10 Companies You Need To Study if You Want To Build a Category

“If a new founder or marketing team wanted to build a category, which companies would you tell them to study in B2B SaaS?

I recently asked this question to my fellow colleagues and network of business professionals to see who they would suggest.

Their answers had a few obvious, recurring names. But I was happy to see some dark horses that also fit the mold.

Sometimes you need both a movement to happen in conjunction with category creation

Take Salesforce for instance, which pioneered the SaaS movement and developed the first, arguably best SaaS CRM solution.

  • Movement = Change from on-premise software to cloud/SaaS
  • Category = SaaS CRM

The greatest category creators have defied the status quo in creating something that didn’t exist.

Others were smart for identifying new trends that were still hidden from others and rode and amplified/championed those trends for their categories (e.g. Gainsight for Customer Success). 

The path of most resistance can pay off with countless lessons from formative experiences while in the trenches. Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you just have to learn from the best and then start.

Uncovering these hidden truths from those that did it successfully is the best kind of schooling.

Here’s a list of the top responses I got (and the top companies you need to study for category creation).

The top 10 companies to study for category creation:

1. Gong“Revenue Intelligence” 

gong linkedin screenshot comment

Why study Gong: They found a way to arm sales leaders with insights through machine analysis of sales calls, and proved how a “reality” view of sales (without opinion) is possible.

Listen to Udi Ledergor from Gong on the B2B Category Creators Podcast

2. Hubspot – “Inbound Marketing” 

Why study Hubspot: They saw how marketing was shifting. They knew technology was changing the way people shop, buy, consume, and interact with businesses. Hubspot made the expense of mass cold calling, outbound marketing, and traditional advertising a thing of the past with engagement tactics that drive consumers in.

3. Drift“Conversational Marketing”

drift linkedin screenshot comment

Why study Drift: In a world where buyers expect immediate responses through Slacking and texting, marketing forms were ripe for disruption. Drift made it possible to be available to customers who want to buy for instant, authentic interactions.

Listen to David Cancel from Drift on the B2B Category Creators Podcast

4. Asana“Task Management” 

Why study Asana: They found a way to enable teamwork without email, helping teams manage projects and tasks with transparency. It started with a belief that there had to be a better way for teams to work together besides the status quo of email overload and unproductive status meetings.

5. Slack (acronym for “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge”)

Why study Slack: They are revolutionizing the way we communicate at work through transparency and centralization.

Before Slack, there was no way for employees to see what other people and teams were working on. Slack gave them that access in one centralized place to chat, share files, and exchange information without endless threads of email. 

6. Terminus “Account-Based Marketing”

terminus linkedin screenshot comment

Why study Terminus: Traditional B2B marketing started with a broad, untargeted approach to communicate with as many potential new customers as possible. Terminus flipped that on its head by inverting the traditional sales B2B funnel and focusing efforts on a smaller number of right-fit customers. Solidifying the account-based marketing (ABM) space. 

7. Canva- “Graphic Design”

Why study Canva: A 30-year-old Australian female founder hated the barriers to designing software. So she took the entire design ecosystem and integrated it into one page, with the mission of making design accessible to all.

8. Gainsight – “Customer Success”

Why study Gainsight: Launching an entirely new department within organizations is no easy feat. But these founders knew a customer’s positive experience and success with your product was the holy grail.

Gainsight leveraged technology and big data to increase retention, reduce churn, and close more deals.  

9. Dropbox “File Hosting Service”

Why study Dropbox: They answered a new, (annoying) problem for a digitally growing world. One where people carry a phone or two, maybe a tablet, but have files and photos trapped on multiple PCs, laptops, and mobile devices.

They took data spread across different devices and eliminated the need for a USB memory stick with a digital storage service.

10. Zendesk- “Helpdesk Software”

Why study Zendesk: They saw how customer tracking and incident reporting software was outdated and complicated to adopt. Zendesk reinvented customer service through a web-based helpdesk – a simple alternative to the complicated mess that customer service can be.

Honorable mentions

There were so many great examples that people brought up.

mentions linkedin screenshot comment

In the end, we chose the top 10, but here are some of the other honorable mentions that were included:

Atlassian, Bluescape, Celonis Correlated, DocuSign. Everbridge, Figma, Frontify, Intercom, Intuit (QuickBooks Online), Metadata.io (much appreciated), Nektar, Netcore Cloud, Okta, Outreach, Rattle, Segment, SetSail, SiteZeus, Snowflake, Trello, Xero, Zapier, Zoho, Zuora, cloudflare.

Learn how to successfully build your own category

Get insights from the founders and leaders at Drift, Gong, Gainsight, and more on the B2B Category Creators Podcast with Gil Allouche.

Redefining ABM: What It Isn’t and What It Needs to Be

Disclaimer: I’m not here to bash account-based marketing. 

ABM is a proven way to connect with your target accounts in a personalized way. Most B2B companies should be doing ABM.

Yet IMHO, the pendulum has swung too far to an all account-based mentality at the expense of proven demand gen activities.

But before I delve into ABM’s overuse, I need to address an elephant in the room.

Is there an agreed-upon definition of ABM? You’ll get 10 different answers if you ask 10 different marketers.

This may sound cynical, but I blame software vendors for “ABM” being ill-defined. 

For the past 15-plus years, we’ve simply let ABM vendors define the ABM category. And guess how they defined it? Based on what their technologies could do.

It didn’t start with ABM as a strategy first, followed by defining the technology — it was the other way around. And they did such a good job at it that marketers and analysts alike just bought into it.

You can see this when you look at the inclusion criteria for a Forrester or Gartner report on ABM Platforms — it reads like a Demandbase features list. 

When “ABM platforms” showed up 10 years ago from Demandbase, Terminus, and others ABM was accepted as a “technology.” 

Not an approach or a strategy, but a quick-fix, silver bullet “tech platform.”

B2B companies went all-in on ABM without understanding if they had the sales-marketing alignment and budget to run ABM campaigns and actually make them work. 

Not surprisingly, ABM platforms never did fix B2B marketing.

Why? Because ABM is NOT A TECHNOLOGY. 

But more on that later. 

In this post, I’ll set the record straight on what ABM isn’t…and then define what it is and how you can integrate it into your marketing strategy.

To start, here’s what ABM isn’t….

abm isn't graphic

ABM isn’t…B2B

In the real world, ABM is just one piece of a B2B marketing strategy. But it’s not the entire thing. You’ve heard things like “ABM is B2B” — it’s not. 

Intuitive marketers blend ABM with demand gen tactics such as direct response and performance marketing. They leverage a double-funnel approach, figuring out the right balance between ABM and demand gen.

This way, you’re not leaving any part of your market untouched — you leverage ABM programs for your top accounts and pair that with demand capture activities for 2nd-3rd tier accounts who are in-market.

B2B is all about balance.

ABM isn’t…for everyone 

Not every B2B company needs to leverage ABM as a strategy. 

For example, if your ASP is less than $50k/year — you may not need ABM (probably still a good idea, but you could grow with just demand capture). 

There are other reasons as well, for example:

1. Your business model is based on free trials and micro-transactions 

If you sell to individuals within a company and rely on free trials and monthly payments, you’ll be almost all demand capture. Most of your business is from 25 individuals doing $10 per month deals. You don’t need ABM.

2. You’re strapped for resources 

ABM is expensive. If you don’t have the budget and people yet for content creation, personalization, direct mail efforts, and proper communication with the sales team, you’ll put out shoddy, poorly coordinated ABM. 

No one can agree on what ABM actually means. It’s thrown out as a “quick fix” instead of doing the work to develop a real strategy. ABM personalization is usually the same as Hi {{first.name}} as personalization. It’s not personalization.

ABM isn’t…running display ads

Display advertising has been the primary activation channel for ABM. But this is a flawed approach, for a few reasons:

1. Display ads broadly target a whole account 

When you’re spending ad dollars, you need to be sure they’re only getting in front of the relevant people within an organization. Display ads have limited ability to target specific job titles — they just blanket the entire company based on IP address and other factors. 

Why display to everyone at a company when ABM depends on targeting small, specific groups?

2. Display ads aren’t very performative

Display is historically good at driving website traffic, but most of these visitors are not qualified and your ads are not relevant to them. Is it the company’s office manager or the CMO? And then if they click, their engagement on your website is low. 

This is why it usually takes several additional retargeting touches before you get a conversion. At the same time, you can get close enough to a display-level cost-per-click in paid social, if your ads and offers are good enough — especially when you consider the fewer touches and higher engagement you get.

3. ABM platforms love display ads because they take a cut

Hmmmm, so why would ABM platforms push for display ads? 

Because they charge a percent of the ad spend. 

Meanwhile, their core metrics are impressions and engagement, which are misleading because revenue is never tracked. You’re basically stopping at “cost per impression” or maybe “cost per click”, which today’s B2B marketers understand is just not good enough.

ABM vendors have created this movement around account-based efforts. Period. In reality, shouldn’t we have been going after our target accounts all along? Riddle me that. ABM was a motion set in place by vendors, and proper execution unfortunately was never prioritized.

ABM isn’t…a technology

Smart B2B marketers don’t depend on watered-down, all-in-one tech. They understand the gaps and strengths of their go-to-market approach and plug in point technologies.

For instance:

  • You know your TAM is small, so you need a technology for targeting.
  • You’re exploring new ad formats and messaging, so you need a tech platform for experimentation.
  • You’re struggling to optimize to revenue so you need an analytics platform to improve closed loop feedback. 

Because ABM isn’t a technology, it also shouldn’t be a category line item in a budget. 

Spend on ABM should spread across supporting techs like those mentioned above. Additionally, companies should only spend money on technologies they need for a competitive advantage.
What ABM is…and where it fits into marketing plans

ABM is something you do, not something you buy. You can do ABM without an “ABM platform”. You still need technologies to run ABM, but every company’s GTM strategy is unique to them and the technologies will vary.

The resources you’ll need for ABM vs. demand generation will depend on your business model and customer base.

Here are two companies at opposite ends of the ABM spectrum.

Example 1: Loom 

Loom is a product-led growth company that provides video messaging, relies on small ($10) monthly payments from individual people in a company. 

loom website screenshot

Ninety percent of Loom’s marketing goes to demand gen tactics to get people to sign up for a free trial and then convert them when the trial ends. Loom may still have a few white whale enterprise accounts that require ABM drips. But that’ll likely be only 10% of its budget. 

Example 2: Zendrive 

Zendrive sells mapping/routing data and software to major mobile carriers. Zendrive’s TAM is small, but all the potential customers are huge companies with about five internal buyers to market to. 

zendrive wesbite screenhost

Each Zendrive deal is roughly $5M. Therefore, ALL their activity is ABM because they’ll spend $75K in marketing to get one opportunity from one company. 

Those are two extreme cases. 

Most companies are in the middle where an ABM/demand gen hybrid is the right approach.

It takes experimentation and a deep understanding of your resources, product, and TAM to strike the right balance and do ABM. 

But you’ll come away with a versatile plan that merges ABM (account engagement) with demand gen (direct activation) to get your message in front of the right people and generate more revenue.

How to Double Your Pipeline With the Double Funnel

ABM this. Demand gen that.

