Text Link Content Ads Aren’t Just for Reaching Consumers

In last week’s column, I talked about one of the clever ways Web publishers are helping advertisers engage their target audiences by incorporating content into their ad placements. Great news for business-to-consumer (B2C) players, you may say, but what about advertisers in the business-to-business (B2B) arena? If you sell packaged goods, locating placements from an Olympic-sized pool of possibilities is easy. What’s the recipe for success if your product is networking systems or computer software?

If you’re a marketing manager for a B2B tech company, you’d probably really like to know the answer to this question. Tech advertisers know that, just as consumers conduct personal research online, the people they’re trying to reach — IT programmers and decision makers with buying power — respond to useful product content. These people are responsible for buying goods on their companies’ behalf, which has them aggressively seeking out in-depth product information.

It’s a qualified audience with the intent to make a purchase, and these folks are all over the Internet. The trick is finding a way to expose them to that content, thereby generating sales.

In the B2B arena, placements that subtly incorporate an advertiser’s content while remaining results oriented have always been pretty hard to come by. Advertisers targeting consumers have access to dozens of such placements, from customized home pages to the keyword-driven text links offered by Epicurious. However, B2B advertisers are usually stuck with vanilla ad formats and pedestrian marketing methods, available from only a handful of reputable networks and sites. I experienced this firsthand two years ago when planning a campaign for an industry leader in the field of security and privacy software. A combination of skyscraper placements and newsletter sponsorships generated significant lead volume but offered little opportunity for the advertiser to truly represent his company and all it had to offer.

Had I been planning that same campaign today, I would have been surprised to find a B2B network that could offer a content-rich placement comparable to what I had seen on the consumer side. But as I recently discovered, these opportunities do indeed exist.

A B2B ad network aptly called B2BWorks encourages its advertisers to make good use of existing site content by offering two types of “dynamically targeted creative,” the WindowShade and the ProcurePanel. Both allow vendors to highlight different areas of their business within a single banner ad. Similar in style to Point·Roll ads, the banners expand to reveal company and product information when rolled over by a user. These placements give advertisers the rare opportunity to promote some of their most impressive site content alongside the practical product information users are looking for — without having to pay for the creation of additional ads.

A few months ago, CPM Media’s TechWeb, a B2B network catering to IT decision makers, announced the introduction of a text link advertising program similar in concept to those keyword-driven text links on Epicurious. Tech vendors can choose from among 25 “granular technology content categories,” and within the appropriate category post targeted text links leading to numerous sections within their own sites.

The increased size of Interactive Advertising Bureau-endorsed ad placements and their proliferation throughout the Internet also facilitate tech advertisers’ desires to get more information in front of their target audiences. Bigger ads, many of them in Macromedia Flash format, give advertisers space to provide multiple layers of information and click-through opportunities, allowing them to tell more of their stories in their ads. Often, an ad will contain tabs across its top or side, so viewers can click around and obtain the information they’re seeking.

The major advantage of content-minded placements is they allow advertisers considerable flexibility. They give vendors the freedom to promote any type of content in which their target audience might be interested, whether it be an upcoming online seminar or a free online white paper. Advertisers can provide numerous links, casting a much larger net over potential customers.

Where driving qualified site traffic is concerned, I’m tempted to say media buyers can expect great success when incorporating content into B2B text links and targeted banners. These placements drive site visitors directly to the type of business-related content they would find useful and informative and give advertisers the opportunity to exploit existing site content that may normally get little (if any) outside traffic.

Additionally, let’s not forget the branding effects these placements can have when located in a targeted network category. Creating a user association between a specific business field and the advertiser who wants to promote its existence as a player in that arena is worth a fortune in online advertising dollars.

So what’s the recipe for success in the field of B2B? Seek out placements that employ advertiser content, match your business to the appropriate site category, and encourage your target market to come to you.

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