“How do I make B2B native ads work?”
This is a question we often get and in truth, it´s not as easy as most think. It seems that most B2B advertisers are still trying to figure it out.
However, by following some key best practices, you can avoid the pitfalls and come up with a successful approach.
Success on native might not happen overnight but at least you´ll stay away from the potholes and avoid wasting ad budget unnecessarily.
We know native advertising works. Companies such as Monday, Salesforce, Babble, and Zendesk have proven it.
In this post, I´ll show you how you can make native ads work for B2B. It simply requires a different approach. Read along.
Why Use Native Ads For B2B
There are tons of native advertising stats that show the benefits of this channel for almost any industry. But let´s focus on the B2B industry here.
Cheaper Than LinkedIn
LinkedIn has built a reputation of being the number one source for business-to-business interactions.
Whether that´s absolutely true or not, it comes at a price.
If you´re new to LinkedIn advertising, expect to pay around $5.26 every time someone clicks on your ads. Feed placements tend to be the most expensive.
Generating leads isn´t cheap either. Studies suggest that leads coming through LinkedIn can cost around $99 apiece.
If you can justify it with a high lead-to-sale conversion rate and higher lifetime value, good for you. However, LinkedIn advertising costs might be out of reach for most startups, for example.
Similar to other platforms, CPC can vary depending on your niche. Native advertising will cost anywhere between $0.15 – $3.00 per click, making it 54% cheaper than LinkedIn.
More Qualified Than Facebook
Because LinkedIn is quite expensive and brands sometimes can´t justify it, they turn to Facebook, as an alternative.
Here, you can expect to pay around $2.52 per click, where SaaS typically ranks number 1 as the most expensive offering.
A common problem we see with B2B companies advertising on Facebook is the low value per conversion or low lead-to-sale conversion rate. This makes it difficult for advertisers to scale profitably on the platform.
Add to that all the issues that privacy changes brought, particularly for longer sales cycles and you´ll wonder where to turn next.
Another problem is the lack of trust in social media platforms. A study from Outbrain concluded that native ad recommendations on publishers´ sites are 27% more trusted than social media ads. Maintaining trust is crucial, especially in medium-high consideration purchases.
When comparing Outbrain vs Facebook ads, we can also see the former provides advanced brand safety controls and premium ad placements, such as MSN exclusive.
Higher Purchase Intent Than Display
For B2B advertisers that can´t make paid social work, there´s always display. The latter is often paired with paid search, which is one of the channels I highly recommend for B2B.
Not surprisingly, display advertising is way less effective than it was when it first came out. The first banner ads had a 44% click-through rate. These days, top-performing banners can get as much as 2% CTR. This is because, over the years, people have developed a condition called “banner blindness.”
When banner ads are ignored, purchase intent inevitably drops too. Meanwhile, native ads have proven to drive 18% higher purchase intent compared to display.
This happens for two main reasons.
One is that native ads match the look and feel of the publishers´ content, making them not look like an ad or “sales pitch.” The other reason is that native ad content shows up on sites people trust and go to frequently.
B2B Native Ads Success: 10 Commandments You Must Follow
As we´ve mentioned, native ads can work beautifully for B2B. There are certainly no guarantees it will work for you. However, by following these commandments, you´ll be better equipped to tackle native and avoid costly pitfalls.
Your biggest advantage on native: your competitors are probably scared of it!
1 – Set The Right Goal For Your Business
Before launching any ad campaign, you need to be clear about your goals. This is even more true for native campaigns.
The right goal often comes as a reflection of your company stage. A startup with an innovative solution might focus more on brand awareness in the beginning. While a more established company in a competitive market can focus mainly on lead generation.
The goal you set will determine your KPIs or success metrics. When businesses say their ads don´t work it sometimes means, there´s a lack of direction in their native advertising strategy.
Setting clear goals, from the very beginning, will also help you determine which content type you should promote.
Top B2B companies see native as a great channel for brand awareness and/or lead generation. I recommend you stick to either one or both of those marketing goals.
2 – Create Enticing Lead Generation Offers
You already know native can work well for both brand awareness and lead generation. Most B2B companies will choose to invest heavily in lead generation. This is where having a strong offer counts and most importantly, one that works specifically for native platforms.
A lot of advertisers make the mistake of copying the same offers they use on social.
While this may seem like the most efficient approach, it often hinders your native campaign performance. In the previous topic, we´ve covered the best content or offer type for lead generation. Here, I´d like to show you some great examples:
- Zendesk, a global customer service software solution, offers an industry report as a lead magnet
- Babbel For Business, a learning solution for global teams, promotes a free booklet
3 – Native As Part Of Your Omnichannel Approach
The heart-breaking disappointments caused by recent privacy changes on Facebook have taught many brands a lesson – don´t rely on one ad platform or channel. In fact, the best brands adopt an omnichannel marketing approach.
Many of the brands that invest in native advertising use it to fuel, so to speak, other paid channels. We see this with companies that invest in brand awareness on Outbrain or Taboola and retarget users on paid social with conversion-focused campaigns.
This can be very effective and requires a long-term vision.
Native can be the perfect channel for brand awareness. People´s intent on publishers´ sites is to discover new content and in doing so, they also discover new brands.
