Digital advertising is expected to grow by approximately 18% globally in 2018, to $269 billion, according to data reported on statista.com. Given this expected double-digit increase, digital advertising must be working — right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
There are results — and then there are the right results. Many B2B marketers are still struggling to understand how to optimize paid media strategies. In a recent B2B-focused survey, an overwhelming number of B2B marketers reported that their digital campaigns reach a large swath of audiences outside their intended target. That means wasted effort, resources, and spend. When done right, digital advertising for B2B companies can be an engine for creating customer relationships built on trust and value.
Image 1: McGraw-Hill 1958 “The Man in the Chair” advertisement.
Sixty years ago, McGraw-Hill ran an ad in a number of its B2B magazines that became known as “The Man in the Chair” (see Image 1). It was an advertisement meant to convince B2B marketers that they needed to consider advertising as an important piece of their marketing mix. Let’s look at how a unified audience view could help marketers reach a more targeted audience and address the concerns of today’s woman or man in the chair.
Awareness is important in raising a brand’s profile with audiences. All sales — no matter if they’re B2B or B2C — start there. Being able to direct messages based on known audience demographics and preferences, confirmed from multiple sources, enables organizations to reach audiences where they know they are, instead of just blanketing multiple outlets with generic campaign collateral.
Most companies are active within the multitude of available social channels. But do you know how strong your presence actually is in these important digital and social forums? Before you even have a chance to purposefully state your message, your sales opportunities may have already heard of you from others. For B2B brands especially, being in the right channel at the right time, targeting the right audience, is essential to building your desired brand awareness.
Only 12% of B2B buyers want to meet a sales rep in person. People rely on word of mouth as a critical factor in the purchasing process, even with the proliferation of technology outlets. Digital channels make it exponentially easier to get word-of-mouth advice today — both good and bad. People want the information they want, and now; if it’s not available, they’ll look to someone else. Knowing where they are looking, what they are looking for, and whether they find it has serious implications for a company’s ability to sell.
Today’s B2B buyers are younger and more skeptical than previous generations of buyers. But there are ways to win them over. Corporate image has always been a key part of brand messaging. While people buy products and services, they still want to understand the company behind those offerings and what it stands for. Aligning your brand’s message across marketing and advertising has a much bigger potential impact.
In the past, references were checked personally. Today, a Google search will return any reviews and referrals out there, even those you’d rather people didn’t see. Proactively sharing the stories and customer experiences you want noticed — via campaigns, advertising, and on your digital outlets — and understanding which details and formats resonate will help you shape the best message for your customers and prospects.
Today’s digitized communications offer huge value by providing information about your company’s record. With more channels available than any company could ever use, delivering your organization’s message consistently — before, during, and after the sale — is easier than ever, especially compared to the versions that evolve when a sales team shares the message one by one.
From Net Promoter Scores to Amazon reviews, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, it has never been easier to find out what experiences customers have had with a product or provider. And with those “free” advertising sources, companies have to take the bad with the good. This is a good thing. Companies that only ever receive accolades and laurels can make potential buyers suspicious. Monitoring and leveraging these ratings as part of targeted advertising and marketing campaigns can add legitimacy to a company’s promoted reputation.
The moral of the 1958 “The Man in the Chair” ad still rings true: Sales starts before your salesperson calls. Times change, markets change, techniques change … but the idea remains the same. With 71% of B2B buyers wanting to be the master of their domain and conduct research on their own terms, you must ensure that you have, and leverage, the insights into your buyers to reach them where they are, when they are looking. Data from a unified audience can be the fuel for that insight, as it helps marketers and advertisers alike understand how to deliver an optimized digital strategy to all audiences throughout their entire buying journey.
Interested in learning more about unified audiences? Download new research from Digital Clarity Group for help starting a conversation with your team about getting better B2B advertising results... Plus, listen to our webinar on why unified audiences are the key to digital advertising in 2018.
* Source: Demandbase
Cathy McKnight, Industry Analyst and Founding Partner at Digital Clarity Group