Commentary

Dow Jones Data Identifies B2B Content-Targeting Strategy

Triggers — those moments that prompt business-to-business (B2B) marketers to choose a new ad-tech provider or piece of software — can occur at any point in time prompted by internal or external circumstances.

The complete journey can take from six weeks up to seven months.

Three job functions or departments are typically involved in the decision, with IT and technology the most frequent, followed by senior leadership roles in c-suites, risk management, and finance.

On average, organizations only consider between two and four potential providers -- even from the initial research stage, according to David Minkin, general manager of The Exchange at Dow Jones. “These businesses go through this every one to three years,” he said. “If you are not the winning vendor in a specific search, you don’t need to wait that long because it happens frequently.”

The data comes from research released last week at Advertising Week. It focuses on the key moments for businesses when making purchase decisions like software from SAP or Oracle.

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Dow Jones’ WSJ Intelligence, in collaboration with B2B International, fielded the study -- Trust Your Decisions -- in May and June 2021.

It looks at the impact of emotions and media exposure. Based on the survey data of 1,600 decision makers at companies generating annual revenue of more than $250 million, Dow Jones created several ad-tech products that combines first-party targeting and data publishing tools.

One of the more interesting findings focuses on triggers.

The study calls it “the basic anatomy of the B2B decision journeys.”

The analysis also considers the time taken in each of the three examined phases, the key job roles and functions involved in the decision journey, and the number of potential providers considered at each stage.

The most common trigger to search for a new provider across all regions and categories was the company’s internal growth plans, either through expansion, relocation, or entering a new market.

Other top triggers include industry changes either from competitor activity or other disruptions, or internal financial triggers, such as budget surpluses or reallocations. While the expiration of an existing vendor’s contract was cited by close to one-third of respondents globally, it was not the number-one trigger in any region or purchase category.

Decision-makers cite case studies, videos, and thought leadership research as the most highly valued types of content to inform their decisions, with advertising and marketing messages also seen as important at each stage.

“We have an understanding of the type of content people read,” he said. “If we see someone consumes content around risk management, which is targetable in Thematic, we know this could be a company in the midst of a B2B decision search.”  

In fact, 68% of survey participants said content about brands is more trustworthy in business news and trade media than from a brand’s website, and 73% said it’s reassuring to keep seeing and learning about a brand while going through the buying journey.

The media channels preferred by B2B decision-makers include brand websites, business news and trade media outlets, as well as social media platforms and discussions with brand sales representatives. Interesting to note is that networking at a trade show is as appealing to decision-makers as presentations at such events.

Trust and confidence are enhanced by ongoing media and marketing exposure. Feelings of trust in particular, can be strengthened by brand exposure in business news and trade media.

Minkin said the publisher launches several new tools based on the data for its Thematic ad-tech contextual ad-targeting tool originally launched in 2019.

There are now 65 themes like finance technology, AI automation and cyber security that companies can use to target advertising at a specific moment during the decision-making process. It works with Factiva, another Dow Jones product that analyzes thousands of pieces of content daily and tags them using artificial intelligence.

For example, a reporter for WSJ Barron’s submits a news story for publication. AI automatically applies the DJID codes, and Dow Jones uses its ad server to serve advertisements based on the codes.

“It’s been very successful in the past to drive up click-through rates,” Minkin said. “We found that because this product runs on a trust-your-decision type of research, we can use Thematic to help advertisers reach decision-makers at trigger moments.”

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