No matter what your B2B offering is, you should be allocating a significant portion of your marketing budget to content production and distribution within the 5 major platforms that people use on the internet – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google.
In many tests, we’ve found Facebook to always perform better than LinkedIn (8x-10x better, in fact!), which goes against the conventional B2B mindset. Over the past 36 months, we’ve spent over $500k in Facebook & Instagram media, and this write-up will share ALL of our learnings with you.
Note: the topics covered are intended for those with intermediate-advanced skill level in executing Facebook ad campaigns. We assume the reader understands the basics and we do not take the time to explain all entry-level concepts.
What’s Your Goal? Choosing the Right Ad Objectives
Within the Facebook ad segment, you should be running a mix of ads with the following objectives:
- Traffic (Links Clicks or Landing Page Views) – Drive targeted traffic to a blog post or webpage with the goal of shifting their current opinion or creating a new opinion on a specific issue. Keep it simple, digestible and relevant!
- Native Lead Generation – Clear your schedule for the afternoon and learn how to build a Facebook lead gen form. We’ve found native Facebook lead gen forms convert 300%-1,000% better than sending your traffic to a form on an external landing page.
- Video Views – An important part of the mix, we’ve found a few key elements to a successful video campaign. Contrary to the headlines preaching short videos, our results suggest video length is not correlated with campaign success related to business results, such as leads or revenue.
Ad objectives that you should not run:
- Awareness – Run a link click ad instead & try to accomplish something or bring value to the audience. Showing your logo for the sake of “awareness” is a poor strategy. Awareness campaigns typically have the lowest CPMs, but don’t let that fool you.
- Reach – See above. Pointless.
- Post engagement / post likes – Deliver a valuable piece of content (with a link click ad) & the likes and shares will come naturally. We advise against optimizing for vanity metrics.
Are You Marketing or Selling? The Right Mindset for Success
Success on Facebook is a long-term play that requires effort, talent, investment, and the right strategy.
Many B2B companies make the mistake of using Facebook ads like an intent-based, conversion-based platform. It’s not. Unlike Google, in most cases Facebook is not an intent-based marketing platform and therefore we need to adjust our strategy accordingly. Facebook is best used as a communication and content delivery tool. Think email marketing with 100% open rates at less than $0.01 per impression.
Of course, in our mix, we’ll use conversion-based ads that are highly targeted with a compelling offer. But the point here is that the mix is heavily weighted to helping, engaging and building relationships – 90% brand, 10% sales.
The Tech Stack
Before you run any campaigns, construct a marketing technology stack that supports analytics, performance, optimization, re-targeting, and more. Here’s our standard tech stack and we add additional pieces to expand the core functionality:
CRM – We love Hubspot for CRM & Marketing Automation. Salesforce CRM works great, too, with a well-configured integration with the Hubspot Marketing platform.
Marketing Automation – We are 100% Hubspot for Marketing Automation regardless of which CRM is in place.
Ad Analytics – Hubspot Ads Add-On (~$100/month and worth every penny). We use this add-on for seamlessly importing contacts from Facebook lead gen forms directly into Hubspot. You can immediate trigger marketing automation based on a suite of ad conversion properties (e.g. contact submits form for white paper, Hubspot automatically sends email to deliver content). Additionally, the add-on appends tracking URL for all campaigns, which can be super helpful for real-time monitoring of Google Analytics during a campaign launch with accelerated ad delivery. The tool also provides basic analytics for Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, though we highly recommend conducting analysis natively within Google or Facebook Ads Manager. (UPDATE: This is no longer necessary, and this functionality comes with the standard Hubspot Ads package within the Marketing Professional and Enterprise packages)
Facebook Pixel – Unlocks a suite of capabilities that are critical for high-performance Facebook campaigns.
LinkedIn Insight Tag – Unlocks a suite of capabilities that could be used later for LinkedIn advertising. The important part is to install the tag to start collecting data. For most companies, we recommend a LinkedIn organic strategy, but not much effort focused on LinkedIn Paid – the CPM floor is too high and the ads aren’t that effective. Note: we acknowledge that you can have success using LinkedIn ads; however, it’s not our preferred strategy after running numerous side-by-side tests against Facebook.
