B2B PPC Advertising – Best Strategies for Lead Generation
B2B PPC advertising is the best B2B lead generation strategy out there today. Hands down. Forget cold calls, unwanted drop-ins, and trade shows.
Especially trade shows.
There’s nothing sadder than a lonely business booth at a trade show. No mildly interested visitors. Just a few pathetic looking employees desperately trying to hand out business cards, free USB sticks, and get someone to spin their giveaway wheel.
Don’t be that person.
Be the person that has so many customers knocking on your door that you can’t keep up with demand.
Below we’re going to help you be that person (or business).
We’ll explain the best ways to use PPC for B2B. We’ll also look at the most important things to remember when running you campaigns. Finally, we’ll show when to do PPC in-house vs when and how to hire a B2B PPC agency.
But first, let’s look at the value-add stats. Because if you’re going to convince your team PPC is the way to go, you’ll want some proof.
Why PPC is so valuable for B2B companies
Google found that the average ROI for its PPC ads is 200%.
This is probably the most important PPC stat for businesses to know. It might be the only one they need to know. Although this next stat doesn’t hurt either…
PPC ads can boost B2B brand awareness by 140%. Plus, data from Statista shows as much as 20% of businesses claim that it offers them the highest ROI out of any digital marketing strategy. Other research suggests paid-search advertising has surpassed organic search engine traffic as the top revenue driving channel in digital marketing! With traffic through PPC advertising yielding 50% more conversions than organic, it’s really easy to see why PPC is crucial for business-to-business segments.
Those are all very compelling reasons to implement a B2B PPC strategy. But if you’re looking for another, do it because your competitors are. And if they’re not, they will be very, very soon.
Around 78% of marketers rely on Google AdWords and social media PPC ads to generate leads. What’s more, 40% of businesses say their PPC budget is too low, with 62% planning on increasing it over the next year. Chances are that includes your competitors.
If your competitors are doubling down on PPC ads, then you probably should too.
What is PPC for B2B?
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a digital advertising model that drives high-quality traffic to websites by paying a fee to run ads on a platform, such as search engines like Google and Bing, eCommerce platforms like Amazon, or social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.
PPC advertising is a huge boon to all verticals, but it’s especially useful for B2B companies whose channels of direct engagement are often more limited than B2C. With business-to-business advertising, the primary goal is to reach the crucial decision makers and executive leaders within your target industry.
The majority of B2B PPC campaigns are implemented via:
- Search engines like Google & Bing
- Other social media sites like Facebook & Instagram
Through these platforms, a business can show specific ads to users that motivate them to visit your site, fill out a lead gen form, contact you directly, or make a purchase.
PPC is a great way to reach customers and get top-of-mind fast. Even when you aren’t organically ranking for specific search queries or have access to large networks, you can easily gain the visibility you need by investing in PPC.
In that regard, PPC can be a shortcut for lead generation.
How does PPC work?
As an advertiser, with PPC you only pay when someone clicks one of your ads.
That’s the basic principle behind all forms of PPC advertising. But a lot more goes into determining where and how your ads are placed after you set up a PPC campaign.
When you run a PPC campaign, most likely you won’t be the only one targeting those queries. Which means simply setting a blanket campaign budget (say $5/day) won’t necessarily guarantee that your ads will appear over those of competitors.
This placement is determined by an Ad Auction.
Ad Auctions are an automated bidding system used by PPC platforms to determine the relevance and validity of advertisements. Every platform uses some form of ad auction — from LinkedIn to Facebook to Bing.
We’ll use Google as an example of how PPC works.
On Google, every time someone searches for a keyword, they dig into a pool of bidding advertisers and choose a set of winners. This decision is based on several different factors, including:
- Your target search queries (aka the keywords you want your ads to appear for)
- Your bid price (aka the amount you’re willing to pay per ad click for a keyword)
- Your Quality Score (a value that takes into account your ad’s click-through-rate, your ad’s relevance to your selected keywords, and your landing page’s relevance to your selected keywords)
Together your bid price and Quality Score are used to calculate your Ad Rank — a metric used by Google to determine where and when your ads appear for a given keyword. Ads run by businesses with a higher Ad Rank will appear above and more often than those with a lower Ad Rank.
