Guide to Scaling a B2B Company With Facebook Ads

Right Percent
Jun 13, 2019 · 8 min read

This guide is for you if you’re trying to grow a business that has business customers.

A business, in this context, doesn’t have to be a for-profit enterprise. The common theme is that your customer wants to use your product to help them do their job better, as opposed to using your product for fun or necessity.

Facebook? For B2B Marketing? Really?

Lots of people think about FB for consumer marketing. Here’s why it works for B2B as well:

  • 55% of all Americans (and much of the world) use Facebook or Instagram every single day of their lives.
  • This includes the much smaller % of people that are your customers. Facebook’s algorithms can find them in the haystack.

Caveat: If you’re going after a very specific audience, like the CFOs of target companies in the F1000, you’ll find it much harder to scale. At Right Percent, our rule of thumb is that if there are at least 100,000 of your target customer in the U.S., you can likely find them with a good ROI on Facebook. If you want to know what other channels can work for you, check out our Guide to Prioritizing Marketing Channel Testing At A Start-up.

How To Find Business Decision Makers on Facebook

How do you find potential business customers on Facebook?

At Right Percent, we’ve successfully targeted doctors, dentists, local restaurants, credit worthy small business owners, experienced developers, property managers, marketing professionals, HR decision makers, truckers — you name it.

The first step to building a successful campaign is figuring out your audience, your sales cycle, and the conversion types that are important to you.

Audience Size Rule of Thumb

How do you know if you can find potential customers on Facebook?

First, estimate how how many potential customers you have in your target market (Usually the U.S. to start). This is not the number of potential customers on FB — just how many of your target customers exist.

For instance, there are about 6 million small businesses of any industry in the US with at least one employee. That’s your market size if your company’s product can be used by any small business.

If your market size is 6 million, then there’s likely about 3 million target customers on Facebook. This is because about half of all Americans use FB or IG every day.

If your market size is under 100,000, it will be harder to acquire your customers on Facebook, since there will be more noise for FB’s targeting algorithm to sort through. If you only have a few thousand potential customers, Facebook will almost certainly not work for you at scale.

Three Ways To Target on Facebook — One Almost Always Works Better

There are three ways to target customers on Facebook:

  1. Interest based targeting
  2. Exact match audience targeting
  3. Lookalike based targeting

Let’s use a company that sells stuff to plumbers as an example to talk about how each works.

Interest based targeting means selecting from FB’s pre-built targeting audiences. So, if you’re targeting plumbers, you target people in the category, “Interest: Plumbing”, or a few things close to that.

Exact match audience targeting in this case means taking a list of plumber email addresses you already have and uploading them to Facebook (You can also do this with a pixel, but that’s usually for retargeting- different story). Then Facebook targets these plumbers for you with ads.

Lookalike targeting means Facebook takes the list of plumbers you uploaded, and calculates a list of 2 million people on Facebook that look similar to those plumbers.

The best performer of the three for almost every B2B account I’ve worked on is lookalike targeting. Facebook’s algorithm is just really good at taking the signal from your seed audience, and finding similar people using the 10,000+ variables they calculate on the backend.

Why don’t the other targeting types work as well?

With interest based targeting, not enough people fill out their front end profile with their interests, so the categories usually don’t scale.

Exact match is also hard to scale (How do you keep finding customer names and emails?), but even if you get a large and carefully crafted list to target (like a direct mail list), it doesn’t work that well. I hypothesize that this is because Facebook considers likelihood to click and convert when building lookalikes, and exact match audiences don’t.

How do you build an effective B2B lookalike?

Effective lookalikes are built from effective seed audiences, and are vital to getting ROI from your Facebook advertising. You always want to start with a 1% lookalike audience.

Generally, you want to create your seed audience with the highest quality records possible. Below are some best practices for seed audiences:

  1. Optimally contain your 600–1500 best customers.
  2. If you have different values for each customer (deal size, etc.), create a weighted lookalike on Facebook with that data.
  3. If you don’t have that many customers, use whatever the highest quality contacts you have further down your funnel that you have at least 600 of.
  4. If you don’t have any data of your own, you may want to buy or scrape a list somewhere to start with. But you should quickly switch to your own data when you have enough.

If you have a lot of your own data, with many data segments (I.E. you have 10,000 customers, from a variety of industries), you’ll definitely want to methodically test different configurations on Facebook until you find the right one.

In a later article, I’ll talk more about how to scale your Facebook account and keep ROI steady over time as your audience fatigues.

You’ve Built Your Audience — Now What Do You Optimize For?

