B-to-b digital advertising requires an intimate knowledge of business audiences and how purchasing decisions are made within companies, as well as all the nuances of individual accounts and how they do business. But it also requires familiarity with the state-of-the-art technology that drives digital advertising. With the b-to-b digital market often lagging behind the b-to-c space in terms of technology-adoption, a look at the b-to-c space can show you what might be coming up for b-to-b.
For example, audience-targeting technologies that are the norm in b-to-c have yet to become mainstream in b-to-b. Look at the core of your digital media plans. If they reflect the notion that the only way to reach your business target is by advertising at premium rates on websites specific to your industry, then your agency hasn't gotten it right. B-to-b advertisers that are willing to sacrifice editorial adjacency for efficiency's sake can reach the right target at a fraction of the cost of advertising on digital trade sites. Behavioral targeting is one way to do this; advertising on business portals using combinations of company or job function targeting is another.
B-to-b advertisers can also pick up some terrific measurement strategies and tactics from the consumer side of digital. In speaking with some of our b-to-b sales reps, we found that the vast majority of their clients measure the effectiveness of their advertising by relying on action-based key performance indicators—ad clicks, page visits, cost-per-lead and other such measures. But what about measuring the branding effect of digital ads? When we reached out to typical b-to-b venues on behalf of a client recently, most said they hadn't even heard of companies such as Dynamic Logic or Vizu and weren't familiar with exposed-control survey methodology. These are standard measures of digital advertising's brand effectiveness on the consumer side. With quite a few of our b-to-b site partners, our agency executed their first brand study for a digital campaign.
B-to-b sites are also getting better at adopting the rich media technologies that are commonplace in the consumer world. Agencies and advertisers can save money by executing page takeovers and overlays, expandable ads and data-capture ads through their own rich-media solution.
While b-to-b is a highly nuanced specialty, it's both cost-effective and enlightening to cross the b-to-b/b-to-c divide from time to time. Consumer advertising has solved many of the problems that are currently challenging b-to-b digital advertisers.
Tom Hespos is president of Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.