Today I’m going to give you a crash course in B2B advertising.
In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:
- What is B2B advertising?
- 7 ways B2B differs from B2C
- 20 B2B Terms and Metrics you need to know
- Top 3 B2B Revenue Models
- B2B ad examples by revenue model
- How to create a B2B advertising strategy
- The Five Stages Model
- The Best B2B Ad Channels
- Advice from 20 B2B Advertising Experts
So if you need to get up-to-speed on B2B as quickly as possible, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s get started 🔥
What Is Business-to-Business Advertising?
B2B advertising is the process of any paid marketing efforts directed toward influencing multiple individuals within a company for a purchase decision (known as a buying committee) vs a single consumer.
7 Differences between B2B and B2C Advertising:
- Longer sales cycles (3 - 36 months)
- Larger average deal sizes (< $1,000 - $250,000+)
- More stakeholders involved in the purchase decision (ex: c-suite, finance)
- Focus on impacting the entire buyer's journey not just the first conversion (unlike B2C).
- Smaller audiences (< 300,000) with a focus on reaching the right person and company vs B2C with broad audiences ( > 300,000) as more people can purchase your product.
- B2B requires strategic alignment between marketing and sales as you’re joining forces (inbound and outbound) to win accounts.
- B2B supports multiple revenue models, the big three being; product-led, sales-led, and hybrid. Whereas e-commerce is solely product-led.
20 B2B Terms and Metrics you Need to Know
One of the first things you realize when you get into B2B is how much jargon there is! MQL, SQL, ACV, ARR, and the list goes on!
In order to make sure you understand the language.
Here’s 20 B2B terms and metrics you need to know:
Unfortunately there are many more terms you’ll need throughout your B2B career 😂 and every company creates their own (it’s a constant struggle) but these 20 will give you a solid foundation.
Top 3 B2B Revenue Models
If you’re working in B2B there are three common revenue models you’ll likely work with.
If your job is to promote this organization, understanding the revenue model is key as it will change everything from how you approach your strategy, the offers you choose, channels, and more.
B2B Ad Examples by Revenue Model:
How to build a full-funnel B2B Advertising Strategy
Now that you know how B2B differs from B2C.
How do you build a full-funnel B2B advertising strategy?
Full-funnel refers to building a strategy that covers all touch points along the customer journey.
This means advertising to individuals who are (e.g. Eugene's Schwartz Stages of Awareness):
- Unaware = have no clue they even have a problem in the first place (ex: blissfully mismanaging customer relationships)
- Problem Aware = know they have a problem but are not sure how to solve it (ex: realize managing customer relationships is important but don't know how).
- Solution Aware = need help deciding on the right solution (ex: should I use Google Sheets, a filing cabinet 😂 or a CRM?).
- Product Aware = know of your brand/product but not sure if you're the best option (ex: comparing CRM software; Salesforce vs HubSpot vs Pipedrive).
- Offer Aware = know of your brand and exactly how you can help but need some nudging (ex: pricing discounts, better contract terms, customer references).
- Most Aware = Existing customers, familiar with your brand and working with you (ex: referral program).
Understanding your prospects' stage of awareness allows you to create messaging, and offers that better resonate with where they are in the customer journey.
It helps to have a model (think of it like a map) to make complicated topics simple.
We’re going to use The Five Stages model covered in our course Building a Paid Media Program.
Here’s how it works:
Based on the stage; the outcome, awareness level, offers, tactics, and KPIs differ.
- Outcome = the end goal you're trying to achieve in each stage.
- Awareness = the familiarity level of your brand/product/solution.
- Offers = what you're providing your target audience in each stage.
- Tactics = how you're going to actually execute your strategy per stage.
- KPIs = how you're going to measure success in each stage.
Let's dive into examples for each stage so you really understand!
The Five Stages Model
Stage 1: Create
Stage 2: Capture
Stage 3: Accelerate (Sales Led) / Activate (Product Led)
Stage 4: Revive
Stage 5: Expand
The Five Stages model allows you to plan across all the lifecycle stages past initial conversion.
Ultimately no one knows for certain where someone is in their buyer's journey and everyone moves through it at different speeds. Use your best judgment.
If you're confused on which stage someone would be, remember the target audience's level of awareness dictates the stage they fall under.
Which stage should you invest in?
Generally speaking if you want to maximize ROI in the short-term you should work from the bottom of the Five Stages and move towards the top (Expand → Create).
You don't have to build a full-funnel strategy at once, take it one stage at a time.
Putting The Five Stages into practice
- Decide on which stage you want to focus on based on the outcome you’re after. If you have a smaller budget (ex: < $5,000/month) focus exclusively on one stage first.
- Once you’ve decided on the stage fill in your budget, and leading + lagging KPIs. If you’re unsure of what KPIs to select refer to Module 5- Lesson 1 of Building a Paid Media Program.