Google Analytics – This one is basic, but make sure you’re GA tag is installed, working property, and you’ve built a second view with a nice set of filters.
Website Performance – Cloudflare (~$20/month) – When configured properly, Cloudflare can maximize website performance and also add an additional layer of security.
Video Hosting – Wistia (Professional ~$100/month ; Advanced ~$400/month) – Collect leads, add CTAs, and track analytics as a feedback loop to improve your video marketing. Includes a stellar integration with Hubspot.
Phone Analytics – CallRail (~$120/month) – Track inbound phone data by source. Includes a smooth integration with Hubspot. AirCall also seems like a great option, though we’ve not personally installed it anywhere yet.
How Much Does This Cost? Tips for Budget Planning
Over time, you should get a sense for expected outcomes of campaigns by tracking a combination of leading and lagging metrics. For general planning purposes, you could use the formulas below to develop a range. We recommend allowing the live campaign data to drive your budget decisions – if the audience isn’t responding, stop spending at $50 , and if performance continues much stronger than expected, be prepared to double your media spend for that piece of content on the spot.
To develop your estimates, you’ll need audience size, estimated CPM, and estimated campaign timeline (number of days):
Developing a Low Estimate:
(Audience Size / Expected CPM) * 2x Frequency = Estimated Total Campaign Cost (Low)
Estimated Cost Per Day (Low) = Estimated Total Campaign Cost (Low) * Campaign Timeline (Days)
Developing a High Estimate:
(Audience Size / Expected CPM) * 6x Frequency = Estimated Total Campaign Cost (High)
Estimated Cost Per Day (High) = Estimated Total Campaign Cost (High) * Campaign Timeline (Days)
Here are the critical metrics to be tracking for every campaign. We use the column configuration titled “Performance & Clicks”, but we’ll explore different views based on the individual needs of the campaign. We don’t often use customized column layouts, but it may be useful for particularly complex campaigns and Ads Manager configurations.
Each campaign is different and there are no particular targets for each metric. We’ve provided ranges below for those we feel confident in. Targets for other metrics are entirely dependent on the business and providing an acceptable range would be irresponsible.
Cost per Result (CPR) – A generalized metric that quantifies the cost for each desired result determine by the campaign objective.
Cost per Lead (CPL) – Best we’ve ever seen = $2.51 CPL ; Incredible Performance < $15 CPL ; Average Performance $16-$49 CPL ; Unacceptable Performance Threshold should be calculated specifically calculated for each business based on sales win rate and average customer lifetime value.
Cost per Click (CPC) – Best we’ve ever seen = $0.11 CPC ; Incredible performance < $0.50 CPC ; Average Performance $0.51-$0.99 CPC ; Unacceptable Performance Threshold > $1.50 CPC.
Click-Thru Rate (CTR %) – The percentage of impressions that converted to a click. This metric is applicable for both traffic and lead generation objectives. Best we’ve ever seen = 10.8% ; Incredible Performance > 4% ; Average Performance 1% – 3% ; Unacceptable Performance < 0.75%.
Cost per 1,000 Impressions (CPM) – The average cost for your ad to be delivered for 1,000 impressions. This cost can vary widely based on the audience, ad objective, etc. Acceptable ranges are included below for our main recommended campaign objectives.
Lead Generation – Acceptable CPM range $14 – $34
Traffic – Acceptable CPM Range – $8 – $20
Video Views – Acceptable CPM Range – Unknown
Relevance Score – Relevance score can be a useful general indicator of the performance of the ad and how well it matches your targeted audience; however, this should never be your primary metric for making decisions. Instead assess a combination of CPR, CTR %, CPC (All), Frequency, and CPM. (UPDATE: this may no longer be relevant depending on your Ads Manager configuration)
Frequency – The average number of times each person in your audience has been delivered the campaign, ad set, or ad. This is a critical metric that helps you predict ad fatigue.
