This article is Part I in a 4-part series, How to Drive B2B Pipeline with Social Ads.
In this series we challenge the traditional definition of a successful campaign where the sole focus is to generate new contacts. We'll cover how to align advertising spend with true business value, instead of using vanity metrics (i.e. number of scheduled demos). A minor shift in how you approach lead generation can positively impact sales cycles, increase close rates, and boost revenue. Enter the disciplined practice of Pipeline Marketing.
*Credit to Aaron & Dave of Bizible, one of the first to develop the terminology of Pipeline Marketing.
Did you know a 2014 Google study revealed: “56% of Digital Ads are never seen”? Early display advertising used parameters so broad, ads were not shown at all - let alone to the right audience segment. In the past, advertisers resorted to huge web publisher data to reveal audience insights. The problem with relying on web publisher data is the information is too broad and undependable. Meanwhile, bots and malware drain ad budgets and tally up zombie page views.
The early 2000s ushered in a wave of Social Networks and quickly amassed huge membership numbers. Members flocked to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to interact with a global community of like-minded people. Social networks started to recognized the value in collecting a wealth of user data including psychographics, activities, and behaviors to analyze and distribute insights. These networks continued to experience exponential growth, they explored new ways to leverage valuable user data and generate revenue through an advertising model.
Marketers can now access personal information to target specific audiences with tailored campaigns. Compared to costly a television or newspaper ad, social networks offer marketers a more budget-friendly way to reach a specific audience. Also, the ability to measure a campaign's impact on the business means more accurate optimizations.
The Truth About B2B Lead Generation
Traditionally, digital B2B marketers defined lead generation as a set of tactics to drive more web visits, conversions, and lead volume into our database. Optimizing towards broad KPIs such as web forms submissions, and average cost per lead. In an interview with Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst at TOPO, referred to Demand Generation as “lighting up the scoreboard” or a marketer's ability to drive a high volume of leads. Yet, it was soon discovered volume-based approach can be inefficient and costly.
So, just how wasteful is the top-down funnel?
Forrester cites an average of 0.75% of B2B organizations’ leads turn into closed revenue.
Before you hang up your hat and join a code academy, this stat isn't as shocking when you think about how far MarTech has come. Historically, digital marketers could only optimize the KPIs offered through web analytics and PPC platforms. This posed a big problem because these tracking mechanisms didn't account for sales touches. The rapid evolution in the MarTech landscape lifted the limitations felt from a lack of technology. In just 3 years the number of marketing solutions grew from ~150 solutions in 2011 to over 3,500 today. The maturation and adoption of CRM, Marketing Automation, Customer Success and Attribution solutions have enabled the modern marketer to accurately track the customer journey.
PART I: Targeting the Right Prospects
A common targeting practice in B2B lead generation is to cast with a wide net and whittle down based on cost-per-conversion numbers. Hopefully, by process of elimination, you’ll eventually reach your ideal customer base. While big conversion numbers are exciting, we often find these leads don’t result in a sale.
Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where the lowest cost-per-lead campaigns actually had the worst impact on revenue?
Below is an example of two ad campaigns with the same budget of $5,000. If you only optimize and track average cost-per-lead, Campaign A appears to be the clear winner. However, if you follow leads through the full sales funnel, Campaign B produces a far greater ROAS (return on ad spend).
So how do you increase revenue using digital advertising? It starts with the audience targeting. This equates to defining an Ideal Customer Profile and being in lock-step in your approach with sales. Let’s break down each approach.
Define Your Ideal Customer Profile
The key to defining your ideal customer profile is to narrow your focus. Rather than incurring high costs and low conversion rates through wide audience targeting parameters, conduct thorough research prior to launching your campaign. Identify the most lucrative industries, companies, and roles for your product or service and target with relevant messaging. Going through this exercise will help you define your Ideal Customer Profile.
There are two great sources to aid with this process:
Today, marketers have more points of data on their customers than ever before. Your CRM and Marketing Automation systems reveal a wealth of customer insights.
Export this data into a spreadsheet and tease out trends are specific to your target audience. Continue to iterate on these assumptions to refine your customer profiles.
Have a Conversation with Your Customers
Take some time to pick your customer’s brain with open ended questions and avoid asking leading questions. Learn why they decided to purchase your product/service, what does the decision-making cycle looked like, and how they position your service/product offering. Customers will often reveal previously unknown use cases, dead-simple product positioning, and insights into common objections during the buying process.
Expand Into Key Accounts
Despite extensive research and buyer persona development, your sales team understands both your customer profile and their needs. Often times better than marketing. Your sales team is out in the field talking to customers directly about their current issues and objections. Look to harness this knowledge to your advantage.
It’s time to put on your hazmat suit and head down to the sales ‘pit’. Account Executives exhaustively spend the first part of every month curating a list of top prospect accounts and to connect with and offer a solution. This list is pure gold to a marketer, but often not shared due to departmental silos.
Ask your AEs (nicely) to export their top prospect lists from Salesforce into a .csv.
Include the following:
- Company Name (Account)
- Prospect Names (Contacts)
- Job Titles
Next, interview both the Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and Account Executives. Try to understand the typical buying process for each customer profile type.
- Typical number of team members involved
- Decision makers
- The common job titles for each
Now you can compile the list of company names with job titles and use these characteristics in LinkedIn advertising campaigns for a narrow targeting focus.
Reach Key Accounts and Decision Makers with LinkedIn Ads
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 440+ million users. LinkedIn’s ad platform offers perfect conditions for B2B audience targeting because you’re able to show ads based on your ideal customer profile (which we defined in the last exercise).
Utilize a mix of company, function, and job title to reach specific prospects within your key account list. LinkedIn allows you to target up to 100 companies within a single campaign.
Below are some targeting combinations you can select based on the campaign’s value proposition:
- Creating campaigns using Sales’ top account and prospect lists
- Company + function + geo targeting
- Creating campaigns based on the Ideal Customer Profile
- Company + job title + geo targeting
- Company + function + skills + geo targeting
Learn advanced techniques in our Comprehensive LinkedIn Ads Guide.
What types of B2B companies should be running LinkedIn campaigns?
- High priced sale or high lifetime value (LTV) for product/services
- Robust sales teams with aggressive growth goals
- Companies with an Account-Based Marketing approach
- The goal is to drive more engagement with key prospects in high value accounts
- Learn about LinkedIn’s Account Targeting solution
- Advertising budgets of $10,000 or more per month
- Enterprise SaaS which often pairs well with all of the above
Stay tuned for the second installment of How to Drive B2B Pipeline with Social Ads. In Part II we will reveal how to engage existing prospects and previous web visitors to accelerate the average sales cycle.
Want expert insights into LinkedIn Ads? Find advanced tips and best practices in our Advanced Guide!