You should expect more from your programmatic dollars

As an AdOps lifer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the most efficient application of ad spend and which channels to leverage for the best ROI. Now more than ever, having a coherent strategy and the foresight to execute it effectively are critical, but not so different than how we might have applied the lessons of the past decade in a pre-pandemic landscape. While B2C performance marketing will remain largely unchanged (e.g. find the best user at the best time with the best message at the lowest cost CPM), at Metadata we’re seeing a unique opportunity to reevaluate what we know about B2B demand generation and how we use the various channels and strategies to achieve more with less.

Most Users Overlook Programmatic Display–Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

While there’s no one silver bullet in terms of strategy, Metadata has spent the last two years studying, analyzing, and testing what we believe to be the optimal strategy for Programmatic Display. We are excited to work with our client partners on crafting full-funnel solutions that we are confident will bring not only better quality to top of funnel prospects, but also help turn those into qualified leads as we nurture them through the funnel and ultimately, to Closed-Won Opportunities.

By way of a garden analogy, we start with the seeds, or in our case those fledgling prospects that we hope to one day grow into robust fruit that we can harvest repeatedly. I see a not-insignificant number of brand dollars committed to Social channels, specifically Facebook and LinkedIn, with very little attention paid to Display Programmatic. When we approach new clients about this trend, the main feedback we get is 1) a lack of understanding of the capabilities of Programmatic and how to incorporate them into a global B2B strategy, 2) a level of distrust in the medium due to the Programmatic ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of inventory and strategy of the past 5 years, and 3) the inability to divorce low-funnel metrics from what we at Metadata believe to be the true value of the channel – driving low cost, highly engaged users to learn about and interact with the brand. I’ll attempt to address these concerns in this post and in the coming weeks will follow up with Best Practices and some case studies that we hope will provide some guidance on your future ad spend.

Where Most People Go Wrong

I’d like to start with establishing some common mistakes. The most egregious we typically see is failing to understand that Programmatic Display is not where you want to be focusing your low funnel messaging. While we’re able to apply ABM audiences in both channels, not only are match rates much smaller, making that inventory difficult to find and more expensive to target, but the click to conversion rates are consistently about 10x smaller than what we see in a social environment.

Rather, a solid Programmatic strategy should be almost exclusively focused on low cost brand awareness and site engagement. Across all Metadata campaigns of this type, we typically see CPC’s that are 60-70% less than Facebook and LinkedIn ($1-3 vs. $5-10+), often including secondary costs for data, DSP fees, and vendor costs, colloquially referred to as “the ad tech tax.” These lower costs also allow for broader multivariate testing and can refine your mid and lower-funnel social strategies when CPM’s go up and execution against a more refined audience becomes critical.

The second biggest blunder we see in channel is the propensity to run audiences that are limited in scope and focused on limited ABM lists, a trend that we’ve been able to step back from in recent weeks and evaluate in terms of effectiveness. With a top of funnel, broad reach strategy focused on prospecting, we’re able to widen the net and set the stage for brand awareness, affinity, and recall down the road so that those precision target accounts are never stale.

How MetaMatch Can Supercharge Your Programmatic Strategy

As an industry, we’re all stuck in a holding pattern for IP targeting until people begin populating offices with dedicated IPs that allow for us to really hone in on those target companies. Metadata has found a way around this problem through our audience building technology, MetaMatch, which can identify individual users based on title and function at those companies and then export them for cookie-matching and targeting in a display environment. These broad firmographic audiences, when combined with highly relevant messaging and incentives (case studies, white papers, etc.) often see engagement rates 2-3x industry benchmarks from your typical programmatic strategy. What’s more, these are the exact same users we see again in a social environment, which allows for stronger message continuity and greatly increases the chances that not only has a given prospect heard of your brand, but interacted with it at some point, making it that much easier to move them into SQL/MQL buckets.

Now more than ever, following campaign best practices and making the most of increased traffic, lower CPMs, and a near captive audience, are essential for many ad-based businesses if they want to survive dwindling budgets and increased scrutiny for performance. For a more detailed consultation on how to best put your limited resources to use, please reach out to book a demo and check back frequently for more insight on Programmatic creative and targeting strategies. Thanks for reading, and happy selling.

Demandbase + Engagio: ABM Consolidation is Here

The ABM category is consolidating.

Today, Demandbase announced that it’s acquiring Engagio, and it comes as no surprise. As the default leader in ABM, Demandbase looks to innovate and unify its platform, and Engagio is a piece of that puzzle, providing that account-level view that makes Engagio unique.

The recent addition of a seasoned SVP of engineering from Oracle (shout out to Supreet) puts them at “Toyota” status: reliable, popular, and legacy technology.

We should expect more acquisitions in the space, as more incumbents look to become an “all in one” unified platform and roll-up others onto it. See Terminus’ (Ramble, Sigstr) and I expect IVP/6Sense to be active as well.

