Forrester’s 5 Steps to Optimize B2B Ad Budgets

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Some companies are wasting a significant portion of their B2B advertising dollars because they don’t have the audience insights of larger, more seasoned B2B firms, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

John Arnold, Forrester principal analyst and lead author of the report, says that while companies such as Apple have sophisticated B2B advertising and marketing strategies, many other B2B companies are still following older strategies and have yet to understand the nuances of digital marketing. For those firms, the report offers the following five tips to help them use their advertising dollars wisely.

Use media time spent to gauge paid media budget allocations. Budget B2B ads to reach buyers who are reading, watching, and listening to digital media, Arnold advises. “There are relatively few agencies that track media time spent on the B2B buyer level. The superpower of advertising is that you can place your advertising in front of those buyers wherever they spend their media time. You want to be thoughtful about where you are placing those ads, not just throw money at account-based marketing vendors and have them figure it out for you.”

Learn about preferred media and channels for ideal omnichannel outreach. While B2B decision makers will spend a majority of their time with Google search and LinkedIn, other media and channels should be used as well, according to Arnold, who recommends that B2B marketers use audience targeting strategies to avoid placing ads in front of too many people who are using keywords for reasons other than business decision making.

Arnold recommends mapping an omnichannel approach that ensures minimum and maximum ad exposure across the right mix of channels to ensure the maximum number of impressions while also spreading costs out over multiple buying modalities.

Keep up with advertising preferences to guide creative and personalization. The B2B decision makers who Forrester surveyed said they prefer ads that are relevant to their interests and specific business contexts, though there are some contexts in which specific ads are not preferred or should be avoided.

Nevertheless, irrelevant ads are a waste, with most B2B buyers preferring personalized ones. In fact, the research found that most B2B buyers would welcome relevant ads and would take action after they see the message for the first time. “Avoid promoting too much gated content and opt for higher-value advertising creative to reduce waste if form-fill efficacy is too low,” Arnold says.

Obsess over behavior insights, not clicks, to optimize media performance. B2B buyers will typically respond to ads without clicking, Arnold explains. In conducting the research, Forrester identified the following three actions that business customers took in response to ads:

  • using a search engine to research the company featured in the ad (cited by 92 percent of respondents);
  • visiting the advertised website without clicking on the ad (86 percent); and
  • sharing the main message from the advertising with interested colleagues (77 percent).

Ask audiences about their attitudes to inform brand preference ROI. Brand advertising isn’t a waste, even though there is no immediate tie to revenue, according to Forrester. As evidence, the research firm points to a survey it conducted indicating that 91 percent of B2B buyers in the previous six months became aware of a previously unknown company due to advertising. Nearly 80 percent said they had formed positive impressions or opinions about companies they already knew, and 70 percent said they developed stronger preferences for companies and their products or services as a result of advertising.

Don’t wait for buying cycles to develop positive attitudes through advertising, Arnold adds. Many of those surveyed said they had been positively influenced by advertising they viewed at a time outside of their companies’ buying cycles. Nineteen percent said they developed a stronger preference for a particular company or solution, while 23 percent said they formed a positive opinion about a company or solution that they already knew. 

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