Leveraging Paid Search – A Lesson For Marketers

Top of Funnel Engagement that Converts

As B2B marketers, we love ‘bottom of funnel’ leads from prospects who are well into their customer journey and in-market to buy.

The problem B2B marketers face is that there aren’t many of these opportunities and worse, they’re expensive. B2B marketers already know that most prospects aren’t ready to buy.

The question then becomes; how do we increase the number of prospects who are ready to buy from us while reducing the cost to do so? The answer is to go up funnel and get in front of prospects early. Invest a little bit. Do the right thing.

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Image Credit: Tackmaven.com

The Solution: Higher Funnel Marketing Tactics

Higher funnel marketing tactics allow us to do a handful of things, all of which will help us solve our problem: high cost and low volume of in-market lead.

These tactics allow for:

  • Greater reach to get in front of more prospects
  • More affordable click costs (which result in lower lead costs)
  • Higher lead rates (which also lower lead costs)
  • Get in front of prospects early in the customer journey

The best part is there are endless ways to get in front these higher funnel prospects. Below are some of the more basic, but proven effective strategies to get in front of higher funnel prospects and get them to convert early & at very low costs.

Stay Tuned

We’ll go over how to do this on Search, Display, and of course Video. However, before we get into specific tactics, we must first lay the foundation of our plan.

Search Tactic: Segment Campaigns by Intent (or lack thereof)

At the surface, paid search tends to be more expensive than display and paid social. However, as B2B marketers we love paid search because of the nature of targeting keywords.

While this is obvious, most advertisers that leverage paid search don’t have strategies to address this problem. The best way to solve this challenge is by segmenting keywords by known-intent vs those without. By doing this, we can bucket our keywords into groups based on where they are in their customer journey, ensuring that we are more properly aligned in terms of content offerings and control how much we want to spend on these different personas.

How do we do it?

The number of campaigns for each keyword group will depend on the search volume and available assets. Usually, 1 to 3 campaigns will suffice for each major keyword group. This can also be done in one campaign (between ad groups). However, this is not recommended for reporting and budgeting purposes.

As a starting place, and for this example, we’ll have two campaigns for the keyword theme: Marketing Automation (and we will go with the assumption we only have a low funnel offer (like Demo or Trial) and High Funnel Lead Magnet).

Campaign #1: Marketing Automation – TOFU (asset = generic, lead magnet)

Campaign #2: Marketing Automation – BOFU (asset = product asset, demo, trial)

The “Marketing Automation – TOFU” campaign is where the short-tail keywords will be housed which will allow them to have separate budgets, bids and offers compared to the “Marketing Automation – BOFU” campaign.

The TOFU campaign is also where the Lead Magnet asset should be leveraged. The intent of the searcher is unknown so it’s important to promote an asset that is most likely to convert. Show this prospect something cool so that they will join the “friends” group.

Understanding What This Means

The key to this segmentation strategy is that it will be ever-evolving. By targeting keywords like “marketing automation” in the “Marketing Automation – TOFU” campaign, the search query reports will be full of new long-tail BOFU keyword opportunities that can be added to the “Marketing Automation – BOFU” campaign.

The overarching strategy here is to continue to test, learn and grow. Bottom of Funnel keywords should always be maximized. This strategy shows it’s important to leverage top of funnel strategies to not only drive low-cost leads but also grow the amount of Bottom of Funnel searches.

Display Tactic: Leverage GDN to Find In-Market Prospects

Since marketers have money [revenue] on their mind, the Google Display Network (GDN) has taken the back seat to paid search. This makes sense as the GDN has traditionally been a spray and pray tactic – like a billboard advertisement.

But things have changed. Google has our data. With it, their AI has learned to understand what behaviors prospects exhibit when they are in-market, and we can now target those behaviors.

Utilizing Google

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One of the best ways to leverage Custom Intent audiences is to target competitor brand keywords and website URLs through “Custom Intent.” Doing this will not only leverage Google’s AI to help find in-market prospects, but the nature of adding competitor targeting will add another layer of intent.

