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Creating a B2B Digital Advertising Plan

Digital advertising can provide immediate results while being a digital marketing tactic that is easy to use and cost-efficient.

Last Updated:December 1, 2018

Digital Marketing

Reading Time:14 minutes

During the past 10+ years, a few companies have taken the world by storm.

You wouldn't have known anything about most of them 7 or 8 years ago and you certainly could have never imagined that they would, in just a few short years, have a larger market capMarket capitalization refers to the total dollar market value of a company's outstanding shares. Commonly referred to as "market cap," it is calculated by multiplying a company's shares outstanding by the current market price of one share. (Investopedia) than historically success companies such as Procter & Gamble and Ford Motor Company.

But they do.

I'm referring, specifically, to Google and Facebook - but we can also throw in Twitter, and Instagram as a Facebook company, and LinkedIn and Bing as Microsoft companies.

These companies have created immenseful popular platforms that are used by billions of people every day.

Fortunately, for your B2B company, you can tap into the success of these companies and do so via digital advertisingDigital advertising, also called Internet advertising ("Internet marketing") is when businesses leverage Internet technologies to deliver promotional advertisements to consumers. (Webo).

What's the benefit? What makes digital advertising a worthwhile marketing strategy compared with others such as TV or radio?

A few benefits of a business to business digital advertising campaign include

  • Measurable results: using web analytics, you can measure the success of your campaigns by using dozens to hundreds of different, profit-affecting metrics
  • Targeted promotions: customize any and all campaigns to fit the specific demographics of your target market. Additionally, you can adjust the advertising links that are used to redirect to specific pages of your website that have been tailored to help a certain audience continue through the customer journey more effectively.
  • targeted digital ads
  • Global reach: perhaps the most obvious benefit, advertising on Google allows you to reach people who are using Google regardless of their location. Same with other global platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Lower cost: ad campaigns can be started for as little as a few dollars depending on the platform so it's extremely affordable for anyone to get started without a big budget or a long commitment.
  • Real-time data: with digital ads, you don't need to wait until the campaign is finished to see the data. You can review your metrics, pause your campaign, make changes in an attempt to improve the campaign, and relaunch the ad without much delay.
  • Improved conversion rates: because of the advanced targeting opportunities and the lower costs allowing for additional testing on your part, you'll be able to expect better conversion rates from your audience and a much better return on your investment.

Theoretically, you could stop reading this guide right now and launch a new digital ad for your business in as little as a few minutes.

But don't just rush into digital advertising.

There are some obvious benefits as mentioned above, but it's not foolproof. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to fail - or just not succeed at a level that makes digital advertising a huge marketing success for your company.

Businesses fail by:

  • Rushing to launch a new digital ad: digital ads are often used for instantaneous results - like an event or new product launch. Because deadlines are usually in place in situations like this, the ads will be set up and run at a specific date and time, regardless of whether or not the landing pages, tracking system, and advertising copy and visuals are prepared or not. There might be nothing you can do about changing a deadline, but the ads will be negatively affected and the full profit potential greatly reduced.
  • Making adjustments too soon: one of the benefits of digital advertising, as noted above, is receiving real-time data on the results of the ad. The potential downfall of this live data (and the flexibility it provides) is that you might be tempted to act too soon and make unnecessary (or even flat out harmful) changes to your campaigns.
  • Refusing to try new platforms: it seems that people, especially in the B2B world, are prone to biases against certain platforms such as any of the popular social media platforms. This is usually not founded on more than a singular piece of content dissing the potential in the discussed platforms. The truth is, every industry is different, every company is different, and every platform is usually constantly evolving. In short, don't completely rule out even trying a platform until you have first-hand data that it's not the right digital advertising platform for you.
  • Not fully investing in the process: because digital advertising is so easy and cheap to get started, many companies will give it a go. However, as easy as it is to commit to a single digital ad, it can be just as easy to give up on the whole strategy all together. A solution to this could be taking the time to build a strategy like we'll cover below. An even better solution might be to hire professional help to get you started and maximize your profit-potential.

Building your B2B digital advertising strategy

To increase our chances to realize the many benefits of digital advertising while reducing the possibility of failure, we're going to take the time to go through how to build a digital advertising strategy for your business.

Before we can put a plan together, we have to think about our purpose.

And while our ultimate purpose might be to increase the top lineThe top line is a record of a company’s income or revenue that reflects the full value of goods or services sold to consumers within the statement period. (Investopedia), to have a successful digital advertising strategy we have to consider where our audience is in the business to business customer journey.

How does the customer journey look in terms of digital advertising?

