December 27, 2016

How to Succeed with B2B Media Buying

Once upon a time, media advertising meant just a few things: print (magazines and newspapers), radio, television, outdoor (billboards and posters), and direct (flyers and mailings).

Digital media has both greatly expanded and greatly limited the ability of these traditional media methods to reach business decision-makers and consumers, which in turn puts B2B media buyers and sellers at a disadvantage. How has this changing landscape of B2B media buying affected marketers, and how can we prepare for the future? 

Changing Landscape of Media

We all know that the traditional media model has weakened in the past decade. People don’t read as many newspapers. They don’t listen to the radio as much. They stream TV shows to get around commercials and are more likely to use multiple screens at once, splitting their attention. Direct mail ads usually go straight to the recycling bin. 

ALSO READ: The Evolution of B2B Lead Generation

At the same time, the “new media” rising from digital markets have barely been tapped. Marketers find new and different ways to get their messages in front of more targeted audiences every day, and digital platforms give those same marketers the ability to tie consumer data directly to each ad, channel, and article.

The growth of digital has fundamentally changed the role of media companies — from content providers to data wranglers, analysts, and lead vendors. Instead of simply providing informative articles about products, trends, and services, media companies can also provide qualified and nurtured leads to companies who need to expand their pipeline.

From Old Media to Demand Generation: Building Audiences to Sell Products

B2B media buying has not only changed its channels and tactics; it has also changed its purpose. Originally, media sellers were a resource for expanding the very top tier of your funnel. They specialized in brand awareness and audience growth, but collecting data on members of that audience was difficult and unreliable. As TheMediaBriefing put it, “B2B media companies trade off their in-depth knowledge of an audience to help their customers sell products.” By producing informative educational and investigative documents for niche markets, B2B media companies uniquely position themselves to also work as lead generation partners with the vendors in those markets.

B2B media companies uniquely position themselves to also work as lead generation partners.

B2B Media companies take many shapes: print and web journalism, B2B lead generation, advertising technology (“ad tech”), etc. It’s very likely that industry blogs you read or trade data you consume is tied to a B2B media brand either through programmatic ads or content syndication.

These new markets are not without their perils. For instance: algorithms and AI often dictate programmatic ad syndication. When this works well, it gives B2B media buyers reach into target markets that might not otherwise be available. When it works poorly, buyers can face problems from lost revenue to unfit markets or unintended association with unsavory fake news outlets.

Digital Media for Hire

Media buying used to mean contracting with an agency whose contacts in trade magazines and local advertising outlets would put your product in front of more eyes. The personalization of advertising has led to lots of changes in media buying and a much wider variety of outlets.

Here are a few of the options available today:

  • Content syndication: Contract with writers and marketing experts to provide your prospects with targeted, educational articles or white papers that show potential product use cases and solutions. Syndicated content works great in email marketing or in exchange for leads on landing pages. Some content syndication providers will let you specify targeting requirements for your campaign and negotiate a price per generated lead, rather than a flat rate for the whole service.  
  • Search Ads: These text-based ads display above and beside organic results on search engine results pages (SERPs). Choose your ad copy, keywords, and budget, and the search algorithm will show your ad to users looking for your keyword. Search ads work on an auction system, so only the most relevant ads win and are displayed alongside organic results.
  • Programmatic Ads: Buy ad space on key websites based on keyword and search criteria. These are not displayed on SERPs, but rather on websites that take a portion of the ad price. Programmatic ads often include several images as well as short copy linked to your site. Like search ads, your program provider bids for your ad space, and only the most relevant ads are shown. These often include retargeting ads. 
  • Retargeting Ads: Often a subset of programmatic ads, retargeting ads place an identifying pixel (also called a “cookie”) on a user’s computer when they visit your site. This pixel indicates interest in a particular product, and will prompt ad networks to show ads based on search and browsing history. You’ve probably seen these when you encounter an ad for a product you researched last week on a totally unrelated site. 

You’ve also probably run into social media ads and video ads, whether they preceded an online video you searched for or a news item you tried to view. Each of these outlets and verticals is prime real estate for media buying. You can partner with digital media companies who automate the bidding process across several of these outlets.

More Verticals, More Problems

Expanding reach in target markets and connecting with more prospects sounds like a marketer’s dream, but with great opportunity comes great responsibility, and that’s where strategy and analysis come in. The more metrics you use to track engagement across channels and partnerships, the more difficult and expensive it can be to gauge how your media is performing. That’s why you need to take a slow and measured approach to buying media. It might be tempting to try all of the new verticals at once, but you’re less likely to achieve ROI if you spread your marketing budget thin.

The emphasis here should be on measuring your reach and conversion rate for each vertical and understanding the impact of each before you add new ones. If you don’t have a large budget, starting with some digital search ads might be a good way to dip your toe in the water, especially since the analytics come built-in (search ad vendors like Google and Bing, or even Facebook, do sell B2B media programs).

Once you’ve built a search ad campaign and revenue attribution model, try expanding into programmatic ads that identify and target your most important verticals. Good programmatic campaigns will provide analytics on how your campaigns perform against industry benchmarks so you can adjust tactics accordingly. When your campaign starts producing trackable revenue, consider adding a third tactic.

By proving and expanding each of your media campaigns before moving to the next, you and your teams will have the opportunity to learn the new technology and build attribution models that work. 

The Importance of Lead Nurturing

While B2B media buying can expand your reach and bring in new opportunities, the resulting leads still take work. Most leads from a media partnership will be nowhere near conversion. MarketingSherpa found that SaaS sites convert around seven percent of their total leads, which is a middle-of-the-road rate. Lead nurturing strategies that help move your leads down the sales funnel can significantly increase these rates. 

Here are a few ways your team can nurture leads after initial contact:

  1. Use marketing automation for digital retargeting and behavioral data analysis. Many marketing automation tools can analyze on-site behavior and engagement with content, highlighting what media works and where your customers slip through the cracks. 
  2. Lead Scoring: Without understanding the qualification level of your leads, your sales team may rush the development process and scare away casual readers/researchers. 
  3. Content Syndication through your own efforts or by purchasing this content from B2B media vendors. If you focus on education, you will see stronger engagement with your content and with your brand. This has to be genuine: a sales pitch dressed as educational material won’t help you build trust and credibility. 

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Marketing has never been easy, but the growth of digital media has made audience engagement and prospecting much more challenging. Build a strong B2B media buying campaign through experimentation and measurement. While it’s tempting to try all of the outlets at once, you’ll want to record and compare the outlets that your buyers respond to best. It can also take some time to build a third-party media campaign, so be patient. Trading content and creatives for a healthy email marketing list can go a long way toward building pipeline and generating qualified leads.

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