Audience Targeting Strategies
Here’s a detailed description of every targeting strategy we’ve had success with. Targeting can either be very straightforward or actually quite challenging depending on your intended audience.
Job Title – In many cases, the ideal targeting method. This targeting method works best when you have a unique, industry-specific set of job title you’re targeting (e.g. Emergency Medicine Physician or Master Brewer).
Interest in a Professional Association – What are the top 3 industry conferences or magazine in your industry? This can be a diamond in the rough for a targeting strategy. We once hit pay dirt targeting respiratory therapists based on their interest in the “American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC)”, where we found an audience size 48,000 Facebook users that fit exactly our ideal customer profile (ICP).
Lookalike Audience – If you target a broad audience, are searching for new people, or have a campaign worth national news coverage, you’ll most likely love the lookalike targeting strategy.
Third-Party Pixel Retargeting – This innovative strategy drove 535 new leads within 6 months. Are there websites where you know your ideal customer profile visits frequently? The main challenge is that you’ll need help from the website owner to install your pixel on their site. We’ve successfully implemented this on 2 unaffiliated websites and experienced incredible business results.
Company Name (not a perfect system) – Targeting based on company name to employ a quasi-ABM strategy is challenging, and we’ve yet to find consistent success with it. Following the Facebook data breach in late 2017, the capability to target based on Employer was removed. It’s since returned but is far less useful now. We once had success targeting employees of “University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)”, where we found an audience of approx. 34,000 Facebook users to market regulated medical products.
Building Lookalike Audiences
If you don’t understand the concept of a lookalike audience you should read here first: About Lookalike Audiences
To build a lookalike audience, you need to provide a source audience for which the algorithm to operate on. This input file is critically important – give the algorithm great data to start with and find new potential members of your audience. When creating a lookalike audience use an audience with a size of minimum 3,000; however, we’ve seen best results with sizes greater than 8,000. If the audience quality of the source file remains the same, you should see correlated performance increases as you increase the size of the source.
Note: Unless you have a strong reason to go for a broader audience, you should always be creating audiences using the 1% setting.
Here are all the best formulas we’ve found for source audiences:
Everyone that has visited a specific webpage on your site – Maybe it’s your pricing page or maybe it your best performing blog post written in Portuguese. Ensure the page you’ve identified had no potential sources of audience quality dilution!
All website visitors – A slightly broader attempt at the above approach. Your audience may not be as highly targeted, but that may not matter for this particular campaign.
Entire Hubspot Contact Database – If your database is clean and reliable, you can match your contacts from Hubspot and create a lookalike audience from that source. Not our favorite strategy but can be helpful in particular situations.
Third-Party Pixel – As discussed above in Audience Targeting Strategies.
Facebook/Instagram Engaged Audience – Again, not our favorite but can be useful in particular situations.
Budget Allocation / Budget Strategy
After running Facebook marketing campaigns for approximately 1-2x the average sales cycle length, you should start to get a sense for expected results based on campaign performance and allocated budget.
Note: You absolutely must have a closed loop marketing attribution system before executing on anything in this document. This is is for tracking data and will be justification downstream to accelerate investment in these strategies (while unconventional, they’re wonderfully effective).
Here’s an example of calculated projections we could make for a particular client after 8 months of campaigns (note – this is for illustration purposes only and results will vary):
$1 ad spend = $100 in qualified sales pipeline
Win rate (lead:sale ratio) = 38%
$1 ad spend = $46 in acquired customer lifetime value
The Theory of Accelerated Ad Delivery
This technique was a major unlock for us! Accelerated ad delivery is the short-term (2-4 hours) major inflation of daily budget to 10x-20x the expected daily budget at the launch of a campaign. Ads will be rapidly delivered, and the entire optimization process can often be completed within the first 4 hours. Once optimization is complete, select the highest performing ad, return the daily budget to a normal level, and run the best performing ad at scale to your audience.
Confused about daily budget? See our notes of Budget Planning.