  • Awareness stage: digital advertising can be used to help business prospects become enlightened about your company, specifically in terms of brandingBranding is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol, simple message, or design that is identifiable as belonging to the company..
  • Interest stage: ads can also be used to provide a bit more information about your business. These ads are similar to those being targeted to "awareness stage" individuals except that they might provide a few more details about the products or services that you offer.
  • business to business digital ad example
  • Consideration stage: digital ads tailored toward individuals in the "consideration stage" might include additional information about the business while providing evidence of the success that working with the business can bring.
  • b2b digital ad customer consideration stage
  • Intent and evaluation stages: aimed at prospects that have the desire to make the leap towards purchasing or signing a contract, "intent" and "evaluation-stage" digital ads try to convince the buyer that their brand's product is the best choice.
  • business to business intent evaluation digital ad example
  • Purchase stage: online ads provide a lot of different ways for your business to try and seal-the-deal with a prospect, including getting leads to sign up for your program, requesting an estimate, or scheduling/making a call to your company.
  • b2b facebook ad sign up example

As you can see from the examples above, different platforms can assist with all stages of the customer journey or they may perform best with just a few of the stages. The best way to determine this for your business and your industry is to personally run some ads to test and then measure the results.

Campaign Segmentation

Digital marketing has provided us with the power of segmentationSegmentation helps us to focus our campaigns on deeper, more specific target audiences by segmenting our entire audience into smaller groups of prospects. that is greater than anything we experienced with traditional marketing channels.

However, companies often skip the concept of segmentation regarding their digital advertising. This results in advertisements that are too general and therefore don't convert very well.

For example, let's say that I'm a company that sells recruitment and applicant tracking software to businesses. It's likely that I'll skip the segmentation exercise and instead try to promote my advertisement to every business out there that has more than say a couple of employees.

Can you see how vague that would be?

And because it's the norm to be vague and general like this, my ad would be competing with a lot of other ads from companies doing the same thing. In digital advertising, high competition can cripple you.

High competition for a limited number of ad spots equals a much higher ad cost.

Instead, we want to segment our audience into smaller, targeted groups.

A few good ideas to get started, according to Hubspot, are:segment by each main feature, benefit, sub category, target industry or geographic location relevant to your product or service.

So, let's do that continuing with our fictitious, recruitment software business. Taking each of those group ideas listed above, let's see what we can come up with.

  • Sub-category: Recruitment Software, Job Candidate Software, Employee-Hiring Software
  • Feature: Interviewing Software, Locating Job Candidates, Using Data to Find the Right Employees, Applicant Tracking Software
  • Benefit: Scaled Recruiting Process, Recruitment Automation, Interviewing Efficiency
  • Target industry: Healthcare Recruitment Software, Financial Recruitment Software, Manufacturing Recruitment Software
  • Geographic location: Los Angeles Recruitment Software, Boston Recruitment Software, New York Recruitment Software

As you can see, we're not straying from the simple premise of what our business offers - recruitment software. However, if our audience is the entire United States, for example, we could still get hundreds or thousands of small groups from the ideas above.

Don't try to compete with every other company out there that might offer some form of recruitment software. Instead, segment your digital advertising audience.

Choosing your methodology

Something else that we need to decide before starting an ad campaign is the method that we're going to use for our ad.

The internet is great for businesses because we constantly have new methods that we can try for advertising our businesses and new platforms to try them on.

However, unless you have an unlimited marketing budget it might be best to find a few tried-and-true methods and stick with them. Once the Coca-Colas of the world have spent a few million dollars testing out a new opportunity with success, then we can venture out.

But don't ever try a new method or platform without a testing process in place - more on testing and measurement of digital ads in a bit.

Here are a few tried-and-true platforms that you should consider for your business:

Display advertising

Display advertising uses images and text to advertise your business or product.

Perhaps the most popular form of display ads are banners and rectangle ads.

display ad business to business example banner ad b2b example

Display ads can be a beneficial branding strategy and many companies also use display ads as a very effective remarketing strategy.

According to Digital Information World:website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert on your website

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a great way to leverage the traffic by search engines such as Google and Bing in an attempt to get the quality prospects included in that traffic to visit your website.

You can do this by pre-selecting specific keywords (based on the segmenting exercise we completed above) that you'd like your ad to be shown for when the person using the search engine searches for those specific keywords.

For example, when I perform a search for "business cleaning services", you can see that the first 2 results have been paid for. Those companies are paying a certain price so that when someone performs that specific search their businesses are highlighted greatly increasing the chance that their paid search result will receive a click.

b2b sem example

And it doesn't just stop at what I type either. These businesses likely have other predetermined demographic criteria such as location and maybe even gender that must have been met when the ad processing software returned those results.

Do you want more traffic?

Social Media

The opportunities associated with social media advertising led by platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are growing every year, and so are the businesses that are jumping aboard the bandwagon.

According to Hootsuite:social media advertising budgets have doubled, worldwide, from $16 billion to $31 billion in the past 2 years alone.

