Biggest mistakes B2B marketers make in paid social with Jules Foster, Director of Global Paid Social Marketing at Automation Anywhere
It's safe to say paid social is a tool in most B2B marketing toolboxes, producing quick wins and fast leads for hyper growth. But many marketers skip important steps, not knowing how to refine their campaigns for optimum results.
This episode covers:
- The benefits of paid social for a B2B tech company
- The error of not analysing your audience
- Whether low search volumes in B2B impact paid algorithms
- Doing paid social on a low budget
- Measurement of B2B paid social
- How paid social impacts the sales function
- How paid social is changing for the better
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hello everyone and welcome back to the FINITE podcast, where today we'll be discussing the biggest mistakes marketers make in B2B paid social. We've got a paid social expert with us, Jules Foster, who at the moment is director of global paid social marketing at AutomationAnywhere. He started their paid social function from scratch and knows what it takes to run successful paid social campaigns for B2B tech companies. Happy listening!
The FINITE community is kindly supported by the marketing practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand generation channel, and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.
Hello, Jules. Thanks for joining me on the FINITE podcast.
My pleasure, looking forward to chatting about all things B2B.
Indeed. We've got a good one coming up. I think this is the first time we've really dived into paid social generally or done a really specific episode on it. And I know that's your expert area, so yeah, it's going to be a good conversation, because I think it's an area where there's lots of easy mistakes and pitfalls and also lots to learn for lots of B2B marketers. So yeah, looking forward to talking in more detail.
Before we do that, I'll let you, as we always do, tell us a bit about yourself and your background and experience before we talk about your current role and team.
Jules’ background in marketing
Sure. So I've been in the industry for 20 odd years. Started back in the mid nineties in automotive advertising actually. So kind of old school, newspaper, TV, radio, billboard posters, that type of thing. Did that for about five years, was a bit of a dream start, really being a petrol head myself, to be paid to talk about cars all day was a dream.
But that said, I just had an urge to go more on the consultancy side and really get under the skin of what companies were doing. And it was at the time of the dot com boom and everything. And there was a real interest in enterprise. So it might seem like a strange segue to go from automotive to enterprise, but it was just where the world was back then.
And so I moved into consultancy, had a successful 15 years doing that for all sorts of enterprises, companies all around the world, primarily starting off back in the day of HTML emails and things like that. But obviously, you know, with a rise of LinkedIn and other platforms moving very much into paid social over the years, and then one of my clients Motor Solutions gave me the opportunity to go on the dark side, to move client side.
So, I moved there to set up their global social media centre of excellence for about five years or so, which was an awesome experience and then I've been at AutomationAnywhere now for the past three years, heading up a global paid social there.
Cool. And I guess it's always interesting because I think the automotive world and selling cars is probably one of the, as a purchase journey although it's B2C, is actually quite similar to B2B in a lot of ways. It's always one of those comparisons, it's quite a considered buyer journey and there's usually multiple people involved, the other half and the kids and lots of people have an opinion. Are there learnings that you took with you from selling cars to selling enterprise?
Yeah, there was because back then it was laughable really the way the market was where you were doing coupons for people to respond to newspaper adverts and fax packs and things like that, but incredibly inefficient. But even back then I was fortunate to work with somebody who was a data scientist and he really taught me the value of data and how much you can learn from data to minimise waste.
So, we might have been spending well over a million dollars on a direct mail campaign, but if we could minimise waste by knowing what people's previous purchasing history was to only spend half of that, then that was a big win. So that use of data, that's what really started me thinking about the B2B side of things.
And the interesting thing was as well, when I moved into B2B, I was able to take learnings from the B2C world and apply them to B2B. So, do things like prize draws and whatever which just weren't done in the B2B world back then, but just trying some tricks that you have to do in the B2C world. And it's amazing, you can always learn from other industries. I always believe you should never just look at your own industry. You can always learn from others.
Absolutely. And tell us a bit about the role at Automation Anywhere and what your team looks like, where you fit into the marketing function there.
Jules’ role at Automation Anywhere
Yeah, sure. So, as I say, I've been with Automation Anywhere about three years. When I started, there was no paid social function at all. We hadn't done anything. And I was brought in obviously with having experience with the view to getting things set up and running and generating pipeline immediately globally. We're a hyper growth company and things move extremely quickly. So we were able to do that.
And from fairly humble beginnings, we were able to scale paid social to now be the biggest contributor to pipeline out of all of our digital marketing channels. And that's how we measure the success of our marketing activities. So running paid social, let's say globally, so the US, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and obviously there's lots of different variety within those regions on what works and what doesn't.
And in terms of the team, how social fits into the overall global digital team, so within that team, we have marketing operations, SEO, localization, the web, content syndication of meeting maker programs, all part of the same team. So able to all work together very, very closely, all share the same targets and the OKRs that we use, so it really accelerates the success that we see from the programs.
