What Are the Best B2B Marketing Channels for Your Business?
The law of shitty clickthroughs
A decade ago, I worked in financial derivatives sales.
We had a fairly typical setup: phones, email, a website, a CRM that we were not entirely using, a bit of PR. I left the industry at the time when social media for business took off — it came with the promise that there was a better way to reach customers.
That promise eventually gave way to the “Law of Shitty Clickthroughs”, a term coined by author and venture capitalist Andrew Chen. Although finance and fintech are lagging in their adoption, using multiple channels has become the norm. With the addition of blogging and discussion sites, choosing the right channel(s) is a critical aspect of content marketing.
The problem is that, whatever channel you use, the resulting click-through rate (CTR) will gradually decline. Chen offers a detailed analysis of why it happens, but what ultimately matters is answering these questions: How do you choose the best channels for your business? And how do you fight decreasing CTRs?
Chen’s law reminds us that using channels is a means to an end. Unless you’re in media, it’s not about followers — it’s about selling. Eventually, you need to click on that “purchase” or “get in touch” button.
Chen’s advice is to “keep discovering the next untapped marketing channel”. Unfortunately, that’s not very helpful for enterprise fintech. If you work in the industry, you’re unlikely to have the budget and resources to explore continuously. Even if you did, your content probably needs to be more educational than entertaining — it won’t work everywhere. What can you do instead?
Here you’ll find a suggested list of proven channels for the enterprise fintech segment, with the framework we use to evaluate them. (TL;DR: Linkedin is often not the best choice for B2B marketers).
For most of us, the dream of developing a vast organic reach is over. But mix regular content with paid advertising and the people that matter to you are easily reachable.
My Encounters With This Law
Let me start with a recollection of the impact of this law on my business. I experienced it before knowing it existed. Here’s how a few of our channels thrived then faded.
Two articles on the site were responsible for most of the leads (organically via search engines) for a few years. One was about live streaming. The other was a Youtube channel optimisation desktop app (called YoupTimizer, now defunct). Both used basic Google Forms for lead generation and were generating 10–30 leads a month.
The live streaming article gradually lost its SEO juice. Changes to the YouTube API killed the YoupTimizer.
I discovered Quora in 2013 and enjoyed it for a while as a place to ask and answer intelligent questions. During 2014–15 it became an essential source of clients for my video production services. I was mainly responding to technical questions about YouTube, analysing the success of popular videos, or providing advice on how to use business videos effectively. Here is my most popular answer:
Quora used to be an easy SEO hack — the answers often appeared on the first page of Google. There were a lot of interactions on the platform — I had a few conversations that started there and evolved into real business deals.
It worked so well that marketers flooded it and became extremely hard to stand out from the crowd. It also doesn’t work so well for SEO.
Vine was a Twitter-owned platform for 6-second looping videos that we started on experimentally as a team.
If Instagram (bought for $1bn — worth $100bn) and YouTube (purchased for $1.6bn — worth $300bn) are the best acquisitions of all time, Vine is probably the worst divestiture of all time. It looked a lot like what Tik Tok ($75bn) looks like today. Twitter (Market Cap $27bn) bought it a few years earlier but never knew what to do with it.
It’s the platform where we encountered the most rapid success and the one that vanished quickest. I don’t mean that the clickthrough decreased or the organic reach faded — I mean that it closed down. That’s always a possibility when you build your empire on borrowed land.
Soon, one of our videos posted had 10 thousand likes and over a million loops. The account reached 50,000 followers and became part of a community. We were making new friends and also finding business opportunities. Then Twitter decided to discontinue it.
So I know a thing or two about the law of shitty clickthroughs!
The Enterprise Fintech Channel List and Framework
Linkedin is the most popular platform for B2B marketers — often the only one they use. But is it the best?
Without judging, I’d like to offer a different perspective. I will rank channels by monthly active user (MAU) instead and will consider these 7: Email, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Linkedin, Medium.
Medium is there as a reference and if you read this, you must be aware of its marketing potential but as it is not an advertising platform we won’t go into it.
The Missing Ones
I will dive into the details of each, but first a few comments about what’s missing.
I am not discussing ‘website’, because it’s an obvious one and a much bigger topic.
The rest are too small, or I don’t have sufficient experience to discuss them. It’s worth linking to some reports that explain how Reddit, Github, or Stack Overflow can be great B2B marketing tools. One might also consider Snap, Yahoo Answers, Reddit, Pinterest, Tik Tok, Byte, Minds, to name a few. With the explosion of podcasts, audio-only channels such as SoundCloud and Spotify, may present an expanding opportunity.
To clarify what I mean by channels — you might say, platforms or simply, places where you can post content online. Sometimes SEO, video, and content marketing are described as channels. In my book, the first is a tactic, the second a medium, and the third a component of the marketing strategy.
We’re considering the following:
- Organic reach — How hard it is to reach a Fintech audience with marginal efforts.
- Organic and paid CTR —The proportion of people reached who will take action.
- Paid reach — How much it costs to reach X people in your audience.
- Targeting — How accurate can you be when setting up an audience for paid promotion. Keep in mind that all platforms allow you to upload your email list.
- Cost Per Click (CPC) — This is an indication based on our experience in the Fintech space. The cost can vary greatly, so this is a rough benchmark.
- Cost Per View (CPV): — Same as CPC but for video views, again costs can vary greatly.
Now let’s look at each of them in detail in order of MAU.
Like the web, email is one of the few open standards we have left. No organisation or company governs its use.
The author and internet entrepreneur Paul Jarvis only use email and a website. He explains his absence from social media: “platforms own your data and own your social connections, not you. They own the connection you have with the people who connect with you there.”