- Next decide on which channels you’ll advertise on to reach individuals in this stage and how you’ll target them and exclude the wrong audience. If you’re unsure of what channels to advertise on, refer to Choosing the BEST channels.
- Finally decide on what offers you’re going to promote in these channels for this stage (the offers listed above are only examples to give you ideas).
- If you’re targeting multiple stages repeat steps 1-4 for each.
Click here to become an AdConversion student and get free access to The Five Stages planning template in Module 2 - Lesson 1 where we cover how to build your paid media strategy in depth.
After you’ve filled in The Five Stages planning template you now have your strategy in place and can easily move into execution and start assembling your campaigns, creatives, and messaging.
What are the BEST B2B advertising channels?
The obvious answer is where your audience hangs out online!
But not all channels are equal, some are more effective at certain stages.
Most channels can be grouped into these 5 primary categories ↓
How to decide on the best channel?
There's four key criteria to consider when deciding on a channel:
- Targeting options
- Media cost
Let's dive into each ↓
If the channel you’re considering meets all four of these criteria then you should consider running a test campaign for $100 to get your real average CPC & CPM.
Recommended Channels by Stage
Based on my experience these channels work best for each stage:
(Use this as inspiration not restriction)
Let this be a guide to help you get started, take what serves you and abandon the rest.
Test what works for you until proven otherwise.
Advice from 20 B2B advertising experts
One of the best parts about being in B2B is the quality of marketers in this space.
We asked 20 B2B advertising experts:
What’s 1 tip you’d share with new marketers getting into B2B advertising?
Once you understand the basics and set up initial campaigns, start A/B testing and experimenting. You could test many things, for example, different ad formats, creatives, messaging, campaign objectives or targeting - all of which can lead to better performance. From my experience, any significant improvement in advertising efficiency starts with a (sometimes random and "long shot") test. To make the testing process smooth and successful, I recommend starting with a hypothesis, creating a testing plan, and having clear KPIs and ways of tracking those.
#1 tip for marketers getting into B2B advertising is to have fun with it. A lot of B2B brands take themselves really seriously to appeal to Enterprise buyers, but the reality is we're all human and you're marketing to humans.
People buy different, not better. So when you're advertising in B2B, it's crucial to sniff out your differentiator and explain that in a way that your buyers will clearly understand it, consume it, and resonate with it. Each of your buyers is different too so it's important to have a good mix of how you explain the difference.
One valuable tip I'd offer new marketers entering the realm of B2B advertising is to prioritize understanding your target audience deeply. B2B advertising differs significantly from B2C advertising in that you're not just targeting individual consumers but engaging with businesses, often involving nuanced decision-making units.
To effectively connect with your B2B audience, invest time researching and profiling your ideal customer profile (ICP). This means identifying their industry, company size, and job roles and delving into their pain points, challenges, and aspirations – try to get in the minds of your ICP from entry-level to executive.
By going that extra mile in understanding your audience, you can craft messaging and content that resonates with them—addressing their specific needs, providing solutions, and positioning your products or services as the standout choice.
Before you create any adverts, you need to figure out what your message is going to be. Don't rush into it until you know 'what problems you solve, how you solve them, and why your customer should solve them.' One sentence on each of those creates your elevator pitch, which should be present in some way, in all of your ads. It also represents the business case for your product. If you can't explain your story easily, how on earth do you expect your audience to remember it?
You know that crazy Marketing 'funnel' everyone talks about? Always start from the bottom up. Meaning, the first place to start is to know who your customers are and how they equate to revenue. Then work yourself up the funnel to drive the most impact.
Adopt the 'kill your darlings' mantra. You have to be ready to cut what you love if it isn't delivering results—be it an ad, keyword, or campaign. What was once a good performer might not stay that way, so never 'set and forget.' Always monitor and optimise.
Three macroeconomic principles should guide you:
1- Budget is limited.
2- Benchmark against your own metrics, not industry fluff.
3- Make trade-offs based on what performs better.
Kill the darlings that don't contribute to the revenue to make room for what does.
Focus on the audience/ICP first, not being the best/all-in-one product. When you address the pain and call the audience out, it resonates far more than simply stating 'We're #1/the best in ... category'. No one gives a shit about fancy review badges, Gartner, or other reports (maybe just a tiny bit) & enterprise studies/research. Everyone wants to know how your product will solve their pain or problem.
The best way (for me at least) to find out the actual problem of a customer is to go to G2 and your biggest/well-known competitor and read/scrape all the 'What problems is PandaDoc solving and how is that benefiting you?' answers. You'll find out that most answers are about one/two specific cases, and so then it's your job to address it right via website/ad copy messaging.
Shift your mindset. You'll generate leads, but it's not just about lead generation. When they convert, focus on quality and intent. To do that, you need to understand the customer and how to reach them with the right and interesting message in the right places, consistently. Make it easy for them to remember you, find you, and buy from you when they are ready. For practical advice, Go through the LinkedIn ebook 'How B2B Brands Grow", study demand generation, join communities, and ask questions there.
