B2B Programmatic Advertising: The New Driver of Success


When most marketers think of programmatic advertising, what typically comes to mind is being able to reach online audiences efficiently and at scale.

For those of us more familiar with the evolution of programmatic media over the past decade, it’s no surprise that this type of digital advertising tactic has made its way into many successful B2B media mixes.

From demand generation to account-based marketing, programmatic advertising is a tactic that B2B marketers can no longer ignore. To understand why, let’s take a step back and frame up the realities of B2B marketing and the decision-making process that’s involved. 

Unlike in B2C marketing, B2B marketers typically have to account for:

  1. Niche target audiences
  2. More decision-makers
  3. Longer sales cycles
  4. Higher price points
  5. A greater importance placed on content
  6. The need to report on accounts, performance, leads, and attribution

Programmatic advertising is able to squarely meet these specific B2B needs head-on, largely thanks to martech platforms in this space offering enhanced targeting, new partnerships, and data and tech integrations. 

Reaching the Right Niche Decision Makers

If you just blinked, you probably missed 3 new targeting capabilities that have become available via programmatic advertising.

In this marketer’s opinion, it’s the amazing targeting capabilities fueled by the likes of AI, data partners, and tech integrations that have elevated the programmatic advertising world to new heights..

Let’s start with the fact that brands can now activate their own first-party data to surround their customers with digital ads and even create look-alike audiences to expand their reach. Utilizing your list of target prospects, customers, or even folks that visited your trade show booth, you can easily begin activating your first-party data programmatically thanks to partner integrations with companies such as Adobe Audience Manager, Salesforce, and LiveRamp.  

For more detail on CSI’s approach, see our article: CRM People-Based Targeting with LiveRamp.

Next, you can access an extensive catalogue of third-party B2B audience segments ready to be integrated into your targeting approach. These are typically supplied by big data partners including Bombora, Dun & Bradstreet, 123Push, Stirista, and a handful of others. Most specific B2B audiences can be reached this way. 

However, if you can’t find the exact pre-built third-party segment, many times you can create your own custom audience segment based on real-world search behavior. For example, you can get as specific as identifying people searching for robotics solutions specific to grocery micro-fulfillment centers based on related keywords they search for on Google.  

Fueled by AI, custom segments use a smart caching system to pull online users into a segment based on keywords they are actively searching for or content they’ve engaged with. The AI then constantly learns over the course of a campaign, excluding individuals that no longer meet the criteria and pulling in new ones that do.

Before moving on from the topic of targeting, we do have to acknowledge the fact that the Google-led initiative to phase out third-party cookies and potentially alternate user identifiers such as login data will have major ripple effects on digital targeting. 

With the goal of improved privacy and choice for consumers, the programmatic world will have to adapt, and we will be covering this extensively as the changes roll out. 

In the meantime, the most important thing to remember is that hyper-targeted digital advertising isn’t going away. Rather, the mechanisms and adjoining puzzle pieces used to deliver it will need to change.

Staying Connected During Long Sales Cycles

Many times, B2B marketing can be considered a marathon compared to the sprint of typical B2C efforts, and therefore needs a lengthier marketing cycle with a multitude of different touchpoints. Programmatic allows brands to nurture prospects by staying top of mind throughout their entire buying journey, all while helping to stand out against competitors and provide valuable information that will help progress the sale. 

Also, because content still rules the roost, content can be effectively packaged within higher impact programmatic ad formats or be housed on a landing page or content hub that your ads drive to. Let’s also not forget about the power of native and video ads placed programmatically to drive higher levels of engagement with your content.

This prolonged approach is also ideal for retargeting once you’ve driven audiences to your desired destination. Beyond the fact that continual ad messaging will keep your brand on their radar, sophisticated approaches such as dynamic retargeting can pull the very pieces of content a visitor engaged with into the ad creative, increasing the likelihood of it resonating. 

Performance Tracking & Attribution

Since there’s probably not a single brand in the B2B space today that isn’t concerned with tracking advertising performance, leads, and other attribution metrics, programmatic has had to evolve in this area. 

In comes Dun & Bradstreet, who have decided to enter the programmatic sphere to rescue us all, especially those of us running account-based marketing programs.

By partnering with D&B, brands can do a multitude of new things including:

  • Build targeting segments based on target account lists
  • Layer professional targeting criteria to reach decision makers with specific job functions or titles
  • Track attribution of those accounts in terms of engagement, conversions, and sales

Tying It All Together

B2B marketing is in a far better place thanks to the evolution of programmatic advertising. 

Not only is it fascinating from a technology standpoint, it offers B2B brands new and exciting ways to scale their digital marketing and content deployment efforts beyond LinkedIn, PPC, and email marketing by continually connecting them with the right prospects, at the right moment.

I’m excited to see where it goes next.


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