• Most B2B marketers use digital advertising but don’t know how to measure and optimize it
  • B2B demand creation leaders should assess internal and external factors to determine which digital advertising delivery channels are appropriate to invest in
  • Common problems with digital media performance can be diagnosed using a digital advertising diagnostic map

Digital advertising has long been a favorite tactic of B2C marketers. But now, as the performance of traditional outbound tactics declines, B2B marketers also are looking for more ways to leverage digital advertising to target and engage their buyers.

Jen Horton and Jonathan Tam of SiriusDecisions’ Demand Creation Strategies service addressed a key issue in their Summit 2016 session today on digital advertising: B2B marketers need to understand their options for measuring and optimizing paid media investments. “There are a lot of options out there to choose from, but just having a presence in the channel or using the tactic isn’t the answer,” said Jonathan. “We need to figure out the right channels to use and how to use them.”

Summit 2016 Digital Advertising

Jen and Jonathan began by providing an overview of the four primary digital advertising channels that buyers use to discover, research and consume information: paid search, paid social, display and mobile apps. They then dove into the findings from SiriusDecisions’ 2016 Digital Advertising and B2B Demand Creation Survey, which focused on B2B marketers’ spending and adoption across the digital advertising mix.

How Do B2B Marketers Feel About Digital?

According to the survey findings, B2B organizations are wholeheartedly embracing digital advertising. Of more than 150 qualified respondents across 20 vertical industries, 80 percent indicated that their organizations will use digital advertising within the next 12 months. B2B marketers are most confident in the demand creation capabilities of:

  • Paid search. It’s not surprising that over 95 percent of respondents use Google, but close to 5 percent of respondents have also started using global search engines (e.g. Baidu, Naver, Yandex) to reach untapped markets. 
  • Display. Most B2B marketers are buying display ads directly, but more than 50 percent are also using ad networks. In fact, many larger organizations working with an agency partner are purchasing ads programmatically through ad exchanges or supply-side platforms.
  • Paid social. Facebook is king, with LinkedIn and Twitter in second and third place, but advertising on YouTube isn’t far behind. A growing number of marketers are also taking advantage of smaller, niche social spaces in an effort to reach customers wherever they are (e.g. Reddit).

B2B organizations still rely on outsourcing the strategy and management tasks of paid digital advertising – largely ad development (76 percent) and tactic deployment, measurement and optimization (68 percent). However, there’s a movement to bring this work in-house – 39 percent of respondents indicated that they do not rely on third-party support for strategy, planning or execution.

So, How Is It Working?

While nearly all B2B marketers are jumping on the digital advertising bandwagon, some of them aren’t doing all they can to optimize its performance, with many not looking past the media performance itself. “Digital media measurement has to go beyond the click,” advised Jonathan. “Problems with digital media performance fall into three major categories of problem areas that must be diagnosed,” he clarified as he introduced a digital advertising diagnostic map. He and Jen defined these areas, then described ways to resolve typical foundational problems within them and useful optimization approaches:

  • Targeting. Issues in this area include not enough impressions or media not reaching the right audience. Targeting can be optimized through account-based targeting (executing tailored messaging and offers to narrowed target account lists) and look-alike modeling (using first- and third-party data to target individuals with similar attributes to known customers).
  • Media performance. In this area, organizations may have trouble with low clickthrough rates, low site engagement, high post-click bounce rates and low site-to-inquiry conversion rates. Optimizing media performance through interactive media (advanced features such as videos, polls and expandable content) and Web site personalization (mapping content to buyer personas and buying cycle stage) can help engage buyers initially and ensure they stay on the site post-click. 
  • Waterfall performance. Marketers may have leads that are not moving through the waterfall, leads that are being rejected/disqualified downstream or just poor lead quality in general. Jen recommended optimizing waterfall performance through retargeting (segmenting and serving ad units to audiences according to their typical site or search behaviors) and nurture integration (using first- and third-party data to target or suppress individuals who are currently in an active buying process).

In closing, Jen and Jonathan reminded demand creation leaders to assess internal factors (e.g. business goals, organizational resources and systems requirements) and external factors (e.g. buyer personas, activity and behavior) to determine which digital advertising delivery channels are appropriate to invest in, and to measure performance beyond activity metrics to fully diagnose issues. “Digital advertising tactics are evolving, and buyers are increasingly harder to reach,” Jen said. “There’s definitely a need to stand out,” added Jonathan, “but new media formats can’t save bad marketing.”