Last updated 31 May, 2022.
Many people assume that paid advertising is all about boosting blog posts here and there to gain traction.
This is partly right but mostly wrong. The truth is, when done right, advertising can be one of the most important components of your growth marketing engine.
This blog post explains why you should invest in advertising to supercharge your B2B SaaS growth marketing activities.
And psst: If you’re interested in this topic, stay tuned for more (and subscribe to our Advance Insider newsletter to make sure you won't miss any future posts! 👇)
Let’s dive right in.
No paid advertising, no growth marketing
I understand that this is a bold statement that may irritate a lot of marketers. But let me explain (and convince you in the process).
Here are five reasons why strategic advertising is a vital part of effective growth marketing:
- Save time
- Expand your horizons
- Be in control
- Scale your marketing operations
1. Save time
Done right, advertising makes things happen fast(er).
You could be producing the best content in your entire industry, and you’d only be doing half of the work if you were to leave distributing out.
Say you write content to turn your traffic into relevant leads. Publishing it and waiting for the SEO juice to hit so you can get your first leads can easily take 3 to 6 months, in an optimistic scenario.
And if the organic traffic eventually picks up, you’ll likely need another couple of months to evaluate the performance of your messaging.
Testing different channels with targeted paid advertising campaigns will greatly accelerate the pace. By getting high volumes of relevant eyeballs on your content right away, you’ll get a chance to validate your audience using relevant messages and optimize your content to increase conversions.
Did someone say virtuous circle?
2. Expand your horizons
Advertising is what you need to reach people who don’t know you yet…just like Tinder!
Allow me an example to explain my Tinder allegory.
If you count on your friends’ friends to meet someone, you’ll quickly realize that you’re dealing with a finite amount of possibilities; your friends only know so many people you’d like to meet after all. Tinder (and all other similar apps), on the other hand, breaks those finite barriers and helps you meet new people based on your common interests.
Same thing with advertising.
With advertising, not only can you reach people who are looking for a solution to a problem, but you can also target those who are not even aware of the problem yet.
3. Experiment (or fail until you get it right)
If advertising is not part of your B2B digital marketing toolbox, you might as well work blindfolded.
How can you know what messages resonate the most with your Ideal Customer Profile or what should appear in your website copy?
I have one word for you: Ex-pe-ri-ment!
Growth marketing is all about experimenting. How else can you know what to do and which direction to take? Test the different message angles in your ads and check back a few weeks later which performed the best. The main thing is getting feedback from your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Now, it can be challenging to rely exclusively on organic traffic and test your target audience (not impossible, but challenging).
Say you have 5 different messages to test on 5 different channels. That’s 5 x 5 = 25 variations. To validate or invalidate each, experts usually recommend a minimum population of 1000 people per variation, ideally over a short period of time (a couple of weeks, at most).
You can guess what I’ll say next: Targeted paid advertising can help you do that
Good to know:
With the current evolution of cookies and tracking, advertising best practices tend to change a lot. Something that worked in 2021 might become irrelevant in 2023. As user privacy regulations become stricter, our targeting options across the different media platforms get thinner and thinner.
Experimenting is all about learning
If you are just starting with running campaigns targeting your ICP, it might take some time to get it right.
And that’s okay.
The discussions you had with your ICP most likely gave you a ton of ideas to experiment with. And, as frustrating as it can be, you will need time to figure out what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t.
Don’t give up!
It’s paramount to keep the experimentation loop going.
If your latest Linkedin campaign doesn’t work as expected, don’t give up. Instead, take the time to investigate, come up with a data-driven hypothesis, edit your campaign, monitor progress and repeat until you get it right.
When I lack inspiration, I find it useful to check the ads live from my audience’s perspective in the ad platform — and then comes the ‘aha moment’.
4. Be in (full) control
The right message, in front of the right audience at the right time, blah blah blah. We marketers have heard it a thousand times. And there’s a simple reason for that; it works!
