Are your digital advertising strategies and programs aligned with the modern state of B2B buying? 

The B2B buying environment continues to undergo fast and fundamental change.  Across all verticals the job function has evolved to less traditional procurement, and more global strategic sourcing of products, services, and materials that are essential for meeting B2B customer demands in the fast-paced digital era. And consider the profile of today’s B2B buyer:

  • Buyers are young and cynical about traditional sales approaches. Half of all B2B buyers are between 18 and 34. And they expect the same level of digital experience in their work environment as in their personal lives, when they bank online, book travel, or consume entertainment.

  • Buyers are self-directed and well educated. 71% prefer to conduct research on their own. Only 12% want to meet with a sales representative alone.

  • Buyers are increasingly part of cross-functional buying committees. Almost 70% of companies with greater than 5,000 employees have more than four people involved in buying decisions. In committee scenarios, suppliers may be chosen on the basis of “lowest common denominator of risk.”

Buyers are attentive to information that’s presented during their research. They are much less dependent upon traditional sales approaches, and they are extraordinarily demanding of the companies they research. They are high on expectation, low on trust, and short on time. The challenge for B2B advertisers is to get noticed by modern buyers at the right point in their buying journey. How best to do this effectively?


B2B Buyers are high on expectations, low on trust, and short on time.

The solution is no mystery: targeted, relevant advertising that creates and fosters trust. What does remain mysterious to many B2B companies is the how – how to deliver effective targeted digital advertising, as early as possible in the buyer’s research phase. Done right, this works. 32% of B2B buyers who notice targeted advertising say that these ads positively impacted their view of potential vendors.

B2B companies actually have the key to the how of effective targeted advertising: data. Companies have rich collections of data that enable marketers understand a buyer’s needs and target her with the right content at the most relevant time. The problem within most companies, however, is that they don’t have an engine for the keys. Their technologies and teams aren’t aligned in ways that let them leverage their data for great results with digital advertising. The obstacle is an historical approach to technology that separates the customer’s experience into silos:

  1. Adtech (including programmatic and content syndication tools) for scaling and optimizing paid digital media strategies.

  2. Martech (including marketing automation and content management) for delivering content that is personalized, builds audiences, nurtures leads, and optimizes data collection on digital platforms.

  3. Customer relationship management technology (CRM) for collecting and organizing customer data to help onboard, upsell, and cross-sell.


“96% of B2B marketers reported that their digital campaigns lead to waste because they primarily reach audiences outside their intended target.”


Integrating these technologies with their storehouses of data has great potential to enable better personalization and, applying the B2B digital advertising lens, allow B2B marketers to deliver relevant, trustworthy ads early in the buyer’s journey.

B2B companies are only starting to think about the value of integrating these technologies and related teams and practices. Organizational hurdles are perceived as significant, of course – 42% of marketers say that they struggle to work across internal silos. The net result is that B2B digital advertising is in a state of stasis. Companies continue to do what they’ve always done. They throw more generalized paid media advertising across as many channels as possible, hoping something sticks. How can marketers who see the value of integrating martech, adtech, and CRM make progress?

The motion of the unified audience can help communicate the benefits of such integration.  It comprises three data-rich audiences: Anticipated, Addressable, and Measured.

  1. The Anticipated Audience is the audience we want to know. Within the context of this post, these are buyers who are researching and making decisions.

  2. The Addressable Audience is the known audience, one that we want to reach at will. These are buyers who have supplied contact information, typically because of the marketer’s effort to reach the Anticipated Audience.

  3. The Measured Audience is exactly that – the audience that can be measured. The marketer can quantify it by numbers with attributes like “visits” or “number of shares.”  This audience might ultimately be anticipated or addressable, but it differs in that the business can actually measure their value to the business at some level.

The value to the marketing organization grows in the areas where these three audiences overlap, as illustrated in the visual. The magic for B2B marketers is the spaces where the audiences are unified through strategic application of technology, practices, and data. Over time, new capabilities for modeling, profiling, and targeting develop in those spaces. Together, they address the core challenges of effective B2B digital advertising. And as new capabilities that deliver new value, they enable an organization to bring true innovation to its B2B marketing practices. That’s one reason why a unified audience may be one of the most valuable assets a business can manage.

Interested in learning more about unified audiences and integrated martech, adtech, and CRM? Download new research from Digital Clarity Group for guidance on how to start a conversation with your team about getting better results from B2B advertising, and register for our live webinar on March 1, 2018.'

Cathy McKnight, Industry Analyst and Founding Partner at Digital Clarity Group