We’re here to tell you there’s a time and a place for both. And the best B2B marketers are actually running both.

What’s the right mix for your company? 

That’s where the double funnel from TOPO, now Gartner, comes in. 

Let’s take a quick spin through some fundamentals, then we’ll explain what the double funnel is and how you can use it to find — and continually improve — an optimal mix of account-based marketing and demand generation.

Rather watch the video?

Busting out some buzzwords

Marketers have never been known to create buzzwords, right?

Haha, jk, jk.

Here’s the thing, friends. There’s no shared definition for these terms:

  • Account-based marketing
  • Demand generation
  • Account-based strategy

Ask eight different marketers, and you’ll probably get eight different explanations for each of them. But there are some generally accepted principles that we can use to frame this guide and our recommendations.

What is account-based marketing?

ABM is all about identifying and marketing to a specific number of high-value accounts based on their likelihood to have success with your product. In other words, you create a list of target accounts where you have an unfair advantage with your technology differentiation — and therefore a much higher rate of success. 

Identifying these top accounts goes beyond outlining your ideal customer profile. You need to incorporate all kinds of data and intelligence so you really understand who your absolute best prospects are.

Then you take these prospects on a full-funnel journey from high-level thought leadership content (TOFU, anyone?) down to low-level, reasons-to-buy content (the meaty BOFU content). 

ABM is particularly helpful when you have a more complicated sale or set of problems you’re solving, and your average sale price (ASP) is high — which means you’re taking these accounts through the entire journey over months to years.

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is an umbrella term that includes many tactics and activities designed to create demand for your product or category. “Demand” is a desire for a particular commodity. Generating demand is therefore about making your product or category desirable to potential buyers.

With this in mind, we think of demand gen as basically everything you do as a marketer—from making your product better than the competition to making it clear how people can get value from that product.

But the generally accepted definition of demand generation is that it’s the higher-volume, lower-ASP counterpart to account-based marketing.

double funnel demand gen vs abm

And what on earth is account-based experience?

Wanna make things even hairier? We’ve got a third term for you: “account-based experience”. 

Account-based experience (ABX) is the coordination of valuable, relevant experiences, delivered across all functions, to drive engagement and conversion at a targeted set of accounts.

This term has evolved out of the misconception that ABM is primarily a top-of-funnel strategy focused on targeted advertising. If you want to be successful with ABM, you must take a full-funnel approach and stretch right on through to sales. 

So, “account-based experience” is a bit of a dramatic overcorrection to make sure we’re talking about an integrated approach between sales and marketing that includes the entire funnel.

ABM vs. demand generation — which tactics are which?

This is sort of a trick question.

There are some tactics that fit clearly into the demand generation bucket or the ABM bucket:

  • Activities that are geared towards understanding account intent, scoring and prioritizing accounts, and taking individual buyer prospects through a journey skew toward the ABM category.
  • Activities that allow you to capture existing demand using broader, volume-based advertising tactics using your first-party data skew toward the demand gen category.

But what about the rest? 

Most of the activities you’ll do in marketing can be applied to both ABM and demand gen, depending on how they’re used. 

double funnel activities
  • Take events, for example. They can be used to build new relationships (demand gen). But sales may be required to book a certain number of meetings with key accounts during the event (ABM).
  • How about podcasts? Sharing thought leadership through a podcast is generating demand. You can also use your podcast as a way to break into key accounts (invite them on the show!).
  • ROI calculators. If you have the right data to offer people a decent read-out on what it might be like to work with your company (no one wants to hear you’ll save them $8 bajillion per year), this can be a great demand gen tactic. But you can also do some deep research on target accounts to start working through the calculator for them (a personalized cost-savings report is a great conversation starter).
  • Guides, reports, yadda yadda. Got internal data? Publish it a la Gong for demand generation (Gong produces phenomenal, data-driven guides all about improving sales but using AI to weed through real sales calls). You can also pitch a compelling point or two from this amazing guide into a 30-minute conversation with key accounts. 

At the end of the day, you can make almost anything you do in marketing work for any go-to-market — it’s all about how you execute.

Speaking of execution…

Align ABM and demand generation with a double funnel

Okay, so you’ve been doing a bunch of traditional demand generation stuff, and your team has decided to add some account-based marketing.

You nail that account list and start going to town — and then you measure everything the same way you always have. You use the same benchmarks you’re used to from demand gen (e.g. MQLs) to judge how well your ABM programs are going.

Womp, womp.

You’re not alone. Most marketers running account-based programs try to measure them using a traditional lead model.

The truth is that your demand gen efforts and your ABM efforts will probably look wildly different from your demand gen programs in terms of:

  • Volumes
  • Conversion rates
  • Behaviors

So, benchmarking ABM and demand programs against the same metrics doesn’t make any sense. But measuring your ABM against an entirely new set of metrics means you can’t easily compare your performance apples to apples.

This makes it tough to tell a connected story about your go-to-market strategy.

What’s a marketer to do? Never fear, the double funnel is here.

The double funnel can be represented by a pretty simple graphic, but that’s all it took to inspire an epiphany for us.

double funnel graphic
This graphic illustrates how we can start strategizing and measuring ABM right alongside demand gen. 

Thinking about your marketing efforts in terms of the double funnel gets your head in the right place to:

  • Align all of your go-to-markets
  • Measure everything accurately throughout the entire funnel

It’s not sexy. It’s not rocket science. More like simple brilliance.

The double funnel allows you to visualize your ABM and demand gen efforts side-by-side, aligning the account-based funnel with the traditional marketing funnel. Then you can see progress through each side of the funnel stage by stage and easily compare performance.

Note: Your funnel doesn’t have to end at closed-won (in fact, it probably shouldn’t). Closed-won just served as an easy benchmark for us in this double funnel visualization. The best ABM strategies go beyond acquisition right through the rest of the funnel.

A real look at the double funnel

Let’s take a look at how this double funnel comes together with some actual data. These are real benchmarks for high-growth SaaS companies from Gartner, placing ABM performance metrics alongside demand gen metrics. 

Of course, your own data will always be more valuable than benchmarks. These are some of the fastest-growing companies in the world, so don’t get discouraged if your numbers don’t look quite so rosy.

gartner double funnel benchmarks
These are real benchmarks for high-growth SaaS companies from Gartner, placing ABM performance metrics alongside demand gen metrics.

With ABM, our first performance metric is engaged accounts. What counts as engagement?

That’s subjective, but it must be some form of meaningful interest in your products or services.

Impressions, clicks, website visits — those don’t count as meaningful engagement. Instead, look for things like visits to the pricing page, pricing requests, demo requests, etc.

Basically, you want to ask yourself what metrics tell you an account wants to talk to your sales team. Once an account shows engagement, it’s time to start focusing on contacts instead of accounts (you know, the real people that work there). 

Conversely, on the demand gen side, the first performance metric is marketing qualified leads (MQLs). 

At this point, SDRs must qualify both engaged accounts and MQLs. This is the unification point where our double funnel merges into a single funnel — with the same metrics for both ABM and demand gen.

There are a couple of key learnings from this benchmark data:

1. Stick it out beyond engagement. Using ABM is supposed to come with lower volumes, higher conversion rates and higher ASP. However, these benchmarks show conversion to an engaged account, our first ABM performance metric, is actually lower for ABM than demand gen. Some companies see this, get spooked and pull away from ABM before they’re able to realize the benefits. 

But conversion rates to SQL, opportunities, and closed-won deals increase significantly with ABM versus demand gen. The lesson? It’s harder to get engagement with ABM, but once you do, it will pay off.

2. Your balance of ABM vs. demand gen has a big impact on your SDR team. The team only has to work 300 accounts on the ABM side to get to the same amount of revenue as working 2,300 on the demand gen side of the funnel. That’s some serious efficiency, which impacts your budget and ROI. It also means that these SDRs can get really specialized and sophisticated when it comes to bringing these accounts through the funnel.

Dig deeper to improve performance across the board

It’s the side-by-side comparison of the double funnel that provides the real magic — and you can use it to dig even deeper into your performance data than ABM vs. demand gen.

The goal is to directionally understand which levers are working for you within each framework and at each stage of the funnel, then make incremental improvements. 

For example, the following data (examples only, not benchmarks) breaks down volume-based demand gen performance across channels. With this kind of side-by-side breakdown, it’s easy to see where to invest next, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

gartner double funnel example
A side-by-side breakdown makes it easy to see where to invest next, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Say you are totally loaded up on MQLs, but you need to encourage more of them along into the SQL stage. Based on this data, it’s easy to see that you’d want to double down on website and events while ditching the syndication. 

Look at as many slices of your data as possible:

  • Which channels are performing?
  • Are any campaigns knocking it out of the park (or tanking)?
  • What gated content is working best?

Highlight the good stuff, and highlight the bad stuff.

The more slices you can examine, the more mastery you’ll have over your funnel, understanding how everything fits into and contributes to your performance.

But don’t get so hung up on measurement that you neglect the things that can’t be measured. 

Podcasts. Word of mouth. Personal brands.

There are plenty of things that are important to building relationships and trust, but they’re nearly impossible to get a clear read on, performance-wise.

Use measurement as a guide, but make sure you still have the confidence to work on the meaningful things that aren’t measurable.

How to find the right ABM-demand gen balance

Most companies will need to find their own sweet spot when it comes to ABM vs. demand generation. Swinging too far one way or the other can completely tank your performance — and trust within your organization. 

We’ve got a few tips for you if you find your pendulum too far off-center. 

Too heavy on demand?

  1. Use as much data, intelligence and signals as possible to develop a strong ICP.
  2. Develop a small list of target accounts with definite reasons to buy.
  3. Build an MVP ABM program that spans teams, channels and activities to prove out and refine the use case.
  4. Use the double funnel to start hashing out what your split between ABM and demand gen should be.

Too heavy on ABM?

  1. Identify the channels and tactics that your buyers are most likely to respond to.
  2. Get a deep understanding of your prospects’ pain points, and develop messaging that creates urgency around those pain points.
  3. Create content that addresses the pain points.
  4. Test these messages and content by running high volumes of experiments to broad audiences. Determine which drive the highest engagement.
  5. Plug these findings into the double funnel to get a feel for what your ABM-demand gen split should be.

Infighting, anyone? How to address the obstacles

The double funnel is a simple concept, but it can still be difficult to align around. You’re going to face some obstacles. Maybe your boss wants you to go all in 100% on ABM. Maybe the sales and marketing teams are fighting over who gets credit for what. 

The answer is:

  • Get really good at measurement. Measure as many slices of data as possible throughout your funnel, and you’ll be able to offer data-driven responses to everyone’s crazy requests (and demands).
  • Remember that good > perfect. Finding the right mix of ABM and demand gen — as well as all of the other tactics and channels beneath them — will be an iterative process. Create MVPs, get them out there, and learn from them fast. You should be looking for directional improvements rather than the perfect program out of the gates.
  • Unify measures of success. Sales and marketing are on the same team, which means it doesn’t matter who gets credit for what. Unify measures of success between the groups to get everyone working together.
  • Be wary of drastic swings. Letting your pendulum swing too far one way or the other will probably hurt your overall performance. Use the double funnel to keep an eye on balanced efforts and outcomes.