It’s a 24/7 Job – The Truth to Campaign Management
For major campaigns, campaign management is a 24/7 job. We’ve sometimes used a robust set of Automated Rules from 3am – 7am, but this is generally not recommended.
What’s a major campaign? We typically classify campaigns as “major” when they have a daily budget of more than $2k or a monthly budget more than $25k.
Components of campaign management include:
- Community management – includes a thoughtful reply to every comment
- Comment moderation
- Real-time Google Analytics Monitoring
- Ad Data Monitoring
- Inviting new people to like your page
Each of the above components of campaign management is detailed in Community Management, Page Monitoring, and Comments Moderation.
How are We Doing? Your Go-To Leading and Lagging Metrics
You’ll need a robust set of reliable metrics to continuously monitor the effectiveness of your marketing machine. Here is the standard set of metrics we track, separated by the timeframe in which they’re recognized.
Immediate Metrics – website visits, average time on page, post engagement (primarily comments & shares), qualitative feedback in comments
Leading Metrics – form submissions, number of sales qualified leads, number of opportunities generated, pipeline created, qualified pipeline created
Lagging Metrics – closed won revenue, win rate, average deal size, average sales cycle length (typically 50%-66% shorter than traditional outbound).
Community Management, Page Monitoring, and Comments Moderation
This important topic that’s often overlooked, even by huge brands. Fascinating.
The interactions you have in the comments are incredibly high value and here’s exactly how we use them. You should respond or moderate every single relevant comment. Here’s a prescribed format that you should test and adjust accordingly:
[Acknowledgement of question or statement] + [Answer the question in short form] + [provide a link to a relevant, helpful piece of content]
Steve (Commenter): How much does this widget cost?
Reply to Comment: Hi Steve, thanks so much for reaching out about this! Our packages of widgets are custom configured, so you get the perfect solution for you. To request custom pricing information, you can complete the form here: www.test-widgets.com/request-a-quote
Here are the business benefits of adopting this strategy:
Answer pre-sales questions – You’ll get a lot of pre-sales questions within the comments. Be prepared with your best marketer/copywriter. They should be an expert on the product, value proposition, differentiation, and competitive landscape.
Deliver the next piece of content – At the end of every comment, link to a detailed, helpful, and relevant piece of content on your website (can be gated or non-gated). For instance, if they ask for the price, maybe you’ll link to the Request a Quote landing page or the Product Page where the price is published. Or if they liked the blog, maybe there’s a detailed white paper you could point them to? Remember, though, you are helping, not selling!
Ideation for future content – if you closely monitor the comments and engage with your audience, you’ll find ideas for your next 5 pieces of content within these interactions.
Market research – Test messaging, ask questions, engage, participate, connect. This is such a powerful way to build rapport with and better understand your audience at scale. Fascinated brands don’t take more advantage of this.
Identify/handle an objection – A focused extension of the market research topic above, you have a forum where you can publicly handle an objection with a thoughtful statement. Other times, you’ll identify a new objection that you need to build a talk track and associated content assets to effectively overcome it.
And here are a few other critical activities within campaign management:
Moderate/Delete Disrespectful or Unfair comments – If you’re running ads to 250,000 people per day, I’m guessing you don’t want the first comment to be from Jeanie in Texas bashing your brand and recommending your competitor, right? (This sadly happens far more often than it should).
All comments that are disrespectful, unfair or would otherwise be considered “trolling” should be immediately deleted (not hidden, delete). And it should be at the discretion of the community manager on whether or not to block/ban that person.
On the other side of the coin, if a comment is negative, but reasonable, truthful, or otherwise justifiable, you should never delete them. This is your chance to take ownership for that mistake, to do your best to make it right, to win someone over, or to hear someone out. Our recommendation is to do your absolute best to acknowledge/respond/resolve these publicly within the comments.
And lastly, a little trick to boost your page likes which could be useful for future campaigns:
Invite all post likes to like your page – although Facebook organic reach is truly awful, it’s important to build your page likes using this method. People that like your page are even further qualified and we can use this data for advanced re-targeting or lookalike audience creation in the future.
