B2B Advertising Trends Shaping The SaaS Landscape

It can be easy to get off course when you’re marketing with your head down. That said, if someone touts something as a trend, it doesn’t mean you should let it guide your strategy. Many of the most innovative ideas—from marketing or messaging to fashion or food—are born in the absence of trends.But, trends can be dependable pillars to make sure you’re both keeping between your goalposts and thinking outside the limitations of them. New perspectives can shed a fresh sliver of light on something you may have been doing for years. In March 2021, I took to the virtual stage at the cross-Canada digital marketing summit—SocialAtHome: Grow—to touch on some ideas that are shaping the B2B marketing landscape.

Awareness versus demand gen

A.K.A. Brand and demand. This one is not so much a trend as it is a categorization of two massive marketing objectives. Awareness advertising optimizes for reach, impressions, views, visits, etc., with the goal being to establish and grow brand recognition, as well as build remarketing audiences.Demand gen encapsulates the lead gen or conversion driving tactics—the goal here being to get a prospect into the sales funnel with the goal of them becoming a qualified lead and then a customer.

Use channels to your (client’s) advantage

In digital marketing, one size doesn’t fit all. You don’t want to push gated assets or free trials into the social ether if you know that that channel doesn’t often (if ever) result in quality leads.

If your goal is to drive leads, then use social what it’s good for—as a complement to your real lead-driving channels. Consider the social environment: it’s passive. It’s saturated. Your ad won’t result in someone purchasing B2B software while they’re scrolling their feed of baby pictures and breakfast burritos. But you can influence them. You can inspire brand recognition. You can nurture a positive association. Give them something interesting—not transactional.

Before launching a gated piece of content—whether that’s an ebook, a report, a whitepaper or a five-step checklist—ask yourself the following:

Would I download this?
What value does it provide the user?
How will this content influence the recipient’s buyer journey?

We tend to think of marketing as its own thing—which it is—but at its core, it is sales. And if we zoom out a bit more, awareness is to marketing as demand gen is to sales.

We are indirect salespeople, hired by our clients to facilitate inbound sales.

And just like brand and demand need to cohesively work together to optimal results, sales and marketing should also be closely aligned. If you work at an ad agency, or if you’re a freelancer running advertising for your clients, reach out and speak with their BDRs. Speak with the people who are following up with the prospects after they click the ads you are managing.

Speak with the people making cold calls on outbound teams. Speak their language and get aligned. Maybe they have valuable messaging intel that could inform how your ad copy should be positioned. Maybe they have defined personas for targeting that you’re not currently taking into consideration. Speak with the salespeople. They and you are both doing the same thing.

Review sites are your friend

Do not overlook the value of existing customers’ opinions.

We live in a rate-based society. Do you look at Airbnb reviews before booking a stay with a host?  Do you look at your Uber drivers’ rating before hopping in with them? Do you look up Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb ratings before deciding what movie to watch?

The same goes for software marketing. As a consumer and as an advertiser, it’s easy to look at this lens with as much credit and weight as it deserves once you are aware of it.

If it’s software, make sure you’re utilizing the review site resources at your disposal—whether it’s Capterra, G2, Trustpilot, etc. Customer reviews are a goldmine.

Run through your client list in your head right now and ask yourself—do I know what my client’s rating is? Do I know how well they rank against competitors for ease of use, or functionality? If you don't know, then perhaps you’ve got some homework.
However, an in-platform hack to see Performance Maxconversion data is to select the asset group, select “locations”, and customize columns to include conversions to see more granular reporting:

Video & audio are here to stay

This sounds basic and fairly broad. But given the context that B2B offers, these mediums—video and audio—are truly growing as viable ways to reach and engage with your prospective audience. Not just for awareness tactics, but for acquisition, too.Don’t get me wrong—static imagery always has and always will have its place in the digital ecosystem, but video—whether it’s a 6-second bumper ad or a 90-second mid-roll—is securing itself as a top medium. On paid social platforms—like LinkedIn—we’re often seeing better CPCs and CTRs for video ads as opposed to static ads. In the example below, a client saw a 62% increase in CTR for video compared to static, with a CPC that was also one dollar more cost-efficient.
According to LinkedIn Marketing solutions, sponsored video ads also earn 30% more comments per impression compared to static. And LinkedIn—along with other platforms—also offers video retargeting capabilities, so you can target users who have watched your video content before, which is an added bonus of using this type of ad format.

Second to video is audio. It’s absolutely no secret that podcasts have been gaining popularity year-over-year, and this gives advertisers an opportunity to reach audiences in a new way (well, not really a new way, given that radio advertising is one of the more traditional ad avenues). According to IAB, podcast advertising revenue is expected to surpass 1 billion dollars this year, and more B2B advertisers can leverage podcast advertising—be it host read or programmatic—and uncover a new direct line to reach your prospect.

Marginal gains—where the magic happens

Great success doesn't often come from quick, giant decisions. Most successful people—whether in sports or in business—will tell you success comes through a series of small, gradual, and sometimes fairly thankless tasks. But these small tactics working in tandem produce incredible results.

In marketing, there is no giant lever to pull that will get your client an immediately cheaper qualified lead. There is no big red button that you can push to establish more trust between an advertiser and a prospect.

But you can make daily tweaks to campaigns—you can adjust bidding strategies, ad creative, company targeting, exclusion layering, sequential messaging, A/B testing, the list goes on. It is only from these daily small changes that you and your client will be able to have a truly successful campaign.

So don’t get discouraged. It is a very competitive world out there—especially in B2B marketing with so many new technologies, new market entrants, and new ways to think of how to reach your audience to take into consideration.

But the foundation for a truly successful campaign is found in those marginal gains. It is from those very small wins that you will—and I assure you, you will—have the big ones.
By Hillary Gillis , Consultant

Don’t wonder how advertising helps you achieve your goals—prove it.

Related Posts

Browse All

The Truth Behind Branded Search Ads

Read Post

DE&I Starts Here: 3 Ways to Improve Inclusivity in Hiring

Read Post