The B2B Native Advertising Challenge: Can You Tell, Not Sell?

It’s easy to understand the buzz around native advertising today. Combine the compelling performance data about native advertising with the list of major media companies feeding native ads and you have to be thinking, “We gotta do some of that.”

Native advertising, however, is a slightly different Ad Men animal, especially when placed with B2B online publications. Generally defined as a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form of the user experience in which it is placed, native advertising messaging is expected to be light on the sale pitch, heavy on, well, anything but.

At some B2B publications, “Tell, don’t sell!” isn’t a guideline; it’s a mandate. While eager to get the increased revenue native advertising represents, B2B publishers do worry about losing the trust of their readers by promoting links to “almost-editorial” that turns out to be a blatant sales pitch.

Editorial Integrity in Advertising? Really?

“We’re careful about working with our clients to align their native advertising content with our overall editorial mission,” said Joe Carbonara, Editorial Director at Zoomba Group, publisher of two food-services industry magazines.

“We prefer that advertisers get past the hype and deliver content that has good informational value for our readers”

The title of a recent webinar – The Rise of Native Content: How to Make it Work For Your B2B Publications Without Sacrificing Your Ethics – expresses the conundrum for B2B publishers.

“For us, so much of the success of our native advertising and content marketing lies in the relevance of the topic to our audience,” said Kayley Bogdan, Project Manager, Custom Marketing Solutions, CSP Business Media.

“We look for content that’s educational and informational on an industry level … something that goes beyond a statement of product features” 

To help advertisers craft native ads that are more aligned with their editorial standards, some B2B publications offer native ad production services. Apparently, they’re getting the job done for both the publication and advertisers. Data from an ongoing survey suggests that the ads outperform advertiser-provided materials, said Matt Kinsman, Head of Content and Programming at American Business Media.

Crafting Your Campaign

If you’re  planning a native ad campaign, here are some things to consider:

  • Clearly define the goals of your native advertising campaign

Native ads fit neatly into the earliest stages of the buyer journey. Provoking a new way of thinking or evangelizing a new concept or business process is an excellent way to set the stage for future marketing activities.

  • Find out what your customers may already be asking

Research what your customers and competitors have to say. This information will help you craft more customer-centric information. On a practical level, it will also help you discover the key words and search terms buyers used to search for more information.

  • Craft content that prioritizes customer concerns or interests

Use your native ad to initiate or join a conversation about your selected topic. Provide useful content to establish your company as a reliable source of information. Most of all, resist the temptation to talk about your products and services. If you engage customers in a meaningful way with your native ad, there will plenty of opportunities to talk about products and services down the road.

  • Create calls-to-action that continue the conversation

Keep listening and learning by encouraging customers to comment on your native ad content. Use the information they provide to make your messages even more customer centric. Share them in blogs and through other communication channels to enhance your company’s profile as a thought leader.

What’s your experience?

We’re very interested in learning more about the ways content marketers are taking advantage of native advertising. Please let us know what you’ve been doing via Twitter using #C4DNAC – we look forward to hearing from you!


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