These days, we are bombarded with messages across an ever-growing number of channels. With so many demands for attention, the buyer’s journey has fundamentally changed in a way that defies the typical online approach to B2B lead generation.
Moreover, 82% of Americans ignore online ads, more than double the rate that ignore TV ads (37%), according to a study by Goo Technologies/Harris Interactive.
Paid online advertising (a form of interruptive marketing that distracts people while they’re trying to do something else) isn’t enough anymore.
Buyers expect to establish relationships with brands and build an emotional connection before purchases. Consumers don’t want brands to sell to them. They want to be informed, educated, and entertained.
“Customers will engage with marketers who meet their needs—their changing needs—for different information and options during the buying journey,” states Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo. “Marketers who continue to ‘go to customer’ with product-centric campaigns and offers risk becoming irrelevant.”
So, where does that leave paid online advertising approaches to lead generation?
Where Current Tactics Fall Short
Marketers have typically looked to banner ads, social media advertising, and paid search to generate leads. Unfortunately, such tactics are not enough.
Banner ads are less and less likely to make it through to your target audience. Nearly 200 million people are using ad-blocking software worldwide, according to PageFair and Adobe. This represents a 50% increase over the prior year.
Moreover, the adoption of ad-blocking technology shows no signs of slowing.
With the installation of ad blockers, audiences are making their feelings clear. They see online ads as nuisances, interfering distractions, and site-speed-sucking black holes that should be avoided. A survey by Research Now (released by Teads) found that nearly three out of four people using ad blockers were motivated to do so by intrusive ads. About 64% said site performance was a motivator behind installing an ad blocker, and 62% cited excessive ads as a reason.
The Path Forward
Many B2B marketers understand the importance that content plays in their upper funnel activities. The 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarking, Budget, and Trends report found that lead generation and sales (in that order) are the two most important content marketing goals of most B2B marketers.
Paid lead generation tactics without solid content strategies behind them are unlikely to generate deeper brand connections that today’s buyers demand.
As marketers look to incorporate content expectations into their online lead generation efforts, the following steps become key:
- Understand your target audience. Everything your brand does must relate back to your target buyers’ personas. What do they care about? What makes them click? Focus your lead generation content on what your audience wants and how you can help them achieve it. Marketers can tap into those insights with deep qualitative and quantitative research into their customer base and its journey. Such research should be done with focus toward the issues target customers face and how, when, and on what channel content can be delivered to address these challenges.
- Create content that resonates with them across channels. Effective content creation doesn’t happen in one broad stroke. Anticipate when and why potential customers will be looking for your brand’s offerings then ensure that you have content in the right place in the right format at the right time. Develop a message that matters to your target audience, create different types of content based on the context, and use appropriate channels to capture interest and connections with that message.
The right content will resonate across channels, but that doesn’t mean you always need to be in all of them.
- Experiment with paid amplification. Paid online advertising still has its place in the marketing mix, and it is best used to get the word out about your brand’s content. Your display advertising efforts can (and should) focus on promoting your valuable content and is best for retargeting.
Paid social amplification is also a common and effective way to draw more attention to your content. Your approach should depend heavily on your brand and industry. No matter the platform, remember that you aren’t selling. Your message should be about building connections and serving the needs of your audience.
- Get creative. Spend time exploring unique opportunities to extend the reach of your content efforts. Consider forging content distribution partnerships relevant to your space, as well as promotion of your content via influencer marketing and paid native content placements with industry-specific publications. Though more B2B marketers are using paid advertising methods like print and banner ads to distribute their content, the B2Bs using lesser-tapped tactics like native advertising and content discovery tools rank such tactics as being more effective.
Without a content strategy that delivers real value to your audience, your brand’s lead generation efforts aren’t going to be effective. But you don’t need to abandon your online advertising efforts. You just need to put something real behind them.