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4 types of advertising to drive B2B sales

2018-09-17

Let's get this straight from the start: there isn't a magic formula when it comes to finding the right marketing mix.

Every business is different, and what works for one business won't necessarily work for yours. The key element to get right is to make sure you truly do have a mix, because it's incredibly rare that any business can rely on just one marketing channel to generate their sales.

Yes, it's important in the B2B world that you create great content, run spectacular events, embrace social media and ensure your website is doing its job properly. But, in our rush to embrace creating our own content, it's easy to forget that someone actually has to see your content to be convinced. To fill your pipeline and generate more sales you have to be seen, and to be remembered. You should be striving to always be in the forefront of your potential customers' minds when they're ready to take action and begin their purchasing journey.

This is where paid advertising can help. The strength of paid advertising is its reach and its ability to repeat the same message in unexpected contexts - whether that's when a prospect is browsing their favourite website or watching a video on YouTube.

As a platform to build your company brand over time towards your B2B clients, it can be one of the strongest pillars of your marketing mix, as it's the only one which you can steer to be present anywhere, all the time. In addition, you have the power to change the messages promoted depending on your audience's interest and buyer's journey.

My general advice to a B2B company would be to adapt an advertising tactic which aims to build the brand over time using an 'always-on' approach, combined with specific time-limited campaigns to promote a specific message to a specific target group. This is because you never know exactly when your intended target group is ready to listen to your messages, i.e. when their buyer's journey will start. Hence, you'd better make sure you're always present, top-of-mind, and ready to serve with information when your target buyers are looking for it.

But what types of paid advertising deliver the most bang for their buck? I'd say, a combination of 4 types of paid advertising will be your safest bet to help drive B2B sales:

1. Traditional Display Advertising.

Display advertising lets you decide where to publish your ads, i.e. in what media. The advantage of display ads, native advertising and advertorials is that you'll know in what context your ad will be published, while the disadvantage is you cannot be certain the messages will reach your true target audience. It's a broad advertising plan to build your brand in general terms.

2. Paid social advertising

Paid social advertising is incredibly successful in the B2C world and has its advantages in a B2B setting too, especially when you're using LinkedIn. You can choose where to publish and you'll also be able to narrow the target group to closely hit the people and decision makers you'd like to reach. The drawback is, for many B2B sales (especially those with long lead times), social media advertising doesn't necessarily give you the reach you'll need. First, people need to be there - on the platform you're advertising on - then as people are busy looking at the latest cat memes on Facebook they're not necessarily going to be in the right mindset for consuming the ads you're targeting at them.

3. Search Engine Marketing

For most of us out there, this means Google AdWords. Paid search is basically a necessity today, to be present when people search for topics related to your business offering. The advantage is that you will reach people with your message when they are actively searching for a related topic, and thus have started their buyer's journey already. The limitation of SEM however is that the competition for the best words is usually fierce, and it can therefore be both time-consuming and expensive to have your ads published in good positions over time. Also, as SEM presumes that people are actively searching, it's not the best channel to keep reminding people of you and to build your brand over time.

4. Account Based Advertising

This is a cousin to traditional display advertising, but think of it like the more attractive, more intelligent cousin! Rather than selecting where to publish, you'll select who you'll show your ads to, i.e. what accounts will be exposed to your messages. In a B2B context, this type of advertising should always be considered, as you can select exactly which accounts to target and adapt the messages individually for each account. Your advertising campaign can be closely tied to your sales team's efforts, thereby allowing you both to build your brand over time and to support sales actively.

When designing a B2B marketing mix, it is always important to consider both the longer-term effect on customer relations and the short-term effect on sales. Event, content production, and sales-support tools often get prioritised for the longer-term positioning of the company in the minds of the target audience. But then, how will you make sure you're remembered over time?

When starting to plan for your 2019 marketing activities, dare to think 'how do I make potential clients come to us?' and assign a share of your marketing communications budget to paid advertising. It is one of the safest bets to position your company top-of-mind when your target accounts are ready to buy, and thereby to grow your business.

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