As new technologies will emerge, some from B2C tech – the need for a central command and control station grows and becomes more vital.

Twelve years ago, Demandbase disrupted the marketing space with a new way for an old paradigm. The goal was to denounce the old way of “lead generation” and look at accounts as “markets of 1”. Solid idea, but with an OK execution – as many problems started to appear.

The primary problem has been the human element – a technology is only as good as its user. You can give the best technology, data, content and creative to a mediocre marketer, and you will get mediocre results. This problem still exists and is the main limitation of account-based marketing as it stands.

The secondary problem is data – ML is only as good as the data behind it. Dozens of data providers with different taxonomies, regions covered and unique attributes made it impossible for the average user to make sense of it all. Thankfully, Zoominfo is leading the charge to become the master database of the B2B targeting landscape.

While ABM consolidates into fewer players, new categories arise. The intersection of AI, Data and RPA (e.g. UiPath & Automation Anywhere) creates a perfect environment for autonomous marketing technologies: platforms that can operate many of today’s mundane and repetitive marketing tasks at a speed and scale that humans simply can’t.

Autonomous execution is the new wave of automation. Instead of relying on the human element as the primary operator of the sales and marketing technologies – AI and experimentation are driving the car, increasing the accuracy and versatility of execution, and freeing up time for the marketer to focus strategic and creative tasks.

It’s the difference between Toyota and Tesla. The future of the marketing technology landscape is autonomous at its very core.

Learn more about Metadata and its place within ABM.

Demand Generation at Scale – Content is King, Distribution is Queen, Syndication is the Ace

If content is king, then thought leadership is the kingmaker

That feeling of limitless possibility and opportunity when you, awesome B2B marketer, get your hands on a new thought leadership content asset. You envision a future and funnel full of quality leads, pipeline, and revenue. Even more exciting, let’s say this new thought leadership asset does an excellent job at educating, differentiating, and agitating the problem your product solves. Adding a ton of tangible take-home value to decision-makers in your target accounts. This content asset checks all of the boxes for generating quality demand and pipeline.

This new content is so good your only motivation is to share it with the world – more specifically, your target audience. Sales will be singing your praises by the end of the quarter. Now the real fun begins. Time to go-to-market!

First-party content distribution channels

Creating and publishing content can feel like a paradox. Writing, packaging, and publishing a long-form thought leadership asset is hard. Really hard. It feels like an ending when it is a new beginning for the business. The goal was never publishing the content asset; it was the opportunity and leverage to generate leads and demand for your product.

Don’t call it a day when you hit publish, create the landing page, add a gated form, or put a link on your website. If content is king, then distribution is queen. And there are a lot more distribution channels under your control that just require a little planning and resources.

Note: Most of the items below assume the content is gated to capture lead info.

  • Email everyone, seriously
    • If the content positions you as a thought leader and adds value, then it is relevant to anyone, across all segments, even closed-lost deals
  • Lifecycle and onboarding emails
  • Share on social media channels
  • Enable Sales to use the asset in prospecting and sales cycles
  • Company-wide email signatures
  • SEO; republish into long-form, multiple page guides with CTAs to “download PDF version”
  • Website and landing pages
    • News banner above the nav
    • Featured content carousel on the homepage
    • Call-to-action on blog posts
    • Request Demo form on the asset Confirmation/Thank You page (try Clearbit Forms here)
    • Feature on your resources page
    • Exit-intent or time-based pop-ups
    • Chatbot conversations

With enough inbound traffic, distribution alone can generate significant demand. Think about Hubspot, Intercom, or Marketo’s content strategies.

The curious case of content syndication and scale

Once you’ve made progress distributing your content across first-party channels, it’s now time to pour gasoline on the fire and increase the reach of your precious new asset. Here is where content syndication comes into the picture. But first, let’s set some context and clarity when we discuss “Content Syndication.”

Content syndication means different things to different groups. Social, PR, and SEO teams think of syndication as a republishing distribution like tactic for awareness, backlinks, etc. B2B marketers think of content syndication as a traditional channel where your content is gated and distributed through relevant third-party sites for lead generation, at a fixed cost.

If we zoom out and take a high-level view of the strategy, content syndication effectively is the distribution of your content to a relevant audience outside of your first-party distribution channels. For B2B marketers, the structure of content syndication comes in the familiar form of targeted Cost-Per-Lead, volume-based advertising. By this definition, almost all modern B2B marketers have done some form of content syndication.

💡If you’re advertising your content assets on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Display, that’s a form of content syndication.

And if you syndicate your content through a network of relevant niche publishers in exchange for leads at $X cost, that is traditionally what B2B marketers think about when we say “Content Syndication.”

