B2B Audiences Are People Too

January 22, 2021

Rethinking B2B targeting for 2021

Conventional wisdom suggests that when a brand is looking to build awareness of their product to a Business to Business audience, it needs to stay pretty tight in with the trade media that supports the category. Often, this requires a direct deal with industry trade publications or purchasing subscriber lists from those pubs in order to get as close as possible to key decision-makers. Hand-raisers are identified, and the ABM machine kicks in to carry audiences from Prospect to Lead.

Which generally makes sense, right? If your product or service is only relevant to a very narrow audience within a very specific industry, you need to be as focused as possible.  The thought of tapping into mass media channels for Prospecting efforts is a little bit like using a sledgehammer to sink a finishing nail. You certainly COULD do it, but it would be excessive (and expensive).

This method of media buying doesn’t really take into account the target audience’s perspective, however. The reality is that B2B audiences are still people doing people things. An audiologist doesn’t stop thinking about patient care when she leaves her practice, nor is messaging that specifically addresses a business need any less effective when it is delivered at home vs in the break room.

In 2019, Gartner reported that “at least 80% of B2B buyers expected the same buying experience as B2C consumers.” This belief was only accelerated when 2020 hit and the lines between “home” and “office” blended like never before. Working hours became nebulous at best.

As a part of the fallout from this “new normal,” media consumption skyrocketed on digital platforms like Connected TV, mobile video, streaming audio, smart-speakers, and Twitch. In fact, business publications struggled mightily to even get to their readers because magazines and papers were being sent to unoccupied business addresses.

Thankfully, advanced audience data and platform targeting capabilities have evolved to a place where we can now find B2B audiences wherever they are across the digital ecosystem. Partners like Liveramp enable us to export 1st party CRM data (like email addresses) into our programmatic buying platforms, deployed alongside 3rd party data from Oracle or Visa, as well as category-specific data providers like Healthlink.

What’s more, we are seeing more and more digital inventory being made available for purchase programmatically, accelerating a trend in the industry to move away from prioritizing IO-based deals to meet growing audience demand.

So, what does this all mean?

Simply put, B2B audiences can now be precisely targeted with messaging on historically mass channels, at a fraction of the cost. Wherever they are consuming across the digital landscape, wherever they are consuming it, we can target them — and only them — and serve up messaging. Essentially, we’ve turned mass media into targeted media.

Imagine a TV spot for a medical technology device during an episode of Saturday Night Live on Peacock. Or as a radio spot playing over an Amazon Echo in the kitchen, that is streaming a Billie Eilish station on Pandora. Or a pre-roll video spot before YouTube or Twitch video content.

This can all be done without ever having to sign an expensive IO with a media partner, while also eliminating wasted impressions that are delivered to eyeballs outside of your exact target. While the spend may be more expensive on a per-impression basis, it is far, far less expensive than purchasing all those eyeballs who have no need for your brand.

Let that sink in. We’ve traded a meaty sledgehammer for a precise nail gun.

In fact, the only real reason for an advertiser, B2B or otherwise, to purchase a specific program, channel or piece of content in the digital space, is either vanity or a lack of understanding of this new, better way.

This is, admittedly, a fundamental change in thinking, one that has taken many marketers an awful long time to wrap their heads around.  But the implications to prospecting efforts, B2B or otherwise are massive.

We are finally able to stop categorizing  B2B audiences as decision-makers who only think about work decisions when they are consuming content relevant to their industry. Instead, we can now think of them as humans going about their lives, who just so happen to make business purchases. Our messaging can now organically flow into the media channels that they just so happen to be consuming as they go about their day.

B2B audiences can now be treated just like B2C audiences: Human.

Pretty cool, huh?

Business-to-business is dead.

Long live business-to-human.

Jake Coldren