Furthermore, these clicks come in at under a $1 each (usually much less) which is unheard of on search. With these lower-cost clicks, we see conversions come in at the fraction of the cost. And, often in much higher volume. Since this is a Top of Funnel strategy to reach net-new prospects, the Lead Magnet asset should be leveraged in this campaign. This will then capture the attention of the prospect.

However, due to the lower nature of this targeting, it would be a safe strategy to test a variety of assets. By placing the lead magnet asset in front of these in-market prospects on display, the aim is to captivate and educate. Hoping that the prospect who is looking to buy will take a demo or trial over the following days as they compare alternatives.

Display Remarketing Tactic: Leveraging TOFU Efforts

Display remarketing on GDN is something all companies should be doing but is something all companies leveraging paid advertising must be doing.

It’s foolish to spend money on a click from a prospect and then abandon them. With display remarketing, we can also create asset progressions to offer bottom of funnel content after prospects have consumed the top of funnel content.

Targeting The Right People

To leverage all the awareness created from the lower cost clicks from top of funnel campaigns and retarget with lower-funnel offers, we can create three new audiences. These should be targeted in unique ad groups (this is a starting place, and can / should be built out over time):

  1. Paid Traffic who have not yet converted on Lead Magnet/TOFU offer (excluding youtube viewers)
  2. Youtube Ad Viewers who have not yet converted on Lead Magnet/TOFU
  3. Traffic who has converted on Lead Magnet/TOFU offer (exclude BOFU converter)

The first two audiences should continue to remarket with the Lead Magnet offer; or, potentially another TOFU/MoFU asset. Meanwhile, the third audience should offer a bottom of funnel offers like a Demo, Trial, Garner Magic Quadrant or something similar.

Of course, this particular plan only focuses on views of certain assets and paid traffic. In an ideal situation, this would be built out to include all website traffic.

The key is to identify key audiences based on website behavior. Then determine where these prospects are most likely to be in the funnel to serve the best asset available. This also allows us to spend different amounts on different prospects.

If Google Analytics Goals and/or Google Ads conversions are set up in a granular fashion, audiences can also be created around what content has been consumed. This can help you better understand what asset should be served next.

The possibilities to remarket to prospects are endless, it just requires thoughtfulness and a plan.

Video Tactic: Create Brand Lift While Driving Low-Cost Leads

Video is one of the most under-utilized capabilities in B2B. This is unfortunate because it has some of the most advanced capabilities we can leverage. Youtube Ads is one of the few areas on Google where we can target emails (person-based targeting). With Google, we can even cookie and retarget users who watched parts of the video.

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Ignoring the advanced targeting capabilities, a great place to start is to target Similar Audiences (to website users) or even the Custom Intent audience mentioned above. Youtube also allows keyword targeting, where advertisers can target prospects by keywords recently searched – pretty cool.

Regardless of targeting, the “Pre-Roll” video ad type is the go-to option to use with Youtube. It offers the option to add a Call-To-Action button overlay that leads prospects to any landing page.

When it comes to video, consider that the prospect is looking to be entertained. With this understanding, it makes sense to leverage the Lead Magnet asset for this first touchpoint.

It’s important the video you choose to promote is relevant. This simply means that it is relevant to the asset being promoted and of course to the target audience.

Pro-Tip: Ensure Youtube and Google Ads accounts are properly linked to ensure all of the reporting capabilities, as well as being able to retarget to Youtube viewers on GDN

Wrapping It All Up

The Top of Funnel efforts directly influence what happens in the Bottom of Funnel areas down the line. B2B marketers must continue to prioritize what’s most important to the business. In most cases, that will be revenue and opportunity volume. Assuming this is the goal, you should maximize the bottom of funnel campaigns to drive revenue right away.

However, this cannot be the only area of focus. Both young tech start-ups, as well as enterprise brands, must continue to engage prospects throughout the funnel. This is the best way to grow or remain as a leader.


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Ryan Osman
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