For marketers today, there are a plethora tools available for reaching potential customers.  The trick is matching your campaign objective to the right channel to reach the audience you desire.  Conventional wisdom is that mass marketing tools (think television, radio or billboards) are best for brand awareness campaigns.  Display advertising often gets lumped into this category.

Business to business marketers often believe that mass marketing is not effective for their campaign objectives.  This is because with B2B sales, only a small subset of an audience are the actual potential With B2B sales, only a small subset of the audience are the actual potential buyers, so they consider much of the impressions generated by the campaign likely to be wasted.

It’s not that B2B advertisers don’t also need to invest in brand awareness – there is just a lack of understanding of how display ads get placed on websites.  Most people are familiar with seeing banner ads posted on various websites as they are surfing online, but are not aware what specifically triggers the ads they get targeted with.

Online Ad Targeting for B2B

There are 3 main targeting strategies that should be used for a successful B2B online display ad campaign:

  • Managed site placements
  • Contextual targeting
  • Retargeting

Targeting a Managed Site List

Imagine running a television ad that only gets shown to IT professionals? Or health care administrators?  Trying to reach specialized audiences like these is the reason that trade journals have flourished in the past decade, despite the difficulties experienced by mass market print periodicals. There are many online websites that cater to specialized niche audiences, and most of these are largely ad-supported.

But making a direct buy on a site viewed by your target professional audience may not generate enough leads to be worth the cost and effort of creating the ad in the first place. To get a noticeable response, you need to spread your ads across many sites at once.  Ad exchanges have made this possible, by alleviating the difficulty of approaching multiples sites separately to purchase inventory.

Targeting Based on Context

Your preferred B2B audience is likely to be interested in reading articles online that pertain closely to their business. Imagine being able to buy ad space in the New York Times, but only on the page next to an article about new changes to industry regulations?  How far in advance can you learn which content is going to be published? With online display advertising, it is possible to buy ad inventory at the time the article gets published, using contextual targeting.

Contextual targeting is more than just identifying keywords.  The technology for this uses natural language processing to identify the semantic content as well, so that your ad only gets associated with highly relevant content – often on sites you could not have predicted in advance would be important placements.

Retarget to Nurture Interest

Lastly, all B2B advertisers need to use retargeted display advertising to stay top of mind to viewers who are most interested in your offer. Retargeting involves using a cookie on your website to identify your site visitors and send additional ads to them as the surf onto other websites.  This is especially important in the case of products or services that have a long time-to-purchase cycle.  Frequency capping and brand safety can help ensure that the retargeted display ads do not become annoying. Retargeting is extremely effective in nurturing interest – some research studies have shown more than 1000% lift in ad effectiveness for retargeted ads.

B2B Marketing Plans Should All Include Display Advertising

With these 3 targeting techniques, there are really no reasons why B2B advertisers should not be using display advertising.  Search marketing and organic search are well established tools for B2B marketing, but as these channels become more saturated, it behooves marketers to find new ways to increase brand preference within their target client base.  With the creative possibilities inherent with banner ads, a display advertising campaign can be just the thing for making your brand stand out.