While most B2B companies try to leverage the power of social media organically via word of mouth of free posting, promoted posts and sponsored stories are really taking over the social media channels.

The reason why is because as platforms such as Facebook have changed its newsfeed algorithm during the past few years, business pages have seen their posts reach less and less of their followers.

According to research performed by Ogilvy, a single post on Facebook would reach only 16% of a page's followers in 2012. In 2014, that percentage dropped down to 6%.

business page facebook organic reach decline

Because of these alarming percentages, as a B2B company I would actually discourage you from spending time with social media marketing if that time didn't include paying to promote your posts.

Despite the potential downfalls of organic social media, paid social media ads are a great way for you to reach your audience in creative ways and where they are spending their down time.

Like SEM, social media provides advanced demographic targeting options that you can use to be sure only your highest-quality prospects are seeing your ads.

A few metrics available to be seen and measured from a Twitter ad include engagementsEngagements in Twitter refer to the total number of times a user has interacted with a Tweet., impressions, retweets, replies, likes, follows, clicks, video views, and many others.

You can combine these social media metrics with your website analytics to determine other important ROI metrics as well.

Remarketing

Remarketing (also referred to as retargeting) is digital advertising that "remarkets" your information back to someone who has seen it before to some extent.

If you've used Amazon recently you've likely seen this before used on yourself. You view a product on Amazon.com, don't buy it, but instead go over to ESPN.com to read the recap from the Celtic's game last night (okay, maybe I'm speaking from experience) and notice display ads featuring that same item that you just viewed 2 minutes ago along the side of the article.

Sound familiar?

Remarketing is actually a very beneficial method of advertising for businesses.

According to ReTargeter:only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit

That means 98% of users leave your website without converting!

Here's a helpful infographic from ReTargeter that explains the process a little more:

b2b remarketing process

Remarketing is a very underutilized method of digital advertising especially for business to business companies given that sales cycles are comparatively longer for B2B than B2C.

Video

One of the fastest growing digital advertising methods is video.

In 2016, BI Intelligence reported that:digital video reached nearly $5 billion in ad revenue with the highest average click-through rate, 1.84%, of any digital format

YouTube is clearly the number 1 platform for video advertising with over 1.9 billion monthly active users as of the beginning of 2018.

As far as paid ads on YouTube are concerned, more than half of all U.S. marketers run YouTube ads which represents over a quarter of all digital advertising spend.

And, according to research performed by Clutch:YouTube is the 4th most valued social media platform for B2B as rated by B2B marketers

best social media platforms for b2b

Campaign implementation

Once you've determined that your company is ready to give digital advertising a try, you've segmented your audience into small, specific groups, and have considered 1 - maybe 2 different methods to try, there are a few very important things that you need to keep in mind.

Your digital advertising is only as good as your website

The mission of all forms of digital advertising is to get people to click on the ad and visit your website.

Because of this, the success and failure of your campaigns don't end with the advertising itself. What is your website doing with the traffic generated by the ads and how is it turning that traffic into leads?

Before your business even gets to the point of producing ads, you need to make sure that you have a well-designed, high-performing website with a well-structured sales funnel ready to receive and convert the influx of traffic.

How would this look?

Well, let's break down the marketing funnel from our business to business customer journey:

b2b customer journey

Our digital advertising campaign will fall somewhere on this funnel - probably near the top. Our website's job is then to take the prospect through the rest of the funnel until ultimately signing up for our product or services.

Here's how this might look:

  1. You run a simple brand awareness-type ad where you just want to get the word out about your business. (Awareness)
  2. A viewer clicks on the ad and is brought to a page on your site that clearly outlines some additional information about the services you offer along with an opt-in form to receive additional details via email. You then send an email to this individual with a special offer to receive a free trial of your service. (Consideration)
  3. They sign up for the free trial. (Conversion)
  4. The ball is now in the court of you and your sales team to provide a good experience during the trial so that they stay with you once the trial is complete. (Retention)

Now, if your website wasn't set up to originally receive and convert the prospect during the early awareness, interest and consideration stages, you wouldn't have had the opportunity to provide the free trial which ultimately (in this case) sealed the deal of signing up the new prospect.

Actually, if your website wasn't ready to go, that prospect might have just left your site right away assuming that you weren't the right company to help him anyway - even if you were!

Yes, digital advertising is important, but your website is your home base and vitally important to all of your digital marketing activities.

Determine your measurable goals

Without expectations about what your digital advertising activities are going to do for your business, it will be hard to measure their effectiveness.

Sure, you might see more or fewer engagements on your Twitter ad the second time around, but what does that mean? Was it worth it? Did the ad accomplish what you wanted it to - or anything?

I'll give it to you if you're still in the testing phase and digital advertising is still very new to your business. You're probably still trying to determine good benchmarks to be used as measurements of success or failure.