Jules’ experience in B2B paid social
Cool. So let's dive into the B2B paid social world. Obviously you've told us a bit about your experience there and how you started to specialise, but it's always interesting actually for marketers, our listeners to think about their own careers and are they generalists, are they specialists, and maybe you can talk bit about how your experience and the paid social side of things started to build.
Yeah, sure. So, like I said, I started off with a real interest in the HTML email side of things. Obviously following on from what I said earlier, the data side side of things was always of real interest to me and being able to see stories within the data.
So initially that led to trying to improve the effectiveness of email campaigns, but then from there it transitioned into paid social where it became more about the long-term relationships that enterprise companies would look to gain with their customers. And I think because the sales cycle is so much longer in B2B in general to B2C, those relationships are incredibly important.
So, whether that be physically speaking to people or whether it just be that digital relationship and ensuring that there's relevant content for these folks, depending on where they are on their journey, and being able to measure that. And that's how I segued into the world of paid social.
The benefits of paid social for a B2B tech company
And I guess the natural next question is why paid social? I mean, it's probably a channel that's in the mix for most of our listeners, I would've thought, in some way or another, but I guess with varying levels of investment. This is always gonna be a bit industry sector specific as to how much of an opportunity there is in the paid social space, but from your angle what are the benefits of investing in the paid social side of things, for maybe an enterprise B2B tech company?
For me, it's the ability to be able to target, if you know what you're doing, target things really effectively based on your ideal customer profile or based on intent. So rather than just saying we think these types of people are interested in our products or services so let's target those for tons of wastage within that, you're able to minimise waste really quite effectively by setting up your audiences properly and being able to learn from the data.
Although bigger audiences don't necessarily mean you end up spending more generally, and you can blow an awful lot of money very, very quickly, if you don't know what you're doing. So there's inherent risk with paid social on an enterprise scale, but there's also huge opportunity to generate very large sums of pipeline in a controlled way.
And actually at Automation Anywhere I'm seeing myself more as an investment manager in a way where you are given a budget and you are expected to deliver X return on that budget and looking at it really from a financial perspective. And it really sharpens your mind on minimising that waste and thinking, well, if it was my money, would I spend my money doing that? And that really helps sharpen your mind, but ultimately if you get it right, you can tie all the activity back to pipeline. You can prove the ROI, you can learn from it and then you can scale it. So it's massive, massive potential.
Absolutely. I think one of the reasons that a lot of marketers don't invest in paid social is sometimes it's feels like a bit of a dark art or dark science or a combination of art and science. And it can feel like it's fast moving and evolving. Even Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and all the platforms themselves and the way you can target and add formats and things are really quite constantly changing at a certain speed and evolving.
So maybe there's almost a fear of the unknown, particularly for more generalist marketers that aren't aren't specialists in this area. What do you think the biggest mistakes are that marketers make when it comes to paid social and then maybe, how can they avoid them?
The error of not analysing your audience
Yeah. So the biggest areas are generally to do with audiences. I've touched on that already and setting yourself up for either failure or success, even at the audience stage before you even create any ads and before you actually start to spend the money.
A lot of people don't really have a proper idea based on data, what their ideal customer profile is, what types of companies are your customers? They'll always be hearsay, anyone will say, well I know what types of companies, we work in financial services, we work with manufacturing, it's these types of people, but it's all based on gut invariably. And that's fine, but you need to go deeper than that.
So you need to be able to export all of your data out of Salesforce or whichever CRM you're using, and really be able to analyse that from every single angle. What industries are your best customers and what job functions, what seniority, what size company, which assets did they engage with on their journey and doing that on a country by country basis will really give you insight to prove, and disprove misconceptions and preconceptions people might have about where your sweet spots are.
And then once you've done that, you can then embrace intent data from various third parties. We use Bombora and G2, and that enables you to go well, you've got your basics. You know what industries are hot for you, you know what job functions are hot. You know whatever level and above manager level, it's companies of this sort of size, whether it be employee or whether it be revenue based, the types of assets they've engaged with in the past.
Well by overlaying intent data, that enables you to put two and two together and actually match people that are searching for topics that relate to that type of content. And again, if you think it's all about minimising waste, so rather than giving a message out to say all IT directors, why not just give that message out to all it directors that are already expressing an interest in your specific topics, by what they're searching and by the way they're behaving.
So all of that data work is massively important to set yourself off on the right foot. So that's probably my number one. And then number two, it extends from that really where just down to audience size. So I used to hear back in my email marketing days where you'd say, we want to run an email campaign that targets these job titles, and you'd have some preconceived ideas of the job titles that you wanted.