Let’s end with a marketing dad joke:

Why were the B2B marketer’s holiday gifts boring to look at?

Because he only used white paper.

Ba-dum, ching! 😆

B2B Paid Social Benchmarks: What We Learned From $15M in Spend on Facebook and LinkedIn

For demand marketers focused on driving sales and business growth, revenue is the ultimate KPI.

And targeting your audience with paid social media campaigns is one of the best ways to do that.

When you hit the sweet spot of the right audience, right social channel, right ad and right offer, there really isn’t a better advertising medium for B2B.

This B2B Paid Social Benchmark Report will give any B2B company the data, insights, and social media strategies to level up their social media ads.

  1. How to look at the data
  2. LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing
  3. What are the best CTAs?
  4. How long should your ad text be?
  5. What works better: images or videos?
  6. Which images work best?
  7. How to set your own benchmarks

So, what’s working in social advertising for B2B marketers?

To find out what’s working, we looked at what’s working for our own customers.

We analyzed actual campaign data from every experiment the Metadata.io platform ran in 2020 to find paid social media benchmarks.

We looked at every data point we have access to, from spend and impressions to clicks and leads to MQLs—then all the way to opportunities and closed deals.

b2b paid social benchmarks metrics

Our customers run the gamut from software to manufacturing to services—each with their own unique demand models. But after analyzing nearly $15M of ad spend, we’ve zeroed in on some of the ways our customers are boosting their LinkedIn and Facebook campaign performance.

The benchmarks and insights in this report are based on straight-up averages across all Metadata customers.

But we’re giving you the raw data so you can slice and dice however you’d like—by industry, annual ad spend and company size.

paid social benchmarks report ranges

As you can see, there’s a huge range from lowest to highest values across the different metrics. That’s because there’s a wide range of differences in our customers and the products they sell.

For example, an $82 CPC could be great for a company that only targets CEOs of maritime engineering companies with a $100k ACV product, but horrible for a company selling task management software to developers for $12/month.

How to look at the data

  1. Click through rate (CTR): CTR is an early indicator of the relevance and appeal of your campaign to your target audience. It’s best to look at this when you’re experimenting with several ads, creative, etc., and want to quickly optimize those with the most initial engagement. A CTR of 0.60% to 1% is considered good.
  2. Cost per click (CPC): CPC is another early indicator of efficiency, and you can use it to compare one program against another. You’ll optimize to this metric if you’re running a brand campaign, while you’ll optimize to CPL for lead gen. What we consider to be a good CPC is relative, but for well-targeted social campaigns with relevant offers, it should be below $10.
  3. Cost per lead (CPL): CPL measures the efficiency of your campaign. How much can you spend to generate a qualified lead and convert that lead to a customer? A good CPL is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics. For example, if my average selling price is $1M vs. $100k, I can likely afford to spend more per lead.
  4. Cost per opportunity (CPO): CPO is another measure of efficiency that you can use to start looking at the ROI of your marketing spend. If you know the opportunity dollar value, and your cost per opportunity, you’ll have a good sense of ROI. A good CPO is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics.

LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing

We already know what you’re thinking: My audience isn’t on Facebook.

But your customers don’t build walls around their professional and personal lives—you have to meet them where they are. With more than 2 billion users worldwide, including 74% in the US who check in daily, Facebook could potentially get a boat-load of high-quality, high-earning eyeballs on your B2B campaigns—if you can target them.

That said, there are differences between running Facebook ads and Linkedin ads that impact your campaign planning.

Key differences

Although the averages may tilt to one platform, there are definitely positive and efficient use cases across both. It just depends on who you are, who your audience is, and the types of offers you run.

b2b paid social benchmarks key differences

Cost per lead

Generally, CPLs are 10-50% lower on Facebook—but not always. Some of our customers actually get lower CPLs on LinkedIn. For example, for some personas and in some countries, Facebook is simply used much less, meaning there’s a larger audience on LinkedIn.

More inventory means lower prices. There are also some offers, like demo requests aimed at a retargeting audience, that can be more efficient on LinkedIn.

Lead quality

When it comes to lead quality we don’t see a big difference between LinkedIn and Facebook. But (shameless plug ahead!) this is primarily because of how we build audiences in these two ad channels using the Metadata platform.

We can use standard firmographic and job title targeting across LinkedIn and Facebook, targeting the same people without using lookalike audiences or personal-interest targeting.

What are the best calls to action?

What do you want your audience to do when they see your ad? The answer to this question—your CTA—is one of the most critical parts of any ad. It’s also one of the easiest things to experiment with. You can duplicate an entire campaign and just change the CTA.

So test it early to see which brings the highest CTR or lowest CPC and then use that one going forward.

b2b paid benchmarks linkedin cta data

Most-used CTAs for brand awareness

Nearly 80% of our customers used “Learn More” for brand awareness, making it most popular by far. It makes sense since it sounds like the least commitment.

Most-used CTAs for lead generation

46% also used “Learn More” for lead gen—but be careful to set clear expectations. It could feel like “bait and switch” if you make people fill out a form.

paid social benchmarks ctr range

These are straight averages across all Metadata customers. The range of CTRs are from 0.10% to 2.55%. The range of CPLs are from $0.57 to $1,175. The range of CPCs are $0.29 to $81.92.

“Learn More” has the highest clickthrough rate on LinkedIn—but also the highest CPL. So if your goal is demand gen, but you optimize only for engagement, you’ll pay a lot more.

“Register” on the other hand, is one of the least used CTAs but also carries the lowest CPL, making it a budget-friendly option for webinars or events where people have to register.

On Facebook: ‘Learn More’ & Download’ give the best bang for the buck

Facebook gives you four CTA options for image and video feed ads: Learn More, Download, Sign-Up, and Apply Now. But Apply Now barely gets used.

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook ctas

Here’s what we found were the most used CTAs for brand awareness and lead generation:

On Facebook, the most popular CTAs also happen to have the lowest price tag. “Learn More” is most efficient, with the highest CTR and a CPL on-par with “Download.”

It’s interesting how “Learn More” performs differently on Facebook vs. LinkedIn. For example, on Facebook “Learn More” has an average CPL of $98.90, while the same CTA on LinkedIn has a CPL that’s nearly double at $180.89 and is most expensive.

“Apply Now” really only makes sense in special cases—like job postings and association memberships—so it’s not surprising that our customers rarely use it. It also had the highest CPC and CPL and the lowest CTR.

paid social benchmarks facebook ctr range

How long should your ad text be?

In this category, we saw notable differences between LinkedIn and Facebook.

Why?

Well, for one thing, each platform allows a different maximum number of characters. LinkedIn is 300 while Facebook is 63,206!

Our data shows that longer ads have the best clickthrough on Facebook vs. shorter ads on LinkedIn. Same thing for CPL—longer ads have lower CPL on Facebook.

Less is more for LinkedIn ads

b2b paid social benchmarks linkedin ad text

For both brand awareness and lead gen campaigns, you can see that the most common text length tends to be more than 100 characters: 140-150 characters seems to be the sweet spot for brand awareness campaigns.

But that length doesn’t even crack the top-10 lowest CPCs.

paid social benchmarks text data

The tendency is to write longer text, but using fewer words generally yields better performance, especially for CPL campaigns.

Longer ads fare better on Facebook

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook text data

On Facebook, where people tend to hang out on weekends or in their spare time, longer ads generally more clicks compared to LinkedIn. They also have some of the lowest CPLs.

Put it in action

Here are some real examples of longer ad text in Facebook that each had >1.5% CTR:

Example 1: “In traditional script-based tools, such as Selenium, object selection is typically pretty obtuse. In this white paper, we explore why this is a problem and show how smart object selection increases effective test coverage by an order of magnitude.”

Example 2: “Many businesses are adopting more work-from-home processes, so moving your IT infrastructure may be a “must-do” right now. If you’re looking for an option for your on-premises #IT #infrastructure, move to our #datacenters. Act now for discount offers!”

Example 3: “How do you exceed your demand gen goals for the rest of 2020? Even if you blew away the first quarter, how do you make sure you are thinking next level? In this “ask me anything” format, you’ll have demand gen and marketing technology experts addressing a curated selection of your burning questions about revOps, demand gen and marketing automation strategy.”

Images vs videos

While CPCs for videos are a bit lower than images, by most other metrics images outperform videos for our customers. This is a smaller sample of data, only from LinkedIn, and only from the last 4 months of the year after we started offering video.

paid social benchmarks images vs videos

When does it make sense to use video?

Based on the survey we ran at the end of 2020, we know more than 70% of you are planning to use more video in 2021. But videos take a lot more time and money to produce than images. So before going all-in, make sure video is really the best format for the type of content you want to create. Like when you want to showcase your company culture or grab attention right away.

How long should your video be?

Curious about the ideal video length for paid social campaigns? So are we! And
although we originally planned to include this in our trends analysis, we didn’t have enough data to be statistically significant. That said, 30 seconds should be the absolute max length for any video used in
your campaigns. We typically recommend between 6-15 seconds.

Which images performed best?

We also looked at which images performed best and found that ads with high clickthrough and low cost per lead had a few things in common:

  1. Photos with real people
  2. Recognizable partner mentions
  3. Personalization

Use photos of REAL people

Real people humanize a B2B brand and are a common feature of ads that got the highest CTRs and lowest CPLs, especially on Facebook.

paid social benchmarks snapwire example
Snapwire brings the human element into their ad which reinforces their message.

Try partner mentions

Don’t be afraid to be a name-dropper—people click on images with names they know.

paid social benchmarks cohley example
Cohley adds a subtle placement of a CVS basket into their ad.

Personalize your images

Relevance always wins. Images with the highest CTR on LinkedIn featured names prospects immediately recognize—either their own companies or other well-known brands.

paid social benchmarks the intersect group example
The Intersect Group adds personalization to this ad targeted at Christus Health prospects.

How to set your own benchmarks

We’ve shared a lot of data here. Like we said up-front, this data looks at averages across all of our customers, but we’re also giving you access to the actual raw data—so you can dig in and pull insights that are most relevant to your business.


Run your own data Customer Performance Dashboard

What works best

It’s interesting to see what’s worked best in the past. Even better is using that data as a starting point for the winning plays we’ll run next.

1. Double down on LinkedIn

Based on our customer survey, we know most of you are planning to double down on LinkedIn and video. (We’d start with LinkedIn.)

You’re also looking to personalize your marketing. We hope that means more than just name-dropping your target accounts and bringing in more humor and empathy. Don’t just personalize; make it personal.

2. Tear down this gate!

We’re all hoping to see more ungated content. This is something we’re betting on ourselves. But be ready to set expectations: your landing page hits and your volume metrics will go down, but deal cycles should move faster. Just make sure you and the “front office” are on the same page.

3. Test, test, test

As we’ve noted before, “what works” is changing faster than ever. The campaign that failed three weeks ago may work today. The evergreen campaign that’s worked for two years could stop working next week.

So as B2B marketers we’re constantly testing, refining, testing some more.