Syndication at scale: Social Ads vs. Third-Party Publishers

Quick recap. We have additional clarity around what content syndication is, and it’s various forms, and still really stoked about this new thought leadership asset. Your ICP and Target Accounts have to check this thing out! You’ve run the content through your first-party distribution channels, and it is time to put your money to work for you and scale demand generation using your shiny new asset.

If advertising content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Display, and third-party publisher networks is a form of syndication, then where is the best place to focus your budget and efforts?

Let’s start with some underlying assumptions. Most growing businesses are biased towards short-term results, shorter feedback loops, instant gratification, “what have you done for me lately” sales expectations. Demand generation is a challenging role when performance has a significant lag time, and sales-cycles can be months, and in some enterprise markets, years. This tension can often pull you into playing the game of lead volume, MQLs, and top of funnel vanity metrics. But that’s okay. If you have a clearly defined and aligned Account-Based Marketing and Sales strategy, you can confidently take a leap of faith in generating more volume at the top of the funnel.

For these reasons, scaling demand with thought leadership content on advertising platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Display will give you the fastest Return on Expectations, and your investment vs. traditional third-party publisher content syndication. *This assumes your attribution model is oriented for first-action growth against the Opportunity.

Why Social Ads vs. Third-Party Publishers?

✅ Targeting

✅ Reach

✅ Intent

✅ Readiness

✅ Real-time

Targeting/Reach. You know this already, but the targeting and reach of social ad platforms is unmatched. You can create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences based on your Target Accounts, ICP, and ABM parameters (even on Facebook). They provide insights and targeting capabilities that go beyond Job Titles and Industry.

Intent/Readiness. When a prospect engages with your ad on Facebook or LinkedIn, they’re engaging with your brand, your content, and explicitly filling out the form and “raising their hand.” Warm leads. Sales will love these leads as opposed to third-party syndication leads, which are typically not as warm and are less ready to buy.

Real-time. With the right systems and processes in place, lead-gen forms from LinkedIn and Facebook instantly sync to your Marketing Automation Platform, CRM, and trigger lead scoring and routing. If a senior leader at one of your target accounts converts from a social ad, your lead scoring should be routing that immediately, in “real-time” to Sales to prospect and work. Lead Velocity is Demand’s secret weapon. In the words of one of my favorite sales leaders, “Time kills all deals.”

To help accelerate lead velocity and level-up your ability to scale demand, it is important to have a platform like Metadata. Creating a closed-loop demand engine based on real-time data from your marketing tools (Social Ads, Marketo, Salesforce, Bombora, page visits).

B2B Demand Generation Platform

Patience and the fallacy of Cost-Per-Lead

Now we’re rocking and rolling. You’ve syndicated your thought leadership asset via social ad campaigns and third-party publishers, and all early indicators look good. And if you’re lucky, you have a platform like Metadata in place helping you scale your social campaigns even faster and more intelligently. But, there appears to be a roadblock. The volume is okay, but the Cost-Per-Lead is higher than you’re comfortable with. Do not hit the panic bottom. Be practical, patient, and objective. Let’s look at the data.

📣 PSA. Successful demand generation with any thought leadership asset is contingent on proper lead nurturing, scoring, messaging/positioning, and sales processes. 

Quantitative view. If the goal is to efficiently and quickly generate pipeline, I’m investing further in Option B. Why? Though the lead volume is lower and Cost-Per-Lead is 1.6x higher, downstream performance is much better than Option A and C. Option B is generating a more efficient pipeline (spend to pipeline ratio) in a faster amount of time (avg time to pipeline).

Qualitative view. It’s important to always consider the business objective around growth. If you’re moving upmarket or testing a new segment, you can’t limit the growth of the unknown, by measuring it with the performance benchmarks of the known.

Following these principles for growth will help you maximize the reach of your thought leadership asset and efficacy of your campaigns across Facebook, LinkedIn, Display, and other paid channels. According to the data above, when you put a $1 into Option B (Social Ads), you get $30 in pipeline. There’s a path to 2x, even 3x your budget for Social Ad Syndication. I can hear the sweet acapella sounds of Sales singing your praises now. But how long will that last and how much do you have to spend? Content has a shelf life, even in B2B. Content fatigue is real. Especially on social platforms, when prospects are checking their feeds several times a day. If a prospect didn’t convert and download the asset the 10th time they saw the ad, they’re unlikely to do it the 100th time either. Building a diversified channel mix based on stage and age of content assets will help extend the shelf life and solve for single-channel fatigue.

Extend the shelf life of your thought leadership content

Once you’ve reached scale with your social ad campaigns, it’s time to start thinking about the shelf life of your content, and ways to extend it. With any great thought leadership content, you want to squeeze every bit of pipeline you can get out of it before fatigue sets in with your audience. As you’re starting to see content fatigue in your other channels, this is where syndicating content via third-party publishers is a viable option to keep this thought leadership demand train rolling.