But it’s also getting more difficult for SaaS B2B companies to do so organically. Organic search and organic social traffic are free, but you have no control over them. And you can’t really decide who sees what, when.
Here again, Paid Advertising is here to save the day. It lets you cherry-pick targeting options on different channels so that you can place your messages in front of your ICP at the right time. Of course, this works best if you already know your audience.
5. Scale your marketing operations
I always say that advertising should support growth marketing. As such, it should grow with it.
You don’t need millions to kickstart an efficient paid advertising strategy. Heck, you don’t even need thousands. You just need knowledge.
If you only have a small budget unlocked for advertising, you can focus your efforts on one channel at a time, a message at a time. As you start getting customers, you can then increase your ads budget and scale up.
Six things to focus on to run successful advertising campaigns
While luck is always a success factor, you cannot expect your ad campaigns to show any scalable results if you don’t work on the following.
- Ad copy
- The right channel(s)
- The right audience(s)
Don’t rush your ad copies
In a world where exact targeting is getting harder every day due to the decommissioning of cookies and stricter privacy policies, you need compelling ad copies to get your advertising engine going.
Be creative! Make your ads stand out
Let me say this: There are no boring products, only boring ways to bring them up.
The lesson here is that you shouldn’t shy away from using creative visuals to tell your story, as long as it matches your brand identity.
Push good content
You could be the best advertiser in the world, but if the content you link to is irrelevant, you won’t produce anything good.
The content you link to should reflect the promise of your ads and match your goal. If you’re running ads to educate your audience about a topic dear to your organization, it makes sense to link to a detailed blog post. If, however, you want to convert visitors into contacts, you should use conversion-driven landing pages designed for your paid campaigns.
In short; Always align your ads and your content.
Target the right channel(s)
I could probably afford a private jet if I’d get a dollar every time I hear: “Our competitor advertises on [Platform], let’s do the same!”.
The right platform to advertise on is the platform where your audience is. Chances are that your competitors are leaving relevant channels out.
I strongly recommend being bold when it comes to exploring new channels. Contrary to what most B2B marketers would think at first, social media channels like Instagram Story or Twitter can deliver pretty good results for B2B SaaS companies too!
For instance, Twitter might not generate a lot of engagement for most businesses, but it might just be working for you. The key is to experiment. You won’t know if you don’t try.
Define your audience(s)
A one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely the way to go. You need to laser-focus your efforts on the right audience: your Ideal Customer Profile.
Whatever message you send out there needs to resonate with your ICP. If not, you’re probably wasting your time (and a lot of money).
Set clear goals
This is self-explanatory. You need to set clear goals to track and measure the performance of your advertising campaigns, may it be to generate awareness or turn to support customer acquisition.
For this to work, you need to make sure that you can track everything that happens to your visitors, contacts, and customers from A to Z.
How can PA help your growth in practice?
Here are two easy-to-replicate-and-experiment-yourself examples of this.
Example A - Build awareness campaigns
What can an advertiser do to generate relevant awareness and shed light on a specific product?
First things first, you don’t need to only run paid advertising campaigns to convert visitors right away, especially if your objective is to raise awareness.
Instead, you could utilize Top Of The Funnel (or TOFU) content as bait and retarget your visitors to convert them later on.
Step 1. Set up a campaign by promoting a blog post, a pillar page, or even webinar recording (you don’t necessarily need a contact form at this stage as you can already start collecting retargeting audience).
Step 2. Once the campaign has been running for some time, you can start thinking about more tactical and targeted advertising.
The audience you’ll be retargeting is more likely to convert because they already know you or at least will remember encountering your company. They might not be ready to buy right away, but they might be ready to hear more about what you can do to help solve their problem.
At the end of the day, you can rely on targeted campaigns to appear on the map of your ICP and move them down the funnel.
Example B - Build Activation campaigns
For this second example, let’s assume that you want to advertise your product(s) to contacts who have engaged with your organization in the past but have not converted into paying customers.