And while the data we shared in this report focuses on top-of-funnel metrics like CTR, CPC and CPL, you also have to look at lower-funnel performance and connect the dots to real ROI: pipeline, closed business, revenue.

6 ABM and Demand Gen Campaigns You Can Steal to Level Up Your Marketing

Imagine you’re a VP of Sales named Hayden.

You step out of your Uber and glance up at one of those digital billboards on top of a cab.

“Getting into OOH advertising, Hayden?” the ad reads. “We can help.” 

That might sound like Minority Report, but all the ad would have to do is combine geofencing with a dynamic ad creative and programmatic placement via a DSP—along with a healthy level of account-based segmentation on the back end.

It’s not exactly a demand gen campaign, but it’s not pure ABM, either. It’s just smart marketing. 

It’s this kind of blended approach that will eventually allow for the “ad of the future” described above. (It’s not that far off, either.)

In the meantime, what kinds of ABM and demand gen campaigns will have the biggest impact?

We put together dos and don’ts plus six examples to help you get even more creative with your marketing tactics both now and in the future. 

  1. Our distinction between ABM and demand gen
  2. Demand gen campaigns: dos and don’ts
  3. 4 demand gen campaign examples
  4. ABM campaigns: dos and don’ts
  5. 2 ABM campaign examples

Why our distinction between ABM and demand gen doesn’t matter as much as we think it does

Let me switch gears for a second.

As I was preparing to write this article, I had a conversation (well, Zoom call) with Logan Neveau, our Sr. Director of Product Growth.

He asked a quasi-rhetorical question I still can’t get out of my head.

“Most marketers don’t consider demand gen campaigns as part of ABM, or vice versa. But why the hell not?”

The more I think about it, the more I see what he means. 

The lines between demand gen and ABM campaigns are arbitrary at best: when the ultimate goal is to drive more revenue, what does it matter if the campaign uses one channel over another or a predefined list over a look-alike audience?

“Whether it’s demand gen or ABM, at the end of the day, you’re just trying to get in front of the right person.” 

Silvio Perez, Head of Ad Operations, Metadata

OK, sure. The goal is often different:

ABM is often about account engagement, while demand gen is more directly about activation.

But one should flow into the other, instead of standing entirely apart. (In fact, we wrote an entire blog post about it.) 

Watch Jason, Chris, and others break down ABM vs Demand Gen

The reality is that both of these are the marketing tactics that will all support the same overarching goal: get in front of the right person and drive more revenue. 

Demand gen campaigns: Dos and don’ts

I’m going to go out on a limb and say: this is where most of your budget currently goes. 

That makes sense, too: it has the most direct line to revenue, it’s faster to experiment with, and it’s generally easier to measure because marketers have been running direct response lead gen campaigns for so long. The systems are just set up for it. 

But that’s not the only reason: your CEO and CRO probably think “leads, MQLs, and opportunities” in the same breath as “marketing.”

Trying to get them to use new engagement metrics to measure ABM programs doesn’t always go over well—so you return to tried and true demand gen tactics.

Nothing wrong with that—but using a measurement system that has been around for a decade is no reason to phone it in. 

Dos for demand gen campaigns

1. Retarget folks who’ve visited your pricing and demo pages.

We’d call this low-hanging fruit, but we don’t like the buzzword. How about a no-brainer?

2. Run conversation ads on LinkedIn without an incentive.

You don’t have to reserve the effective channel for direct response, cold outreach. Try it out for retargeting and intent-based audiences, too. They may respond well.

3. Return to pipeline acceleration.

We don’t often see marketing teams using demand gen channels to push deals through faster. This is a great opportunity to blur the lines between demand gen and ABM to great effect. 

4. Rewrite your objectives.

Everyone defaults to direct response lead gen campaigns in demand gen. But switching over to engagement objectives (watching the video in the ad, for example) can work to support retargeting down the line. Aim to serve content that attracts or repels—something only your ICP will find interesting and valuable. 

Don’ts for demand gen campaigns

1. Treat all conversions and leads the same.

Leads captured through demand gen campaigns don’t all have the same level of intent or interest, so don’t make the mistake of treating the same in subsequent engagement. 

2. Add leads from demand gen campaigns to automated sales sequences.

The best way to alienate your carefully curated leads is to pass them to a biz dev team that will ask for 15 minutes of their time. If B2B buyers want to get in touch and schedule a demo, they know how to do that for themselves. 

3. Use the same offer all the time.

“Schedule a demo” might work some places some of the time, but it won’t work everywhere all the time. Your offer should be relevant based on the audience and where they are in their evaluation process. For example: don’t serve demo request ads to an entirely cold audience that would benefit from sponsored content on Facebook or LinkedIn, instead. 

4 demand gen campaign examples

1. Retarget high-intent audiences

  • Strategy: Remarketing to anyone that bounced from your demo or pricing page to get them to sign up.
  • Creative: Testimonials, Awards, Anything that shows you’re the sh*t.
  • Ad Objective: Conversion / Lead Gen
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Discovery, Display

Anyone who spends any amount of time on your demo or pricing page is most likely part of your highest-intent audience. You should be running with that all day, every day. 

If someone landed on one of those pages and didn’t convert, they either aren’t ready to give you their money or they don’t understand how your solution can help them. Retargeting them helps on both fronts. Here’s how. 

First, set up a custom audience on Facebook and/or LinkedIn that narrows in on visitors to either your demo or pricing page. 

LinkedIn:

Account Assets ➡ Matched Audiences ➡ Create Audience ➡ Website ➡ Enter URL paths

screenshot of linkedin retargeting
Create retargeting audiences on LinkedIn for people who visit high-intent pages on your website.

Facebook:

Audiences ➡ Create Audience ➡ Custom Audience ➡ Website ➡ People who visited specific pages ➡ Enter URL paths

screenshot of facebook retargeting
You can do the same thing on Facebook too.

Then, start a campaign to this custom audience with ad creatives that other people talking about how awesome you are.

Testimonials work great, especially if you can put a face to the name. Awards in a relevant category work great, too. 

Now’s not the time for discounts or desperation. 

2. Offer demo requests for high-intent audiences

  • Strategy: Conversation Ads + Intent Audience + Incentive 
  • Creative: Personalized convo ads offering a gift card.
  • Ad Objective: Conversion / Lead Gen
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn

I might not be a math guy, but here’s a simple equation: Conversation Ads + Intent Audience + Gift Card = Ultimate combo of maximum interest.

You start with a high-intent audience—you can pull a list from Bombora based on broader browsing habits, or get a feed of visitors to your category’s G2 page. For example, in Metadata you can pull up: 

screenshot of G2 Intent lookback
We use Metadata to build audiences with G2 intent data.

Then set up your Conversation Ads campaign to that specific list.

Convo Ad with an incentive:

Instead of making it broad, make it specific to them: Are you still looking at that software category? Can I help? Want a $50 Uber Eats gift card?

(I mean, work your copywriting magic, but you get the idea.) 

3. Convert trial users

  • Strategy: Leverage product usage data to target accounts that are actively using their trial 
  • Creative: Testimonials, Awards—ideally testimonials discussing how they upgraded their trial and benefits they’ve received.
  • Ad Objective: Conversion / Lead Gen
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn/Facebook

If you’re already leveraging product usage data, you should easily be able to pull a list of users within specific accounts who are actively using their trial (for example, “Days since Last Activity < 30”). 

Instead of lumping these accounts in with the rest of your custom audience or target list for your next demand gen campaign, separate them out so you can serve a hyper-relevant and timely creative. 

screenshot - active trials
Product usage data is almost like a cheat code for your marketing.

This approach (along with email drip sequences) is often reserved for re-engagement—but why not aim to convert some of your most engaged trial users?

4. Increase brand awareness via demand gen channels 

  • Strategy: Promote helpful, specific-to-your-ICP content that doesn’t sell anything. Retarget viewers based on video completion with trial and demo offers.
  • Creative: Educational, non-promotional content: an ICP-specific video, an industry report, an ungated deep dive guide, and so on. 
  • Ad Objective: Video Views
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn/Facebook

Capturing existing demand via Google and Capterra works for the time being. But what happens when these more direct channels get more saturated and more expensive?

Why not think outside the box before then?

“In every channel, it’s not about what you do but how you do it.”

Silvio Perez, Head of Ad Operations, Metadata

With this campaign, you’re more focused on capturing interest than leads—at least, initially. 

First, take time to create a truly helpful piece of content. Let’s take a video, for example.

Serve it to a wider audience on Facebook and LinkedIn, and watch for the number of people who finish watching the entire video. Suddenly you have a much more qualified shortlist even after casting a wide net.

screenshot video campaign
I’ll spend $5.04 to get 8 people that watch a 24-minute long video of mine, every day of the week.

Look for engagement on that creative (native to the platform—you’re not looking for conversions just yet.)

screenshot engagement metric
Talk about a HIGHLY engaged audience.

From there, retarget that shorter list of leads with a follow-up offer. 

ABM campaigns: dos and don’ts

Let’s get this out of the way: ABM isn’t just “air cover” for your sales team. You can (and should) get strategic with account-based campaigns.

Better yet: instead of treating ABM as entirely separate from demand gen, why not use it to both support demand gen efforts and experiment with more demand gen-esque tactics? 

Overall, you’re looking at awareness first, then engagement, then direct response. ABM can feed all three, even as it focuses on just a handful of key accounts. 

Dos for ABM campaigns

1. Lead with content but set up strong intent scoring in the background.

Instead of aiming for a direct response right off the bat, take a slower approach and measure engagement along the way. 

2. Adjust your outreach along the way.

Measure engagement within the account, and reach out with the right message at the right time. If you start with display ads to drive awareness, add in Conversation Ads once penetration is high enough (go from “nurture status” to active prospecting). 

3. Experiment with channels.

Most people hear “ABM” and immediately think of direct mail or running display ads. They’re far from the only things that will help you move forward with your accounts. 

Don’ts for ABM campaigns

1. Run the same demand gen campaigns against a list of accounts.

If you’re not aiming to appeal to the entire account, you’re not doing ABM. You’re doing demand gen with a smaller list. 

2. Think you need an ABM platform to run ABM campaigns.

And I say that as a marketer selling what some consider an ABM platform. You can run account-based campaigns on your own, natively in LinkedIn and Facebook. See how it goes and if the approach even makes sense for your company. 

3. Run ABM campaigns without coordinating with sales.

Consult your sales team both on who you’re targeting and the messaging and offer that you’re using. Coming off as uncoordinated will be off-putting for prospects. 

2 ABM campaign examples

1. Keep the recurring revenue train going by re-engaging customers

  • Strategy: Pull a Salesforce report with company names, serve account-based ads ahead of renewal and expansion efforts. 
  • Creative: Testimonials, Awards with company name mention
  • Ad Objective: Awareness ahead of renewal
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn/Facebook

Let’s be honest: usually, demand gen couldn’t care less about existing customers. 

It’s not their fault. OKRs for demand gen typically double down on new acquisition, not renewals or expansion.

And, like most people, those in demand gen care about more than their numbers than the company numbers. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. If ABM can run “air cover” for sales, why can’t ABM run “air cover” for customer success?

Here’s our take: allocate most of your campaign budget to Tier 1 customers, then a smaller fraction for Tier 2 and Tier 3 customers (with a wider audience). 

