Online advertising is the newest oldest marketing investment to include in your mix (& now there’s proof)

When David Guerra at HG Data asked me to join their webinar earlier this week to talk about some of Bedrock Data’s success stories around targeted account digital marketing, I was happy to participate.

What I didn’t realize at the time – I was going to learn about some amazing research from my co-presenter, John Steinert, CMO of TechTarget.

I’ve been advocating for online advertising as a medium that should deliver payoff for most marketers – in this Inbound Marketing & ABM article, I characterized well targeted, on-message, relevant online advertising as the intersection point between Inbound & ABM.

Think about it this way – what’s so great about Inbound Marketing? It's that prospects discover you at a point when you can be of value to them, and then you create more, ongoing value for them through useful content.

But not everyone is going to find you. Well targeted online marketing helps you in two ways with your audience:

#1 - You may have some relevant content for your audience at that moment where they can take action (click through) or soon thereafter (view through). 


#2 – You expand the awareness of your brand/company, so that over time your prospect is more likely to turn to your company as it develops the need for the types of problems you solve.

Number two can be extremely difficult to measure.

In some regard, you just need to have the conviction that delivering the right message to the right audience consistently is going to lead to positive results. For me, spending a decade with the top advertising agencies in the world at Omnicom Group has me pre-disposed with this conviction.

So back to the webinar: “Steiny” brought facts to the table to back this up.

TechTarget has just completed research-- which isn’t formally released but which is also covered here -- and the upshot is:

  • TechTarget studied 111,000 planned IT projects, and 1,675 ad campaigns covering 700 million banner impressions
  • For these planned IT projects, TechTarget found out from these companies which vendors were part of the consideration set for that project
  • The analysis after aggregating this data showed that the companies consistently advertising had a +25% lift on being considered as vendors for these projects vs. non-advertisers. Those inconsistently advertising saw a +10% lift.

I wondered though about the chicken vs. egg question.

Were these companies being considered in more projects because they were more well known companies, and because they were more well known companies they had more marketing budget available to invest in online advertising?

Or, are the companies investing in online advertising getting considered for more projects because of the impact on awareness?

I asked John about this, and he said to correct for this "already well known" effective, the large brands that had been long-time advertisers were removed from the study. So most likely then the advertising investment was the "cause" and not the "effect" at play. 

So solid evidence to back the case for consistently running online advertising programs.

That said, doing online advertising right is difficult. Like most marketing mediums, it can get a bad rap based on mis-execution. If you are considering online advertising (or doing it but questioning your results so far), these are five things you  can do to best ensure success.

#1 – Target the right audience

Leverage account-based targeting to run advertising to the companies that matter to you. This is a great way to stretch your budget, and much rather have 25 ad impressions to 1,000 companies that matter to you, than 1 ad impression to a mixed bag of 25,000 companies.

#2 – Include context as part of your targeting strategy

The Google Display Network used to terrify me, because I often felt the context for my ads was going to be misaligned with the message -- and tracking Google Display Network results through to pipelines or deals usually disappointed. Now you can get much more granular with targeting and reporting on your ads by context, so choose the right context. Choose the topics that best align to both the problems you solve and the messaging for ads. That should continue to provide to be a winning recipe.

#3 – Build cross-channel marketing programs

Although I’m advocating for online advertising specifically here, it’s really as part of an integrated online mix. Your marketing programs should deliver a consistent message progressing through a storyline across multiple channels including online ads (multiple destinations), social media and email.

#4 – Look for successes and merchandise them

Look for successes – whether they are tracked through tracking a digital visitor through conversion, or looking at the pool of companies who are advertising to and connecting that to lead and opportunity data in your CRM. As you have successes, share those internally with marketing and sales teams to build confidence in the medium.

#5 – Be patient and skeptical at the same time

It will take time to see the full impact of online advertising, so you can’t expect immediate results. A three-month time window is the right time frame for a pilot. But at the same time be skeptical. If you are working with vendors or internal resources, work through the data to make sure it’s being executed correctly, and that you have good indicates that your targeting is hitting the mark-- click through rates vs. benchmarks, view through rates vs. benchmarks, reviewing the site URLs for fidelity to your plan. 

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