How to approach B2B advertising during a challenging Q4

How to approach B2B advertising during a challenging Q4

Here are some recommendations for managing channel mix, budgeting and KPIs this Q4, given a strange and thorny landscape.

B2B companies planning for the rest of 2022 have a unique set of circumstances to consider: 

  • Funding has dried up.
  • Mid-term election season is driving up engagement costs.
  • Benchmarks from the last couple of years are less than reliable.

We’re in a very tricky time for B2B advertising. In this post, I’ll lay out some recommendations on how to approach channel mix, budgeting, KPIs and more this Q4 2022, given a strange and thorny landscape.

Channel considerations 

I’ve seen Facebook advertising prove more promising for B2B campaigns in recent months as advertisers implement offline conversion data to keep a close eye on lead quality.

Leads are still cheap, and for the most part, I would support B2B Facebook ad testing if you’re prepared to aggressively cross-reference CRM data to ensure the overall ROI is decent.

Pull back on Facebook spending

The biggest channel adjustment I’m recommending for B2B companies is to pull way back on Facebook spending for Q4.

Facebook real estate is and will be clogged through early November with political ads and well into December with B2C companies ramping up holiday ad spend, which means engagement costs will be prohibitively high.

Outside of this Q4, I tell B2B companies that Facebook advertising is worth at least testing. But for the rest of 2022, you won’t get the most accurate view of Facebook advertising return and what the platform can do for your mix.

Incorporate more lead time for ad approvals

The main B2B paid media channels, Google and LinkedIn, won’t see a similar cost increase due to political spending.

For Google, election and retail campaigns will be in high gear simultaneously (at least through early November). Incorporate a little more lead time for ad approvals to ensure you’re keeping your campaigns on track.

Budget planning

Nothing beats Q1 for revenue in the world of B2B, but last year’s Q4 provided a surprising windfall for some of my B2B clients.

We saw CPC, CPM, and CPL get more expensive in Q4 (CPC, CPM, CPL), but there was a lot of capital, confidence, growth, and momentum in the marketplace that was making those leads more valuable.

That has certainly not been the case over the last two quarters as the economy has pulled back.

Trying to predict anything over the last two years has been a challenge (to say the least). I’m working with clients to help them stay as flexible as possible over the coming months. We want to be prepared to ramp up, but we certainly don’t want to bet on it. 

Staying flexible means we’re doing regular checks in shorter intervals on what’s working to drive qualified leads and, importantly, how those leads behave once they enter the funnel. We’re ensuring to stay in sync with our clients’ CRM data and compare things like speed to purchase with the usual ad-centric KPIs.

Double down on lead quality

Budget retraction is a natural inclination for teams with uncertain funds, especially if the last couple of quarters have seen suppressed revenue. 

My recommendation is to double down on quality: ramp up spending where you have strong lead quality and be aggressive about pulling back where quality is poor. 

And make sure to keep an eye on overall costs where you are able to spend. If your competitors pull back, you could have the market share to grab heading into the high season of Q1.

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Cost-mitigating recommendations

B2B brands looking to curb spend should focus on two areas: 

  • Control.
  • Alignment of goals to the user journey.

Control your campaigns

By control, I mean double-checking to make sure you're not letting even your favorite platforms spend your budget where it doesn't make sense. 

For instance, by all means, advertise on LinkedIn, but check your settings to make sure the Audience Expansion setting is disabled.

When enabled, this allows LinkedIn to expand targeting to those similar to the settings you've selected. For retargeting campaigns, this can mean you're hitting users that haven't actually visited your site.

LinkedIn audience expansion

Likewise with Google's Search Partners: if it is driving quality leads, great, but in my history of testing Search Partners, leads have been poor quality.

I've also seen campaigns wasting a lot of ad spend on retargeting from Google's Targeting Expansion setting at the ad group level so make sure that's turned off.

Align your goals to the user journey

Q4 is not the time to skip nurturing steps. If you run ads on LinkedIn, boost awareness and support your sales pipeline efforts by warming up cold audiences rather than skipping right to “Request a demo” goals.

Give your target audience useful, ebook-type content to establish your expertise, then get them into your retargeting funnel.

To drive traffic to the top of the funnel and keep costs low, consider testing LinkedIn and promoting ungated content. You can get cheap views by driving people to popular blog posts and either warm up cold leads or get new leads into your retargeting funnel (even if they don't hit your CRM). 

Take advantage of opportunities to prioritize spend on Google as well. If you're going to pay soaring CPCs for late-funnel keywords, consider restricting your spending to campaigns with audiences overlaid (retargeting or Google's built-in audiences) who will be more likely to take action after the click.

In short, restrict your most expensive actions to the people most likely to take them.

Be ready for Q1

Perhaps the most high-impact actions you can take in the coming months are steps to prepare for the rising tide of Q1. To me, the most important areas to prepare are:

  • First-party data
  • Tracking
  • Google Analytics 4
  • Creative

I always lean on tracking, but right now, it's imperative. 

  • LinkedIn currently uses Insight Tag 2.0.
  • There's a new Google Tag to get your head around.
  • The Facebook Conversions API is more important than ever to implement in the post-iOS 14 world.
  • Offline conversion tracking is vital as third-party cookies deprecate. 

Similarly, if you haven't already set up your GA4 instance and migrated your reporting cadence and insights from Universal Analytics, now's the time.

If you wait much longer to implement GA4, you won't have good Q1 data from 2023 for year-over-year comparisons, which would be a huge miss.

On the creative side, test different creative and messaging themes (not just minor elements like color and CTA) to see what's hitting so you can prepare to roll out a wave of fresh creative in Q1. 

Overall, if there are big shifts you haven't yet dug into (like testing responsive search ads in Google as expanded text ads disappear), do it in Q4 so you can set a firm strategy for Q1.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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