Pull the company names from Salesforce, fill out your custom audience based on seniority and department (see the screenshot below), then push live and automate updates from Salesforce down the line. 

screenshot Salesforce account
This is one of the few campaigns here you can’t run natively in Facebook or LinkedIn.

Sales reps aren’t going to tag everyone in the buying committee, so you need a tool that can automatically bridge the gap between Salesforce and your advertising platform. 

“The first time legal and finance sees my logo should not be when the contract comes across their desk.” 

Logan Neveau, Sr. Director of Product Growth, Metadata

2. Use intent data from G2 to populate new campaigns

  • Strategy: Integrate G2 with your Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns to get a fresh audience for your demo request campaigns. 
  • Creative: Demo request
  • Ad Objective: Conversion/Leads
  • Ad Channel: LinkedIn/Facebook

This one’s pretty cool, I’m not going to lie. 

If you’re a paying G2 customer, you can get a list of everyone who visits the category and comparison pages for your product. Better yet, with the API you can automatically throw them into campaigns, and update your audience on a daily basis. 

Here’s the ABM bit: instead of limiting the audience to direct visitors, you can expand it to include relevant buyers at the same target account. 

With a bit of fancy footwork, you can also suppress the cookie pool so that it excludes current customers and competitors. 

screenshot how to integrate G2 with your Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns
This is how we build dynamic G2 audiences on LinkedIn using Metadata.

Example of building dynamic SFDC exclusion audience of customers in Metadata:

Example of building dynamic SFDC exclusion audience of customers
Depending on the campaign – make sure to use dynamic exclusion audiences for your customers.

Just like your demand gen campaigns that rely on intent data, relying on G2 to feed your ABM campaign gives you the best possible audience to hit with a demo request. With this always-up-to-date and qualified audience, go for gold in your ad creatives. 

Bringing it all together with measurement

So you’ve launched the new demand gen and ABM campaigns you borrowed from this post. Now what? 

First, you need to make sure you’re measuring the right things to show your impact to your boss (and your boss’s boss). 

It all depends (as much as I hate typing that) on the objective of the campaign: consumption vs. conversion. Find the right balance between the two objectives, because you need both leading and lagging indicators.

For leading indicators, you can measure ad engagement, traffic and scroll depth. It’ll show you whether your audience is actually seeing and consuming your message. (And, yes, you can measure leads and MQLs too. Just don’t make them the end-all-be-all of your success metrics.)

I recommend keeping it simple for lagging indicators too. Measure things like demo requests, opportunities created and pipeline/revenue created. Don’t try to make the move overnight and jump directly to revenue. If you want to level up your measurement, you can measure things like average contract value, deal velocity and win rates.

Notice how we didn’t mention influenced revenue or account engagement?

100% intentional. Why? 

Because neither have a direct line to revenue.

And neither are things I would hang my hat on when showing our CEO or CFO. (Because they won’t care.)

That’s the high-level view of measurement.

How to Measure Your Facebook Ads ROI (With Metrics That Matter to Your Boss and Business)

There’s a big, honkin’ elephant sitting next to me that I need to address here.

If you’re reading this post on the ROI of Facebook ads, you’re probably asking a lot of common questions:

  • Are Facebook ads worth it for B2B?
  • What’s a good ROI for B2B Facebook ads?
  • How do I calculate the return on investment of my Facebook ads?

Yeah, you’re not alone. But you’re asking the wrong questions.

The problem is that these questions are all predicated on a giant assumption (and you know what they say about assumptions)—that you’re measuring your ad performance against the right metrics.

You don’t want to measure just any metrics. You want to measure the right metrics.

The metrics that matter to your boss. And your boss’ boss.

And that’s not typically the case.

In this post, we cover:

  1. Are Facebook ads a waste of money for B2B?
  2. Common mistakes to avoid
  3. How to calculate the real ROI of your Facebook ads

If you like raking in “leads” that have downloaded your eBook or attended your webinar, you can stop reading now.

But if you’d rather measure the ROI of your Facebook ads by things like pipeline and revenue, read on.

Are Facebook ads a waste of money for B2B?

A lot of B2B marketers wonder if spending marketing dollars on Facebook is worth it. You might worry that your super special and totally-unique-to-you ICP isn’t on Facebook—or maybe that you just won’t be able to reach them on the platform.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth a reminder. There are about 2.89 BILLION people on Facebook. I promise you, your ideal customer is there, and you can find them. And Facebook offers the advantage of catching these people outside of their typical work hours (score!).

Common mistakes to avoid

That said, Facebook ads can, in fact, be a waste of money if you fall prey to these mistakes B2B marketers often make:

  1. Using bad targeting
  2. Optimizing your ads against the wrong metrics

1. Using bad targeting

I already covered finding your perfect B2B Facebook target audience pretty extensively, but targeting is, in fact, one of the biggest hang-ups when it comes to driving return on ad spend (ROAS).

Working natively in the Facebook platform, you have limited options for targeting the people and accounts you’re looking for. It’s difficult or impossible to aggregate audiences by typical B2B variables like job title, industry, and employee count, you can’t upload account lists to find employees, etc. 

If you don’t get good at things like using your own first-party data and setting exclusions, you’re going to serve ads to a lot of people that don’t fit your ICP.

Which will tank your ROI.

Go back and check out that post if you’re struggling with Facebook targeting.

2. Optimizing your ads against the wrong metrics

Outside of targeting, the biggest problem surrounding the ROI of Facebook ads is your metrics.

When the top executives in your company present marketing results to the board, do they include impressions? Clicks? Engagement?

😬 😬 😬

I hope not.

The big wigs are much keener to hear how you’re actually impacting the bottom line. They want you to present metrics like:

  • Pipeline and revenue created
  • Opportunities created
  • Cost-per-opportunity

Ultimately, you want to tie your ad spend to revenue, but since your sales cycle might make that an excessively long process, these are strong performance indicators to report on and optimize against along the way.

The problem is that Facebook doesn’t allow you to optimize your ad performance against these metrics. The only option the platform gives you is to optimize to the initial conversion event, which is a higher funnel metric.

This conversion point is flawed and doesn’t account for the lower funnel metrics that matter to the business—like opportunities, pipeline, and revenue.

So, you may end up with a bunch of “leads” that downloaded your guide but aren’t the people that end up buying your product/service. 

Volume looks good. Cost per lead looks good. But the ultimate ROI does not look so good. Then Facebook continues to optimize your ads against this metric, sending you more of the same.

D’oh. It’s a money pit.

Great for Facebook, but not for you.

The exit out of this merry-go-round (and driving real ROI) is to connect your Facebook performance data with your marketing and sales performance data. 

This lets you figure out who IS buying your product or service after engaging with your ad. The better you can get at measuring lower-level conversions and feeding that data back to Facebook, the better your ROAS will be. 

Adam Goyette, VP of Marketing at Help Scout, does a great job explaining what that looks like in 4 Ways to Reduce Your CPL on Facebook by 50%.

How to calculate the real ROI of your Facebook ads

It’s a pretty simple equation to calculate the ROI of any advertising campaign, Facebook included:

(Money Received – Money Spent) / Money Spent = ROI

So, if you spent $2,500, which resulted in $10,000 coming into the business, the ROI equation would look like this:

(10,000  – 2,500) / 2,500 = 3

That can be expressed as a ratio, which would be 3:1, or a percentage, which would be 300%. 

The difficult part is connecting the spend with the money coming into the business.

So, how do you connect all of your data?

Well, you have a few options for bringing the data together.

1. Aggregate all of your own data

Hello, spreadsheets! 

At my last company, we used a data connector to pull everything we needed into a Google sheet—Facebook channel data plus opportunity data from our marketing automation platform (MAP). Then the Google sheet was full of calculations to net out the ROI of our Facebook ads.

It was messy, and it broke all the time, and I had to spend a lot of time fixing it, but it got me the ROI data I was looking for (namely, SQOs and cost per SQO). 

If you’re a bit more sophisticated, you can use a business intelligence (BI) tool like Domo for this integration and number crunching. 

BI tools will make your life a lot easier—if you know how to use them. You’ll probably need the expertise of a data analyst or strong marketing ops person to navigate the tech.

2. Make UTM codes work for you

If you can’t quite make it to fully aggregating your data, this is the next best thing. When you advertise on Facebook:

  1. Use a custom UTM for your campaign
  2. Tag anyone that engages as leads in your MAP
  3. Funnel these leads into a CRM campaign

With this approach, you can keep track of how many members end up in your campaign, how many convert into opportunities, how many show up to their demo calls, etc. 

The caveat is that you cannot see campaign spend in Salesforce—you’ll need to manually bring this data in from the ad channel (i.e. Facebook).

3. Use a tool like Metadata that measures Facebook ROI for you

Shameless plug—we’re really good at this. 

If you’re tired of hacking it together yourself, we make it easy by pulling in data from your ad channels, MAP, CRM, etc. It’s all in one place, numbers crunched behind the scenes, so you can quickly get at the ROI metrics that actually matter (adios, impressions).

But obviously, we’re biased. So, I suggest you dive into some Facebook benchmark data yourself. Head on over to our 2021 B2B Paid Social Benchmark Data for a variety of industry averages for ROI metrics like:

  • Click-to-lead conversion rate
  • Lead-to-opportunity conversion rate
  • Opportunity win rate

All of the data comes directly from our clients’ Facebook ad campaigns.

Friends with the ROI elephant yet?

I get it—it’s hard to let go of the metrics you’re familiar with. They’ve been ingrained in our marketer brains. 

We have to do some rewiring to measure and optimize against lower-level metrics. Because focusing on these metrics that actually matter to your boss—and your business—is the real way to drive ROI from your Facebook ads. 

🎤🙋🏼‍♂️

How to Optimize Existing Content & Why it Matters

This is the tenth post in our new content series, No Fluffs Given. We’re tired of the fluffy content in our LinkedIn feeds, with no real substance or actionable takeaways. So we’re teaming up with some of the best B2B marketers we know. People who have ACTUALLY done this stuff before. And giving you new, actionable tactics to implement today.

At this point, you have probably heard someone say that you should be refreshing your content or maybe saw yet another up-and-to-the-right chart posted on Linkedin.

But what does that mean?

Well, when you move past some of the gimmicks or quick hacks to get a temporary boost in traffic, content optimization emerges as a sub-discipline within the world of SEO & content marketing. 

As such, it requires the same level of attention and process as things like optimizing PPC landing pages or A/B testing automation flows. It isn’t the core discipline but improves performance and should be done on a regular (if not recurring) basis.

The Metadata team was kind enough to let me share my experience with you on why it matters and how to identify the opportunities, implement the right solution, and do it at scale. 

Why all high-performing content programs include optimizing existing content

In my time leading Demand Gen & Acquisition at Sprout Social, we scaled the blog to 1 million sessions per month. As early as 2016, we saw the benefits of optimizing some of our existing blog content that had begun to decline in performance. 

Over time, it went from “cool, that worked” to “wow, this keeps working” to “let’s do this every month” to eventually a point where we were publishing more optimized pieces each month than new content. 

