2020 has taken a turn none of us expected. For us B2B marketers who rely heavily on in-person interactions to connect with clients and drive lead generation, the cancellation of big events and conferences means not only a loss of financial investments but also a longer-lasting loss of potential leads we had hoped to generate via in-person engagements.

As in-person engagements are paused, digital advertising is one way to continue to promote our brands and keep business running as close to normal as we can.

But "digital advertising" is a huge category that includes many channels. How do you know which channel or channels to use to reach your customers?

Because of the relative simplicity of setting up a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign in Google Ads, many marketers with smaller advertising budgets start with paid search as the first channel to target. No creative assets or media buyers are required, and no fancy technology to learn or understand; instead, you can focus on keywords.

Programmatic advertising, on the other hand, can appear a bit more daunting to B2B marketers, especially when your focus is on driving leads. Considering the complexity of the programmatic landscape and its various technologies, some marketers may choose to simply ignore this channel altogether.

And yet, programmatic doesn't have to be complicated. If you keep your end goal in mind (driving more leads, acquiring more customers, growing revenue), programmatic offers almost unlimited scale for campaigns of any size that PPC sometimes can't offer.

Here are five strategies to help you tackle programmatic advertising.

1. Cast a wide net

If you're looking for more new customers and don't have a ton of visitors to your existing site or a lot of users searching for keywords you're targeting via search, the first step is getting more site visitors.

This is where programmatic display advertising comes in handy, because it offers scale that paid search campaigns can't, and at a better price point.

So, rather than trying to target an audience of "Marketers in the Financial Industry at the VP Level and Above in Chicago and New York," take a step back. Try focusing on marketing titles in general to start. By casting a wide net with display, and then adjusting and refining your targeting parameters as time goes on, you can optimize performance and learn more about your next best customer. Because they may not fall into the same exact audience segment you thought they did when your campaign began.

2. Use contextual targeting

If you have already identified your best-performing keywords from your search campaigns, you can use this same keyword list to add contextual targeting to your programmatic campaign.

For example, if "financial software" is what a lot of people are searching for and driving people to your site, you could create a similar contextual segment to target with display advertising to reach a potentially interested audience across channels. That would mean your ads would show alongside financial content that is most interesting to this target audience.

The most interesting part of this is that contextual targeting can reach the audience across a vast network of sites—not just financial websites—as long as there is financial content appearing on those other sites.

3. Don't forget brand safety

Considering the state of the news recently, brand safety is likely a concern. And there is definitely a way to address this issue, especially in relation to contextual targeting.

Talk to your ad-tech partner to add a white list or black list to include or exclude specific sites you may or may not want your ads appearing on. Doing that allows you to take control of where your ads appear. It may increase the CPMs you are paying, but it's probably an investment you'd want to make.

4. Bring them back

Once you have brought all those new visitors to your site, it's time to introduce cross-platform retargeting.

For example, if you are running a paid search campaign for your product and only 13% of this paid search traffic becomes a paying customer, that leaves another 87% of the audience you already paid for who abandoned the site without ever converting.

Increasing spending on brand awareness tactics (which is what programmatic display is known for) well in advance of a specific promotion or campaign will give you larger retargeting and lookalike prospecting pools at your disposal when you are ready to pull the trigger. Once they have visited your site, you can use retargeting to show them a new series of messages in hopes of bringing them back to continue further down the sales funnel.

Our specific retargeting tactics can be simple or sophisticated, but the bottom line is that they will help keep the conversation going with the visitors most likely to convert down the road.

5. Know when to sell and when to help

Throughout the customer journey, there are times when customers need your sales team to just answer a question; and there are other times when they are just looking for strategy, advice, or ideas. Many companies see every single interaction as a sales opportunity, but that's simply not the case.

You can use educational materials, webinars, and gated content to gather leads, and promote those materials programmatically to increase visibility. This is the heart of the inbound B2B marketing strategy at my company (AUDIENCEX), and promoting our content with programmatic display and native has led to a 600% increase in leads for us.

But we have to keep in mind that sometimes people are just looking for tips—and don't want get barraged by a sales rep as soon as they download something from our site.

* * *

If you're looking to grow your base of customers, programmatic offers a massive amount of scale to reach your target audience across screens and channels.

If you already rely heavily on paid search for a large part of your advertising, consider adding display, using some of these targeting strategies to increase the efficiency of your campaigns and decrease your cost per acquisition.

To get started with programmatic, you have the option of going directly to a demand-side platform (DSP) or finding a managed media services provider to handle the media buying for you. Whichever route you choose, make sure your team has a targeted strategy in place to make it work for you.

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image of Michel Benjamin

Michel Benjamin is a B2B digital marketer and the director of marketing at AUDIENCEX, an independent programmatic trading desk in Marina del Rey, CA.

LinkedIn: Michel Benjamin