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Justifying budget for an online banner campaign Is a piece of cake

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In more than 20 years in marketing, I've never had an easier time justifying budget for online advertising. And I can say that it's all because of an up and coming firm that I stumbled across for a completely unrelated project, but which is now fast becoming our de facto banner advertising partner. The name is Demandbase. Write this down. These guys are going places.

So let me rewind and tell you why I feel so strongly about the future of banner advertising, delivered using the power of targeting and specialization, and the increasingly sophisticated engines that are making this field a marketing geek's paradise.

During the past 15 years or so I fell in love with online advertising, then had my heart broken repeatedly over the years, leading to a messy divorce from the concept about four years ago. I put all of it behind me and started looking for love elsewhere.

The old "spray-and-pray" online advertising model is just very hard to justify in this new world of ever-shrinking budgets. Yes, the decision makers you want to reach frequent those sites that your ad agency is recommending, but how do you break through the clutter to reach an audience used to ignoring the ads that surround them? And most importantly, how do you make sure that the dollars you fought so hard to secure are not just getting the majority of clicks from curiosity seekers in largely off-target companies?

Then along comes 1:1 targeting for Web banners. Many call it retargeting. The idea is that once people visit your website you tag them and present them with banners as they travel different sites on the Web. That gave me pause, and I experimented with it a few times. But two issues kept my excitement in check:

  • What about the fact that inevitably I'd be following around the majority of people who come to my website who may not even be in my target set? And ...
  • What about the target customers (clients or prospects) that never visit my website? Where do I find them?

So back to Demandbase. The company uses some nifty tech trick where it can dynamically identify the companies of most of the visitors to your website (using their IP addresses), and feed your analytics engine with real-time information about those companies. So your site analytics engine can chew on great intelligence, such as where a visitor's company is based, number of employees, revenue, industry and a host of other hugely valuable information. So now, we use this technology to prefill forms for nonregistered users, dynamically customize pages based on industry or size of the visitor's company, and many other cool things I can't tell you about.

So, when Greg Ott, Demandbase's CMO, uttered the words, "Oh, by the way, we have an advertising solution you definitely should know about," I knew I should listen. And here's four reasons why I am glad I did:

  1. Advertise only to the exact companies you target: Using the power of its targeting algorithm, Demandbase allows you to present your banner ads only to employees of a predefined list of companies. Now you can target just your global accounts, just the accounts in your pipeline, just the accounts that have just left you, etc. You are in total control.
  2. Blanket the right prospects, and never touch the rest: With extensive partnerships that cover the major online advertising networks, your ads find prospects from targeted companies in many different online destinations, giving the impression that your ads are everywhere—when, in reality, they are everywhere your targets are.
  3. Dynamically personalize the message: Knowing the company of your targeted Web visitor, your banner ad can dynamically insert that company's name seamlessly within your banner ad copy, such as, "Yes, TechCo, we know all about you. Click here to learn more about us!"
  4. Persistence drives results: Given that we use Demandbase for real-time analytics as well as advertising, we know with great precision whether or not we moved the needle and actually drove a significant increase in visits from the targeted company. And of course from there we can measure leads, wins and ROMI. So, having negotiated an agreement where we pay for results, the company kept the media buy going as long as it took for us to meet our 30% lift target. And the company hit it within the timeframe expected.

Here's the bottom line: If you thought banner ads are only for multimillion-dollar advertisers that must cross a certain saturation threshold before deriving real value, think again. I'm sure others will follow in Demandbase's footsteps, but for the time being they are young, aggressive and the only game (that I know of) in town. And they may just be your best bet if you want to have a second chance at that passionate old relationship you thought you had locked away for good years ago.

Nick Panayi is director-global brand and digital marketing for CSC (www.csc.com), a multinational corporation that provides information technology and professional services. He can be reached at npanayi@csc.com.

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