Michelle Mckinley is the senior director of growth marketing at CareerArc, a team that offers technology-based social recruiting and outplacement...
If you had to pick just one social platform to market your B2B brand, which would you choose?
Hopefully, you would choose Facebook.
While LinkedIn has typically been the go-to site for B2B – and with good reason, seeing as how it’s designed for B2B interactions – Facebook has nudged it out as a more marketable platform.
According to one study by Statista, 89% of B2B businesses now use Facebook over LinkedIn (81%) for marketing.
Why the sudden transition? Mostly revenue.
Facebook used to be considered a social platform strictly, but they now make the majority of their money from advertising.
This certainly makes it easier for B2B brands to market on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success.
You have to know how to play Facebook’s game if you want your ads to succeed.
Why Do B2B Brands Struggle with Facebook Ads?
Even with Facebook’s popularity, a lot of B2B brands still struggle with their Facebook Ads.
The biggest problem is that Facebook Ads don’t have the same organic reach – how many people you can reach for free – like other forms of advertising.
If you want your ads to do well, you have to make sure that you’re getting the right messages in front of the right audiences, at the right time and the right price.
It’s a delicate balance that many B2B businesses fail at achieving.
Here are a few reasons why your Facebook ads might be failing and what you can do to get your balance back.
1. You’re not providing relevant value
Facebook prioritizes its content and advertising based on relevancy.
The more positive feedback (or interest) or response people give to your content, the higher your score is (1-10, ten being the highest).
They do this because they want to drive engagement. Content that has more specific value to a user will have higher engagement rates.
While this is good for the user, this can spell trouble for advertisers.
Unless your content piques the right interest, with the right type of content, your ads may not receive that high of a relevance score.
The goal with your ads is that they need to create real value for the user on the other end.
If there’s no substance to your content, it’s not going to succeed no matter how much ad space you buy.
The Fix: Create ads that give away something for free.
Use a lead magnet, like a free ebook, downloadable guide, or webinar to promote your business. Give away substance, don’t just brag about what you can do.
When in doubt, offer a free trial, resource or another lead magnet, and you should improve your ad ROI.
Check out these powerful marketing words that can improve your ads and improve your odds of B2B ad success.
2. You’re not targeting custom audiences
Another reason that Facebook Ads tend to fail is that they focus on too broad of an audience.
B2B businesses struggle with competition.
Your audience needs to buy into you. Otherwise, they’re going to find an alternative. So your ad needs to sell them as soon as they see it.
This means two things:
- You need to target your ads to businesses most likely to buy in right away
- You need to make it clear in your value proposition that you are relevant to them
Take this example from Neil Patel:
His audience is stated in the first sentence: Entrepreneurs that sell online.
You can assume that he’s targeting those ads to entrepreneurs and business leaders in different industries, too.
This works because it not only grabs attention but because it grabs the right attention. He’s targeting people who already have an interest in what he’s offering.
And he’s offering something of substance – in this case, a free workshop.
It’s a double whammy.
The Fix: Target your ads using Facebook’s Custom Audiences.
You can either use a current client list to target those who are already customers but might not follow you on Facebook, or you can create ads targeting different niches in your industry.
To create a custom audience, go to your Ad Manager > Settings and select “Audiences.”
Then choose “Create a Custom Audience.”
You can then choose how you want to segment your audience, whether or not you want to upload a client list, or if you want to retarget those who are already engaged with your brand.
Don’t forget to include your targeted audience in the headline and first few sentences of your ads, too.
3. You’re not using the right content type
A lot of B2B Facebook ads fail simply because they’re not the right type of advertisement for the intended audience.
There are a few different types of ads you can use on Facebook:
- Link-based ads
- Carousel ads
- Mobile newsfeed ads
- Canvas ads
- Page post engagement ads
- Application ads
Each one will be targeted to a different audience for a different purpose.
An example of a carousel ad might be something like this:
Whereas a page post engagement ad might look like this:
But B2C businesses might find more value in a carousel ad to sell products, whereas a B2B company might want more Facebook engagement to further their custom audiences (for retargeting).
You also have to decide whether or not you want to use images versus video ads.
Facebook video engagement has increased by 94% annually in the U.S. alone.
The most popular types of videos watched on Facebook are posts from family and friends, followed by entertainment and news.
This creates a unique opportunity for B2B advertisers on Facebook to engage with audiences using video rather than standard image ads.
But again, it’s all about strategy.
Send the wrong ad type to the wrong audience, and you might not see the ROI you want.
The Fix: Identify your audience and choose the most common ad type for them
HubSpot recommends choosing ad types based on campaign goals and relevancy to your audience. If you have several products, you want to highlight, for example, a carousel ad might do some good.
On the other hand, if your audience engages with videos, or would prefer to download a free resource, you might try video ads or link-based ads instead.
4. You’re not advertising in the right space at the right time
Of course, even if you choose the right ad type, you have to worry about placement, too.
Facebook has two different areas where your ads might appear: Newsfeed and Right Column.
There are pros and cons to each placement, depending on your audience and goals.
Newsfeed ads are the most popular by far, and typically have the broadest reach, but they’re also the most expensive.
