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Win Over Decision Makers With Smart Native Advertising

Native advertising is one of the fastest-growing tactics in the advertising industry — on track to hit $10.7 billion in 2015 and $21 billion by 2018.

While only 34 percent of B2B marketers took advantage of this paid advertising strategy in 2015, savvy brands like General Electric have planted a flag for B2B marketers by creating compelling, audience-appropriate native content.

GE has won numerous awards for its native advertising efforts, including GE Look Ahead — its sponsored blog on The Economist that discusses how innovation is transforming global business. In addition to the blog, the brand has created a segment on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and embraced in-stream advertising on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Information is a powerful tool for attracting decision makers’ attention — especially when it’s presented by a brand. But to succeed the way GE has, you must choose the perfect platform to tell your brand’s story and customize your approach to each environment.

6 Types of Native Ads You Should Know About

Native ads are unique because they are advertisements specifically created to organically fit within content, providing a much less disruptive advertising experience than other types of ads. Native ads can be found right alongside editorial or user-generated content on websites, news publications, social networks, and search engines. Due to the range of platforms they appear on, native ads can take a variety of shapes, sizes, and formats. 

To ensure your ad is reaching the correct audience — and that you’re maximizing your marketing dollars — it’s important to understand your native advertising options.

1. Search ads: Native search ads appear alongside organic search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Search ads are used to help improve your brand’s SEO and reach customers in the consideration stage of their purchase journey. Even if your brand already ranks high in search results for key terms, it’s better to have a presence at every possible touchpoint so you don’t miss an opportunity to connect with potential customers.

2. Social media ads: Like search ads, native social media ads are created to resemble organic posts or tweets that appear in users’ feeds on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media is often underutilized in B2B marketing, but it can be extremely worthwhile due to the enormous influence word of mouth has on B2B purchases. Plus, turning customers into brand advocates with engaging social content is priceless.

3. Promoted listings: E-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay display native ads for products that shoppers may like, alongside recommendations provided by their algorithms. If your product is available on e-commerce platforms, promoted listings can be a good way to get your offering in front of more people — just make sure you set the targeting for all campaigns and readjust as needed. 

4. Native video ads: Contrary to popular belief, native ads aren’t limited to copy and images; they can also appear in video format. A great example is “Suitemates,” a comedy series created by supply management firm Kinaxis with the tagline “the comedy series BigERP doesn’t want you to watch.” The show is about two businessmen who are sent to jail because of a shady corporate merger. It’s a perfect fit for the Kinaxis brand, which is working to distinguish itself from other “big ERP” firms on the market. 

5. Native ad units: Native news ads are great for reaching a large but highly targeted audience. These ads appear beside, underneath, or within an article on a website your audience is already interested in. They’re often the most effective form of native advertising because they appear organically within published content, and they can be more cost-effective than outbound marketing for driving quality leads. 

6. Advertorials: Advertorials are designed to look like written editorial content. They’re created with the purpose of entertaining or educating customers while fostering brand recognition and affinity. These types of ads can appear in print or online as articles, infographics, etc. Advertorials are another way to help target audience members with a challenge they might be facing, to foster trust, and to build credibility as an expert.

How to Win Over B2B Customers With Native Ads 

No matter which native advertising format you choose, your ads should engage decision makers in the educational process and transform them into more qualified leads. Here are a few best practices to help you create engaging ads that resonate with your ideal customers:

 Break down your target audience. One advantage of native advertising is that it allows you to break down your larger audience into smaller, hypertargeted segments by demographic, location, intent, or platform. Some ad networks even give you the option of using your own customer data. Put your research to use, and be as specific as possible to target each customer segment with the perfect ad.

Experiment freely, but track everything. What works in print or on TV won’t necessarily work for native advertising, so stay open to trying different copy and images. Experiment to see what works best, and use your ad network as a resource for ideas. Make sure that you track all the tactics you try so you don’t accidentally duplicate your efforts (or mistakes).

Work with an ad network that uses proper disclosure. B2B customers are extremely savvy, so you must be honest with your ads to maintain their trust. Tricking readers into clicking on your ads will only alienate potential customers. To avoid this credibility kiss of death, always work with a network that positions your ad as an ad. People will click on it if they’re interested, which results in more qualified leads and helps you stretch your ad dollars further.

B2B customers can be very discerning, but they’re also pressed for time. They won’t appreciate a brand that tries to trick them into clicking on something that doesn’t interest them. If you create native ads that are honest, helpful, and informative, you’ll be one step closer to attracting their interest and gaining their trust. You just need to pick the perfect platform to reach your ideal customers and let your offering speak for itself. 

Ash Nashed, founder and CEO of Adiant, the parent company of Adblade and IndustryBrains, has been working in native advertising since 2008. He’s a recognized pioneer in the online health information industry who launched one of the first medical websites in 1994. Nashed co-founded TheHealthCentralNetwork in 1999, which grew into the second largest online health information network in the U.S., and sold the company in 2005 to a group of blue-chip investment firms. He also founded DealOn/Offerex, a daily deal exchange, which he sold to ReachLocal in 2011.