Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

B2B Lead Driving in a fragmented digital ecosystem

By Will Jennings, Head of Paid Media at ROAST

In the constantly fluctuating landscape of digital marketing, knowing the best place to put your advertising spend is rarely anything other than a headache. Increasing restrictions on data privacy,  walled gardens springing up all over the web and constant battles with competition for market share all come together to make the perfect digital blizzard of uncertainty and inefficiency. 

Zeroing in on B2B, a whole host of barriers begin to appear. Who are the genuine decision-makers I’m looking to reach? Is my audience too small to target? How can my brand come across as authentic and trustworthy to other businesses? Time to have a think. 

When referring to B2B lead driving, we are essentially talking about the endpoint being customer acquisition. This can cover the many tactics employed for generating B2B leads, starting with building visibility and awareness, and ideally ending with capturing a high-quality lead. 

B2B vs B2C  

Naturally, there are some stark and some subtle differences between the two, namely price and lead times. This is important, as given the variance in products and required approaches, you can’t rely on established B2C techniques which are often easy fallbacks. In B2B marketing, branding is more focused on positioning while in B2C marketing, it’s more about messaging. 

In B2B marketing, ad copy tends to use the terms their clients are familiar with, while in B2C  marketing, ad copy can be more playful and emotive. The phrase “don’t try to be something you’re not” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to B2B messaging.  

Current B2B Challenges?  

Three challenges regularly protrude in an ugly fashion when it comes to B2B marketing. 

Quantity vs. Quality – Driving 1000 leads at face value sounds brilliant, but how much value is actually being driven? 

Strategy vs. Tactics – A challenge not necessarily unique to B2B, but marketing teams are often hamstrung by the requirement for short-term performance over long-term growth.  

Fragmenting Digital Ecosystems – As the job wasn’t hard enough already, marketers now contend with a plethora of walled gardens and a lack of deterministic data, upon which to make decisions. While this may be in the holy name of privacy, it can cause undue scepticism around marketing activities. 

Thinking Strategically  

Buying Cycle – In order to stand a chance in B2B marketing online, truly understanding your  customers’ buying cycle is a foundation stone. As a brand, you need to customise your lead  generation strategies to your customer’s buying cycle, which will likely take a form similar to the below: 

– Recognising a need 

– Consider the various routes

– Come to a verdict 

– Purchase and implement a solution 

Design your lead generation campaigns to target each of these stages. For example, you might write educational content on your blog aimed at buyers in the awareness stage but run a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign featuring your best-case studies for buyers in the intent stage. 

Balance Brand & Performance – Performance should be tightly targeted on hot prospects and designed so that it is easy for them to respond. This kind of tactical activity is good for short-term selling, and ROIs can be high. However, it is unlikely to be very memorable, so the effects don’t last long and do little to foster long-term growth. 

Brand building excels at driving long-term growth; it usually works on an emotional level to create long-term memories and associations that continue to influence purchase decisions long after the advertising runs. There is a well-documented correlation between a brand’s share of voice and its rate of growth. Brands that push their SOV above their share of market (SOM) tend to grow, and B2B is no exception. This is a bigger task than performance activations, requiring much broader reach and repeated exposure. Brand building is ultimately more effective because the effects last longer and so accumulate over time. Branding also reduces price sensitivity and increases margins, as a result, is the main driver of long-term growth and profit. 

Maximise Mental Availability – Mental shortcuts, or heuristics, are often used to accidentally bypass logic when making decisions. Mental availability falls into this bracket, stating that when given a  choice, people tend to prefer the option that comes to mind most easily. In B2B it is assumed that decisions are far more carefully researched and scrutinised, however, there’s been a variety of research showing campaigns designed to increase mental availability by building fame, and provide stronger business results. 

Expand your Customer Base – Broadly there are two ways a business may grow, by gaining more customers (increasing penetration), or by up-selling existing customers (increasing loyalty). Generally,  received wisdom states that loyalty is the more profitable route as acquiring new customers is expensive. However, growth for B2B in particular, hinges on expanding customer base due to high upfront costs assigned to B2B products. 

Build a Performance Ecosystem  

From a practical perspective, planning, channel selection and measurement are integral to getting the best performance out of your AdTech. 

Planning happens before all else, outlining your key audience insights in your ‘research’ phase,  defining your channel selection based on this in a ‘define’ stage, and finally building and optimising in the ‘activate’ stage. 

There are core marketing platforms that are likely to hold a place on any B2B marketing plan and should form the basis of your strategy. Google search, LinkedIn and Meta control your lead volume online, while lead quality has to be in a tool such as HubSpot or Salesforce and feeding back into your media platforms. Without this visibility, you are essentially flying blind with any lead-driving activity in terms of the quality of lead. 

Taking a step back, it’s easy to be caught up in the newest shiny marketing toys promising a mind-blowing CPL, however in reality the fundamentals remain true. Invest in your brand, intelligently plan your media and don’t react too quickly to fluctuating performance. Every channel deserves a chance to succeed, and in such a competitive space, having this longer-term view may just give your brand the edge.