As I began speaking with others and studying similar companies, it was clear that every team with a significant content production was doing something similar.

Shopify, G2, Hubspot, and even sites like Motley Fool were all optimizing existing content to some extent.

The reality is that content decay is natural, and when you are in a competitive space AND producing a lot of content, it can happen rapidly.

But it isn’t all about fixing what has gone wrong. The process of analyzing existing content uncovers new growth opportunities as well.

So, high-performing content programs make content optimization a core part of their process to remain competitive, prevent the decay from working against overall growth, and continuously find new opportunities to expand and scale awareness, traffic, and conversions.

3 ways to spot opportunities for optimization

There are several ways to identify content to optimize or refresh, so I am breaking down the three that I’ve found to be the most common and most effective across a wide range of blogs. 

1. Look for declining performance

Declining performance is probably the most common and easy to understand. You look at the traffic and conversions over time, and they are trending downward. This steady decline works against any new content you create and often results in a net negative outcome for conversions. 

Semrush screenshot showing declining traffic
Look through Google Analytics, Semrush, or other tools to find which pages have been declining in traffic.

2. Find content sitting on page 2

In Google Search Console, you can look at the specific queries aligned to each blog post. In many cases, you may have posts or pages that are getting decent traffic, but upon closer inspection, realize that most of the queries matching to that content are ranking on the second page of Google. 

screenshot of Google Search Console
Google Search Console lets you sort by position. Look for pages that have a position greater than 10 and see if you can rework the content to move onto page 1.

3. Spot internal competition

As your content program grows, you naturally have more and more pages that talk about similar topics, which increases the likelihood of internal competition. 

Internal competition is when a single keyword matches multiple URLs on your site, creating confusion for search engines as they don’t know the priority. Internal competition typically results in most or all of those URLs having degraded performance. 

5 approaches to optimize existing content

As you identify good candidates for optimization, you need to figure out how you are going to do that. The truth is that each situation is unique, and it depends, but that isn’t helpful.

At Sprout, we eventually reached a point where we classified the solutions into three tiers, roughly corresponding to the level of effort required. This system helped a lot with capacity planning and systematizing our solutions to be highly efficient each month. 

Here are the five most common approaches companies take to optimize existing content: 

1. Expand

Content has slowly become longer over the years, so it is relatively common to find a blog post from a few years prior that is quite short. 

Word count is relative, so in this case, it comes down to how long the posts are that are ranking on page one of the search engines and how long it takes to cover the topic of the blog post thoroughly. 

i.e., don’t write 800 words about how to build a tiny home yourself or 3,000 words on how to change a drill bit. 

In many cases, you can assess what is missing from the post and expand it to cover the topic in full. 

2. Update

In some cases, the blog post covers the topic pretty well, but some of the content is outdated. 

For example, at Sprout Social, we created the Always Up-to-Date Image Sizes Guide for all social network image sizes.

Sprout Social displays the Last Updated date near the top to quickly let the reader know the content is relevant and up to date.

This blog post required frequent updating to make sure the content was fresh and entirely relevant.

3. Create

There are times when search demand grows for a topic that is currently only a small section on one of your blog posts. 

That post may be ranking for a few queries related to that topic, but the opportunity lies in creating a new, full post on that topic and then linking to it from the section on the existing one. 

This solution is more focused on growth and expansion than trying to mitigate decline and can be extremely helpful when you are scaling up your company blog. 

4. Consolidate

Consolidating content is typically the best solution to the internal competition problem mentioned before. 

Content consolidation involves combining multiple posts into existing ones or an entirely new post altogether, then setting up 301 redirects from the consolidated URLs to the new, final URL. 

The consolidated content creates a better experience for your prospects and customers trying to consume the content. Also, it sends a positive signal to the search engines, saying, “We cleaned up this mess that was creating problems for you and organized it all right here.”

5. Links

In some cases, the content fully covers the topic, is up to date, is of good quality, and isn’t competing with other internal URLs. Many times, this content needs more backlinks, more internal links, or both.

Look at the number of backlinks and internal links for the content ranking on the first page of Google to see if your post is low and needs more. 

An easy way to find internal link opportunities is to use Google.

screenshot of a Google search results page
Try typing: “site:[your site url] + [keyword]” into Google to find internal link opportuties.

In this example, there are several pages that mention “Facebook Image Sizes” that could be linked together.

Bonus: Prune

I’ve included content pruning as a bonus. It isn’t optimizing specific posts, but it can work well. 

Instead of consolidating content and redirecting URLs, sometimes you find old, lame content on your site that isn’t doing anything positive for you and isn’t worth keeping. 

In this case, delete it and make your site tidier.

Best practices for implementing at scale

As I noted before, content optimization is a discipline that requires processes and systems to be effective as possible.

Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned from scaling content operations at Sprout Social and now doing this for several companies.

1. Analyze quarterly

When you get ramped up, you’ll probably be analyzing your existing content every month. To get started, make it a point to analyze your content every quarter to identify posts that need to be fixed or have upside potential. 

Analyzing your data helps you stay on top of it, and like most things, what gets scheduled gets done. 

 2. Dedicate bandwidth

Most content teams create a consistent volume of content each month because that makes planning, budgeting, and consistency easier. 

If you are like most teams, that’s 4-8 posts per month. I’ve done as high as 30/month and talked with folks who have done 100+/mo. 

Regardless, a pretty easy starting point is to dedicate 25% of your current publishing bandwidth to optimizing existing content. 

So, if you are currently publishing 8 per month, start doing two optimizations per month and six new posts per month and go from there. 

The important part is that you carve out space for it and make it a priority and an expectation. 

3. Align with teams

One area that can hang up a team from making this a consistent process is collaborating with other teams. 

If you are frequently coming across older content, you may need new imagery or product shots or be required to verify with subject matter experts how to update the content from a technical standpoint.

Make sure you factor any outside dependencies into your timing and process, just like you would for new content, to make sure it becomes a smooth process.

Next steps for optimizing existing content

If you haven’t ever tried optimizing the content you already have, give it a shot on 3-5 posts you identify as good candidates. 

If you’ve been doing it for a while, but are inconsistent, consider building out a process to make it a recurring discipline for your company. 

If you want to learn more, subscribe to the Ten Speed Blog, where we frequently write on all things content optimization and strategy. 

Meet Nate Turner

Co-founder & CEO of Ten Speed.

Nate Turner is a SaaS marketing leader. He was the first marketer at Sprout Social, where he built and scaled the inbound engine from $100k to $100m in ARR. He is now the co-founder and CEO of tenspeed.io, a content optimization agency helping SaaS & D2C companies create revenue-generating content and an advisor for SaaS companies.

The Framework You Need for Successful Marketing Experimentation

If you’re a marketer, you need to be experimenting. 

There’s no way around it.

When a company discourages (or doesn’t actively encourage) experimentation it leaves marketing vulnerable. 

I’ve seen it happen a few times in my career. 

Marketing is afraid to test new ideas or ask for more budget, so they repeat once-successful campaigns that have long reached the point of diminishing returns. 

And here’s what happens:

  • KPIs get watered down
  • Leads are weak
  • Marketing slowly loses credibility within the organization

Does that sound familiar?

I’ve written recently about experimentation as a key way to inspire new ideas, prove marketing ROI and generally avoid being a mediocre company.

A lack of experimentation within an organization usually goes hand-in-hand with a fear of failure. Company cultures that don’t view failure as an opportunity to learn will frown upon experimentation or even forbid it.

If this sounds like your company, my advice is to run like hell. Because if there’s one trait innovative companies share —including Google, Facebook, and Amazon—it’s that they embrace experimentation

No marketer I know wants to work in this type of environment. 

Animated GIF - shaking head in disgust
Nobody wants to work for a company that doesn’t innovate.

Get an experimentation framework that works

Even if you work in a culture of experimentation, you still need to find the time and creativity to test new ideas. 

But most importantly, you need a systematic plan to run effective experiments and learn from them.

With a plan you can confidently and effectively:

  • Test new creative ideas.
  • Find new demand.
  • Verify that new audiences are receptive.
  • Maximize the value you get from every campaign.

You can finally bring a method to the madness.

Here’s how we do it.

Prefer to watch the video?

Develop your own framework

At Metadata, we’ve been leveraging a framework (originally built by Guillaume Cabane) for a few months to create and prioritize experiments and measure the results. One downside is that it’s, admittedly, fairly sophisticated. 

So, if you’re just formulating an experimentation plan, walk before you run.

screenshot of a simple experimentation framework spreadsheet
Your first framework can be basic. Start with a basic spreadsheet and get more advanced as you go.

Create a spreadsheet where the only inputs are: 

  1. Impact
  2. Effort
  3. Confidence

With the categories:

  1. High
  2. Medium
  3. Low

If you want to expand your experimentation framework further, here’s an Airtable framework template to get you started.

And each section below will give you tips and strategies for creating each part successfully.

1. Focus on your budget

Before you’re off to the races with experimentation ideas, you should understand the budget you have to experiment with and the demand and performance gaps you need to fill.

Your experimentation budget will depend on: 

  1. Your total working budget.
  2. The percent of your goals your working budget will deliver.

Let’s say you know you can deliver a lead for $100 from your current channels and tactics. Last month your goal was 100 leads, and your budget was $10,000. You had enough budget to meet your goals using tried-and-true tactics. 

However, this month your goals have changed to 120 leads, but your budget only went up by $1,000 to $11,000. 

Now there’s a gap of 10 leads to make up.

You no longer can meet your goals using past tactics and performance. In this case, you would only spend, say, $9,000 on the traditional tactic to drive 90 leads, leaving a gap of 30 leads and $2,000. This is where experimentation comes in—you need to try new things to get your CPL down to $67 for those last 30 leads.

However, even if you have enough budget to meet your goals using tried-and-true tactics, you should still be experimenting. Because at any moment those tried-and-true tactics could bomb. 

Try and optimize your current campaigns and use the dollars saved to do additional experimentation. 

If you’re in this situation, try and reserve at least 10% of your budget for new experiments.

Graphic saying "Reserve at least 10% of your budget for new experiments"

2. Gather your experimentation ideas 

Start by brainstorming ideas and then consistently add new ideas to your list as they come up. You should also give others within your organization access to the list so they can add their own ideas.

If you’re looking for a few ideas to get started, try these out:

  1. Test new landing page headlines.
  2. Try out a brand new marketing channel (TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn).
  3. Run a new set of Facebook Ads.
  4. Throw a digital event for your users/prospects.
  5. Sponsor a newsletter or podcast.

Ideas can be big as running a user event. Or as small as testing some ad copy and creative. The goal is to get in the mode of experimentation. After you have enough solid ideas down on paper, add data to help prioritize the experiments. 

Animated GIF - I think we have a pretty good idea

After you have your ideas, start to include data points such as: 

  • Effort – The difficulty level to build the experiment. 
  • Time – How long it will take to build and run.
  • Impact – What the potential impact will be (in terms of dollars or primary KPIs).
  • Confidence – Your confidence level of the experiment working.
  • Revenue possibility – The revenue estimate for the experiment.
  • Surface area – What part of the lifecycle it will affect: Acquisition? Pipeline? Retention?

