Unlocking Programmatic Performance with Supply Path Optimisation (SPO) for B2B Marketers

Today we’re diving into the topic of Supply Path Optimisation (SPO) and how it pertains to a B2B marketer. We’re looking at the concept of SPO, why its especially relevant to B2B and what we have done here at FunnelFuel to optimise the supply chain which we connect our proprietary B2B DSP into. Nailing the right supply chain is critical to our success running best-in-class managed service B2B campaigns globally, and we have built up a knowledge base over the years, not least through the trial by fire of optimising a £300,000 PCM AWS bill whilst trying to find the right B2B audiences.

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In the ever-evolving world of programmatic buying, supply path optimisation (SPO) is often presented as the ultimate solution for B2B marketers aiming to maximise their advertising investments. The concept revolves around carefully selecting supply-side platforms (SSPs), publishers, exchanges, and buying models to build a highly productive, effective, and sustainable supply chain. While SPO promises remarkable benefits, recent studies, such as the ANA study, have shed light on numerous challenges faced by even the largest advertisers whilst implementing SPO strategies. In this blog post, we will delve deep into the world of SPO, offering valuable insights and tips for B2B marketers looking to optimise their supply chains and achieve exceptional results.

Why is SPO (arguably) more important for B2B marketers then other category of programmatic advertising?

As someone who has spent the last decade (+) building advertising technology, firstly focussed on broad sectors including the major B2C areas, and more latterly for the last 5 years focussed on B2B, I believe that B2B is much more challenging from a programmatic supply chain, DSP capabilities, measurement, attribution and in almost every sense represents a greater challenge then building technology focussed on the B2C world. I believe the nuances that make B2B and SPO more pertinent breakdown into 4 key areas

  1. Precision and Contextual Awareness: Unlike B2C advertising, B2B campaigns often target niche industries, specific job roles, and decision-makers within organisations. B2B advertisers need to deliver their message to the right audience at the right time, with precision and contextual relevance. SPO enables advertisers to curate their supply chain, ensuring that their ads reach the most relevant publishers, exchanges, and SSPs. By optimising the supply path, B2B marketers can establish a direct connection with their target audience, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.A supply chain which maximises biddable impressions coming from definitively B2B media is critical and negates one which is focussed on a pure audience play. We have had clients come to us having worked with ‘B2B focussed DSPs’ who were literally serving audience ads into colouring in apps and chasing cheap CPCs. This sector really does need sector expertise.
  2. Organisation-Specific (ABM) Data Requirements: B2B advertisers heavily rely on organisation-specific data to drive their marketing strategies effectively. They need access to accurate and reliable data to understand their audience, refine targeting, and personalise their messages. Here at FunnelFuel, we have a huge database of global company data, with individual decision making data sat behind it, and it’s critical that we shape our bidstream to ensure that the maximum number of biddable impressions are surfaced from named accounts in premium environments. SPO allows B2B advertisers to strategically select partners who can provide the necessary data insights and integrations. By focusing on a well-curated supply chain, B2B marketers can align their data requirements with partners who have the capabilities to deliver precise targeting and customisation, maximising the impact of their campaigns.
  3. Minimising Costly RTB Bidstream: Real-time bidding (RTB) bidstream data is valuable but can come at a significant cost, particularly for B2B advertisers with niche target markets. Since header bidding blew up the duplicative volumes of data flowing through open market place pipes, and in a heartbeat the SPO need was born, this has been a major challenge for all bidders – but even more so for B2B or other niche DSPs. B2B campaigns often require greater precision and contextual understanding, making the bidstream expenses disproportionately high. Without SPO, a B2B bidder is going to end up listening to huge volumes of often highly irrelevant advertising canvases for their clients needs, and doing so raises costs and heightens the odds of ads getting delivered into irrelevant B2B environments. Through SPO, B2B advertisers can implement curation models that enable them to minimise their DSPs’ cost base while maintaining an optimised supply chain. By strategically selecting partners, negotiating favourable agreements, and leveraging data-driven insights, B2B advertisers can optimise their investments, achieving better cost-efficiency without compromising performance. It should also be noted that these huge [in terms of volume of duplicative data] is a huge part of why there is so much adtech tax, with clients picking up the tabs for adtechs disproportionately bid cloud hosting bills. We have been there before, and with even a relatively modest bidstream you can end up with a £250,000+ PCM AWS bill. That takes some covering on a 10% bid reduction of a CPM that often clears at <£3.
  4. Maximising ROI and Performance: For B2B advertisers, the ultimate goal is to achieve a high return on investment (ROI) and drive performance-driven outcomes as they target decision making teams within target accounts. By implementing SPO, B2B marketers can ensure that their ads are delivered through the most efficient and effective channels. The optimisation of the supply chain enables them to reach the right audiences, maximise visibility, and generate high-quality leads. Additionally, by reducing unnecessary intermediaries and focusing on key partners, B2B advertisers can improve transparency, accountability, and overall campaign performance.

