Let’s face it, no one expected in-person events and gatherings to still be (somewhat) on hold in 2022, two years after the infamous Covid-19 pandemic first shook the world. While we knew things weren’t going to go back to normal, we knew that our “new normal” was going to be digital-first. And digital-first it is. Now, B2B companies are fighting for buyer and account attention in an oversaturated digital world and advertising remains a key strategy to gain that attention. But the rules of advertising have changed, as buyers demand relevant and personalized communication from brands.
To get a better idea of what’s working in B2B advertising in this day and age, Demand Gen Report caught up with Dmitri Lisitski, CEO and Co-founder of Influ2, a person-based marketing platform. Lisitski shares examples of Influ2’s own advertising strategies, how they measure success and even the up-and-coming ad channels to keep an eye out for.
Demand Gen Report: How have you seen B2B companies pivot their advertising strategies to compensate for a lack of in-person gatherings, budget cuts, etc.?
Dmitri Lisitski: The pandemic caused B2B companies to digitize their advertising strategies and created a “do-or-die” sense of urgency. Many pivoted toward an ABM-driven advertising strategy because it empowered them to take a very targeted, proactive approach to display and social media advertising, and these were some of the only channels that were available to marketers.
We were dealing with the same set of circumstances as all other B2B companies and wanted to drive warm leads with enterprise-level accounts in a challenging economic climate. But we also knew that we had a deep understanding of a “digital-only” world and wanted to show other companies how they could greatly improve the targeting of their advertising campaigns and showcase the power of personalization.
DGR: Can you share an example of a recent campaign that took this more targeted, proactive approach? How did it work out?
Lisitski: We launched the “New Reality” campaign, which showed what it was like to work from home, while also providing a personalized experience with Influ2. The overall approach of the campaign was unique as its focus was beyond just top-of-funnel (TOFU) activity. In the first stage, we launched a TOFU ad campaign that reached selected targets and buying groups through display and social media advertising, delivering a personalized sequence of a variety of content for the intended target.
The middle-of-funnel (MOFU) campaign was designed to create air cover for Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and had messaging that aligned with and supported their outreach. The focus of this part of the campaign was to promote the SDRs and create an additional channel for them to passively connect with their targets. The campaign was personalized to each SDR and offered content that highlighted their personality, humanizing them. This not only made the intended target feel like they were communicating with an actual person, it also showed how they could use Influ2 to target their own audiences — and connected outreach with advertising.
When an SDR booked a meeting, the key buyer and others in their buying group were moved to a bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) campaign, which was a one-to-one campaign covering the specific pain points of the account and supported the Account Executive who was working to close the deal. This approach helped to influence the buying group and supported deal conversion.
The campaign resulted in a 0.74% click-through rate and 0.32% visits. It engaged with 183 accounts, 7,000 decision-makers, of whom 60% were at the C/VP/Director level. And it resulted in 25 demo calls with a 14% call-to-conversion rate and nine direct conversions from this campaign. It also achieved a bottom-line result of 581% ROI, with deals closed with Cisco, Metova and Sumo Logic to date.
This campaign is reflective of the pivot that B2B companies had to make — those who adopted new platforms, embraced personalization and addressed the entire funnel, not just TOFU, were able to generate leads and close deals — even in an environment where many channels were closed to advertisers.
DGR: How have these new strategies helped to shape future advertising efforts now that we are moving into a hybrid world?
Lisitski: These new strategies have changed the role that advertising plays because they’ve evolved the funnel — taking it from a split funnel to a unified one and blurring the lines between sales and marketing. Advertising can no longer just solely focus on driving interest and awareness, which is what’s needed at the top of the funnel.
Instead, campaigns need to support the whole funnel — this approach betters sales and marketing alignment and provides air-cover for sales to communicate with the prospect throughout the entire journey. While salespeople are working to push the relationship through the funnel to conversion, marketing should provide cover by serving contextually relevant ads at every stage.
Also, advertisers will continue to prioritize tactics that are conducive to hyper-personalization to support relationship building, such as succinct video content, mobile ads, chatbots for engagement and influencer activities that support the middle-of-funnel educational campaigns.
Even if we are moving to a hybrid world, the digital space will continue to be competitive and noisy. As the use of third-party cookies for targeted advertising goes off the radar, leveraging platforms with hyper-targeting capabilities such as LinkedIn will continue to be important.
DGR: Which new channels should marketers be taking advantage of to improve their ads’ impact and reach?
Lisitski: While not new, social advertising has become the most effective way to reach new audiences. Social channels are replacing the leads that were often generated through events and sales interactions, which are not going back to where they were. There is a lot of hesitation to make commitments in this era of uncertainty, but those who don’t embrace social will be missing out.
Also, I think that Connected TV (CTV) will continue to grow and become an important channel for marketers looking to maximize reach among their intended targets.
DGR: How does Influ2 measure its ad impact? What metrics should marketers track to ensure their ads are performing well?
Lisitski: Right now, we’re in the process of shifting how we measure an ad’s impact, but I think it’s time for marketers to refine their approach to performance measurement in ways that better reflect the challenges and opportunities of today’s environment.
Initially, just filling out a lead form was treated as an MQL, but the conversion rate to SQLs was not particularly strong. And now that demand generation has evolved to be more data-driven, marketers have the ability to factor in more interactions to their behavioral scoring models, such as content consumption, downloads and clicks on ads. However, just because someone downloads an E-book from your website does not mean they are ready to talk to a salesperson.
That’s why the current environment requires a metric that captures relationships with the entire buying group — let’s call it the buying group engagement metric, or BGE. The BGE would measure the sum of engagements with all buying group members, increasing with every engagement marketing creates and declining when engagements are not created. It is premised on the elimination of the bifurcated funnel, where marketing involvement is only at the top, and it must include incentivization for marketing to be involved.
When taking an MQL approach to measurement, a lead is often handed off to the sales team with no further marketing involvement. But, marketing support is needed in the middle and lower stages of the funnel because that’s when the shift from true sales development to loyalty happens.
A BGE approach to measurement focuses on the building of strategic relationships rather than tactical excitement and it captures marketing impact beyond the handoff to a sales team. And it enables the visualization of marketing and sales results together while still maintaining visibility of each element individually.
Want more insight into what’s working in the world of B2B advertising? Check out our latest report!