When you do the math properly, the ideas that have the best mix of effort, impact, and confidence will float to the top— i.e. your “low-hanging fruit”. 

From these data points, you’ll be able to create an ordered list of the experiments you should run.

3. Set up experiment timelines and KPIs

Next, assign the top priority experiments to sprints and begin building. When you build, build the most basic MVP (minimum viable product) possible so you can test and iterate the experiment without wasting time. 

One of the biggest mistakes in experimentation is to try and build the perfect version the first time out. 

Animated GIF - Nothing is going to be perfect.

Here’s the reality: a large percentage of your experiments may fail.

So it’s important to reach the right balance of quality and speed. Use your MVP to learn and decide if it’s an idea you want to formally expand.

Provide the budget and timeline so you know from the start how long you want the experiment to run before you have enough data to be satisfied. 

You should also assign success and failure KPIs so you know if the experiment is beating or missing expectations. For instance, metrics to watch for an MVP would be CTR, CPL, and lead conversion. 

While these are not the normal metrics for measuring marketing success, they’re a good indication that the experiment is resonating and should be rolled out more formally. 

4. Assess the impact and what’s next

After an experiment has run its course, do a complete analysis of its impact and make a decision, usually one of the following: 

  • It performed great and should be an evergreen campaign that we build out even further and continue to optimize.
  • It needs some tweaks and a retest. 
  • It just didn’t work…let’s get rid of it.

Make sure to absorb and track these learnings so you can build on what you learned and not repeat the same experiment twice. And keep a running list of insights you’ve learned through experimentation. 

Start experimenting

Take the ideas with low effort and high impact and confidence and run them as your first experiments. 

As you generate more ideas (and you will), add inputs such as the metrics it will affect and how long it will take to build and run. Keep building on it.

Sooner than you think, you’ll have enough data and ideas to run a well-oiled experimentation engine that’ll keep you a step ahead of your always-evolving audience. 

How To Launch Software Products Part III

Don’t look now — but you did it.

YOU LAUNCHED YOUR SOFTWARE PRODUCT.

  • You captured all the data to position your product effectively
  • You educated the hell out of your audience to prep them for your launch
  • You introduced totally new technology to the market
  • And you made sure every rep and buyer had every tool they needed to know how to use it

Time to pop some bottles, because IT’S OVER! SUCCESS! ONTO THE NEXT LAUNCH!

Animated GIF of The Office spraying champagne.
Narrator: But in fact, the launch was not over.

Don’t hate me just yet. You can keep sippin’ on that beverage because you have A LOT to celebrate.

The foundational knowledge stage is emotionally exhausting, and the launch stage is tactically taxing — and now that’s all effectively behind you. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate. 

But the goal of this whole product marketing thing isn’t just to pull back the curtain on new technology. It’s to maximize adoption and drive recurring revenue.

And showing your audience what you have to offer falls short of (in my opinion — and Simon Sinek’s) the ‘why.’

What do I mean by showing them the why? 

There’s a reason Pottery Barn sells all their furniture by setting up adorable little staged kitchens and bedrooms in their showrooms and catalog. And it’s not because the salespeople like to playhouse.

It’s because they know showing you a fantastic, beautiful, comfortable, expensive chair by itself is not nearly as compelling as showing it to you in context. 

Pottery Barn advertisement example
A chair by itself is a place to sit.

Add a throw blanket, a matching rug, a coffee table to kick your feet up on with a scented candle, and family photos? Issa VIBE.

That ‘place to sit’ just became your window to what your life could look like. The vision has been painted, it’s tangible, it’s real, and it’s appealing as hell.

You’re no longer buying a chair, you’re buying an experience, an emotion, and an outcome so real you’ve actually SAT in it, smelled it, felt it, and connected with it.  

Who says software can’t elicit the same connection we get as B2C consumers? 

In this final stage, we’ll break down how you can maximize adoption and beef up those recurring revenue numbers by transforming your product launch into a sticky, inspiring, ROI-driving business strategy, and we’ll do it in three key phases:

  1. Practical application
  2. Thought leadership
  3. Assessment

Phase I: Practical application

Math teachers had 4 modes: mad minute, overhead projector, worksheets, and tests.

Mad minute was the foundational knowledge stage — their way of reviewing what we already knew. How many multiplication problems could we knock out in a minute?

Some of us crushed it, some of us are still working that out in therapy. But it was the teacher’s way of knowing who was ready for division, and who still needed to strengthen that foundational knowledge muscle before learning anything new. 

Overhead projector day was the product launch.

Follow along carefully, class, and if you’re feeling slick, stroll up to the Elmo and take a spin yourself. Just don’t be left-handed, okay, because those markers smudge so easily, and then it’s all over your hand, and the screen, god forbid your face — it’s a mess.

The worksheets though? That’s this stage: practical application.

That’s the “Molly has 62 watermelons, and can only eat 2 watermelons per hour. How many hours will it take for Molly to polish off all 62 watermelons?” crap that in the moment, felt absolutely ridiculous, but in hindsight, was actually the only vision we had into how the hell any of this even plays out in the real world.

Practical application made us tie newly acquired information to real-life — in other words, the product launch to our own use case. 

Like damn, maybe I do actually need division (ahem, this new software) to get through my day.

If you executed the launch stage effectively, you’ve successfully turned once green buyers into bonafide technical wizards through assets, tools, and demos. Your buyers are now intimately familiar with what your product does. Now is the time to teach them how to use it. And you’ll want to start PRACTICALLY.

Some ways to arm your buyers with the practical application can include:

1. Playbooks

These are the “5 steps to getting _____ going TODAY” guides that shamelessly leverage our affinity for Buzzfeed-esque listicles to present real, useful 101-level steps to using and getting initial value out of your new product.

2. Pro-tips

Think bite-size, 1-2 minute clips showing different best practices and use cases for drawing out quick, measurable value from your product that your buyers couldn’t do before.

Figure out who in-house has a smooth narration voice and knows a thing or two about the product, give them a script, have them share their screen, and hit record.

3. Video testimonials

Did you have the good fortune of running a beta or early adopter group before launch? Time to cash in, baby.

The high-fidelity output looks like setting up lighting, a camera, and an interview with a few customers on their turf to capture a 20-minute conversation about their experience, use cases, and outcomes using your new product.

More budget-friendly option?

Set up a zoom and get to work in iMovie. Want to lift even less? Ask them to leave a fresh video review on your G2 profile — hell bake that requirement into their beta agreement at the onset, and you’re golden. 

These kinds of assets are evergreen and do more to build trust and reputation with your buyers than any Gartner or Forrester analyst is ever going to get you. 

Phase II: Thought leadership

I warned you in the practical application stage to keep it practical, right?

We want our buyers to start using the product, but remember who your audience is at their core.

These are tech bros, not Plato. Get too woo-woo with them right off the bat and they’re going to run for the hills (read: dollar draft night).

But if we get them to just start using the product, and seeing some value, then we can start showing them what it’s really capable of. And that’s when the fun begins. 

Because adoption is good, but retention is better.

Animated GIF of The Office saying "the fire guy!"
As Ryan “fire guy” Howard so eloquently schooled us, it is 10x more expensive to sign a new customer than to keep an existing one. And simply using something isn’t going to make your buyer keep using it. 

In this stage, you’ll want to go beyond how to use your product and get value from it, to showing them why your product should be central to their overall business strategy.

Yes, everybody, this is the why stage. The think bigger stage. The dream with me for a minute stage.

And frankly, you’re probably going to want to go above the tech bros for this one. 

Your target audience for thought leadership should land amongst the strategic drivers at your target accounts — think VPs, founders, department heads, and C suites.

These aren’t the people implementing the tool, they’re the ones signing the renewals, and holding their teams accountable for the output they’re getting from that software investment. Show leaders at your target accounts just how much value your solution can drive, and they’ll practically close the sale for you.

This kind of marketing should include:

Webinars

Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious.

Boring-ass buzzwordy quick-fix webinars are tired and over, yes. Inspiring, differentiated, breath of fresh air webinars? Your buyers are begging for them. I know this because I’ve hosted a few. Hell, I’ve attended a few.

If you layer this channel into your launch strategy at this stage, choose hosts they actually care to hear from and keep the “sale” far from the discussion, you will get registrants. You will get attendees. And you will evangelize decision-makers from your top accounts, in about 1 hour. 

Op-eds

I’ll give it to you, webinars are a heavy lift (as I exhale today from a 4-month long build-up to this morning’s webinar). But Op-ed pieces, albeit less flashy, can pack just as much punch if your thought leaders can write well (or, and you did not hear this from me, work with a fantastic ghost-writer).

You’re a business, so chances are, your ICP exists at your company.

Sell HR software? Have your Chief People Officer pen an op-ed about the state of HR, and how your software solves the challenges we’ll be facing in the next 10 years.

You’ll want this to come from a person who’s been around the block and has the credibility and experience to share an opinion people want to hear about. 

These pieces are meant to inspire possibilities, expand beyond technology, and let people in leadership positions sit in that Pottery Barn living room for a second and imagine what life could be like.

Evangelize decision-makers at your top accounts, and this phase will pay dividends long beyond the conclusion of your launch, that’s a promise.

Phase III: Assessment

I’m getting emotional. We’re almost at the end, which means you’re almost ready to go crush the hell out of your next launch. I’m so proud of you for making it this far!

But I feel in my heart that I’d be doing you dirty if I didn’t bring it back to our teaching metaphor just one more time.

Animated GIF of math equation.
So just like any good teacher finishing out any unit, the final stage of your product launch campaign can only be one thing: The Test.  

And it’s arguably the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The proof.

You’ve spent weeks…months…quarters (?!?!)… drawing out this product launch, creating compelling stories, positioning poetic narratives, launching differentiated features, and slinging inspirational dogma all in an effort to turn buyers, into customers, into believers — but there’s one thing in tech that speaks louder than all of it: data. 

Cold, hard, shiny, indisputable, numerical validation. If they didn’t buy it before, numbers don’t lie. And if they didn’t trust you before, their peers don’t lie either.

This is where you lean into a customer-led growth engine to seal the deal. Capture a few solid customer stories, and ride those beautiful KPIs all the way into the sunset.

But before we dig into just how much juice you can squeeze out of a good customer story, one more food metaphor for the road:

There’s nothing I hate more than when people order a bone-in ribeye and CUT the meat away from the bone, leaving the richest, most flavorful part of the steak to get cold and thrown out.

YOU IDIOTS. YOU’RE THROWING AWAY GOLD.

Everyone knows you either gnaw the bone, or you bring it home to use as a base in your next cooking adventure.

(By the end of this blog series you’ve probably guessed I like my steak. So if you’re in Chicago and are looking for a fantastic steak experience, book a table at Steak48 on Wabash. You can thank me later).

But my point is, by simply turning a customer story into one lousy ass case study, you’re leaving cold-hard ARR cash on the table. Our customer’s time is valuable as hell. And ya know what? So is ours.

Here are some examples of getting extra miles out of customer story:

1. Case study blog

Write and publish your customer story for your blog site. Optimize it, and let the organic traffic roll in.

