Programmatic Marketing: A Good Fit for B2B Tech Marketers?

  • Sadhana Subramanian

Here’s the thing about programmatic marketing: Some like it hot, some like it cold.

Extremely hot among B2C marketers, programmatic marketing—using technology to buy and sell digital media instead of relying on human interactions to manually place digital ads–has been given the cold shoulder in B2B tech marketing circles.

That circle is pretty small and quite obviously the cost of irrelevance—of marketing content—could be pretty high. That’s reason enough for B2B marketers to offer more than just a passing glance to programmatic. After all, it’s the king of putting relevance right at the centre of ad buying.

But is it a good fit for B2B marketers? While it’s true that programmatic has been around for over a decade, B2B marketers aren’t convinced—yet.

According to B2B Barometeronly 25 percent of B2B marketers allocated budgets to programmatic in 2015. Even those that spent money in programmatic only spent 9 percent, on average, of their total spend.

In fact, the same study revealed that 64 percent of B2B marketers describe programmatic advertising as irrelevant.

B2B Ad Buying Preference

For one, lead times are longer for B2B marketers, unlike B2C. Also, B2B marketers spend time in nurturing leads with non-digital formats like whitepapers, EDMs, and events. That’s probably why they perceive programmatic—which is real-time and tech-based–as irrelevant.

Another reason could be the fact that the biggest difference in B2B and B2C programmatic marketing is the value of the inventory, according to Tony Uphoff, CEO of  “In many cases, you’re talking about the few who buy for the many. As opposed to many who buy for few. If you’re a traditional business marketer, you’re trying to tap into volume markets,” he says in an article in Ad Exchanger.

Also, a majority of B2B marketers aren’t sure how to use programmatic as they serve a niche target audience. But isn’t this a problem programmatic can fix? Absolutely!

At the same time, the much-loved display ad tradition is gradually, but surely, fading out.

The average click-through rate of online display ads is 0.6%, and more than half of Internet users say they won’t click on ads because they don’t trust them, according to e-consultancy.

The blame for that squarely falls on ad blockers. In 2015, ad blocking grew as much as 41 percent globally and 10 percent of people added an ad blocker in the last quarter of 2016.

To put that in perspective, four out of 10 people don’t even see banner ads at all!

And that’s something that B2B marketers have realised. Which is why, they aren’t as hostile to programmatic marketing as they once were.

Right on Target

A few months ago, LinkedIn announced that it is launching programmatic buying access to its B2B inventory. This means advertisers can either buy LinkedIn display ad inventory through the open exchange or through LinkedIn Private Auctions.

That has spurred a debate over the relevance of programmatic in the B2B marketing space. Take one of the biggest challenges that B2B marketers face, for instance: Serving a niche market without the ability to scale. To benefit from the targeting capabilities of programmatic, B2B advertisers have turned to consumer-facing sites to find inventory.

Biggest Advantages of Buying Ads Programmatically

A study by Kantar Media & Connectiv revealed that 85 percent of B2B buyers are forced to target audiences through a mix of B2B and B2C sites to scale their campaigns.

This means these marketers are willing to pay a premium for the right audience, which in turn, provides B2B marketers with a huge opportunity to grow ad revenue.

The RoI Game

Another reason that’s tilting the scales in favour of programmatic is the increasing need–and mounting pressure—on B2B marketers to prove RoI of marketing spends.

One of the biggest benefits of programmatic is that you know who the right people are to market to across the industry. That can make all the difference.

That’s because it eliminates the ‘guesswork’ that goes into assuming what your clients might read—without any scientific basis.

With programmatic buying, “you can tailor specific messages to certain people across different devices in real-time. You can hone in on your most beneficial customer targets based on the data you collect,” according to an article in

Is Programmatic Media Buying Just as Valuable for B2B as B2C?

The article also points out that when it comes to marketing, the number one aim is to generate favourable results that ultimately impact ROI. Programmatic ad buying allows brands to pinpoint the audiences that they want to reach. “This ensures that they deliver the perfect message, in the perfect location, at the perfect time,” says the article.

Beyond RoI

Despite being reluctant about programmatic, B2B marketers believe the ability to scale campaigns, provide cost-effective advertising, and the ability to layer insights make programmatic a force to reckon with.

No wonder then that 65 percent of B2B marketers expect to increase programmatic buying spend this year. Another reason for that is that 50 percent of clients of B2B marketers want programmatic digital display ads for B2B campaigns.

Percentage of Media Spend Anticipated for B2B This Year

What’s also increasing programmatic’s popularity among B2B marketers is its ability to make real-time adjustments to campaigns without having to spend more. For instance, if a campaign is generating interest but not increasing sales, programmatic can make changes in real-time to increase sales.

Companies can refine their campaigns and choose which ads should be displayed to different target markets during the buying process. They can do this without starting new campaigns from scratch.

There’s no doubt that programmatic has arrived and B2B marketers are acknowledging its significance. And that acknowledgement has come at an opportune time. That’s because according to eMarketer, 83 percent of all ad buying activity will be programmatic by 2017.

And that means programmatic marketing has come full circle. What’s not to like?

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