With so many digital advertising options available to a B2B marketer, and so few dollars to spend, what are the best B2B advertising tactics worth spending your time and effort on?

We’ve done a whole lot of online advertising for align.me and for our clients – and here’s our pick for the 7 best advertising tactics for B2B, in order of importance:

  1. Remarketing website visitors
  2. Retargeting on social platforms
  3. Lookalike retargeting
  4. Custom lists
  5. Search
  6. Lookalike customers and prospects
  7. Display

There’s our top 7. But before we go into those tactics specifically, let me first talk about digital marketing a little broadly. I want to explain the main use cases and why they matter for a B2B marketer.

Search, Display and Remarketing

We’re all familiar with basic Search Advertising. For years, Google AdWords has allowed you to present a text ad in the search results. And most marketers would be familiar with Display Advertising – a graphic display ad shown to audiences based on demographics like geography, gender and age. Some of us are also using Display Advertising to remarket those who have visited your website.

Each of these ad types (search, display and remarketing) has a different role in your marketing.

The key social platforms LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter also support Retargeting for your website visitors. In this context, ‘remarketing’ and ‘retargeting’ mean the same thing. Google uses the term ‘remarketing’ and the others all seem to prefer the term ‘retargeting’.

Display ads show graphically-rich ads to those who meet a chosen demographic, but needs to ‘interrupt’ them as those who see the ad are not (yet) looking. Image source: Paste Magazine

With Search ads, we know what the target is looking for, but we don’t necessarily know who they are as we have limited demographic control. Image source: We know digital

Consider advertising to visitor lookalikes 

Google also allows you to provide a graphic display ad to audiences who Google deems to be similar to your remarketing list – ‘a ‘lookalike’. Many B2B marketers haven’t traditionally made use of this last feature, but we should. The merit of being visible to those who have been to your website and therefore already know you is obvious – that’s what Remarketing is for.

But we can go further. If there are others who have not yet been to your site, but they have similar interests and click behaviour to those who have, it makes sense for us to also consider ads and an offer that would make sense to these potential new visitors, and that’s why we need Lookalike Advertising 

Ads that support your email lists

Google AdWords, and all of the main social platforms, also allow you to market to those whose email address you already have by creating Custom Lists. You can upload your existing lists of either customers or prospects, and target them with specific messages. Naturally, you would advertise differently to customers and prospects.

You can use then use this same feature to market to others who ‘look like’ those on a list that you already own, or have bought or rented from a reputable list provider (although read their terms to avoid breaching any terms of use). By combining Lookalike Audiences and Custom Lists, you can now target those you are Lookalikes to your Customers and/or Prospects.

Which B2B advertising tactics matter most?

So, its getting pretty weird for anyone who is a full-time marketer, and completely incomprehensible for someone who is only part time marketer, which is the case in most small businesses. A full time marketer who is only ‘digital’ part time will likely be just as confused.

Which brings us to my take on which B2B advertising tactics you should consider in descending priority:

  1. Remarketing website visitors. Display a graphic ad on popular websites to visitors who have also been to your website. By visiting your site, they have self-selected as relevant to you and already know at least a little about your brand. Remarketing is cheap, and is a great way to get your brand in front of your target audience often.
  2. Retargeting on social platforms. In this case, the ads are still shown only to those who have been to your website, but only appear to the user when they are on that social platform, unlike for Google where the ads appear on popular websites, but this is still useful. Retargeting is now supported in LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Place all of them on small daily budgets, and once you have a clear winner on ROI, drop the others. Revisit with a new test once a year to see if you can improve your execution on the failed social tests, but spend your money 11 months of the year on just the social platform with the best return.
  3. Lookalike retargeting. Do the same for those who look like your website visitors with both Google and the social platforms.

Then, if you have a decent email list you can rent, borrow or steal:

  1. Custom lists. Display a graphic ad to your customers (or any other list including a rented one).
  2. Search. Present a short text ad inside the Google search engine results page to those searching for select phrases
  3. Lookalike customers and prospects. Display a graphic ad to those who Google believes look similar to your custom lists (customers or your prospects).
  4. Display. A graphic ad to those who meet your demographic. Experiment with Google (ads appear on popular sites), and each of the social platforms.

In all these cases, we’d recommend you send the traffic from paid ads to a dedicated landing page that you optimise for conversion using split testing and click analysis. Your landing page and any resultant trigger emails should obviously transition them from the thought you assume they have based on who they are plus the ad, to whatever is the most likely outcome you can enjoy online. For some, that’s a requested call back, whilst for others, it may be a minor sale.

In the case of YouTube, the remarketing is going to be to a video on YouTube rather than to a landing page, so that video needs to do a part of your selling for you, and any landing page that they are invited to in that video might be able to be a little more light weight.

Take it to close

Clearly, ads of all description only start the conversation. In complex B2B, we need to get them troubled about the problem we solve, clear on what they need to solve that problem, on what our solution looks like and on why they should buy. Usually, that’s the role of a professional sales force. We need to map out all of the segments we care about and all of the tactics we’re going to use, and that’s the role of Funnel Plan.

If you don’t have a Funnel Plan, go get one. You can get a free one here at funnelplan.com. The paid versions have a lot more functionality, but the free one’s a great place to start. Go to funnelplan.com and create different advertising campaigns for all your segments.


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