PPC for B2B on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook

Business-to-business (B2B) marketers have always had challenges in online (and offline) marketing that consumer marketers don’t share. Even within search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) – where the search intent is really strong and the signal with regard to the desires of the searcher are clear – it’s not always easy to set up and optimize a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Some of the existing challenges that B2B marketers face in paid search are further multiplied as the marketer expands CPC advertising over to the social media side of the ecosystem.

B2B online marketers have several unique marketing challenges that differ from those of firms with consumer-focused products or services. In PPC search, the keywords used by consumers and business buyers are often identical, and even day-parting and geo-targeting only increase the odds that you will have a business searcher on the hook for critical keywords. Some of the audience-targeting challenges faced by B2B marketers have been mitigated by new PPC- and CPM-based display and text link products that integrate well into a SEM PPC campaign. Contextual targeting at the domain or page level can improve targeting and makes the Google Display Network (GDN) a great adjunct to paid search. Behavioral targeting uses cookies (retargeting or third-party cookies) and helps a B2B campaign gain scale.

As we move into social media, the additional targeting options available within LinkedIn and Facebook can provide benefits that search marketing alone can’t deliver, but there are tradeoffs, including losing the comforting keyword list you’ve used for targeting within search. Social media targeting is based on the person, her profile, and internal behavior (within the social network). Display ad retargeting and use of display advertising against behavioral cookie pools is another great supplement to PPC search for the B2B advertiser.

Multiple Decision-Makers and Influencers

B2B marketers are often faced with a sales process that involves multiple decision-makers and even additional influencers. Not only does this pose a problem with tracking (assuming there is a conversion event on the site), but a messaging challenge exists as well. In paid and organic search, the keywords in use by prospect decision-makers and influencers are usually similar, if not the same. Therefore, if your optimal messaging is different, and varies with the title or job description of the search visitor, one must address it with landing pages that separate or bifurcate the user based on self-selection. For example, your landing page might include a path for case studies; a path for features, benefits, and attributes; and a third path for pricing information.

In social media, we can sometimes select an audience with sufficient precision to send that user to the most appropriate landing page given her title and role in the business buying cycle. For example, in LinkedIn we have the following targeting parameters that may give us significant insight into the role of the individual in the buying process for B2B services or products:

  1. Location – please specify at least one location
  2. Company
    • Select companies by name
    • Select categories of companies
  3. Job title
    • Job title
    • Job function and/or seniority
  4. School
  5. Skills
  6. Group
  7. Gender
  8. Age

The intersection of company and job title or role creates a very small pool of ad viewers, and one has to remember that many folks with LinkedIn profiles are not particularly active within LinkedIn, so if you know exactly who you’d like to target (by name), consider using LinkedIn InMails to reach out to the target audience directly. In LinkedIn and social media in general, the line between marketing and sales becomes blurry.

How important is a specific prospect? If she is extra valuable as a customer, then a multi-pronged sales and marketing effort may be warranted with company-specific targeting along with job title or job function. Plus, I recommend that if you use LinkedIn, treat the influencers differently than the final decision-makers. They respond to different messages and have different needs as buyers.

The same holds true for Facebook. Facebook has some overlap with its targeting options, but the problem with Facebook is that often the employer data is not filled out in profiles, and even when it is, the profiles aren’t of senior business people. In addition, you’ll have to use likes and interests as a proxy for targeting businesspeople.

Twitter ad targeting for non-self-serve accounts is keyword-based, so think about keywords in a new way. Are there Twitter discussions that are highly likely to be occurring among your prospects? If not, then once again Twitter may be more of a way to identify prospects by name and allow for the beginning of a conversation.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

Editor’s Note: This column was originally published on April 26, 2013.

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