There might be 20 job titles, and you've you think you're being quite clever there because you've looked at who's responded before, and that's who you want to target and low and behold, it gives you really quite a small audience, because just thinking about it practically, there are millions of job titles out there constantly changing. And actually those job titles are fairly irrelevant within the scheme of paid social.
What is more relevant is what companies are they in and how are they behaving? Are they behaving in a way like they could be interested in what you've got to say? And of course they have to be the right seniority, but that is just far more effective.
So, don't set up audiences purely based on job titles, because it will give you a very, very, very small audience size and it needs to be of a decent size for the algorithms to learn. Don't fight against the algorithms, let the algorithms learn, let them work for you by giving them plenty of data to munch through and learn from.
Before we continue with the episode, I'd like to go a quick shout out to our partner, Terminus, the only account based engagement platform built to deliver more pipeline and revenue through multichannel account based marketing as the only native multichannel marketing platform, Terminus helps you convert target accounts through orchestrated campaigns, using personalised advertising, email signatures and chat bots. Visit terminus.com to learn why doing effective ABM at scale means better marketing.
Whether low search volumes in B2B impact paid algorithms
I think that's always the problem in B2B, and it's the same with paid search on Google as well. Isn't it that often volumes are so much lower that all these algorithms don't have enough data to really learn from effectively. And actually almost can almost optimise in the wrong direction as a result?
Yeah, absolutely. And a really good way I find is to base it more on job function. So you start off fairly broad, based on job functions, the right seniority, but then the overlay skills, interest and intent. So overlay the types of skills these people who you want to speak to, or are likely to have, or the types of interest that you'd like them to have.
Maybe you'd like them to be interested in not just IT, but you'd like them to be interested in some sort of database programming or something like that, where it's all about minimising the waste. And only talking to that section of folks who are actually interested in what you've got to say, and overlay the intent as well.
So you start off with a huge audience that ends up being maybe you're trimming out 30, 40% of it, but you end up with an audience that's the right size companies, the right industries, the right seniority. And then they're the folks who are acting in a way like they're interested in what you've got to say. You noticeably skip the job title a bit because they're gonna be more low hanging fruit than you trying to force a message onto some C level person that would be a dream for you to get as a new customer.
Doing paid social on a low budget
Yeah. Makes sense. Let's talk about budgets. Cause I know budget is always a tricky one in the B2B space and often people will be thinking, well how much do I need to spend to get started? But I know there's a common trap that people fall into on the budgets front too.
Yeah, there is. Budgeting is a tricky one, but what I used to see quite a lot when I was a consultant and I know still goes on is you'd see people setting a daily budget and that daily budget isn't even enough to pay for one lead, because bearing in mind leads in the B2B world could cost several hundred dollars depending on what you are talking about.
And they might have say a daily spend limit within that particular group of $200, let's say, but your average cost per lead is 300. Well, if you're not even able to generate a lead a day, how is an algorithm actually really going to be able to learn anything meaningful. So the natural response is not to go just double your budgets then, or triple your budgets and therefore you'll have more to spend each day because that's not always practical.
The sensible thing will be okay, let's look at the audience, having minimised wastage as much as possible without getting too tight. And I always set it for an initial six week period and aim for a frequency of around six to eight. It's the frequency that's absolutely key.
So if you spread yourself too thin and your target audience is too big and there's only a frequency of maybe one and a half, something like that, where within a six week period they've only seen your ad one and a half times, you're gonna struggle like mad to get anything out of that campaign. Your frequency needs to be six to eight or so within a six week period, even more sometimes.
Measurement of B2B paid social
Yeah. Makes sense. What about the measurement side of things? I know that obviously we're in a very data driven world where market is forever having to report very actively on everything that's going on. But I guess with everything paid social, you really need to know when you're spending probably a fair amount of money in certain niches, what's working and what's not.
Yeah. And we're very fortunate with paid social versus some other digital channels where we can measure things so effectively. So make use of the hidden data fields if you're using native lead forms on LinkedIn and Facebook, which I definitely recommend you do.
Make use of the hidden data fields to make sure that you're passing over information about which audience the lead came from, which platform, which asset they've downloaded. So all of that information is all passed over to Salesforce or whichever CRM you use.
And also likewise, if you are using conversion tracking and sending people to a website, use that same logic and methodology in your UTMs within your tracking URLs and be consistent with your naming conventions, because it's all about gathering data, going back to step one that we talked about, constantly looking at that data, constantly learning from it.
And you'll be cursing yourself if you've not been consistent with your naming conventions and not use your hidden data fields, because you won't be able to answer simple questions like does audience A work better than audience B, does asset A generate more pipeline than asset B? And you won't be able to answer those questions if you haven't used those hidden data fields and UTMs effectively.
How paid social impacts the sales function
Yeah. That's a good tip. I think that operational, admin, the boring side of planning these campaigns is actually really fundamental to overall measurement. Isn't it? So good advice. What about once the lead is generated?
