivering against the right target with the right messaging and experience. Tweaking and testing will do wonders!

“Yes, we’re doing it, but only because everyone else was doing it, too.”

For organizations that fall into this category, the most important step is understanding the role of digital and the program’s goals. This allows a clear direction for the use of the tactic, and sets the tone for program creation and ultimate tactic execution. Organizations should take the following steps to gain the clearest understanding:

  • Understand the role of digital for the product, service, offering and organization
  • Define clear program and tactic goals within the program
  • Analyze program and tactic performance
  • Dive deeper into digital advertising performance by media, creative, targeting and post-click Web conversion
  • Test, measure, repeat!

If an organization doesn’t follow the first two steps, a successful digital program won’t provide the necessary impact within an overall marketing plan. Any successes that may have been realized are likely not repeatable or sustainable.

“No, we did that before but didn’t see any results, so we stopped.”

Clients in this category were in the third category for a while, but ended up cutting (or losing) budget due to underperformance. However, underperformance doesn’t mean an organization should swear off digital completely. With the changing digital landscape and the increase in digital touchpoints along the buyer’s journey, organizations can’t afford to write off a delivery mechanism like digital. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. By retaking the steps listed above, these organizations can execute a digital program pilot successfully to rebuild some of the confidence across the organization.

“Yes, we do some of it, but our communications team does some, too.”

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with clients who fall into this category. In fact, clients who say this may also fall into one of the other categories, particularly when digital reputation and demand creation programs run separately. Consider the interlock required between the two teams and two programs to ensure digital advertising success. Using digital advertising to drive awareness provides high-level air cover within a marketing campaign and should be measured accordingly with reputation-specific metrics. However, it can also have a halo effect on the demand creation program, which should be evaluated with its own demand creation metrics.

Regardless of which category your organization falls into, digital advertising should be a part of your marketing mix. With today’s buyers spending more time on self-guided research throughout the buyer’s journey, organizations can’t afford not to be digital. And with $70 billion a year being spent on digital advertising in the United States alone, why should B2C marketers have all the fun?

If you want to understand how your program and tactics are performing, schedule an inquiry with SiriusDecisions, or join us at Summit in Las Vegas in May and attend our session “Program and Tactic Diagnostics: Optimize or Terminate?”