Choosing the thing you optimize for is *very* important for B2B on Facebook. Here’s why:

  1. You’re not selling a product like toasters that anyone can buy. You only want people seeing your ads that can actually buy your B2B product.
  2. Facebook is very good at learning from the information you feed it, and will deliver you more of the same if you tell it which customers are good.
  3. To give Facebook the best signal, you should almost always optimize as far down the funnel as possible where you have a minimum of 30 conversions from Facebook per week within a few days of the original ad click.

Given the above, which conversion signal should you choose? It depends on your funnel.

Funnel A: If you have an effective self serve free trial.

Generally you want to use an event from your conversion pixel when people complete sign-up for your trial. You’ll want this event *after* the email confirmation step, when the user first logins in.

Sometimes, it makes sense to trigger the event even further if every user that’s going to eventually be a customer does an event inside the app, like, “Watch Demo”, etc.

You generally can’t optimize on purchase, since it’s usually 7–30 days from click date, and FB is not as effective at optimizing beyond a 1 day window.

Funnel B: If you have a complete online funnel that requires payment up front.

If your funnel includes an online paid conversion, and you have no sales touches involved, you should almost always just pixel the conversion event.

Funnel C: If you have to collect a lead first/schedule a demo.

Usually you’ll just have to settle for optimizing on the lead creation. But there’s a few important details.

You can often collect these leads directly on Facebook with Lead Ads, which is cheaper.

If you collect them on your site, you can trigger the lead event only if they fill out certain information (Like selecting they want to be contacted, etc.)

You can send Offline Events to Facebook to give FB more signal on what converts and doesn’t. But they’re usually not as effective as other event types.

How To Create B2B Facebook Ads That Convert Business Decision Makers

How do you design Facebook ads that convert business decision makers into customers?

To answer this, we should consider the main parts of an ad.

(Ad courtesy of Hemlane)

In order of most to least important, the four main elements of a good B2B Facebook ad are:

  1. The Visual Headline
  2. The Main Visual
  3. The Main Copy
  4. The Sub-Headline and CTA

The Visual Headline

The visual headline has two jobs:

  1. Show the target audience, in an instant, as they scroll down their phone screen, that this ad is targeted towards them. The text should be as big as Facebook’s 20% rule allows.
  2. Give your most compelling marketing message in a sentence (you’ll need to test your messages).

The visual headline on this sample ad does both extremely well.

The Main Visual

The main visual has two jobs:

  1. Get the targets attention with bright colors and crisp photography. Photos (or videos) almost always work better than art.
  2. Acts as a metaphor for your main message or a powerful piece of imagery. The more your target can relate to it, the better.

The sample does both quite well.

Note: You do not need your logo in the visual. The Facebook ad already has your logo in the top left, and it wastes valuable space for your messaging.

The Main Copy

While the main visual and visual headline get the attention of your target customer, the main copy sells them on your product with a bit more detail. You can devote this space to selling points, facts, testimonials or many other bits of copy. Emoticons are super valuable for breaking up the text, since Facebook does not have a native “bullet” option.

The Sub-Headline and CTA

Facebook calls this the Headline, but don’t treat it like one. This is where you experiment with tools that encourage customers to make that final step to clicking. Examples might be telling customers about your free trial, your pricing, your reviews, your sales team, how little time it takes to get a quote, etc. Choose the CTA button that most matches your goals.

How do you choose which messaging to use for your Facebook ads?

There’s a couple of surefire ways to figure out your best sales copy.

  1. Use the SUCCESS Framework.

The SUCCESS Framework is the core idea of a great marketing book called Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and it’s based on peer reviewed research. It says that ads made that consider the following aspects do better than ads made without following the rubric. Basically, take 2–3 of the below and try to make a Facebook ad with it:

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Credible
  4. Concrete
  5. Emotional
  6. Story

The Hemlane ad above has concrete claims about product features, elicits a happy emotion (freedom on the beach, the man smiling) and tells a story in the picture. A really common ad that works is an ad that pushes credibility and concreteness together — something like, “Businesses that use our product grow revenue XX%”.

2) Listen to your sales calls.

Not every company can do this. But if you have a sales team, they’re your best resource. Listen to them on sales calls, get their opinions, and figure out the things they say that most resonate with your customer.

3) Copy mercilessly.

You can see any competitor’s live ads on the Ads and Info section of their Facebook page. If you’re just starting out, consider copying your competitors ad messaging (with your own words) and work from there.

Go Scale Your B2B Company

That does it for the basics of running effective campaigns to acquire business decision makers on Facebook. There’s quite a bit more to the whole funnel — your email nurture, sales follow-up, etc. — but this will help jumpstart the top of your funnel with Facebook ads.

Right Percent

Right Percent helps scale B2B businesses with paid advertising on Facebook and Google.

Right Percent

Written by

Co-Founder at Right Percent. We scale B2B companies with paid advertising on FB and Google.

Right Percent

Right Percent helps scale B2B businesses with paid advertising on Facebook and Google.

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