I know that we talk a lot probably on the FINITE podcast and in other places about sales and marketing alignment and recognise them, particularly in enterprise B2B buyer journeys, things take time, and capturing a lead is one thing, but actually does paid social have a bigger role to play in the onward journey?
Yeah, so it is a challenge for everybody. We're very fortunate at Automation Anywhere where we have shared OKRs. So we start off with overall company OKRs and then those cascade down to the teams. So we do all have a shared interest in other team successes. And that is a good way of ensuring we remain aligned, but you still have to work at it. Paid social's job is not just to generate a lead and then go, well, I've done my job so that's fine.
You've got to work really close with SDRs and actually learn from their feedback. They're the guys that are talking to these people every single day and they're absolute goldmines for information, based on those conversations of feedback that they get from folks.
You can really make sure that you align the content of your campaigns with the topics that they end up discussing with people on the phones and really stay close with your sales team all the way through to opportunity and beyond, because you can always learn along the journey and if they don't feedback, you can't make the modifications to the campaign to improve it for everybody.
So to build that trust, get that constant feedback loop going. And then obviously it does take work because you know some people naturally, it's a human reaction to maybe be a little defensive. If saying these leads aren't really hit hitting the spot, well, that's fine, it's fine to fail as long as you know why they're not hitting this spot and you're able to do something about it. So again, to remove that fear of failure again, it's something that's in our ethos here at Automation Anywhere, it's fine to fail as long as you know why and that's definitely true with paid social.
How paid social is changing for the better
I think it's always with any sales and marketing alignment stuff, it's always fascinating how half and it comes down to culture and the things you just mentioned in terms of it being okay to fail, and those things are so hard to see and be tangible sometimes. I feel like we've had a bit of a not pessimistic outlook, but we've guided this episode so far looking at all the challenges and things people get wrong. What are people getting right in B2B paid social at the moment?
It feels strange talking about it in a way, but with all that's gone on in the world with COVID and lockdowns over recent years, it's really changed the way companies run their marketing. I think, maybe driven by the practical side, but people working remotely, working from home, having to kind of use whatever resources they have available to them.
But also I think with people's changed perspectives on what life is all about, I've definitely seen the growth in more authentic content, whether that just be folks at home doing a video and sharing some guidance or whatever. It's not necessarily about these, I used to call them Steven Spielberg masterpieces.
It doesn't have to be highly polished, highly produced, highly edited, invariably, just authentic content that looks okay and the audio's okay, it's about the content. It's about authenticity and really engaging with people on that level. I've really seen that shift and that's been a good thing.
And it gives folks within companies a voice who might not have had a voice before, might have been too afraid, but that is definitely changing. And that's something I hope stays. And you know, if it does, I can guarantee authenticity will always out trump shiny polished Steven Spielberg masterpieces, because people believe it.
Yeah, absolutely. It's a good tip. A few final questions for you. I wonder if you've got a favourite MarTech tool or technology that you use?
Right now, it's Metadata.io we work with, basically to reinvent B2B on Facebook. So many people have misconceptions about what's possible and not possible on Facebook in terms of B2B. And it has huge potential. And their product enables you basically to build audiences, if not even more detailed than the audiences that you're able to build on LinkedIn. And don't think that C level folks, director level folks are not on Facebook. They are. We're all human at the end of the day. And we're doing some really, really great work with metadata.io. So right now it's metadata.io.
Cool, good advice. Biggest challenge right now?
I think, this is something that will probably stay with all digital marketers throughout their career. It's just maintaining that alignment with sales. We are in hyper mode, so we are growing extremely quickly, whether that be in terms of personnel, whether that be in terms of revenue we're generating, and staying aligned within that is, you've gotta hold on tight and you've got to build those relationships. And I wouldn't say it's not a new challenge. It's just something that's top of mind all of the time. It really is.
Yeah, absolutely. And on a high what's the most exciting for you looking forward in the world of B2B marketing?
Well, being a techie geek, I have to say artificial intelligence and machine learning. They're playing an important role already, but there's so much more to come and how they're going to help, not only from a marketing perspective, help your campaigns be more efficient and more effective, but also think about it from a prospect perspective on being exposed to these ads, really making sure that ads people are being exposed to are relevant to your topics and interests and eliminating that wastage. And there's loads to come there.
Absolutely. Well, we've covered a lot there. I think this is a really nice tangible practical one for anyone listening. I think anyone that's in and around the B2B space and has any involvement in paid social will have some great tips and tricks there. So yeah, I really appreciate it.
No problem. It's my pleasure.
Thanks for listening. Before we go. Just one final shout out to our finite partner, 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth, B2B tech and SaaS companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams to drive growth.
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