Newsfeed ads look like this:
There’s also more competition.
You’re not only vying for attention with other advertisers, but also with posts from family and friends and other news sources.
Right Column ads are typically smaller and less expensive, but there’s one catch: they only appear on desktop feeds.
They typically look something like this:
If someone is browsing from their phone or using Facebook’s mobile app, your ad won’t appear.
So if you choose to list a Right Column ad, but your audience primarily views from mobile, your success rates automatically drop.
The Fix: Focus on ads that are most likely to reach your audience.
Identify where most of your traffic is coming from and then decide if Newsfeed or Right Column is the most efficient.
Most likely Newsfeed will be your best bet, so don’t settle for the cheaper option if you want ad ROI.
5. You’re not optimizing ads and pages for mobile
Another big mistake that could be costing you ROI is ignoring mobile users altogether.
Facebook’s growth is powered by mobile ads more than any other type. They put a lot of effort into reaching mobile users.
One of the reasons that Facebook Ads work so well with mobile users is that ad blocking often doesn’t work on mobile.
Ad blocking is a big deal and may be another factor in why your ads aren’t succeeding. Unfortunately, desktop ad-blocking usage is up 30% since last year.
And most users prefer it that way.
If you want to ensure that your Facebook ads have the most reach, you want to target mobile users instead of desktop users.
Not only because mobile usage is growing in general, but because the ad-blocking technology for mobile devices isn’t there yet.
You have a much better chance of having your ads seen on a mobile device than anywhere else.
The Fix: Optimize your ads for mobile usage
This might mean running separate ad campaigns for desktop and mobile.
Or you might make sure that your ads look good on mobile devices.
6. You’re not focusing on the conversion funnel
You have to look at Facebook Ads from the big picture: the conversion funnel.
Advertising a B2B brand on Facebook is similar to the B2C marketing in that you have to tailor your messages to distinct audiences at different points in the funnel.
The same message you use for your top-of-the-funnel audience won’t be the same as a mid-funnel or bottom-funnel user.
You have to consider the funnel when developing a B2B ad strategy.
Your funnel will determine:
- Which audience hears which message and value proposition
- Which types of ads you target those audiences
- Whether or not you focus on mobile ads for that audience type
- Which kind of content you promote through your ads
Even though this is the last one on the list, it’s the most important.
You have to start with the end in mind.
If you don’t know where your audience falls in your conversion funnel, you’ll keep making the same mistakes that hurt your Facebook Ad ROI.
The Fix: Focus on your conversion funnel when developing your ads.
Mid-funnel content tends to be the most effective for B2B businesses because B2B cycles tend to be more complicated.
A mid-funnel Facebook Ad like this will tend to do reasonably well:
It provides value while still raising brand awareness; it leads to something tangible, it’s targeted to specific audiences, and it’s mobile ready.
But even if you want to create ads that target other areas of your funnel, you want to make sure that those ads are distinct and have a purpose.
Don’t create ads for the ad’s sake. Create them for conversions.
3 Ideas for Better Converting B2B Facebook Ads
So now that you have a better idea of what factors might cause your Facebook Ad campaigns to fail, you might need some ideas for campaigns that will succeed.
Here are a few B2B Facebook ideas that might help you hit the mark.
1. Create a Brand Awareness Campaign
This is a top-of-the-funnel strategy, but can still work well for B2B businesses if executed correctly.
For example, this ad from Contently doesn’t immediately ask for a buy-in:
Even if you don’t want to target “cold leads” directly (those that don’t know you exist), you may have audiences that are just becoming familiar with your brand that will want to know more.
Try creating a custom audience by uploading your current customer list and targeting those that don’t already follow you on Facebook.
2. Use a Word-of-Mouth Product Campaign
74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
If you have a product you want out there, consider including testimonials in your ads as well as links to product tips or updates that might educate your audience.
The key here is relevancy.
This would be a middle-of-the-funnel strategy, as audiences may already be familiar with your brand but not know why you’re so special.
Or they might have heard about your product but don’t know if they should invest.
58% of B2B buyers spend more time researching purchases before they buy in. So educate them.
3. Use a Tripwire.
You will never, ever, ever sell something expensive from a Facebook ad. Right?
And therein lies the problem for most people.
The trick is to make your core, expensive product or service less expensive initially.
You can create a ‘tripwire’ by scaling down your product or service into one, tiny, inexpensive piece. It’s like giving away a teaser version for only a fraction of the price.
Here’s a perfect example from Digital Marketer:
These ads should be reserved only for people who’ve already hit your site before and downloaded one of the other offers. That way, they’re primed to convert.
They know who you are, how you can help them, and need an easy option to get started.
No one-size-fits-all ad works for B2B brands every single time. But there are inevitable mistakes you can make that will hurt your ad ROI. The most significant causes of failure tend to be in misunderstanding your audience, what they want, the types of ads they respond to and the devices they use.
A little research into where your Facebook traffic is coming from will hopefully clear that up. Other than that, focus on creating ads that meet audiences wherever they’re at in the conversion funnel. And when in doubt, offer something of substance (for free).