There have been a lot of discussion around “always-on ” for past few months within the B2B marketing community, and how marketers today need to shift from a “campaign” mindset to an “always-on ” mindset – with “always-on ” taking on more prominent role, I would like to share a few thoughts on building an “always-on ” Media strategy. (I shall remove the quotation mark to highlight it’s coming of age.)
To start off, let me illustrate a common practices when we run a typical B2B campaign for demand generation:
- Webinar campaign: We identify a topic, scouring around for a speaker, and then working with agency on an audience acquisition plan to promote the webinar. The webinar went well with 180 registrants and 120 attendees. Within a day after the webinar, the attendees information are sent over to inside marketing for follow-up and few leads are generated.
- White paper promotion: We published a white paper on an industry topic. To promote the white paper, we create a gated landing page on a microsite and launch a campaign to promote the white paper, using guarantee cost per acquisition. After running for 1 month, 200 people have downloaded the assets and these contacts are follow up by inside marketing – and as usual, few leads are generated.
The above practices are great way for demand generation. But with little hindsight, there are also limitations.
Using webinar as an example, here are a few:
- We can’t scale. We need to repeat the whole process each time we conduct a webinar. Speaker need to schedule, eDM need to draft, and audience need to invite, and we can’t invite the same group of audience, and webinar fatigue usually happened soon after.
- Silent period. In my previous role as Demand Center Lead in China, we had almost 100 webinars per year, which added up to an average of 2–3 webinars per week. But even with this, for each topic – for example, Transportation Management in Supply Chain – we could only conduct at most twice a year. So what happen to rest of the period? So we were potentially missing big chunk of potential buyers out there in the market looking for a transportation management solution during those silent period.
So here come the always-on media – also known as media that will always be in there. One of the most well-known always-on media is owned media: corporate website; managed community; and owned social channels on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are great always-on media. But to promote these channels, it needs to complement with an always-on paid media.
B2B Companies need an always-on presence simply because at this moment, there will always be someone out there, at different buying stage, looking for different solution.
Examples of always-on paid media
In fact, most of the media tactics can be in a form of always-on and doesn’t mean that always-on paid media will always burn a big hole in the budget.
Here are some media tactics that will form part of always-on paid media:
- Paid search – Ads are displayed when someone searches by keyword.
- Ad network through audience buying – Buying based on audience, rather than sites, allow us to drive targeted message in cost effective way.
- Content syndication on third-party site – Whether a special section on a third-party site, or uploading of contents on third-party repository.
- Content amplication – Use of paid content network (e.g., Outbrain) to distribute across media publishers.
- On-demand webinar –Webinars are available 24×7.
- Third-party sponsorship/brand –Whether an out-of-home banner at the junction of busy street, or a year sponsorship program with Forbes, these medias establish the brand awareness and thought-leadership.
Start building an always-on paid media strategy
Here are 5 tips to set you thinking:
- Plan a budget that allow long-term and cross categories. One of the most important aspect to build an always-on paid media, is to have a full-visibility of media budget across category and in long term (a year). However, in large organization, we all know this has been the most difficult part as budget came from different budget owners. Planning an always-on budget require discipline and collaboration across categories.
- Develop a cross-tactics media framework. Ensure key touch points across aforementioned Media tactics are covered.
- Make all assets available. Having all assets available through is like having a buffet spread: Customers can choose from Italian, French, and Chinese cuisine, whenever they want it.
- Target audience. Wrong targeting will lead to “indigestion.” How do we really determine showing the right message to the right audience at the right time? Two key points are keep testing and apply mixed of targeting through keywords, content targeting, audience targeting – which lead us to:
- Optimize like never before. Since your media placements are constantly up there, optimization will be a continuous process. The availability of technology usage allows us to automatic optimization of media performance, in real time. However, that doesn’t mean that we should just “fire and forget”. Constantly checking inbound profiles or registrations captured allow us to validate if we are truly targeting the right audience. And if your objective is demand generation, the pipeline generated says a thousand words.
Is always-on media the holy grail of all paid media? Definitely not. Short burst of media activities are great if we want to create noise in the media space within a period of time, and most suitable if we have specific topic to promote: product launches, events, and more. And there should be a transition of message from a campaign base activity to an always-on media strategy.
As a scout in my youth, one of the key activities I loved was time around the campfire and I would always volunteer myself to start the fire. One thing I learned is that different materials are needed to start a fire, First, start with tinder – such as dried leaves, grasses, and sticks – that catches fire easily, but burns fast. Before the tinder burns out, replace them with something more substantial to keep the flame going. This is where we will use kindling, usually in the form of small twigs or branches. And then finally, go with fuel wood, which is what keeps your fire hot and burning.
This childhood experience can be easily related to media efforts. Tinder and Kindling are campaign-base activities that start the fire. And fuel wood is the always-on media that keeps your brand going.