Make Online Ads Work for B2B: A Guide for Small Businesses

If you are doing any kind of digital marketing, chances are you’ve been curious to try online advertising too. With the shift of marketing into digital spaces in the last year and a half, more and more B2B businesses are looking into paid online ads.

For many still the world of paid ads is dark and uninviting. If you’ve never done ad campaigns before, all the numbers, metrics and prices can be very confusing, and a lot of advice on the internet is entirely unhelpful.

  • How much should you spend per ad campaign?
  • What’s a good cost-per-click?
  • What should my ads look like?
  • Are ads really that effective?

These are all valid first-timer questions. Truth be told, one should not go into ad campaigns without any prior experience.

One piece of advice that the UMG team would give you after hundreds of successful ad campaigns is that your ads should never come alone.

Creating a single ad campaign and running it across platforms is ineffective and will end up losing you money.

Your ad campaign should always be complimentary to other types of digital marketing. In our case, we combine direct email marketing with retargeted ads on LinkedIn for best results.

Types of paid ads

Google Ads

When people speak about Google Ads, they usually refer to Search Campaigns — ads that get triggered by certain search terms and appear next to search results on Google, like so:

According to HubSpot data, most searchers — more than 70% of them — click on the organic results, while only 30% are likely to click on the paid links.

Paid online advertising takes a lot of time, effort, resources, and management, but it’s important to invest that time so you get the best results — more return on your original investment.

That’s the mistake many small businesses make — making a single ad and letting it run, completely forgetting maintenance and optimisation which is crucial to success.

Another important thing is to understand the goal of your ad campaign and how Google Ads specifically can serve you.

Every kind of ad works better for a specific purpose on a specific step of the customer journey.

Google Ads, for example, are great at the exploration stage. The potential prospect has realised their problem and is now actively seeking a solution.

Prospects at this stage are a lot easier to sell to since they will be receptive to new ideas and offers much more.

Target audience

Google search ads work on a simple principle — target audience is defined by the keyword and key phrase your potential prospects might be searching for; the type of ad — text, image etc will be determined by your own preference.

While keyword search can make your ad very targeted, there is one caveat — it is not possible to select a certain audience to target to. This means that your outreach cannot be cross-targeted across multiple platforms like we usually do in our ABM campaigns.

However, in the ad setup, you can choose a very detailed keyword. This will help guarantee your ad is shown to the right person at the right moment.

Ad content

Google Ads are also often referred to as PPC — pay-per-click. That is because in a search campaign, you only pay when a prospect was interested and actually did click on the ad. No matter how many people saw your ad, you will only pay for the prospects that have taken action with it.

In other words, you are paying for building an audience of lukewarm or warm leads.

You cannot upload an audience to Google search, but you can download it. By putting in special tracker code on your landing page or link where you ad leads, it’s possible to collect the prospects’ info for future retargeting and direct marketing campaigns.

To summarise:

  • Google Ads are great for when the prospect is in explore or research stage
  • PPC is relatively cheap
  • Target by keyword (intent)

Social Media Ads

When we speak about social ads, we refer to ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. LinkedIn Ads go into a slightly different category which we’ll explore later.

Source: Hootsuite

Each of these social media platforms can play different roles in B2B marketing — traditionally, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular ones, with TikTok gaining traction in recent months. Instagram is thought of as primarily a B2C network for a good reason.

But the fact is no matter if you’re a B2B or B2C, people buy from people. The latest stats reveal there are now a staggering 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide. So the people you’re aiming to get in front of are likely to be spending time there. That makes it a viable channel to include in your planning.

Even though they can all serve different purposes, the UMG rule of thumb for social ads is never sell directly.

Social ads work a little differently. The main difference is, that unlike Google search, people are not going to be in active research mode and might not be extremely receptive to new offers.

That’s why it’s best to leave social ads for awareness or engagement campaigns.

It’s important to hit that sweet spot between an engaging and valuable campaign — people on social media would probably never click on ad that leads them directly to speaking with a sales rep. But, they are much more likely to download a report relevant to them or engage with a piece of content.

