Derek Gerber is the global marketing director at Active PDF, the leading global provider of automated, server-side PDF tools. Derek...
What does marketing no longer do for B2B companies? I think we spend so much time focusing on “what does marketing do” that we have forgotten to talk about what doesn’t work anymore. Let’s dive in!
[ Pssst. Did you know our subtitles are interactive? Go ahead. Click on it… You’re able to scroll through any specific point of the video that way. Word by word. Cool, huh? Retain more by reading? We got you. Here is the video above in blog format. You’re welcome. ]
One of the first things you’ll notice if you go to a field show, trade show, or if you’re out and about at any type of B2B event, you’ll notice that ABM is all the rage.
Now, I’m not fully convinced that the ABM and advertising software out there that exists can truly drive a ton of uplift in regards to overall revenue when operating in isolation. But what I will tell you is that they’re fighting against something that B2B marketing used to do, which is mass marketing.
Essentially, there was this idea that if you could take out enough ads in your trade journal, if you could do enough display ads, if you could put enough ads on TV, you could get your message out there, get your brand out there — and even though it’s not all your audience — enough of your audience would see it and they’d be inclined to work with you.
The reality is mass marketing really doesn’t work anymore for B2B.
Constantly, I see companies who come to us say:
Company: “Look, yeah, we’ve been trying to do this stuff. We just bought this big email list, so we’ve been sending out email blasts.”
Directive: “Okay, like in cadences with the SDR team, to specific people?”
Company: “No, no, no. We just upload them all into MailChimp, and then we shoot them the list. We shoot them the email.”
That doesn’t work, they know that. That’s why they’re trying to come up with solutions. So, if you’re doing anything in your marketing right now that’s mass marketing, where you can’t segment the company you’re targeting, or the titles, verticals, and actually layer it — then I would argue that that is going to be wasted spend with the majority of it not driving any net new business impact for you.
It just doesn’t work anymore. That is not something you want to be investing in.
One of the coolest parts about running a multifaceted search agency is that when you do PPC for a lot of different B2B accounts — in fact, over 50 accounts — you get to see what works and what doesn’t across the board. One of the things that we see not working for B2B advertising is display ads.
Now, I’m not talking about retargeting display ads, I’m talking about display ads focused on net new customers. Ones that you’re running to in-market audiences, ones you’re running based on certain keywords, ones you’re buying on specific displays.
Unfortunately, these B2B consumers have been numbed. You’re probably numb too. For instance, when was the last time you looked at a website and they could remember the display ads on the left or the right bar?
More importantly, when was the last time you saw those ads, and went, “Oh my god, I need this B2B service or product!” And you were just so enthralled with the quality of the design, copy, and the message that you clicked on it? I’d argue never.
The reality is you’re going to probably go into work tomorrow, and display ads will be on the agenda. This is another form of mass marketing that no longer works for B2B and it isn’t in an area you want to be invested in. You want to be really invested in the specific audiences who already fit your ideal customer persona, that you can convert, and/or ideally are interested in what you sell and are already in the market for it. Those are the people we want to be going after.
So please, no more display ads for B2B.
Now, within this mass marketing bubble that we’ve been talking about, this world, is social media. I believe that social media is a critical part of your marketing mix. I do think that having a presence on social can be impactful.
Take for example — they’re not a B2B company — but when you look at Wendy’s or you look at Moon Pie, these brands have figured out how to communicate with their customers. I think that’s part of the overall customer experience that B2B companies need to be thinking about.
But right now, instead of just customer support, experience, and what you do with your brand on social, I want to talk about social advertising and what social advertising no longer can do successfully from a marketing perspective for B2B companies.
Social advertising can’t be this generic layered content going after interests. For example, if a company were to say: “We’re going to target all the people in B2B that are interested in aerospace.” The problem is if you’re just going after people in B2B that are “interested in aerospace,” Facebook isn’t going to honor that targeting and it’s going to get so broad and so generic that your ad relevancy scores are going to be low, your cost per clicks might not be high, but the actual value, I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that you guys engaged any net new customers or any net new business through your paid social.
Now, where paid social can work is when you’re building hyper-targeted lookalike audience based off of let’s say your content strategy. You already have a post that ranks maybe number one for “What is B2B marketing?“ and then you’re able to take that content, build a list off of everyone who’s viewed “What is B2B marketing?” and then re-market to them on social, or go after people who have similar interests as the people that have already searched that. That’s one way.
You can also upload targeted lists into LinkedIn and go after these accounts. That’s not mass marketing, that’s account-based advertising. Now, will that drive uptick? I’m not entirely convinced. Could it support your sales team? Yes. But I think if you’re going to do this kind of paid social stuff, focus on your brand, focus on engaging with the exact layered targets. You can do that on LinkedIn. Leads are not people who download your ebook. Leads are people who want to actually get a demo, a quote, or a proposal.
So please make sure when you’re thinking about paid social that you’re not representing what a lead is instead of what just a marketing conversion is. That’s a really critical part of what you’re looking at when analyzing social media for yourself.
Operate in Isolation
Lastly, and most importantly, what marketing can no longer do for B2B and succeed is operate in isolation.
I constantly see people working within silos. Whether this is individuals within the marketing department, but more importantly, how the marketing department interacts with the rest of the firm or the company. What I mean by that is no longer can marketing operate in isolation of sales. If sales are going after specific accounts and targeting them, marketing should be supporting that.
They should be asking:
- What assets do you need to properly communicate our brand and our value proposition?
- What type of advertising could we provide?
- What type of direct mail? What type of asset, ebook, white paper, case study, could we give to you as a sales org to help close these accounts and drive revenue?
Marketing has to be involved in the product and the service. Marketing cannot successfully market a boring, unuseful, untalkable, unshareable product or service. They need to be involved with that product team, service team, and customer support team, so that when you look at what the bigger picture is of what marketing is actually driving — they’re driving demand for products and/or services that are worthy of it.
If your marketing is operating in isolation from what the rest of the company does and isn’t fully integrated, I’d argue that you’re wasting your time, efforts and money. It will not succeed, especially in B2B.
Hopefully, you can look at this video and think, “Okay, here are some of the things we need to be avoiding, and why.” Be focused on specific accounts that you want to close. Be focused at the bottom of the funnel when people are ready to buy and searching for you. Those are the areas where you can experience serious returns from your marketing efforts.
Thanks and have a great day!