PagerDuty Just Went Public. What Does Their Online Advertising Look Like?
Disclaimer: I don’t work for PagerDuty, or have access to their ad accounts. I’m just an experienced B2B marketer using public information to make educated guesses about PagerDuty’s marketing. With that said, let’s start the analysis.
First: The Broad Advertising Summary
This is just 2018 — SEMRUSH indicates that spend has been increasingly linearly for over a year straight, so advertising spend is likely to increase.
It looks like PagerDuty has high sales spend compared to marketing spend — this means they likely have a large sales organization doing lots of outbound work, as well as managing inbound leads.
In addition, the PagerDuty S-1 clearly spells out the marketing strategy — “We rely upon our marketing strategy of offering 14-day free trials of our products and other inbound, lead-generation strategies to generate sales opportunities. Most of our customers start with the free version of our products.”
Any marketing campaigns should thus be designed to drive leads that sales subsequently closes.
There’s two paid digital channels where B2B companies can drive leads at scale: AdWords and Facebook. Let’s look at both.
PagerDuty appears to have a pretty great AdWords set-up. Let’s dig into why.
What Makes B2B Paid Search Different Than Consumer Focused Paid Search?
There are two key ingredients to successful digital B2B advertising:
- Potential customer intent
- Potential customer level of qualification
Someone selling kitchen toasters online only has to worry about intent — if someone wants to buy a toaster, they can do it, no matter who they are. There may be some preference variation (blue toasters vs red, etc.) but by-and-large if the intent is there you can convert a good amount of those searchers.
B2B advertisers have to add qualification to the mix. For example: If you’re selling commercial coffee grinders to coffee shops, you sure as heck don’t want to pay Google to send people to your site who want a coffee grinder for their kitchen. Unlike the red or blue toaster example, the percentage of consumer grinder purchasers who will buy the commercial model rounds down to 0.
Where PagerDuty Excels
The same is true for PagerDuty. To get a good ROI from paid search, they have to pick keywords that only their key decision makers and stakeholders would search for, and it looks like they do that in spades.
Here’s the three categories of keywords I can find by researching their domain with SEMRUSH.
- Terms of Art
Terms of Art are phrases that only people in certain professional contexts use. These can be great for B2B, because you know anyone searching for them is likely a decision maker.
a. “Incident Management”
b. “Continuous Delivery”
c. “On Call Rotation”
2. Specific Technical Use Cases
PagerDuty does a great job covering specific use cases that their software specifically solves.
There are thousands of examples, but here’s a random few.
a. “network monitoring application”
b. “best credit monitoring service”
c. “remote server administration tools”
d. “prtg network monitor”
3. Competitor Bidding
As is usual in paid search, PagerDuty bids on their competitor brand names, and their competitors bid on theirs.
Some competitors include:
In addition, PagerDuty’s ad creative is dynamically matched to the keyword being searched, and uses effective marketing copy. There’s not much to improve there.
According to the Facebook Ad Archive, PagerDuty is currently not running Facebook ads. This is likely a missed opportunity. This is because Facebook is where business decision makers hang out and click ads, more than anywhere else online.
More than half of all Americans use FB or Instagram every single day of their lives.
This includes a cross section of most of society, including business decision makers. 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.
What would an effective Facebook strategy for PagerDuty look like?
There’s three elements to what would make Facebook work for PagerDuty: Targeting, the Funnel, and the Ad Creative.
There are three ways to target B2B customers like PagerDuty’s on Facebook:
- Interest based targeting
- Exact match audience targeting
- Lookalike based targeting
By far the most likely to work for PagerDuty is Lookalike targeting. This means Facebook would take a seed audience of PagerDuty customer decision makers, and calculate a list of 2 million people on Facebook that look similar to those decision makers.
Generally, PagerDuty would want to create their seed audience with the highest quality records possible. A good seed audience would be between 600–1500 customers, from a customer segment with high conversion rates, weighted by deal size.
This would likely give them an effective audience to start testing with.
For PagerDuty’s average customer, the buying cycle is likely long and complex. One or more people in the customer organization likely reads about PagerDuty, and maybe eventually gets started with the trial. From there, a variety of stakeholders have to be brought on board, until someone with enough decision making authority says “yes” and backs the project.
For that reason, a Facebook campaign that tries to drive conversions directly from a “get a demo” ad click is likely to be ineffective.
Instead, PagerDuty would likely find better results by using Facebook Lead ads to drive content download leads on Facebook, and then using their sales team + automated email nurture streams to follow-up. This way, the customer quality should remain high, and PagerDuty gets the maximum amount of customer data into the funnel as early as possible.
With this method, tracking leads and ROI is straightforward — they can just match up the company names generated from the leads to sales down the line, even if that company converts a year later with a totally different contact person (which is very common).
It may take some work for their sales funnel to adapt to eBook leads — many companies need to train a separate “hunter” sales team from the “gatherer” sales team that manages warm, inbound leads, since the skillsets are a bit different.
The basic parts of a Facebook B2B ads are as follows:
(Ad courtesy of Hemlane)
In order of most to least important, the four main elements of a good B2B Facebook ad are:
- The Visual Headline
- The Main Visual
- The Main Copy
- The Sub-Headline and CTA
The Visual Headline
The visual headline has two jobs:
- 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.
- 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:
- Get the targets attention with bright colors and crisp photography. Photos (or videos) almost always work better than art.
- 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.
Example Ad for PagerDuty
So say that PagerDuty wants to promote an eBook their target audience would like to read.
One eBook from their website is their Guide to Modern Incident Response. If we apply the above creative methodology to making an ad for this eBook, the ad might look something like this:
This ad tells the target audience (tech op teams, I think!) that the ad is for them, it gets their attention with a powerful metaphorical image, and then sells them on the downloading the eBook itself.
We hope you enjoyed this quick analysis of PagerDuty’s paid digital advertising.