What did we learn whilst building FunnelFuel’s bidstream?

Tip 1: Gain In-Depth Knowledge of Your Working Relationships To kickstart your SPO strategy, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of your investments and their outcomes. Take the time to analyse and assess your spending patterns across various publishers, exchanges, and SSPs or managed service partners. Identify your top spending entities and evaluate their performance. Collaborate with agencies to access detailed reports and information, ensuring you have a clear picture of what is working and what isn’t. By leveraging data-driven insights, you can make informed decisions before implementing any tactical optimisations.

Tip 2: Deepen Relationships with Publishers, Exchanges, and SSPs When it comes to supply path optimisation, the primary stakeholders with the most relevant insights are publishers, exchanges, and SSPs. Each entity possesses unique information related to your campaigns, and combining these insights strategically can yield significant benefits. For instance, if a substantial portion of your programmatic media budget is allocated to five publishing houses, consider scheduling regular meetings with them to explore opportunities for collaboration. Its highly likely in 2023 that the majority of their best media is not openly available, so direct negotiation and curation at a publisher level is critical. Engage in discussions to uncover additional avenues for growth, such as new targeting options based on 1st party data, innovative ad formats, and commercially favourable agreements. Tap into the wealth of knowledge that exists within niche publishers and their intermediaries to unlock hidden potential.

Tip 3: Embrace Balance, Agility, and Agility Again It’s important to acknowledge that supply path optimisation is a complex endeavour, comprising interdependent components. Avoid falling into the trap of seeking a one-size-fits-all solution to your challenges. Instead, adopt a proactive and agile approach, treating SPO as a game of whack-a-mole. Focus on tackling different parts of the supply chain systematically, one step at a time. To guide your efforts, consider implementing the PIQS framework which Wayne Blodwell talks extensively about: Performance, Investment, Quality, and Sustainability. These four pillars form the foundation of an optimal SPO strategy, enabling you to make continuous progress and ensure your marketing budget works as efficiently as possible.

Conclusion: As the landscape of B2B marketing continues to evolve, supply path optimisation emerges as a vital strategy for success. By carefully selecting the right DSPs, publishers, exchanges, and buying models, B2B marketers can build a highly productive and sustainable supply chain. Remember to prioritise gaining in-depth knowledge of your working relationships, fostering closer collaborations with publishers, exchanges, and SSPs, and embracing balance, agility, and continuous improvement. With a well-executed SPO strategy, B2B marketers can unlock the full potential of their advertising investments, driving exceptional results and maintaining a competitive edge in the market.

Don’t fancy handling all of this yourself? Feel free to reach out to me on email (mike@funnelfuel.io) to discuss inclusion lists, private marketplaces (PMPs), working media, or any questions related to SPO. I look forward to engaging with you further! We have built all of this stuff for the B2B world so that clients do not need to worry about it. Learn more about FunnelFuel and how we built the definitive measurement and attribution tech which we leverage to run world class managed service advertising across programmatic, social, search, audio, television and digital out of home 

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