Programmatic Remains ABM’s Next Frontier

By Tony Mowad, Vice President Of Business Development, Bombora

Over the past decade, programmatic has become the dominant way through which online advertising is bought and sold, especially in the display space. At the same time, B2B companies have increasingly adopted account-based marketing (ABM) as their overarching marketing strategy.

These two forces are seeing widespread adoption for similar reasons. ABM has grown popular because it focuses marketing activity to the accounts or targets that represent the best customers for a product or service. Programmatic makes it easy to serve targeted advertising at scale. Both practices reduce wasted spend by eliminating the prospect of marketing or advertising to customers unlikely to care about the product or service. And both can deliver far better results when enhanced with third-party data sources that increase the understanding of the account list and targeting precision.

With all of this overlap, ABM and programmatic would seem like a match made in heaven. The trouble is that it is difficult to report on programmatic ABM efforts due to an uneven distribution of impressions from missed chunks of audience or oversaturation among others.

Amid the economic uncertainty of our current era, B2B marketing teams must drive as much return as possible from their budgets and build a one-to-one reporting approach that allows every impression to be mapped to each company.

Translation difficulties

Programmatic marketing has taken off in B2C advertising because brands can deliver targeted ads to individual users, often inspiring those consumers to make a purchase. That’s not the case in B2B, where there is likely a buying committee at the target company that is responsible for making purchase decisions.

ABM’s rise in popularity is primarily due to the fact that it helps companies focus their marketing efforts on certain accounts, or target clients, that represent the best potential customers, as determined by the marketing and sales organizations.

Advertising delivered as part of an ABM strategy is targeted at the company level. The challenge with translating this to programmatic campaigns is that DSPs can not associate a user receiving an ad to the company domain. This prevents the DSP from delivering at an efficient company level, resulting in the largest accounts on a target list having a very high frequency of impressions served, while a majority of accounts on the list never see the campaign.

Consider an ABM list of 10,00 accounts. If just 10% of the accounts on that list are global or enterprise-level accounts, then the majority of available impressions will be served to devices associated with those 1,000 accounts. It’s just simple math: the more employees a target company has, the more devices available on the open web, creating more impression opportunities. It’s no surprise that those 1,000 accounts would receive the lion’s share of ad impressions, but that unfortunately leaves 90% of a B2B brand’s ABM list underexposed. The kicker? There has been no way to verify impression delivery by company either.

A programmatic future

The open web remains a critical part of advertising’s future, even as the industry faces cookie deprecation. Programmatic will remain a vital tool for reaching audiences as well, and the very nature of B2B advertising makes it so that programmatic will remain a critical tool.

For programmatic to really become a game changer in the B2B world, brands need a combination of the efficient buying practices and an ability to optimize impressions across their entire account list. Frequency capping has been a best practice in programmatic for years, but until recently only existed at the individual level. B2B ABM requires frequency capping at the company level to be effective.

This would separate B2B programmatic targeting from B2C, helping DSPs pursue the optimal blend of impressions across a full ABM list, rather than simply chase all impressions that match the list, regardless of volume by company.

Beyond that, B2B marketers also need real-time campaign optimization and reporting. Outside of a few B2B-oriented walled gardens, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to map programmatic  delivery to each company. This is even harder to measure for omni-channel impressions, despite omni-channel marketing being a crucial component of any ABM strategy.

B2B marketers need transparent reporting on which accounts are receiving impressions and how they are responding. This type of account-level measurement allows B2B brands to reset or adjust frequency capping and pacing mid-campaign, ensuring the most efficient use of the programmatic ad budget.

There is no better time for a change like this to come along at the DSP level. With many B2B companies trying to do more with less right now, anything that adds efficiency and potentially boosts performance is welcome.