Programmatic Ad Buying for B2B: A Getting Started Guide

May 17, 2017

LinkedIn's Programmatic Guide for B2B Marketers

You’re tasked with steering your company to programmatic advertising. No need to panic. We've created your Ultimate Guide to Programmatic for B2B Marketers. Even if you’re brand new to programmatic, here’s a little primer on how programmatic buying works.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Simply, “programmatic” refers to software that buys digital advertising.

Programmatic buying begins by manually plugging your campaign’s goals and key performance indicators into the software. Once your ads are ready to roll, programmatic algorithms analyse the behaviour of web publishers’ audiences and steer your campaigns towards people most likely to convert. Typically, the software begins by using predictive analysis, then evolves based on what’s working.

This might seem simple, but even the sharpest human ad-buying teams working national campaigns can’t come close to matching the data-crunching speed and accuracy of ad-buying software.

With LinkedIn, you have the option to purchase our display ads programmatically either through an Open Auction or Private Auctions. Both give you the flexibility and control to reach your target audiences. If you’re already buying programmatically, Open Auction is the fastest way to buy LinkedIn Display Ads programmatically. For advertisers looking for additional targeting capabilities, the Private Auction is a great option.

You can learn more about LinkedIn’s commitment to programmatic advertising and the advantages of LinkedIn’s platform through our new ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Programmatic for B2B Marketers.

Crunching Beyond the Numbers

Serving higher-quality ads to users improves click-through, enhances users’ experiences with the brand and, ultimately, better inspires users to take the next step in the marketing funnel.

The industry is catching on. A Doubleclick/Google study finds 74 percent of marketers consider programmatic ad buying when planning their campaigns. More programmatic buys are happening across channels and ad formats: 44 percent of agencies and 38 percent of marketers are considering programmatic buying in their video campaigns.

So how does programmatic play out in a practical sense?Programmatic advertising targets individual characteristics and behaviours, not specific web sites, and this enables you to reach your prospects wherever they are online.

It’s practical and economical to let computers do the heavy grinding so you can focus on creative, strategy, and pricing. Any anxiety about handing over buying decisions to an algorithm can melt away once you begin hitting your key performance markers.

Where Does Programmatic Advertising Fit into the B2B Marketing Mix?

The meteoric rise in programmatic advertising has also ushered in new complexity, with layers of service agencies feeding ads to thousands of publishers. It's no longer enough to know how much you paid for clicks or impressions. You need to know where the impressions happen, the audiences behind them, and how much various impressions are worth to you.

Today’s programmatic advertising options provide B2B marketers with access to hard-to-reach audiences and the engagement insights to boot. For B2B marketers, programmatic is no longer about reaching more people in more places online, just for the sake of it. It’s about reaching more of the right people, with the flexibility to engage audiences in the context of their preferred channels.

For B2B brands with fully implemented account-based marketing (ABM) methodologies, programmatic has proven to be an efficient way to identify and engage qualified prospects in the early stages of the buying cycle. 

In this video I explain how programmatic has evolved to answer these questions, making it a more compelling proposition for B2B marketers:

Advertising with Confidence

Marketers can only get that confidence from being able to peer into the programmatic black box and see what’s going on. And programmatic buying through LinkedIn puts you in a much better, data-driven position to advertise with relative confidence.

With LinkedIn, advertisers buy into a platform with a members-first philosophy. They feel confident that they will be reaching a highly engaged, professional audience. Four out of five LinkedIn members drive business decisions, so B2B advertisers know they’re reaching an audience that can lead directly to sales. LinkedIn offers a low ad load and high viewability rate compared to other online publishers, and LinkedIn’s login requirements keep bots and click fraud at bay.

One of the key benefits of programmatic is the way it enables you to bring previously unreachable users into your sales cycle. Programmatic buying with LinkedIn takes this a step further. It allows you to more precisely scale while serving niche markets. It’s also a better bet for hitting your key performance indicators.

In short, LinkedIn helps programmatic advertising to deliver more business for your buck

Sharp Climb in Programmatic Use

Here’s a telling trend line: As recently as 2015, programmatic accounted for just 5 percent of digital ad buying. Today, it’s more than 50 percent, and forecasters predict computers will handle about €34.5 billion ($37 billion) in global ad spending by 2019.

With that kind of money at stake, scrutiny over spending is tighter. While machines are getting better than people at spotting and avoiding low viewability in real time, it takes human marketers to parse the high quality leads from those leading nowhere. Figure out where your ad clicks and impressions are coming from and the percentage leading to conversions, then tweak your ad-buying algorithms to focus your ads where they will yield the best results.

Keeping it In-House or Outsourced?

At a certain point, after you’ve done the work to set yourself up for programmatic advertising, you have to decide whether to handle it in-house or farm it out.

When all the programmatic knowledge sits outside your business within an agency, you can’t scrutinise your ROI and make the most informed decisions about whether your investment is really delivering against your objectives.

While bringing programmatic in-house provides that transparency, it comes at a price. There are challenges in hiring the right talent in an area still searching for qualified people, and the onus is on your staff to build relationships with a range of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and publishers operating private auctions, in order to access the audiences that you need.

During a webinar hosted by the programmatic company MediaMath, only 19 percent of attendees said they had the right internal resources to take on programmatic advertising in-house. If your business is part of the majority, be open to hiring a firm specialising in programmatic advertising. 

Data is Meaningless Without a Strategy for Using It

Don’t let this intimidate you, but with all the avenues of data you can access, you might need a data management platform to make sense of it all. These warehouses of raw data vacuum, sort, and spit back data in a way marketers can make sense of.

This is a gift and challenge, because you’ll have to decide which of these data sets mean most to your bottom line and craft a digital marketing plan around that. This strategy is what you—or the data management platform working for you—will feed into programmatic software.

As an alternative, B2B marketers looking to target professional audiences more efficiently can use LinkedIn’s own member-based personas when they buy LinkedIn programmatic ads through the platform’s private marketplace (PMP). This can be particularly effective for building awareness in the early and middle stages of the buying cycle – and you don’t need a DMP or your own in-house capabilities to buy programmatic ads on LinkedIn in this way.

Be Willing to Experiment and Adapt

Programmatic gives you the ability to test everything—what works over desktops vs. tablets vs. smartphones, different audience demographics, approaches to content—all automatically.

Remember, even with programmatic advertising, you’re always testing. A/B testing will help you determine which creative works best for different channels. Cycle through several campaigns to access untapped data streams so you can assess what works and doesn’t.

LinkedIn’s new programmatic buying options are part of our commitment to help you deliver the best possible results. For more info about programmatic ad buying on LinkedIn, download our new ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Programmatic for B2B Marketers.