April 6, 2020

Do Facebook ads work for B2B?

Last week we looked at how Facebook ads can often contribute to assisted conversions, rather than last click conversions. (Catch up here if you missed it).

Subscriber Martin replied saying:

This is a clear B2C example. Yet you assert with no evidence that “Even in B2B, a Facebook ad can act as a visual prompt or nudge.”

I assert with an equal amount of evidence that “In B2B, a Facebook ad can act as a turn-off or a deterrent.”

Discuss.

There is a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer is that unless you personally are going to buy all of the services you sell for the next 12 months, your personal vendetta of Facebook ads doesn’t matter very much, so you should test it out and gather some data.

Short answers however don’t win you many friends or close many deals… so there is a longer answer.

To some extent we all frame our advertising platform choices with our own personal media habits and experiences.

I’ve known Martin for a few years – this isn’t our first debate about Facebook ads. He doesn’t like the majority of ads that appear in his feed – something I can relate to. So consequently he doesn’t want to run Facebook ads to promote his B2B business.

My experience as a consultant is that nothing I say will overcome that media bias. It’s better just to accommodate the bias and adjust the strategy, say by incorporating LinkedIn instead of Facebook. You should only run ads in places you’re comfortable with.

So having said that, what are my key learnings from running Facebook ads for B2B clients this year?

1. It’s not easy

If you sell to businesses, pretty much all your customers are on Facebook. But none of them go to Facebook to see your ad or buy anything. Which makes Facebook a difficult nut to crack.

(It’s not easy, and you probably won’t get the offer and messaging right first time. But your customers are all there, so stick with it…)

Facebook is more like Google Display than Google Search. If you’ve never run a successful Google Display campaign (very few people have), then this is why Facebook advertising is also hard. Your campaigns are unlikely to be a runaway success out of the gate.

2. Your strategy should be remarketing driven

For B2B, Facebook is usually best used as a remarketing platform, i.e. by showing ads to:

– Existing customers (assuming you have more than 1000)

– Recent offline enquiries (assuming you have more than 1000)

– Recent visitors to key pages on your website (again, more than 1000)

– People who have watched 50% or more of key video content you’ve natively uploaded to Facebook (ideally more than 1000)

Notice the volume constraints. If you sell B2B and have 500 people a month on your website, Facebook is not going to be a big part of your ads strategy. You won’t hit sufficient volume to get traction with the ads.

Audience selection (who you run ads to) is perhaps even more important than in B2C. You primarily want to run ads to people who are already in the buying process. You may run a subset of ads to nurture older prospects (perhaps by offering more educational content), but most of your spend should go on recently engaged prospects. If you don’t have too many of those people then Facebook won’t be a key part of your follow-up strategy.

3. What to say and offer

B2B audiences on Facebook generally do not want a free consultation, a free quote, a call back, or similar calls to action you might use on Google Search. They’re on Facebook to avoid consultations, callbacks and quotes!

Lead magnets can work (e.g. free reports and guides). However, if you’re going to offer a report, don’t give it a stuffy corporate title, or call it a ‘whitepaper’. People on Facebook do not want to download whitepapers, although they sometimes will if you wrap it in more appealing packaging.

The download has to be of immediate use and interest, and it has to be enjoyable to read. It also has to be easy to download, without completing a form that has 17 fields.

The most successful B2B Facebook ads I’ve run this year have been remarketing ads (to people recently on the website) offering ‘insider guides’. The ad should explain that the insider guide will stop the reader wasting tremendous amounts of money (you might replace ‘money’ with ‘budget’ in the ad copy) by making the wrong decision.

To get people’s attention, you have to draw attention to a bad decision they’re in the process of making, that will cost their company significant money. And likely make them look bad, and make them miserable for 6-9 months while they repair the damage. You can’t say that directly in the ad, but that’s what you should allude to.

Think: what wrong decisions are your prospects about to make that will cost their company huge amounts of money? That’s what you need to write about in your lead magnet. Or talk about if your lead magnet is a video or webinar – those can also work.

The most successful ads have a combination of timely relevance, unexpectedness and fun. (Fun does not mean using 17 types of emoji – that makes you a child).

You can’t bore people into converting. My experience is that clients who are overly concerned with tone and brand guidelines do not run effective Facebook ads. Give the ads some voice. Preferably your own voice.

4. Ask them to tag the main decision maker in a comment

If the sales process involves multiple people, it can be worth asking them to tag relevant people in their organisation in a comment. I’ve seen that work. Something like: “work with someone who needs this? Tag them in a comment below.”

5. Don’t remarket for too long

People should only really see your lead magnet ads for a few days after visiting your website (which is why the volume restrictions are so critical). After that you might move them to a longer duration audience where you periodically boost new blog posts to them. Of course if they click through to read a blog post, they return to Day 0 and you promote the lead magnet again.

Closing Thoughts

It’s correct to say that Facebook isn’t natively a B2B environment, which is why the audience (who you’re running ads to) and the strategy (what you’re offering in your ads) has to be carefully considered. Get it wrong and you’ll waste a load of money.

If you sell to very large companies, Facebook decreases in importance while LinkedIn increases in importance.

But you CAN use the platform to move people along, remind people who got distracted, and add value. Aim to serve and help in your ads. Don’t try to sell in your Facebook ads – it won’t work.

And do remember to document your campaigns. An undocumented campaign can only help you if it succeeds (which it often won’t).

Any questions, comments, disagreements? Post them below.

Rob

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.

  • Jonathan says:

    I agree B2C works better in many digital marketing scenarios than B2B, however, the majority of consultants, courses, ‘gurus’, trainers, and a lot of SaaS are selling B2B with Facebook ads. Perry Marshall, Dan Kennedy, Frank Kern, Ryan Levesque, Russel Brunson, and many others are selling B2B and all of them run Facebook ads.

    I’ve worked with successful B2B specific office supply companies that are selling exclusively B2B and doing well with FB ads.

    Many lead generation services are B2B. Myself and many colleagues have successfully run funnels on FB to generate qualified leads for marketing agencies (mine included!).

    Granted depending on what you’re selling, you may have better success with LinkedIn ads, Direct Mail, YouTube, Cold Calling, showing up in person, speaking at live events, or The Good Old Boys Club…

    … but that doesn’t mean B2B will fail on FB across the board.

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