Ultimately, however, you want to be sure to set a specific goal for each specific campaign. It will help you to know if you should continue with the method or platform you're using, or even digital advertising at all!

Be clear and concise

With digital advertising, as opposed to content marketing, you are very limited in the amount of space that you have to get your message across. Because of this, and the fact that your ad is competing over screen space from other ads and content, your message should be short and to the point.

According to Postcron:Don't use 10 words when you can just say it in 3

The problem with concise, however, is the fear of not getting your powerful message across. For that, we can turn to something called power wordsPower words forge an emotional connection, they indicate action and achievement, or they make people feel they’re right there with you. (Word Counter).

Power words can help you to make a strong impact quickly. Here are some power word examples:

  • You
  • Click
  • Free
  • Increase
  • Try
  • Opportunity
  • Learn
  • Easiest
  • Find
  • Grow
  • Love
  • Compare

Stay true to your brand image

Having true and consistent brand imageYour brand image is a mix of the associations consumers make based on every interaction they have with your business. along with each of your digital ads is important.

This would involve including your logo on all ads in addition to your company colors, if possible. Also, the personality of your ads - how your message is portrayed - should be consistent with your company as well.

Measure and test, and then measure and test again

Most importantly of all, you should be measuring the performance of your digital ads in real time.

Don't expect to get the formula of the perfect copy, visual and call to actionA call to action (CTA) is a statement designed to get an immediate response from the person reading or hearing it. (The Balance) right the first time. It may take a few adjustments to get the most out of your digital ad.

Keep in mind that when you do make a change to the ad, try to limit the number of changes to 1 and then review the updated performance before making additional changes. This is one of the fundamental truths of a marketing exercise known as A/B testingA/B testing (also known as split testing or bucket testing) is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage or app against each other to determine which one performs better. (Optimizely).

After making a change to test out a new version of the ad, give the updated advertisement at least 1 week to 1 month before changing again. You need enough time to build up a reasonable sample size to determine the success of the ad. The longer the better.

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Think - Do - Measure

To be sure we have a practical understanding of what digital advertising is and how we can apply it as a useful tactic for our business and marketing, let's summarize what we've learned in this chapter by applying the Think, Do, MeasureThe Think, Do, Measure method is a practical tool that I use with clients to develop a simple strategy, decide exactly what we're going to do to accomplish the strategy, and identify how we're going to measure our success. method of learning to this important marketing concept.

Think

Digital advertising platforms are growing in both popularity and user engagement. For example, according to Hootsuite:On average, 50 percent of people use Facebook daily, while only 39 percent watch television..

And they're spending an average of 15 minutes more per day on Facebook than TV.

In addition to digital advertising networks providing a large potential audience, they typically come with fairly user-friendly dashboardsA dashboard is a user interface that, somewhat resembling an automobile's dashboard, organizes and presents information in a way that is easy to read. (TechTarget) that provide dozens or more metrics than TV and traditional media can product.

Finally, digital ads are easy to adjust and test even while a given campaign is live which allows us to be sure we're getting the best results for our time and money invested.

Do

To get started with digital advertising, you should start by making sure you have an understanding of who your ideal customer is and where they are in the customer journey. Then it's important that you have a nice-looking, fast-loading website with high-quality content in place that you'll link to from your ads.

Once those elements are set, you should set up an account with Google Ads, get familiar with the platform, and then try out a few low-cost (and therefore low-risk) search or display ads.

google ads sign up b2b digital advertising

Measure

Staying with Google Ads for a minute, Google provides an immense user dashboard for reviewing the performance of your ads. Here is a screenshot from just the opening page:

google ads user dashboard b2b analytics

This can become a bit overwhelming at first, so one of the most important metrics that you should focus on trying to improve at the beginning is average cost per clickCost Per Click (CPC) refers to the actual price you pay for each click in your pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns. (WordStream).

Summing up

Digital advertising is a key digital marketing tactic for business to business companies because it can instantly put you in front of your target audience.

To do well, however, you need to understand the potential stumbling blocks, take the time to develop specific segments, determine which methods and platforms are right for you, get your website ready, and test test test. These elements don't need to be perfect - and you shouldn't delay your advertising while you seek perfection - but get them right and you'll soon be driving traffic to your business like a pro.

But your successful B2B digital marketing strategy doesn't stop there. Not only do you want the instant exposure that digital advertising provides, but you want to learn how to nurture you leads via email marketing. That's what we'll cover in the next chapter.

Hey, I'm Tyler

I help businesses use digital marketing to generate leads & sales.

Former Operations Manager at Pepsico, I understand the difficulty and hard work that goes into changing the culture of management teams and business systems that are content with the status quo. Why is that important? Because I'm passionate about empowering individuals and companies to build and consistently manage marketing systems unique to their brands even if it means making radical changes.

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