By Nick Kinports published January 19, 2012

Using Paid Media to Achieve Remarkable B2B Conversion Rates

What if I told you the last three digital paid media campaigns that my company, lonelybrand, executed earned an average 31.92 percent conversion rate? (To be clear — we’re talking about the number of successful conversions divided by the total number of paid clicks.)

In a world where marketers are faced with abysmal conversion rates and polluted client or stakeholder expectations, such figures might seem virtually impossible.

But our 30-percent plus conversion figures are real. I’m going to share why all advertising and public relations agencies — and B2B brands in general — have a clean shot at earning the same results.

Create relevant, compelling content

I can hear the collective “Ugh…” from behind my screen. Sorry to reiterate the obvious folks, but the quality and timeliness of your content matters for paid media. If you’re spending to support bits of content — be they blog posts, white papers, research reports or apps — the value has to be there. So go the extra mile and make your content highly valuable to a group of people you want to do business with using your expertise to provide answers to the questions that potential clients haven’t even asked yet. Our experience tells us that the best conversion rates will come from niche-focused content, so don’t be afraid to get specific.

Implement a superior user experience

Collecting data in the age of instant gratification means you need to provide a slick experience for site visitors, and that experience needs to be extensible to work with future content. Clearly note who should be most interested in your content, then plan to ask for just enough data to be useful — but not so much that your visitors get turned off. I recommend only requesting first and last name, company, and a valid email address at the start of their engagement. An email address represents the opportunity for continued contact, allowing you to pique your target’s interest in the future with compelling content and a little social CRM ingenuity.

Choose your target wisely

For consumer-facing campaigns, reach is typically wide and waste is high. That’s part of the reason conversion rates for major online retailers can be as low as 1 percent. The science (if you can call it that) of content marketing has demonstrated we can earn higher conversion rates with niche-focused content. Niche content appeals to a small population, and through advanced paid media targeting you can hone in on those more-desirable targets. Visitors are more likely to tune in if your content is targeted at their unique situation (e.g., insurance company looking to increase quoting behavior) versus generalized fluff content (enhance your company’s social media). Sure, CPC will be higher (in the $3.00+ range), but visitors will be much more likely to register, download, or otherwise perform the desired action.

Place attention-winning ads

Presenting niche content to a niche audience means using language that is direct and impactful. Focus on what matters to your audience at the time the ad will run. If it’s 2012 planning be sure to note that in the subject line. Running content on mobile quoting behavior for national insurance companies? Make sure your audience knows it’s a “must read” for insurance marketing professionals, as in the example below.

Track, report, and optimize

Campaigns are meant to have a beginning and an end, but in the world of content marketing, the long tail lives on long after the paid media is turned off. That means using the relatively short time you have with a paid media campaign that supports and quickly optimizes a piece of content. Start with a group of ads (we recommend at least 10) and cut those that underperform.

In the example below, we tested a variation of ads on LinkedIn for a recently published white paper. The copy was identical, but it turned out that the image choice made a significant impact on clicks. The ad with our writer’s face generated 29 clicks; the ad with our marble logo generated only two. Performing this test allowed us to optimize the campaign and save on ad dollars.

Eat what you kill

Generating stellar conversion rates for content marketing can be a blessing and a curse. Make sure you have the necessary infrastructure to funnel leads to someone that has time to handle them with care and follow up with nurturing behavior. This means putting in the hours to organize warm leads within your database and ensure the info finds its way into appropriate email marketing lists and social networks.

Make it worth your while

A disciplined digital communications program for your agency or B2B firm will produce results. Spending money on digital paid media to support your content habit only makes sense when your investment is for the long run and supported by five other key areas of digital: social, CRM, mobile, search and analytics.

Author: Nick Kinports

Nicholas is the Digital Strategy Lead at lonelybrand, where he spends his days (and many long nights) inventing the future of digital communications by connecting consumers and decision makers to brands. His team is responsible for quickly implementing turnkey digital programs that earn results for agencies and brands around the world. His 15-year career in digital marketing has resulted in numerous television and media appearances, including notable articles in Bloomberg-Businessweek, Forrester’s Web Strategy, Brand New (an Amazon best-seller) and Advertising Age. Follow Nicholas on Twitter @ADMAVEN.

Other posts by Nick Kinports

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYcN1yg8PPA masterpapers.com

    This is incredibly good

    • http://www.lonelybrand.com Nicholas Kinports

      Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    A 32% conversion rate is impressive! 

    I’ve experienced similar take aways especially with advertising on LinkedIn. Targeting broad audience swathes didn’t result in high click throughs and and conversions rates, but narrowly targeting a vertical and specific job function improved results. 

    Also, hard sells such as asking for a quote up front don’t convert as well with paid social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook Ads. Softer, educational sells convert better which means you need to have a nurturing program in place to convert prospects later on.

  • http://twitter.com/lindajvetter Linda Vetter

    Solid read.  Dig the “eat what you kill” point.