For example, say a business needs a new way for their remote team to communicate. So they search for “team chat software.” Once they submit that search, Google’s Ad Auction algorithm looks at all the advertisers who selected the keyword “team chat software” for their ad campaign and calculates which ad to display, in which order, for that query. In the below example the winner is Avaya. They won the auction. They must have had the highest Ad Rank of their competitors. As a result, they appeared at the top of search results, sending a message that they are one of the best cloud-based business communication platforms.
Ad Auctions are constantly calculating and recalculating your bid price, Quality Score and Ad Rank to determine your ad’s ultimate position. This system allows winning B2B advertisers to reach potential customers at a cost that fits their budget.
These metrics also allow you to directly influence the performance of your ads.
By making slight tweaks to your ad copy, bid price and landing pages you can reduce your costs and improve your clicks. Best of all, by adjusting your PPC ads to meet Google’s standards you’re simultaneously delivering targeted advertisements to people who are genuinely seeking out your product.
It’s a win-win.
The big takeaway here is that although Ad Auctions are an automated process, in order to get the most benefit from your PPC campaigns you need to actively be managing them.
The best PPC strategies for B2B advertising
While the best practices of PPC apply to all verticals, there are specific PPC strategies suited for B2B advertising.
Let’s break these down.
Don’t Get Bogged Down with Negative Keywords
You probably know your business very well. But Google doesn’t. Their algorithms may make assumptions about what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to that could waste a lot of your budget.
So you need to tell them what’s up. You need to set the correct negative keywords.
Say you sell a booking software for professional dog photographers. There’s a good chance Google will show your ads to a lot of photographers who don’t specialize in canines unless you set negative keywords like “cat photographers” and “weddings.” Because sometimes it’s more profitable in PPC advertising to say what you are not rather than what you are.
Adjust Your PPC Strategy by Platform
While at their core most PPC platforms follow similar bidding and auction systems, they each have unique settings that can be used to optimize your B2B ad campaigns.
For example, on Facebook most of the campaign objectives they offer are useless to B2B advertisers. Really, your Facebook PPC ads should only use one of four objective types:
- Lead generation
- Brand awareness
Below is an example of what that sort of PPC B2B lead generation campaign set-up looks like on LinkedIn.
And of those, we typically recommend to our clients in B2B that they ignore the last and focus on the first.
Similarly, LinkedIn has a completely different set of audience targeting options. And while pretty much everything on there is suited for B2B, it’s important to know when to use which LinkedIn targeting objectives.
Point is, different PPC platforms offer different benefits to different companies. And since your business has unique needs unlike any other, it’s important to customize your strategy accordingly. That’s where working with a PPC B2B agency can come in handy. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Take Advantage of Call Ads, Extensions and Recording on Google Ads
A lot of B2B companies sell a product or service either too complex, expensive or sensitive to expect people to convert online on their own. These people want to learn more first. Which usually means having a conversation.
That’s where a PPC call ad comes in.
And also adding a call extension to your other ads on Google.
Call ads and call extensions are a great way to easily generate phone leads from your ads by inserting a dialable phone number directly into it. With over 70% of all paid search impressions and 52% of PPC clicks coming from mobile, creating ads that take advantage of those devices and making it easier for your customers to contact you is just smart business.
Then you take it that one step further by qualifying those leads, and in some cases without having to even listen to the call, with Google’s call recording option.
Don’t Solely Track Success by Conversions
One of the strongest benefits provided by PPC ads is their ability to track conversions. In fact, most B2C businesses qualify the success of an ad based on its conversion metrics.
However, this doesn’t always work for B2B companies.
B2B PPC ads often provide assisted micro conversions, rather than direct macro conversions. (Filling out a contact form would be a micro conversion, whereas buying your product is a macro conversion.) This means that although a potential B2B customer clicked on your PPC ad and thereby became a lead, they probably converted via a different channel.
As a result it can be more challenging to verify the success of a B2B PPC ad.
In order to determine if your ads are in fact generating actual sales for your company, it’s important to look at other important indicators, like demographic scores and lead scores. However, data like this is usually not inherently accessible in the analytics reports natively created by PPC platforms. For that info you need to set up other tracking software, like Google Analytics, to specifically look for this type of valuable data.
Acronyms are used with reckless abandon in the B2B space. Especially if you deal in the technology or manufacturing industries. They allow you to better target audiences, expand your reach, write more engaging ad copy, and demonstrate your company’s expertise.
