B2B Advertising: Are you sure you’re reaching your buying committee?

Audience quality is important for all advertisers, but the urgency is at another level in B2B. In a consumer campaign, a “good enough” audience can still create awareness or drive ecommerce sales. In B2B advertising, and in account-based advertising in particular, there’s a much higher premium on reaching the right individuals — the select few who have actual decision-making power or influence over the purchase process. Fail to get the “optimal” audience in B2C and you’ll end up with a slightly less efficient clickthrough rate or cost-per-acquisition. But account-based advertising doesn’t carry the same numbers game — if you’re not reaching the key decision-makers within your target accounts, your ad dollars might as well be flying out a window.

An identity-based audience is any targetable segment that purports to capture individuals by job title, function, department, seniority, industry, and/or company. The popularity of these types of segments is not surprising — the idea of pressing a button and capturing the attention of every “director of finance” in North America is a tempting one.

So simple. Maybe … too simple? After all, personally identifiable information, or PII, is forbidden for use in digital advertising — names, email addresses, phone numbers and other personal identifiers are completely off-limits. So the task for purveyors of identity-based B2B audiences is to resolve extremely specific aspects of one’s identity (like a job title) without actually knowing who they are.

How well do they pull it off? Nielsen is the authority on all things audience measurement, with a long history analyzing TV audiences and, increasingly, an important role in digital. When they looked under the hood at basic demographic audiences used in consumer advertising, they found something unsettling: on basic Age + Gender targeting, the data providers get it right less than one third of the time. While Nielsen hasn’t yet started measuring B2B audiences, the above does raise the question: If 32% accuracy is the best the industry can do on age and gender, how am I supposed to trust that they are nailing more sophisticated attributes like department or job function or seniority?

If you are evaluating data providers who claim to deliver identity-based B2B audiences, be prepared to ask about the following:

  • Are your segments deterministic, modeled, or mixed? Deterministic segments draw from actual reported identity data, usually from online form fills sourced through partnerships. Modeled or probabilistic segments take anonymized user behaviors and characteristics to approximate a job title (e.g. user reads 15+ articles on wireless networking -> user is an IT professional). Deterministic segments will generally be far more reliable – but they are much harder to scale, which is why many are supplemented with modeled data to expand the audience.
  • For deterministic data: Where does it come from? Ask about where the contact records were sourced from, how often they are updated, and what the match rate is from offline record to anonymous cookie. If they can’t or won’t answer these questions, run.
  • For modeled data: What’s the methodology? What signals are being used to map cookies to job titles? If there’s a core set of deterministic records from which the modeled cookies are derived (lookalike modeling), ask the questions from the previous bullet. If you don’t get answers, once again — run.

A more effective alternative

The Demandbase Targeting Solution takes a different approach. Our platform closely monitors content consumption patterns around the web to observe B2B buyers conducting product research in real time. By associating those anonymous users to a company using their IP address, we can form behavior-based buying committees to target in campaigns. This methodology has two key advantages:

  • Scale: Whereas reliable identity-based signals are available for only a small minority of your buyers, an intent-monitoring footprint like Demandbase’s, which processes more than 235 billion content consumption interactions each month, can capture behaviors for virtually all of them.
  • Relevance: Zero in on individuals doing research specifically for your product or category, or using keywords indicating they may be facing a problem you can help them solve.

To learn more, download our eBook, “The Next Generation of B2B Advertising” or get a demo from our team.

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