4 – Promote High-Performing Branded Content
Sometimes native advertisers spend time, money, and energy promoting content that doesn´t appeal to their audience. Thus, performance is tainted by “gut-feeling” or “intuition.”
This can be easily avoided if they just focused on content that is proven to work already.
Before you launch the next native ad campaign, have a look at your analytics tool. Your goal is to find top-performing blog articles that you can amplify.
Average engagement time is a good metric to evaluate content performance. The highlighted example is a top-performing piece of content in our blog. That can be used for my next native campaign.
5 – Translate Your Ads To Reach New Audiences
Unlike B2C brands, it´s easier for business-to-business companies to go global and sell their products in many countries. More countries mean more languages.
You don´t want to target the globe with just English content. That will not give you maximum exposure, as crazy as it might sound.
Even countries with the same language have different “languages.” Consumers in the US are different from those in the UK or Australia. Their culture, beliefs, and environment affect how they react to marketing messages.
6 – Choose Publishers With Similar Content
If you´ve been running native ads for a while, you probably have a good amount of publisher data. You can go to the top-performing publishers and check their content.
On the other hand, consider pausing the publishers generating the most impressions that don´t have content related to what you sell.
You can also exclude sections, for example, on Outbrain. Remember there´s an exclusion limit of 30 publishers and 100 sections per campaign.
So, choose wisely when excluding placements. On Taboola, the maximum number of sites you can exclude is 1,500.
7 – Have A Long Term Plan
One of the reasons many advertisers that come from other platforms struggle with native is the lack of long-term vision.
Long-term native campaigns are more effective. According to Outbrain, campaigns running for more than 6 months have a 36% lower cost per click compared to campaigns running for less.
Native typically takes longer to figure out but rewards advertisers that persist. It often requires a bigger investment, as well.
I still remember using the $1 a day Facebook ads strategy made famous by Dennis Yu. Unfortunately, a lot of our peers are still trying to make this kind of approach work on native.
The recommended budget for native platforms is $100 a day. Anything below this will not provide machine learning enough data fast enough to properly optimize and give you maximum performance.
It can be a bit difficult to convince stakeholders of the value of native advertising.
However, all you have to do is look at what the biggest brands are doing. Zendesk, Salesforce, Babble, and Monday are examples of brands that utilize native successfully as part of their long-term marketing plan.
8 – Stick To Results-Driven Messaging
A lot of B2B advertisers clearly don´t get what “business prospects” resonate with. They go on and on trying to come up with elaborate storytelling or even worst, corporate jargon that most people don´t even care about.
From my experience and studying other successful B2B brands, your best chance to get your prospects´ attention is results-driven messaging.
At the end of the day, that´s what they care about. It´s best to go straight to the point with B2B customers. They´re typically in a hurry and appreciate your direct approach.
Here´s an example of clear, simple, and direct messaging, from Zendesk:
“Makes customer service better” – it can´t get more simple than that. And that´s exactly what business owners and executives want. This can easily be turned into a native ad headline to hit on your prospects´ dominant buying motive or the “why.”
So, think of ways you can improve your messaging. Focus on making it clear, simple, direct, and above all, results-oriented.
9 – Leverage First-Party Data For Optimization
With the demise of third-party cookies, this is becoming increasingly important. In years to come, advertisers who can leverage first-party data will have a better chance of winning more customers and consistently hitting their KPIs.
The good news is that native platforms such as Outbrain are aligning with the industry changes. Their platform allows you to optimize bid strategies based on your Google Analytics data.
This is possible with their Traffic objective, geared towards bringing you the maximum clicks, the maximum amount of pages per session, or session duration.
The Traffic objective is a solid option for either awareness or consideration goals.
It´s also useful to build warm pixel audiences you can retarget on other platforms. In terms of content, you can promote how-to, problem-solution, opinion articles, and even advertorials.
10 – Get Better At Converting MQLs
Here´s a topic that could warrant a full article. It´s a little bit more complicated than nailing down your creatives or messaging, even though that helps too.
An attention-grabbing ad that takes qualified prospects to an industry report or quiz landing page makes converting MQLs easier down the line.
For simplicity, let´s take a look at your main levers when trying to improve the MQL-SQL conversion rate.
- Invest in segmentation and user persona research to gather insights from users and potential buyers to help improve your products
- Make sure your marketing and sales message are aligned and that both departments know how to communicate your value proposition
- Pre-qualify prospects at the time of signing up for your lead magnet so you can deploy an effective lead scoring system that allows your sales team to focus on higher-value opportunities
These are some of the high-impact strategies you can employ to help you convert more MQLs. The higher the conversion rate, the more margin you´ll have to spend on the front-end, driving traffic. Another way to think about is to increase the value of each customer.
What´s Your B2B Native Ads Strategy
When I´m having a hard time making something work, whether personally or professionally, I always try to model success. That´s the best piece of advice I can give you.
If you´re having a hard time with b2b native ads or you´re too reluctant to get started, here´s what you can do. Get a native spy tool and search for companies like Zendesk, Monday, Babble For Business, and Salesforce.
See what ads, landing pages, and offers they´re running and jot down ways you can model them.
From there, you´ll be able to come up with a strategy that isn´t just based on a whim or data about other platforms. It will be a solid strategy based on what works for massive companies in your industry. And if they´re making it work, so can you.
Let us know in the comments. Which commandment did you resonate the most with?