But be careful. Targeting acronym keywords can quickly get you into trouble. You might have used “ICP” in hopes of targeting businesses looking for “ideal customer profiles,” but ended up paying for a whole bunch of clicks from fans of the “Insane Clown Posse.”
So when targeting acronyms don’t skimp on the use of negative keywords and do your research to see who is searching the most for those acronyms.
Prequalify Leads in Your Ad Copy
It’s a common practice in B2C advertising to avoid any mention of price, unless that price is exceptionally low compared to competitors. However, doing the opposite can benefit B2B advertising.
Use your ad copy to prequalify leads by clearly mentioning the price. This way you can easily disqualify people uninterested in paying for your product or service right off the bat. For example, “Starting at $300 per month…” will quickly eliminate anyone who can’t afford your product, and save you more time to convert those that can.
Take Into Account Your Sales-Cycle
Most B2C campaigns have a relatively short sales-cycle. B2B campaigns on the other hand can have very long sales-cycles, sometimes running as long as a couple months or even years.
When tracking and measuring the success of your PPC campaigns it’s essential to take into account this extended sales-cycle.
Most notably, it will be harder to verify immediate returns from your PPC ads and can potentially skew your ROI estimates if you haven’t planned accordingly. But don’t be tricked into thinking that because you haven’t seen a boost in sales after running a PPC ad for a few months that your efforts aren’t working.
The Most Important Things to Remember About PPC for B2B
B2B advertising requires more know-how, skill and effort than B2C. But in return for that extra work, you can see a whole more profit. But just remember these key characteristics about B2B PPC to ensure your campaigns stay on the right track:
- B2B advertising is all about lead generation (whereas B2C is more about sales)
- Search volumes are lower for B2B keywords than B2C (because the audience is smaller)
- Target audiences will consist of smaller, hyper-targeted segments in B2B campaigns
- Design your campaigns — keywords, ad copy, landing page, etc. — around a specific Buyer Persona (because your potential customer is likely one of many people from various departments at a company, be it their CEO, buyer, accountant or IT)
- B2B buyers do more comparison shopping than B2C buyers (so it can benefit to call out case studies, white papers, and credibility stats that build trust rather than “sales” or “deals” that drive immediate transactions)
- The sales cycle is typically longer for B2B than B2C
Why hire a B2B PPC agency?
Is it worth it to hire a dedicated agency that specializes in running PPC campaigns for B2B companies, or should you try to do it all in-house? It’s not an easy question to answer.
When you hire a PPC management firm, your marketing budget is effectively managed by a team of PPC specialists to amplify the capacity of your advertising capital. But it comes at the added cost of paying for those services.
So do the ends justify the means?
If you operate a small business, then likely not. You’d probably be better off hiring an in-house person to run your campaigns until they plateau and it’s clear that you need additional help getting to the next level.
However, if you operate a mid to large-size business, then yes, the ends definitely justify the means of hiring a B2B PPC agency. And, we recommend doing so.
Likely, your team’s time and resources would be better spent in other areas than trying to figure out the ins and outs of PPC advertising. After all, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Successful B2B PPC agencies already have the know-how to create and manage campaigns for you and wouldn’t still be in business if they didn’t consistently provide a high-level of return on investment to their clients.
Here’s what you get by hiring experts: background and experience from working with other clients, weekly and monthly data reporting, professional B2B keyword research, full top-to-bottom campaign management, budget monitoring, quality score optimizations, continuous daily adjustments, A/B testing, CTR optimizations and more!
But, regardless, the decision is still not an easy one to make. To help, we’ve written a more detailed guide on what to look for when hiring a PPC management expert.
Are you ready to drive leads with B2B PPC?
A lot of people want what you’re selling. They’re actively looking for you.
Every time these people type a search into Google, they’re basically pleading for you to find them. But if all your time, money and effort is spent chasing after cold calls or trying to entice a floor full of buyers at a trade show who’d rather be at the bar than your booth, then you’re never going to find them — the customers that really matter.
B2B PPC is your direct line to those customers.
With the right planning, design and management, your PPC advertising campaigns can be one of the main drivers (if not the main driver) of sales for your business. All you need is the right information and, when you’re ready, some outside help.
If you are interested in implementing high-return PPC campaigns for your B2B advertising let’s talk, we proudly offer professional PPC advertising services. We’ll discuss how you can tailor everything we talked about here to your specific company and help you come up with a game plan to get the most from your paid advertising.