Branding & Positioning

Take Advantage of Native Advertising as a B2B

I was doing some research for my forthcoming book, Pivotal Conversations, and I stumbled upon something I believed to be an article resulting from my search.  After clicking on the “Read More!” link, I was immediately connected to a sales company’s website promoting their newest offering.

What happened to me?  Native advertising happened.  Native advertising is making a big splash.  According to a study by IPG, buyers’ eyes are drawn to native advertisements 52% more than banner ads, and the ratio of native ads noticed to banner ads was 4 to 1!  Those are some pretty rosy numbers there.

This reality and my experience got me thinking:  what are the good ways and bad ways to go about engaging in native advertising?   Because I’ll be honest, I felt a little “taken” by the sales company — something about the whole experience seemed dishonest to me.  Specifically, what does great B2B native advertising look like?  How do we — as B2Bs — jump in on the action to the benefit of our potential customers?

But first, a definition:

Since it’s a fairly new term (about a year old), you might ask, “Exactly what is native advertising?”  As with most marketing and business terms, there are quite a few definitions floating about.

  • Wikipedia compares it to an advertorial and suggests that it draws attention to itself through content.
  • Adweek suggests that it can be akin to sponsored or branded content.
  • study by the IPG media lab defines a native ad by its placement and context — the native ad being integrated into the content in some way as opposed to a banner ad off to the side.

Whatever the definition, do you see the common denominator?  Content.  So for our purposes today, let’s define native advertising as advertising that is attached in some way to content (and not an intrusive form like a banner ad or a television spot).

So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the good and bad ways of using native advertising as a B2B.

The Good Way


Every salesperson worth his salt is going to tell you that effective interaction is cornerstone of a sale — especially as a B2B.  Advertising wrapped up in content adds that interaction dimension. Traditional advertising is often two-dimensional and can be easily discarded. But when the client’s attention is drawn in — not by big flashy words and a stock photo — but by something that is relevant to them, half of your battle is already won. They’ve already invested themselves in the content and your advertisement is right there with it.


Tying right in with interaction, a well-constructed native ad is going to relate to your customers and their needs.  A traditional ad can often be impersonal, but native advertising gives you the opportunity to speak into the customers’ lives.  With the content wrapped around your ad, native advertising does just that.  It’s not all about your product — it’s about their needs.

The Bad Way


To do it correctly, you really need to scale your native advertising.  In their conversation with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Adweek pointed out that, “In the long run, with online services becoming more global and attracting more users, small-figure native ad campaigns just won’t make much sense.”   Realistically speaking, these ads are going to cost a pretty penny.  If you don’t have the money right now, then it’s probably not the option for you.  In an even broader sense, if the publishing community doesn’t build up some standards and methods of scale, then native advertising might become too expensive, especially for smaller businesses. Make sure your ad is worth the money.


Adam Kleinberg, an author and writer for AdAge Digitaldescribes some of the ways that native advertising can go wrong. If you create compelling content but the customer doesn’t see your business as relevant to it, then you have only succeeded in compelling them away from you. If you get too sneaky with your ads, customers can see you as dishonest, as in my own experience.  Be careful and be trustworthy!


There is a bevy of advice out there on how best to build and run a native ad (more than there is about what native advertising is!). But here’s a few recommendations on how best to develop a successful native advertisement as a B2B:


Learn from those who have tried before. There have been some very successful native ad campaigns and some very unsuccessful ones. Do a bit of research — and don’t discount the lessons of business-to-consumer campaigns either. Business are run by people, and we all use the internet (even at work).


Where are your customers doing their reading and research? A blog (much like this one!) might be a good idea, but explore. What are some other options to grab the eye your target businesses?


So you’ve got your platform – what do you put there? As a B2B, you’re already fairly content-driven with reports, white papers, and demos but are if these don’t fit well, consider developing new, customized content to better align with what you provide and where you’re advertising.

Does your business have a B2B native advertising strategy?  Why or why not?

What are some of the other recommendations you might offer a B2B developing a native ad campaign?

What has been your personal experiences with native advertising?

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