Monday, February 22, 2010

Google, Display Ads, and B2B Marketing

Google just pushed a tiny bit further into their long-stated strategy of making display advertising their next billion dollar business. Former DoubleClick exec Barry Salzman joined the team to bring this vision closer to reality, and it’s expected that we’ll see more movement from Google in this direction over the next year.

What does this strategy mean for B2B marketers? A lot.

As B2B marketers, we love search, both natural, and paid, as it gives us a highly precise way of targeting buyers based on a real-time understanding of their interests. If someone searches for “demand generation”, we can reasonably assume, that at that moment in time, they are quite interested in learning about “demand generation”. Targeting our messages against a profile that accurate makes sense in an environment where we are selling products that are often complex, expensive, and highly considered, to a very narrow audience of business people who are interested.

The Flaw With Search

The problem with this is that it relies on the prospect to "actively" seek information. They need to make the effort to perform a search for a specific piece of information, and when they do, we are able to present them with a message. This works well, but only in situations where they are actively searching for a specific type of information. Outside of that, we have no way to reach them. This means that any messages we would like them to discover more “passively” in order to start them thinking about new areas that their business could be improved, change their perceptions of a certain solution, or highlight an area to consider that they may not have considered, we are unable to get that message in front of them.

This active/passive challenge for marketers is about to move to the fore-front as Google brings its weight into the display search game. With its heavy investments in social media, with the new Buzz platform, and the full Twitter feed, as well as the algorithms to understand these in real time, Google is in an enviable position. This data allows Google to begin to understand who is interested in what at any given moment, and who the influencers are in that particular market.

Intention-Based Advertising

Far more than the loose, mainly demographic-based, targeting that is currently available to marketers in display search, Google will conceivably be able to present display ads based on actual area of interest and intent (acting more in the role of information concierge). Much as we currently target search ads based on the key phrase typed, we may soon be able to target display ads based on key phrases that are not typed – just acted on. As prospective buyers show an interest in investigating a certain area, say by clicking on a link, shared socially, that refers to an article on generating more leads for sales, Google may be able to then show them a display Ad targeted at any interest in “demand generation”.

Right now it is difficult to target prospective B2B buyers “passively”, so much of our marketing efforts are designed around making it easier for prospective buyers to find us when they are actively looking.
This may soon change.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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