The penultimate B2B Channel Panel has come and gone. Over the course of an hour, B2B experts got down to the nitty gritty discussing paid ads and social. When it comes down to it, anyone can through budget at a paid ad or social campaign. But to really master it is an art. Effective targeting, messaging, testing and optimization are all worthy challenges on their own. A successful paid campaign requires the artful orchestration of every single one of them.
Hosted by PathFactory’s Director of Demand Gen, Chris Vandermarel, the panel came together on how to tackle common challenges and share best practices to find success on paid ad and social campaigns:
- John Dering, Senior Director of ABM, Technology & Strategy at Demandbase
- Masha Finklestein, SMB Growth, Devices and Mobility at Google
- Erika Heald, Marketing Consultant at Erika Heald Consulting
- Emily Thurman, VP of Demand Generation at AlienVault
Watch the whole *live* panel on paid ads & social:
When looking at paid ad and social channels, what are the goals you set for these campaigns and what does success look like to you?
Masha: It depends on what our current quarterly goals are. But for social specifically, we focus on awareness and building our following. For paid ads it’s usually lead gen.
Emily: Given my role in demand gen, I’m primarily lead gen focused. I focus on how we can provide something of value to our audience, get them in the door, get them familiar with our brand and hopefully see that conversation continue to an opportunity or a deal down the road.
We run awareness campaigns targeted to C-level audiences. We want them to be familiar with our brand when their team comes to them to sign off on a purchase.
Erika: I use paid social to amplify PR objectives for my clients. These channels are often focussed on lead gen initiatives but, truth is, PR efforts don’t get that much money put behind them. You can get a lot out of paid social dollars. Let’s say you get a placement in Forbes–promote that on LinkedIn and Twitter, syndicate it, make sure you get more reach than you would organically.
John: Each tool can be used in precise ways to achieve precise goals. We lean more heavily on advertising as an awareness and reach channel. If you think of ads in terms of funnel performance, clicks and attribution, it’s hard to justify in terms of investment. Our paid social is more strategic. We go for conversion or engagement on a specific type of content or topic to marry the wider air cover with more surgical strikes in getting hand raisers.
So if social can be used more strategically, how do you see Twitter specifically fitting into the lead gen picture?
Erika: It definitely fits! I’ve had clients run paid campaigns on Twitter and have folks reach out and ask for a demo because they built up a reputation over time and shared really great content. That’s why I always stress the importance of using UTM parameters so that the correct channel gets credit.
Emily: I’ll second that. We’ve seen success from promoted Tweets so I’d definitely recommend it as part of the pad ad and social mix.
Masha: Depends on the company. I’ve had success in the past setting up follower lookalike paid campaigns. Then, at other companies, Twitter didn’t really prove itself as a driver. I’d recommend being open minded and running tests to see if it works for your audience.
Identify thought leaders and target the same type of followers they have with similar content. In my experience, these types of lead gen efforts convert really well.
John: It depends on what your goal is. We’ve actually seen higher registrations from Twitter than email for some webinars. So it’s definitely not something to be discounted.
B2B marketers have been hesitant to dive into paid social full force but we now know how much time people are spending there so you have to focus on it.
What are some platforms you’ve really doubled down on and seen great success with? Are there any where you’ve actually reduced your investment?
John: At Demandbase, we’re all about ABM. It can be time consuming and not scalable if you have big lists but we’re focused on the big 3. We focus on LinkedIn and are starting to invest more in Twitter and Facebook as well.
Emily: LinkedIn has been the strongest channel so far. For B2B, that’s where you have the best option in terms of targeting: group and skill, title, site visitor retargeting etc.
Masha: LinkedIn consistently works well no matter what company I’ve tried it at. You can get so granular with targeting, retargeting and filtering. I can customize company needs by persona and where they are in the buying cycle.
Erika: I’d add that 2 things are under-utilized in LinkedIn paid ads: SlideShare and video. You can get hundreds of engagements from a 1 minute video. Maybe someone at your organization poses a question to an expert at a conference. If you post something organically and see results you can then promote it.
Create a beautiful visual specific for that medium so people can tab through and be taken through a visual story. That’s the kind of content that gets shared, stretching your ad dollars even further.
In addition to visuals, how do you decide what type of content to share on particular channels?
Erika: I’m a fan of taking what’s worked well organically and then tweaking it and using it for ads. Extract the ‘A-Ha’ moment from a piece of content and create a visual specifically tailored to that medium that tells a story in and of itself. It will go so much further.
I’ll also take my best performing ad and tweak and refine it. Test slightly different variations and see what performs better.