Creative is the Difference Between Winning & Losing
Your creative – images, videos, words, headlines, timing, colors, content, variations – will dictate the level of success for your campaigns. We’ve seen campaigns change from failing to succeeding simply by swapping the image in the ad. This is an iterative process that takes times and continuously improves. Always be testing & let the audience data determine which is the best version.
Here’s our general philosophy on each important part of the ad creative process, as well as examples to help illustrate our ideas:
Creative philosophy – The creative is the first thing your audience will consume. Is the picture blurry? Is the first second of the video attention grabbing? What are you doing with this split-second of attention? Behind only campaign objective/strategy, creative is the next most important variable of your campaign.
Headline philosophy – The headline is usually the first set of text that’s read. We experience best results when utilizing a newsworthy headline. The headline should capture the key takeaway of the content, so even if they don’t click through or engage, you’ll get some value from the impression.
Examples of headline copy:
“Vapotherm Announces New Precision Flow Plus”
“JEA Senior Living Rolls Out Eversound to 50+ Communities”
“Example Hospital Lowers ICU Admissions by 16%”
Body copy philosophy – We’ve found the best performance of the body copy by pulling out a single statement from the content that drives the message and further delivers the story you’re trying to tell. One sentence is best. Two sentences maximum. We don’t recommend the use of Emojis for most brands.
Examples or body copy:
“The upgraded version includes nurse call connectivity and EMR integration while delivering the same trusted therapy.”
“Within two months of starting a pilot at 6 locations, they decided to roll out Eversound to every community in the JEA portfolio.”
“Intubations also decreased by 12% during the study period.”
Audience Saturation or Ad Fatigue is Real & Predictable
Audience saturation is the process of inundating a specific audience with too many ads from your brand – it feels overwhelming, spammy, and sometimes can do more harm than good.
Ad fatigue, within the same vein, yet slightly different, is the rapid performance degradation of a specific ad because it’s been served to an audience too many times.
Ad fatigue is entirely predictable. We see sharp drops in performance at approximately Frequency = 2.0 and again at approximately Frequency = 6.0.
Advanced Audience Exclusion Strategy
This advanced exclusion strategy can save you money on media and also help you put your best foot forward with your most engaging audience members. This setup will automatically remove people from the target audience once they’ve converted on the ad. Here’s how to configure it:
Create a custom audience of the people that have clicked on your ad and visited your landing page. Exclude this custom audience from your targeting within the ad set. Once people convert, they will be excluded from being shown ads within that ad set again. You could also re-target this audience with a deeper piece of content within a separate ad. Note: Facebook Pixel required.
Too Much Text & Creative Will Get Suppressed
Follow the guidelines for allowable text in images and videos. We’ve had numerous campaigns shut down by the algorithm. Only use text within creative when absolutely needed – if you can effectively communicate in the headline text, that’s preferred instead of overlaid on creative.
Dynamic Creative is a new feature within Facebook Ads Manager that automatically creates combinations of creative assets, headlines, and body copy. It absolutely streamlines and simplifies that ad creation process; however, for advanced users, we don’t recommend using this shortcut because you lose the capability to analyze the ad data for each individual ad. This data is critical for our rapid custom optimization process using accelerated budget delivery.
You can accelerate this manual ad creation process through planning and a few tricks. In the planning phase, finalize all the headline and body copy combinations, and upload all the creative assets in appropriate aspect ratios. Then, when populating the ads, use the quick duplicate function to quickly build all your ad combinations.
Cumbersome, yes. But entirely worth it to facilitate the optimization process.
Budget Management Strategy Nuances
For “News” related content, we’ve had success running accelerated budget at and throughout the entire campaign. Intending to hit the entire available audience twice each in two days, and then the campaign is over. Amplifying news content tightly within a window of time increases the chances of organic amplification.
Our recommended strategy is to be running these interesting and engaging media coverages to your audience twice per week (two days per campaign). If your content delivers, you’ll rapidly build credibility and trust with your audience. Let’s be clear – the content must deliver.