2. Case study PDF

Pair down that story into the challenge, solution, and outcome sections, with big sexy data callouts in a fully designed PDF. Gate this PDF behind matching display ads with GIANT data points as the focal point and fill that top of funnel. 

3. Case study slides

Turn that story into 3 deck slides: Slide 1: The challenge. Slide 2: The solution. Slide 3: The outcome (make the data points the biggest part of that slide). Hand this over to sales to use in their pitches and watch the BOFU leads close.

4. Case study presentation

Give your customer the mic and let them tell their story on a webinar or conference panel.

If it’s a known company amongst your target audience, the logo will draw attendance, and co-presenting with a customer is one of the best ways to show, strengthen, and solidify that partnership. Retention and expansion with this account henceforth should be a breeze. 

Animated GIF of man saying "you can do it"

Well fam, that’s it.

That’s all she (I) wrote. I hope like hell this was digestible, and makes sense, and feels doable.

Give yourself grace when you try to implement these strategies. You’re not going to knock out every stage overnight, but I can bet the first time around you’ll get just enough validation from the market and your sales reps to give it another hack.

And before you know it, you’ll be off writing blogs for Metadata about how I SHOULD be launching products.

I’m proud of you, I’m excited as hell to see what our industry cooks up next, and I can’t wait to hear who checks out Steak48.

Til next time, Bears fans. Happy launching.

Meet Aubyn Casady

Principal Product Marketing Manager, G2

Aubyn Casady runs partner marketing in her role as Principal Product Marketing Manager for G2. She has spent her marketing career launching campaigns, products, and partnerships for some of Chicago’s top SaaS companies, while moonlighting as a freelance content writer and product marketing consultant.

Outside of her full-and-a-half-time marketing responsibilities, Aubyn manages and sings every weekend with Chicago’s premium event band, Rush Street Rhythm.

Connect with Aubyn on LinkedIn here.  

How To Create Webinars That Live Longer and Convert Faster

This is the ninth post in our new content series, No Fluffs Given. We’re tired of the fluffy content in our LinkedIn feeds, with no real substance or actionable takeaways. So we’re teaming up with some of the best B2B marketers we know. People who have ACTUALLY done this stuff before. And giving you new, actionable tactics to implement today.

Tyler Durden gets rebranding. He’s also good at mission statements and community building. Don’t be like Tyler, but do learn from Tyler.

See, marketers (you) ruined webinars with your pitch slapping, logo flexing, and ego stroking. You were so worried about getting butts in seats that you forgot about math. That’s right, math.

Think about how thrilled you’d be to get 100 people to your first webinar. You’d pee yourself. Yet, 1,000 organic views on a LinkedIn post is subpar.

So, the first thing you need to hammer into your head is the webinar is not about the webinar. Say that again if you need to.

Webinars are a way to learn from your audience and create community-led content that you can later distribute on other channels. The bulk of the ROI comes after the webinar.

Here’s how to stop wasting time on the wrong webinar activities (ahem, lead gen) and start making money with webinar repurposing:

1. Identify your sweet spot

When my former employer, MarketerHire, launched a Live series (see how I didn’t say the W-word there?), we didn’t promise to cover all the marketing things and please all the marketing people. We took a step back to answer:

  1. Who are we talking to? CMOs
  2. Where’s the overlap between that person and our product? CMOs care about hitting their numbers. To hit those growing numbers, they must scale. We could help them hire top talent, faster.
  3. Where’s the gap between that person and your product? CMOs sometimes believe in-house hires are the only way to go. They’re also not 100% sure who to hire when. They want to hear how other CMOs are doing it before making a decision.

While we had the resources to talk about marketing in general, that wouldn’t help us address common objections around our product. Thus, it wasn’t the strongest play. The best move, we decided, was to focus on marketing operations — how to build a marketing team.

Ahrefs and HotJar follow a similar framework to prioritize their blog content. They give each potential topic a relevancy score between 0-3. A three means your product is an irreplaceable solution, a zero means there’s no connection between the topic and your product.

When I’m overwhelmed with content possibilities (often), I go back to Ahrefs’ scoring rubric.

You can follow Ahref’s topic scoring framework to find your webinar sweet spot. Once you find that intersection between the content your target audience wants and what you’re uniquely qualified to deliver, the next steps get easier.

2. Ask strategic questions

Every question you ask should relate to the niche you decided on.

On our webinar landing page and event promos, we promised to cover how, who, and when to hire freelancers. We also talked directly to CMOs and the pains of building a marketing team, not the pains of marketing.

Asking the right questions isn’t complicated. It just takes focus and the ability to say “no” when you want to go off topic. Tell your guests in the promos what they can expect. Then stick to it.

So, naturally, we asked questions like:

  • Which marketer should you hire first?
  • How is your team currently structured?
  • When do you hire freelancers?

Editor’s Note: If you’re getting too many surface-level answers and you want to drill more into the tactics, give guests the permission to dive deeper with follow-up “how” and “why” questions.

Having a clear webinar outline helps you and the guest bring your A-game. You won’t get to every question and attendees will ask their own, but creating an outline that aligns with your sweet spot helps guarantee you get repurposable content out of the show.

3. Mine the transcript for gold

While asking the right questions to the right guests increases your chances of getting repurposable content, you still have to dig for the best clips. I recommend a team member take notes throughout the event to timestamp what I call “money moments.” (I made this term up just now.)

Here are two things to look out for during the webinar:

Content that captures existing demand

Growth marketers were by far the most in-demand role at MarketerHire, making up a third of all hires. We also noticed organic content around growth marketing — blogs and social — not only drove engagement, but also SQLs. So, we asked guests specifically about what to look for in a growth marketer and when to hire them.

Content that creates new demand

On the flip side, non-performance marketers — brand marketers, SEOs, and social media managers — tended to have less demand. Also, some CMOs were skeptical about hiring freelancers over in-house marketers. We addressed these objections by asking CMOs when and how they hired specialist freelancers.

Once we found clips we liked, I would write a few headline options for each and send to our video agency to edit the raw footage.

4. Invest in a video editor

Whether or not you hire a video editor in-house will depend on how much video you plan to produce and what kind of budget you have. But trust me, if you aren’t a video person (guilty), editing will consume too much of your time. It’s worth hiring an expert.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend hiring a video agency. I personally use Motion for my podcast and we used Blnk Slate Media for general video repurposing at MarketerHire — webinar and customer story clips.

Here are some key learnings from testing dozens of formats on organic and paid social:

  • Bold headlines and colors perform better
  • Direct quotes and questions work well as headlines
  • Include captions (and proofread them)
  • Prioritize video over audiograms
  • Maximize your real estate in the feed (1080×1080 format on Instagram, for instance)

Don’t assume your video editor will know to do all of the above. Get specific about what you want in the brief. The cheaper the editor, the more hand-holding required. All-star (expensive) editors don’t need a brief after a while, they know good content when they see it.

5. Test clips and copy on organic social first

There are infinite things you can test on organic social before ever dropping a cent on paid advertising. Things like:

Formatting – I saw more success with video than audiograms on LinkedIn organic, especially when showcasing recognizable guests.

Placements – I don’t have much data on this, but we started testing Instagram story ads as well toward the end of my tenure. Instagram is pushing Reels right now, so worth considering. 

Copy – Easily the most important factor of all these. If the headline doesn’t resonate, they won’t read the rest or watch the video.

Clips – Think back to your sweet spot. Does the clip address an objection? Will it help you capture or create demand? Would you watch it?

CTAs – While you can’t mimic CTAs on organic social the same as you would in paid, you can create a Bitly link to test click-through rates. For example, we would always drop the link to sign up for the next Live in the comments. (NOTE: Most people won’t click. That doesn’t mean it’s not working.)

Here are two examples of clips we tested on our company LinkedIn and Twitter pages first. To get a more representative size, I would sometimes post these to my personal profile as well.

Headlines about what not to do tend to do better than headlines about what to do. That’s because we’re risk averse. Consider this when writing headlines for your clips.
Questions you know about your audience is asking make for good hooks. Also, consider the “fold” on social so you can end on a cliffhanger. I.e., “It depends.” On what exactly?

I highly recommend posting to a personal profile to test video content. You’ll get far better reach. The catch: this is only helpful if the bulk of your connections match the audience you’re targeting. Both of the above videos performed well relative to our other posts.

6. Promote top video clips to paid ads

Once you’ve taken the time to test your webinar clips in organic spaces where your audience hangs out, assess the reactions and comments.

  • Are you getting more engagement than you typically get on your other video content?
  • Is your target audience engaging?
  • Are they asking questions?
  • Are they tagging people from their team?

All of the above are good signs you’re onto something. Promoting to paid is how you’ll know for sure.

Of course, this part gets complicated as you not only need to know who you’re talking to (a given), but how to creatively target them on paid social given data limitations.

For instance, you won’t be able to target by title as well on Facebook as you can on LinkedIn. Our paid team used Metadata to track down our target audience on hard-to-reach channels.

The paid team would then A/B test two or three headlines per clip and two or three clips at a time. After a few days, they’d cut the low performers and double-down on what was working. That process is basically good marketing in a nutshell — test small and focus on what works.

Here are a few repurposed webinar clips that have been catching my attention on Instagram lately. Props to Active Campaign and AdWorld for earning my eyeballs (and now my praise).

Sometimes your guest is Seth Godin and he sells himself. But the fire engine red doesn’t hurt either.
I’ve found video to work better than audiograms, but this one’s done well and the bright, bold blue certainly caught my attention. Also, the headline plays to a universal fear — messing up.

The results

Every MarketerLive guest had at least two great clips and each campaign (guest) generated a few hundred qualified leads for MarketerHire. And by qualified leads, I mean people who clicked on the “hire expert marketer” CTA and filled out a 10-question form. That indicates a much higher intent than the webinar attendees B2B marketers are currently classifying as leads in the CRM. Just saying.

On average, webinar ads had a 25% higher click-through rate compared to non-webinar ads. However, they converted about 25% worse. At least, based on what we could track within the platforms.

The iOS14 update kicked in during this time, so we could only track conversions from ads for seven days. That means if you didn’t convert on the platform within that window, there was no perfect way to know if they converted from the ads later. Or, if they found out about us from the ad but visited the site via Google.

Still, if you know your audience and the message you want to tell, content consumption should be a core focus. I’ve found webinar repurposing to be a great way to engage your audience on both organic and social. If you have a solid product that aligns with the content you’re sharing, the conversions should come. You just won’t be able to attribute everyone.

Now what?

Now you launch your own webinar, er, live event and repurpose it into engaging social clips and ads. You’ll do this to drive the right people to real conversions. As Metadata says, “generate revenue, not just leads.”

If you want more tactical content marketing tips, I host a podcast called Content Logistics where I interview the marketers behind the best content flywheels. It publishes on Spotify and Apple biweekly, is 100% free, and I’m told it’s best consumed while walking your dog.

Now go forth and create.

Meet Camille Trent

Head of Content, Dooly

Camille Trent started her career as an agency copywriter and found her home in early-stage B2B SaaS. When she’s not working on content strategies, she’s hanging out with her two favorite redheads or coaching the Portland Trail Blazers (unsuccessfully) from her couch.

You can connect with Camille on LinkedIn here.