Third-party content syndication can occasionally get a bad rap. This is almost always due to poor execution in the lead nurturing, scoring, and sales and marketing alignment. There are several benefits to syndicating content via third-party publishers. You can acquire a large volume of leads that fit your ICP, are in your Target Accounts, at a fixed cost. With proper alignment and execution, third-party content syndication is a proven and predictable lead generation channel for B2B. It not only guarantees a certain number of leads at a specific price, but it also extends the life of your content assets. Third-party syndication is an opportunity to add an additional touchpoint for prospects in your target accounts that may not have responded in the other channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Display. A few B2B content syndication networks I would recommend checking out – Integrate, PureB2B, and Technology Advice.

Conclusion

We all know that content is king, but in B2B, thought leadership is the kingmaker. You should aspire to create a once in a career thought leadership asset for your product. Content so good, you have to share it with your audience. Great content is the fuel for growth, but also your inspiration, your muse. Achieving scale with thought leadership content can be achieved by distributing it through the first-party channels you control, and syndication across social ad campaigns and third-party publisher networks. Bringing your content to market is a marathon; it is not a sprint. Be patient and objective. Deeply understand the quantitative and qualitative goals and their impact on the business. And don’t let Cost-Per-Lead make you uncomfortable. Embrace it. Remember, you’re a badass B2B marketer, and your job is to generate revenue, not just leads.

What is an Autonomous Demand Gen Platform and how does it differ from ABM Platforms?

Most B2B marketers have made the transition from traditional campaigns to an account-based marketing (ABM) approach, with varying degrees of success. While ABM, as an approach, is as old as businesses selling to businesses, it’s only over the last several years that software vendors have built platforms to help marketers deliver an end-to-end ABM program.

Unfortunately, most of the original ABM platforms focused on engagement and other vanity metrics, with the assumption that engagement ultimately leads to won deals. Most marketers using those platforms are now realizing that account engagement doesn’t usually have a direct line to revenue, and are looking for the answers to help them build pipeline and close revenue.

Traditional ABM Approach

As a quick level-set, when we say account-based marketing, this is what we’re talking about:

  1. Identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) and understand your total addressable market (TAM)
  2. Develop a target account list that includes companies within your ICP, that have some other attributes that makes them more likely to buy (i.e. use your competitor’s product)
  3. Prioritize and tier the target account list into cohorts you can personalize experiences to
  4. Develop the unique content and experiences to pull each cohort through the buyer’s journey
  5. Leverage multiple channels to deliver the personalized experiences (i.e. digital, email, events) and engage target accounts
  6. Test, learn and optimize to what works

So what’s missing? Step 5 gets you to account engagement and then step 6 optimizes to that engagement. But what about demand, pipeline, and ROI? This is exactly where traditional ABM platforms are missing half of the picture, there’s no attribution to the results we all care the most about.

You Want Engagement AND Demand

Metadata’s founder is a marketer by trade, and wanted to solve the problems they were having executing successful ABM campaigns (i.e. buying and joining B2B targeting data, onboarding audiences, testing creative / content / channels, enriching leads). So he built the first Autonomous Demand Generation Platform.

But what are the differences between an ABM Platform and a Demand Generation Platform?

The standout features of an Autonomous Demand Generation Platform are:

  1. Focus on generating high-quality leads from target accounts that turn into triggered and influenced pipeline, not just engagement.
  2. Combines business and personal data (intent, firmographic, technographic, demographic) to build audiences in marketplaces with high match rates.
  3. Automatically runs self-optimizing ad and email campaigns at scale that engage target accounts and create and harvest demand for your product.
  4. Fully enriches all inbound leads with company and professional information, using multiple proven data sources.
  5. Provides reporting that is focused on the return on investment of your marketing campaigns: showing the total amount of spend, and the total amount of resulting pipeline and demand.

Customers Tell Us This Is A New Category

While we do still compete with traditional ABM platforms, for companies who have experience with platforms like Demandbase and Terminus, moving over to Metadata represents a transition to realizing and proving demand and pipeline from their marketing investments. For companies who use platforms like Engagio, they’ll often use Metadata as a complimentary platform to dramatically improve the efficiency of their ABM campaigns. In fact, Engagio themselves use Metadata in that very way.

“We were never able to directly prove that our Terminus campaigns were resulting in increased revenue. Once we switched to Metadata, we realized what we were missing all along!”
Mike Smith, Head of Demand Gen, Pluralsight

“Using metadata.io + Engagio, we were able to increase conversions at our target accounts by 237% within the first month of going live. Now, it’s the most predictable way to drive demand at my target accounts.”
Brandon Redlinger, Head of Growth, Engagio

Standout Features of a Demand Gen Platform

Feature Comparison