Dormant users are an important untapped source of income; they are easier to talk to because they already have a relationship with your brand and are already familiar with your product.
Here are four steps you could follow to do just that:
Step 1. Set up a retargeting audience on your social ad platforms corresponding to dormant users.
> Good to know: Different platforms require different minimum numbers of accounts to be able to launch your campaign.
Step 2. Create the ads.
> Good to know: Remember that you are talking to people who know your product. This means that you can push relevant content with the purpose to turn visitors into active users and/or paying customers. Some of the best ad copies contain quotes from customer interviews. One more reason to do frequent customer research ;)
Step 3. Launch the campaign and analyze the results. Tweak the messaging or the creative if you haven't had the effect you expected.
Step 4. Repeat from step 2.
At which funnel stage does Paid Advertising help the most?
As a consultant, my answer to this question always begins with: It depends.
In reality, Paid Advertising can add value at all stages of the funnel.
If I needed to choose, I would highlight its ability to raise awareness by putting the right messages in front of the right audience. This, however, can change from business to business. The good thing about advertising is that it is easily scalable. If something works, why not amplify the results?
This leads us to the next section: the pitfalls of advertising.
3 advertising pitfalls you should pay attention to
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Money.
Money burns fast
Advertising obviously requires money to generate results. And, done right, you’ll get a positive ROI out of it. But if you start experimenting without a clear goal or strategy in mind, you will simply burn all your media budget for no results.
I recommend always doing a sanity check before running campaigns:
- Why am I doing this campaign?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- How does it fit into my marketing goals and overall growth marketing strategy?
More money ≠ better results
If you build your growth strategy entirely on paid ads, it might backfire when scaling up. One of my colleagues compared this type of advertising strategy to being addicted to hardcore drugs – bear with me; it does make sense.
“The more an addict uses, the more they need to reach the same ‘results’. It might be far-fetched, but if a business exclusively builds its growth on paid ads, it will eventually need to pour more money in to have an effect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to spend money at the beginning to get things started, but if you don’t have a long-term plan, you can easily end up in a position where you just need to pay more money to get the same results.”
Even though the use of paid channels is beneficial and can bring you results in a shorter time, using paid ads exclusively for user or lead acquisition is not sustainable. We don’t think that you should exclusively rely on them for your growth. In fact, organic and paid channels should be used side by side.
For instance, on a tactical level, SEO work (supposedly) improves organic ranking. Similarly, getting more eyeballs on your website increases your brand awareness and, therefore, supports your SEM activities. And vice versa.
Now, you cannot possibly rank high for every keyword out there, so you need to support it somehow. A great way to get some traffic and keyword visibility is setting up a Google search ads campaign.
Poor tracking = DANGER
Sorry to be direct here: If you can’t track and analyze your data, you can’t do proper growth marketing.
If you don’t have access to analytics platforms or if your conversion points and goals are not correctly set up in Analytics, you’ll likely end up reporting on and optimizing vanity metrics instead of those tied to revenue generation.
In an ideal world, the advertiser needs to see the full funnel:
- how the lead progresses down to funnel,
- where the user/lead drops out.
- Do they become an SQL, and are they picked up by the sales?
- What is the acquisition cost, and what is the revenue from that conversion?
The success of your Paid Media campaigns depends on how you feed your advertising platforms with your data from your website and, ideally, from your product. Get your conversion tracking set up.
Ready to accelerate your B2B SaaS growth with paid campaigns?
Many still see paid advertising activities as an expense when they should instead be considered as one of your most valuable assets.
Done well, paid campaigns will help you to better refine your ICP and identify what messages resonate the most with them, thus enabling growth marketing.
To make a long story short, no paid advertising, no growth marketing. ✅
This article was written based on five interviews: Wiebke Arendt, Mikko Latva-Koivisto, Ali Kisaoglu, Lauri Cederberg and Jesse Särmö.
Running paid advertising campaigns requires skills, time, and effort. If you need help with that, let’s talk! Get in touch with us!