What Matters Most in B2B Digital Advertising

With so much information available about programmatic advertising, it can be difficult to make sense of what’s what regarding the technology, let alone decide on the best solution for your business. 

In this article, we’ll break down the top 7 things you should look for in a programmatic advertising solution as a B2B marketer. 

  1. Ability to identify who you should target 
  2. Access to the advertising inventory you need
  3. Targeting data that lets you reach your audience and minimize waste 
  4. Control and safety for your brand
  5. Customizable bid prices and rules
  6. Transparent reporting and analytics
  7. Self-serve option for fast launches and even faster optimization

Before we jump in, we’ll get some jargon out of the way. Here are some terms you may want to know as you read this article:

Demand-side platform (DSP). A DSP is where a buyer — an agency or an advertiser — manages digital ads and optimizes the campaign strategy around bidding, data, targeting, conversions, etc. 6sense has developed a custom DSP specifically for B2B advertisers.

Supply-side platform (SSP). An SSP is where sellers (publishers) auction ad space in an automated way. SSPs allow publishers to sell each impression to the highest bidder. 

Ad Exchanges. Much like stock exchanges, ad exchanges facilitate the auction and transaction between supply (sell) and demand (buy). 

Header bidding. Also known as pre-bidding, header bidding is a way for publishers to offer ad space to many SSPs or ad exchanges at the same time. The top exchanges, and therefore major DSPs, all have access to similar inventory today because of the introduction of header bidding.


1. Ability to identify who you should target

With most buying activity done in the Dark Funnel™, marketers need a way to see detailed activity data that can help discern qualified buyers from unqualified buyers. It’s not enough for sales and marketing teams to go after accounts that may be interested; they need to know when they’re prepared to buy.

6sense’s dynamic segmentation continuously surfaces accounts that meet your ICP, are showing intent to buy, and (with our AI-powered predictive models) where they are in their buying journey. Paired with the industry-leading, patented account identification capabilities of our 6signal Graph, you can create hyper-targeted ads for every persona on the buying team, enabling you to get the most out of programmatic display campaigns.

2. Access to the advertising inventory you need

When you go to a site like Forbes, you can see a broad range of ads. Some may be related to products or services you’ve recently researched. Forbes, like many other industry or media sites, is a publisher. They have ad space, or inventory, to sell to advertisers so they can generate revenue. Through a bidding process, one advertiser wins the inventory and their ads are served. 

The platform with access to the most inventory you would want to bid on is the platform that gives you the greatest potential reach. More potential reach means a larger portion of your target audience will be reachable through your advertising.

Nearly every platform today will support traditional banner advertising. However, support for video, mobile, social or native advertising varies more. Confirm the platform you select supports the types of advertising you will run. 

6sense works with the largest ad exchanges, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook for scalable, global reach. 6sense supports a wide range of creative formats, including traditional and HTML5 banners, video, social, and native format ads.

3. Targeting data that lets you reach your audience and minimize waste

B2B targeting is often a series of tradeoffs. 

Do you target a role, like senior marketers, and get companies big and small, many that you can’t sell to today? 

Do you target a list of accounts, but end up with most of your investment going to sales, marketing, and engineering staff when you’re promoting a payroll solution? 

Minimizing waste in B2B advertising requires being able to target both the right companies and the right roles within those companies so you can avoid spending money on people you don’t care about. 

6sense combines both account segment or individual company targeting along with role targeting, ensuring your entire budget goes to your target audience. By minimizing waste, you can spend less on media without sacrificing results.

4. Control and safety for your brand

With header bidding democratizing access to inventory, you might be wondering about brand safety and transparency. You need a solution that gives you control over where you run and that actively monitors inventory, to ensure your ads aren’t displayed alongside content that is inappropriate for your brand.

6sense’s solution for brand safety includes three key elements:

  • We only bid on inventory from the sellers authorized by each site and require default and active content filtration.
  • We use a leading brand safety provider on all campaigns for an additional level of inventory filtering.
  • Our clients can exclude sites or run only a list of sites they provide for the most granular control.

5. Customizable bid prices and rules

One of the benefits of using a DSP is the control it gives you over the cost and delivery of your ads. Using your DSP, you can set your bid high to ensure you reach every possible individual in a small, high-value audience, or, set a lower bid to maximize impressions and reach for your budget across a broader target audience. In addition to the site and audience targeting above, you control day-parting, frequency, type of devices targeted, and more. 

6sense customers set their bidding for every campaign, tailoring them to meet the distinct strategy and objectives for each campaign. 

6. Transparent reporting and analytics

Serving more ads to more people might not generate the results you want. The number of impressions and clickthrough rate (CTR) help you understand how many people are viewing or clicking on your ad, but they don’t give you the full picture of how your campaigns are driving engagement with target accounts. When used as part of your strategy to surround accounts, display ads work effectively to keep your solution or products top of mind with the account and personas most likely to be included in the buying committee. To measure B2B advertising programs, you need account-based campaign metrics like view-through rate (i.e., accounts that engaged with your website after being served ads), accounts with increased engagement, and newly engaged accounts, in addition to traditional advertising metrics. 

6sense’s self-serve reporting includes delivery and performance detail by account, site, creative, and persona, giving you the insight needed to measure ROI and optimize your media investment.

7. Self-serve option for fast launches and even faster optimization

Using a DSP allows you to launch your advertising campaigns quickly, and make the changes needed to optimize performance at any time. Today’s DSPs, while giving you full control, have easy-to-use interfaces. You can launch a new campaign in 15 minutes, or optimize an existing one in less than five.  

Campaigns can be created and optimized directly in the 6sense platform, making it simple and easy to launch and manage all of your advertising campaigns. And we partner with agencies and have an internal campaign operations team that can work with you based on the level of support you need.

The final takeaway

There is a lot to consider when looking for a programmatic advertising solution, and in many ways, it’s even harder for B2B advertisers who have to think about both accounts and people in how they identify audiences, budget, target, and measure results. We understand these challenges, and that’s why we’ve developed a custom DSP to meet the needs of B2B marketers like you.

About the Author

Maureen West

Maureen West is Director of Product Marketing for 6sense. She has been involved in developing launch strategies, defining positioning and messaging, and building Product Marketing teams for B2B SaaS companies for more than a decade.

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