That’s the reason it’s crucial to know exactly what your audience wants on social media.

Target audience

Luckily, Facebook and co. have a wealth of data on their users — their age, interests, engagement behaviours and many more.

Unlike with Google Ads, where you are targeting what people are searching for, with social ads you target what people like or want to see. The platform itself then uses these criteria to find the relevant people.

Consider these questions for building your target audience:

  • What are their specific interests (particularly outside of your scope of business), is there something that interests them all across various companies?
  • What are their needs?
  • Which problems and questions do they want solved? Even when in entertainment mode the people still carry their professional questions around with them and if they stumble upon an answer they will react to it, either read it right away or bookmark for later.
  • How do they research and network?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you will not only get a good picture of your target, but also what kind of content they would want to see.

Ad content

E-guides, case studies and webinars are the best types of content for social media. All of these formats, when done well, can generate a fair bit of attention and will be of interest to your target audience.

Just keep in mind that the content should not be about you, but about your potential client. This different approach is especially important on social media sites but can sometimes take time to grasp in traditional B2B businesses.

Since most social platforms choose the target audience themselves, it will not be possible to cross-target them with any direct marketing you are doing. However, Facebook has a great retargeting tool, allowing you to show ads to those that have interacted with your ads previously.

To summarise:

  • Social ads are not for selling, but awareness and engagement
  • Valuable content works best for social ads (e-books, guides, webinars)
  • Your audience’s interests and problems determines your target

LinkedIn ads

We’ve singled out LinkedIn paid ads from the rest of social media because LinkedIn has taken a unique position — it is a social media meant directly for business. This means that LinkedIn selling is the most effective way of doing B2B sales and marketing.

Source: Spynr

LinkedIn has one of the most developed targeting and retargeting tools and a wide variety of different types of ads. Thanks to the nature of the network, people are a lot more likely to leave information about their work experience and seek solution on LinkedIn, which makes it a powerful tool for lead info generation.

Another curious fact about LinkedIn — unlike with other social media platforms, people come to LinkedIn to invest time, not waste it. They’re here to learn, advance their careers, and connect with peers. This means people engage with content more thoughtfully and are more receptive to new ideas.

You can use all of these benefits to your advantage when creating an ad campaign and that’s exactly why the UMG prefers LinkedIn paid ads for our ABM campaigns.

Read how to create a full marketing funnel on LinkedIn

Target audience

One of the most valuable ads tools that LinkedIn has is audience matching. This means that you can upload your own list of prospects — their names, emails, locations, companies — and let LinkedIn match this info to existing users on the platform.

This will allow you to retarget existing prospects already in the pipeline, or even the bigger whales you are looking for.

The UMG team uses this feature frequently. Once we’ve assembled a list of potential prospects, we let LinkedIn find those same individuals on the platform. This means that the same people who see our clients’ ads, will also receive direct emails or messages later. Pretty neat, right?

Since there’s so much prospect info LinkedIn has (which people give willingly), you can target them in any shape or segment you’d like.

Learn here about market segmentation on LinkedIn.

Ad content

Now, on this platform you are not limited in terms of ads and their content.

You can choose from a huge variety of ads types so that it fits your overall goal.

Here are just a few good rules for your ad content:

  • Be distinctive.
  • Be consistent.
  • Know exactly what your marketing objective is.

To summarise:

  • LinkedIn is a unique platform where people browse with intent and works best for B2B brands
  • Target and retarget, upload and match audiences on LinkedIn easily
  • Types of ads and content is not limited in scope

Bottom line

The type of ads you choose to run for your business will vary depending on your product or service, your target audience, your ad goal — and most importantly — what other digital campaigns you are running.

Because paid ads should always come as part of an overall digital strategy and should always serve a defined purpose. Many make the mistake of going into an ad campaign without a plan — and that’s why paid marketing often gets such a bad rep among smaller businesses.

If you want to try paid ads for you business with a plan and a team of experts who will guide you through the entire process, contact our team.