For marketers, email offers two main advantages over social platforms, advantages that render it essential:
- Your reach does not depend on an algorithm controlled by someone else
- You own the connections
I use Substack because it is free and easy, after having used Mailchimp and Zoho Campaigns, but it’s a tool I could walk away from by simply downloading the emails list.
Thinking that Facebook is exclusively for direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing would be a mistake. Quintessential B2B companies like Salesforce and AWS are big spenders there. I spotted these two on my feed and (if you know me) the targeting made sense:
The organic reach of Facebook business pages has shrunk. It’s probably not worth trying to build a following there anymore. If you built your audience there, you’ve probably experienced the full force of Chen’s Law.
You should still set up a page because Facebook is a great place for advertisers. You don’t need to post anything there; you can use it as an advertising only account.
You can be very accurate for B2B marketing, although it may not be as straightforward and precise as Linkedin. For example, you can target people who work at individual companies and specific jobs, but it only works for larger companies and not all the jobs are listed. You can compensate by adding criteria.
It’s also worth mentioning that the automated ads option work well, so you can let Facebook do the iteration for you.
This is where Facebook delivers value. If the ad content is engaging enough, you can get a very low CPC. Videos perform much better than other types of content, some of our ads had a CPV as low as £0.001 (although in a different industry and not B2B). This recent fintech-related post had a CPV of £0.03 and CPC of £0.30, although others haven’t performed so well.
The cost advantage makes Facebook a great place to experiment and test the creative — before scaling and using it with better targeting (but much higher cost) on Linkedin.
There are 500 hours of content uploaded on YouTube every minute. It makes standing out pretty hard. However, given its search functionality (it’s the second search engine after Google) if you post well optimised, niche content, using original formats, it will be found.
Ιt’s the same platform as the parent company Google. We found that trying to segment the audience too tightly means that the ads are not. After a lot of experimentation, targeting people who watch financial channels (Bloomberg Markets, Financial Times, etc.) worked out pretty well
Here’s a recent campaign. The nice thing about video advertising is that you get views and clicks. We found that the CPC is lower than with classic Google Ads. The views — or awareness — can be seen as a bonus.
I will mention it only briefly because Instagram has established itself as the platform for many direct-to-consumer industries, where one post from the right influencer can change the course of your business.
That makes you think that there must be excellent B2B opportunities too. It uses the same platform as Facebook, so advertising opportunities are similar.
If you’re interested in giving it a go, I wrote an article with visual strategies for Fintech on Instagram.
It works for some people. If you’re engaged and active in the threads, you can have meaningful interactions. For me (perhaps most of us), Twitter is a place where posts are shared automatically via a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer. It generates shallow engagement — but if the cost is zero why not?
It’s worth mentioning that, according to this report, Twitter ads get the highest CTR of any platform (although, that has not been my personal experience).
The fact that it has 300 million monthly unique users, almost as many as Twitter and more than Linkedin, means it should at least be on your radar.
This is an example where increased traffic is not beneficial for your own marketing efforts (cf. my personal encounter with the Law above). They are not just visitors; they are other marketers who will crowd out your answers.
I only got started on Quora advertising for this article. The first impression is that you can be somewhat focused on Fintech. One obvious opportunity is to sponsor your answer to a particular question (e.g. “What’s the best product to do x?”)
This is from a test campaign, but the very low CPC (£0.12) is promising.
Linkedin is the favourite platform of B2B marketers, and for good reason. We’re all on Linkedin. Most corporations have a bigger audience (i.e. company followers) there than anywhere else, without even putting much effort in. The other good news for marketers is that Linkedin has evolved. It used to be mainly about jobs — now it’s become a legitimate platform for content.
You can still reach your followers with each post (unlike Facebook) and generate a decent level of engagement. It works particularly well with video, which is favoured by the Linkedin algorithm. We see our clients typically getting views into the thousands.
Paid advertising on Linkedin allows you to target very accurately. You can select people with specific jobs at individual companies. (There is a minimum audience size though, it’s officially 1,000, but it works from 700 based on our latest tests).
Only show your ads to a few people who are relevant to you. Don’t waste your money on anyone else. Sounds like a B2B marketer’s dream doesn’t it?
In practice, very low CTRs (0.06% based on this report) make it much harder than it first appears. To be specific, 0.06% means 1 in 1,666. So if your target group has 1,000 members, you’re likely to see 0 clicks — and worse, you won’t learn anything from the campaign.
Although our ads usually have a better CTR (0.20%-0.40%), the corresponding CPC of £5-£15 is a deterrent. If you know that a proportion of clicks will generate a customer with a lifetime value of £££ it can be a perfect opportunity. But if you’re unsure, it can be a fast way to spend the budget.
I would advise using Linkedin ads selectively:
- When the creative, copy, call-to-action have been tested and optimised on “cheaper” platforms.
- With potentially higher conversion posts. (i.e. Not for “subscribe to our newsletter”, but maybe for “book a demo” or a “free consultation”.)
In the early days, digital and social marketing may have been free and easy. Channels are gradually degenerating, but there are many good years still ahead. They are still cheap and efficient compared to alternatives — and you can keep your click-throughs healthy for longer.
There’s no miracle pill, but writing this article has inspired me to improve my regime. I will try to be more active on Linkedin (organically only) and post articles there. Facebook will be a test platform with minimum budgets. I’m considering spending more on Quora. Given time, I’ll try to follow The Economist’s strategy on Instagram.
What channels are working best for you? Do you see significantly different figures in terms of paid reach and CTRs? Let me know in the comments.