As B2B markets quickly evolve in 2020, the ability to reach your exact audience is critical. Online advertising has become more important than ever to target and reach your prospects at all stages of the sales and marketing funnel while allowing you to track your ad performance and conversions with exact metrics. It’s one of the best methods for marketing to who matters the most.

We reached out to Mark Huvenaars, Founder and Online Marketing Strategist, at Railtown Media to provide insight into the value of online advertising in 2020 and beyond.

Mark works with SaaS, healthcare, government, retail and financial services clients from across North America to create and measure digital touchpoints across the customer journey. With nearly a decade of experience, he knows what’s needed to reach, engage and convert high-value customers.

What is online advertising?

Online advertising is an all encompassing term that refers to any paid online activities to serve brand awareness, consideration or revenue (conversion and retention) objectives.

There are many different online advertising channels that a B2B business can utilize for prospecting, accelerating the sales cycle, and increasing the average deal size. This includes Google Ads (search, display, YouTube), Bing (search), Twitter, other display networks, Quora, Facebook and LinkedIn to name just a few.

How do you optimize your success in B2B online advertising? 

I’ve discovered that a key to digital marketing success is aligning business and digital marketing objectives to an appropriate channel. While a mix of channels tends to make the most sense, prioritizing one channel to pilot online advertising and work out kinks with tracking, connection with the sales team, and the potential for return on ad spend ensures better success.

It’s also important to consider the relationship between online advertising and other marketing activities. If the sales team is prospecting with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, determine which messaging is working best and how it can be repurposed to run an automated campaign – and vice versa.

LinkedIn is well suited to B2B marketing so making this channel a priority and an online advertising pilot is a good idea. Use key messaging and get in front of new prospects that are keen to find the right solution to enhance and grow their organization.

What is the value of B2B online advertising? 

It’s ability to target and reach your prospects at all stages of the sales and marketing funnel is its greatest strength. There are three core components to be successful which include online advertising, targeting, and reaching prospects at all levels of the funnel.

Why is digital marketing effective when targeting your audience? 

Each digital marketing channel offers a unique ability to target and reach prospects. In the case of Google and Bing search ads, it is based on a prospects search query. For example, we can target a search term “accounting services” and when someone conducts a Google Search for a term like this, your services (if you were an accounting firm) can appear on the search results page. Search, and other keyword based targeting, is great for bottom of funnel initiatives.

What search does not facilitate is relationship building. It’s a caveman approach: “I need X. There is X.”. Not to discredit search, it’s great and often one of the first channels that we recommend for B2B clients.

That said, it’s expensive for competitive keywords. For example, the recommended bid for a click for the term “accounting services” with U.S. geotargeting is CA$6.40 for the first page and CA$17.25 for the top of the search results page. A cost for a lead can easily be CA$150-200. This is where other ad platforms shine.

While each offer their unique targeting mix, LinkedIn has robust targeting suited to B2B. In addition to the ability to target individuals based on company (name, size, growth rate, etc.), job title, years of experience, location, education and career interests, we also have the ability to create highly targeted lists using your own data.

We can easily export leads from HubSpot and target them using LinkedIn advertising. With this approach, not only can we target this existing list to move them through the funnel, we can also build a “lookalike list” – a large audience of people that look very similar to those that we have identified as being good leads. This is efficient advertising, in which good content is put in front of the right audience with the purpose of building a people to people connection.

How do you reach prospects at all levels of the sales funnel?

In terms of targeting, we talked about how search can be used to drive leads that are already aware of products and services that a company offers – a very bottom or mid funnel approach. In the case of LinkedIn, we can layer on different types of ad formats to reach prospects at different levels of the funnel.

To drive awareness, it often makes sense to run an ad that will appear in the LinkedIn feed to boost overall reach and awareness. PR-type content is particularly adept for this format. It’s a wonderful experience to speak with a prospect that says “oh yeah, I saw your post on LinkedIn!”. As we get deeper into the funnel, there are more robust options.

At scale, we can send LinkedIn (InMail) messages to a targeted profile of prospects. This removes the need for one-by-one prospecting by the sales team, and gets your company’s message directly in front of customers.

Content that works well here includes case studies, testimonials, and segment specific information such as proprietary research and new product announcements. It also invites mid-funnel conversions and list building initiatives.

So what’s the next step after you’ve reached out to prospects? 

Taking it to the next step is pure lead generation. This can be achieved through forms on LinkedIn or by directing users to a company-specific form. For example, a HubSpot form on a company website. It is pure sales and conversion focused, and appropriate to introduce when digital relationships have been forged early in the funnel. All in all, LinkedIn is a one-stop solution to pilot a program that can serve to support B2B organizations in a way that aligns best with your current business objectives. Advertising on LinkedIn is an efficient way to reach a large, targeted audience.

Thanks to you Mark, we realize that B2B online advertising is far more than an ad hoc experiment. In 2020 and beyond, it’s a planned, purposeful foray into the wonderful world of online advertising! 

About Mark Huvenaars, Founder and Online Marketing Strategist, Railtown Media
Mark HuvenaarsMark connects people with products and ideas to inspire them, move them to action, and make an impact. He is a marketer, an entrepreneur, a teacher, an adventurer, a rule-breaker. The world is a better place when the collective “we” is empowered to discover and act on what makes us create, think differently, and find our own happiness.

For more than a decade, Mark has been in the business of making connections and building relationships. From organic social media to multimillion dollar advertising campaigns, digital marketing has proven a scalable approach to reach many people. To this end, he runs a digital marketing agency, Railtown Media, and works with leading Canadian organizations, pioneers, and innovators from a variety of industries.