B2B Marketers Better Pay Attention to Programmatic

Ben Plomion is director of marketing and partnerships at Chango, a search-retargeting company.

A customer’s arrival at a business-to-business marketer’s website is often one of the first points of interaction between the two parties. While the customer is still in the upper part of the sales funnel, from the perspective of programmatic marketing, her journey actually started even before she arrived at the site.

Signals, such as the referral source, are critical in deciding what type of content to serve to a prospect during a first visit. For instance, if a prospect arrives at a creative agency’s site from an article on responsive design, the agency will display information on the homepage about producing a responsive-design website. If someone arrives via a tweet about “mobile applications development,” the agency will tailor the website content accordingly. The same principles hold for larger companies that operate multiple sites. By analyzing the information a prospect has consumed on one company site, smart marketers can tailor the creative on the second site.

I first discovered the importance of collecting data and putting it to work across multiple company sites and pages while working for GE Capital. At the time, we didn’t have all the technology we have today, but my team saw how valuable it could be to know, for example, whether a customer on a given page had already visited the credit card section of our corporate site. In such a scenario, we would have been able to show a credit card offer to that customer on the next internal page she browsed. And better yet, if we’d had an email address for the user, we could have sent a targeted, customized newsletter with the same credit card offer.

Today, we have the technology to do all the things we wanted to do for GE Capital’s site and more. Still, no matter how dynamic your site, many potential customers end up leaving without a conversion, and even the targeted newsletters can’t guarantee success.

The next step for the savvy marketer is to target the visitor with display ads. Site retargeting is hardly new, but recently it has become much more sophisticated and much more effective. In traditional site retargeting, a marketer tags sections of a site with cookies and targets users with ads based on the sections of the site a user visited. The more sophisticated form of site retargeting — programmatic site retargeting (PSR) — looks not only at pages viewed but at a wide range of visitor behavior, including shipping address, items in cart, customer profile, referral data and environmental factors (time of day or day of week). To keep track of these granular details, PSR assigns a cloud-based user profile to each visitor, making it possible for marketers to get the data in what’s essentially real time. Marketers don’t have to deal with time lags before coming up with highly granular segments.

But, how, exactly, does PSR make all this data actionable when it comes to serving impressions? We assign a “visitor score” to each of the cloud-based profiles. These scores allow us to determine both the likelihood that a given user will convert and which creative is most likely to lead to the conversion. And when it comes to bidding for impressions through real-time bidding exchanges, that information is invaluable. By relying on visitor scores, we’re able to get the most out of every dollar from our clients.

In the case of a B2B client, we look at the keywords prospects search before arriving
at the client’s website to determine which creative to use for retargeting. A prospect who searched with career-related terms will be excluded from the display campaigns, while we may increase the frequency of ads targeting people who looked up “shopping cart solutions.”

It’s not just site retargeting that’s growing more sophisticated each year. Lead nurturing is also embracing data with more and more B2B marketers segmenting their audiences and providing them with customized content. Marketing automation vendors help B2B marketers understand the interests of their audiences based on their on-site behavior and the information they provide in contact-us forms. This information is analyzed to determine the best piece of content to send to a prospect. When you have a lot of data that’s nimble and actionable, segments can become more granular than you might expect, and you can also drive a lot more prospects through the sales funnel than you might expect. As smart B2B marketers know, that’s what programmatic marketing is all about.

Image via Shutterstock

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