Before you blame the channel, do the research to see if there are some other reasons why leads aren't converting to opportunities.
- Does the ad align with the landing page?
- Is it easy to understand how it works, who it's for, how much it costs, and the outcome it drives?
- Do you have relevant social proof?
- Is the form simple and short?
- Does it offer an easy way to schedule a meeting?
- Are there clear CTAs across the website?
- Do you address common objections on the demo page?
- How long does it take to set up a meeting with a buyer after the form is filled take?
- Did we align the follow-up with the intent level?
- Do we offer a demo at the first meeting?
- Do we identify the core problems of the buyer and how our solution can help solve those issues?
- Did we create a close plan?
- Have we gotten all key decision-makers involved?
- Do we add value along the sales process?
- Do we always set up the next meeting with a clear agenda?
- Have we properly differentiated ourselves against competitors and keeping with the status quo?
80% of the above don't directly involve the "channel"
For someone starting with B2B advertising, I highly recommend following the right B2B content creators on LinkedIn, as well as other paid media ones - then block some time to go through their posts/videos to learn new strategies/tips, or merely understand their point-of-view. Then, find ways of testing those strategies/quick wins with your own clients to get your own insights and takeaways - plus, it's a great way of implementing what you learn
Make sure that you nail your fundamentals before you launch your campaign. Know where your ICP spends time online and what they are searching for.
If you don't, you won't be able to nail down your targeting for paid social and you won't go after the right keywords on paid search.
Start with the understanding of your buyer (the qualitative and quantitative) insights, and then go and build your strategy based off of that. There are a lot of great resources on how to technically set up your campaign - just keep it as simple as you can to begin with.
The final part of the fundamentals is to make sure you have tracking in place in your CRM. You need to be able to know what leads came in from your paid ads, and be able to track them throughout the sales process. Otherwise you'll never be able to answer the question at the executive level, "How are our ads performing?
Seasonality in B2B is real & should be taken into account when optimizing & experimenting with paid ads.
Here is what I mean: We have grown very rapidly over the last 1.5 years and therefore don't have reliable base data from last summer, so only this year we started to feel the summer slow down properly. Many experiments that we ran have to be pre & post (sometimes it's technically not possible to run A/B), so if you launch an experiment in June & compare results with May the results will be heavily impacted by external factors (summer period slowdown).
It's not something new, but something we faced a lot this summer. So don't disregard the importance of taking seasonality into account.
1. When building advertising campaigns, be hyper focused on audience and targeting. Your best advertising campaign won't be successful unless you target the right people at the right time.
2. The biggest gold mine for ad copy is customer calls. If you have a tool like Gong, you should be listening to calls every day to find insights on what your customers care about.
The B2B Buyer's journey is complex, make sure you are filling all the content gaps on your paid ad strategy.
Offers are the most underused and underappreciated lever in B2B ad performance, and it’s not even close.
People associate Offers with e-commerce style, “buy one get one free” marketing messages. But the category is so much broader than that - it’s offering different things to your audience to see what they respond best to.
In short: Everything you promote with an ad is an Offer, whether you think of it that or not. Some example Offers that B2B companies can use:
a.) Click this ad and schedule a sales call
b.) Click this ad and get access to a demo
c.) Click this ad and get an eBook
d.) Click this ad and get an incentive.
You should start with an Offer when building campaigns, don't make it an afterthought.
Advertising can be daunting as a new B2B marketer, when you don't have a full grasp on how the ad platforms work or you haven't spent as much money on them, you might feel like you are not ready to run ads.
But here's the thing, you will never be 100% ready till you actually take action, and as scary as this might feel, there's a great thing about this too, you are also more prepared than you actually think.
That first campaign won't be perfect, you will make mistakes, and you will lose some $$$ in the process (sad reality about advertising 😅), but as long as you see this as a learning experience, you will accelerate your knowledge about the platforms and become strong in them in no time.
Never skip out on creative. With all the targeting features that we have access to as B2B marketers, creating content specific to the persona you're going after is important. Whether it's copy or the images you use, I recommend investing time into making sure they resonate with your ICP.
Ultimately it boils down to establishing trust. Your objective is to educate prospects from various angles and persuade them to take the desired action. Providing value upfront through various means is the most sustainable approach to accomplish this.
Put a real effort into the ad creation on social channels. Create a list with the prospects’ pain points, their headaches, and how your product could solve any of these pain points, then transform it into ad copy that talks directly to your prospect in a humane language, it’s B2B but we’re talking to people, this will make ads that will stand out on the crowd. We can have the best audience and an infinite budget, but if we don’t master the message (and have a compelling design), chances are that our ads will not be noticed.
Resources for mastering B2B advertising
If you’re serious about mastering B2B advertising then you definitely need to join 1,000+ B2B marketers leveling up their paid advertising skill sets in AdConversion.
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