Emily: We start off with a pain point. Then we look at what content we have to map to those pain points and different stages of the funnel. It’s really all about measurement. There’s been times when a piece of content did well in terms of cost per lead but none of those leads converted to op and deal. It’s that ongoing test, measure, refine, and continue process.
When it comes to ABM, what are you doing to align the content your targeting with where in the funnel you’re targeting it?
Emily: On the ABM front we focus more on building lists of our existing database. For example, identifying open opportunities versus inactive accounts and feeding them into various platforms to try and re-engage them.
John: We have a different them each quarter to create holistic message across all channels.
Buying team’s have multiple people on them and we want consistent messaging no matter where they live and what seniority they are. This way, when they all come together to talk about our product they will have a similar perspective.
What do you care most about–whether that’s attribution, revenue, conversion rates etc.–especially if the asset isn’t gated?
Masha: We try to tie everything to pipeline. Whether the asset is gated is less important when you look at it from that lens because, eventually, when someone’s ready they’re going to sign up and provide their information voluntarily and that usually means that there will be pipeline influence. In the end, that’s the most important KPI for us versus top of funnel metrics like lead volume.
Emily: When you talk about the debate between gated and non gated, that’s where that attribution of the anonymous touches before they become known is really important to give you a better understanding of what pipeline you’re getting from those ungated assets.
John: I’ve been doing a lot of research into looking at a new metric for these types of awareness campaigns. In terms of ABM, the first step is getting target accounts engaged and on your website, whether they’re known or anonymous. Look at the quantity of accounts converting through paid ad program and the cost to get them there. That bubbles up a different picture than looking at CPC and help prioritize budget across those different channels to more effectively engage those accounts.
Obviously pipeline is the ultimate result but looking at the quality of accounts coming from different paid platforms is a good upstream indicator.
Chris: We’ve done a lot of social campaigns that seemed to do well on the surface but turned out people shared the content but didn’t actually spending much time reading it depending on the channel.
Paid social and ad audiences often have shorter attention spans. You only have a short window of time to capture their attention.
Any tip and tricks you have on to capture and hold audience’s attention on these highly distracting channels?
Erika: I have a CEO who is always saying “remember, WIIFM” which stands for: What’s In It For Me? It helps remind you that whatever you do lead with what’s in it for the audience. Very clearly tell the person who’s reading your content, why they should click and, as soon as they click, deliver on that promise. If you don’t immediately deliver, they’ll bounce.
Emily: We’ve been a PathFactory customer for 3 years now. All our gated content lives inside a PathFactory Content Track. Once they register or sign up for something they get that piece of content and then a host of other related content they can continue to consume to learn how our offer can help address their pain point.
Masha: I find that the non-traditional forms of content work really well on social. For example, I’ll make a three minute or 30 second version a webinar and promote it on social media. Infographics, product selectors, quizzes, pretty much anything other than white papers outperforms everything on social in my experience.
John: Give them the takeaway and why they need to consume the content, quick.
You have something like eight seconds to capture your audience’s attention and get them to take the next action.
John: Avoid being too metaphorical or verbose and instead opt for short, pithy, punch statements that get to the point.
It can be hard to know which statements are pithy and punchy enough so here’s where optimizing and testing become important.
Can anyone share any tests they ran that got interesting results when it came to optimizing ads?
John: We were testing the effectiveness of advertising on generating sales pipeline. When I looked at the pages, I actually saw that the display ads were one of the top traffic channels to the pages, but that organic and direct traffic had jumped up at number two and three. These three sources accounted for about 90% of all the traffic to these pages! It was an “A-Ha” moment to realize people really were clicking through the ads.
Masha: We tested out imagery for our display ads at a past job I had. We tested cartoon like images with real life, more serious ones. I was surprised to see the more serious photography outperformed the lighter cartoon images.
Emily: I’ll add this: Always take “best practices” with a grain of salt.
What works for one company or product may not work for another. You’ve go to test and make incremental improvements to determine what works for your audience.
Erika: One of the best performing Twitter ads I ever did was for a B2B tech company between Christmas and New Years (which is usually the slowest time of year). It was a fun, lighthearted piece that was something like “3 things I learned about financial planning from playing Settlers of Catan”. They got a ton of new followers and spent very little money. I think people like that it helped them feel like they were working instead of having to deal with the in-laws [laughs].
Emily: Before you begin, regardless of channel or campaign, make sure you have end-to-end visibility. When a lead comes in from a certain channel, you need a way to track that lead from op to deal. UTMs help tremendously with that.