Dissecting & Optimising The Best-In-Class TOFU B2B Media Mix (April 2023 stats)

What are B2B marketers doing to drive their Top of Funnel (TOFU) marketing mix in 2023? According to the latest research from Insider intelligence, it's squarely into the world of social media. As you can see on the below graphic, according to B2B marketers in the USA, as of April 2023, 50% felt that social contributes the most to their TOFU goals. The traditional go-to channels of search, SEO and content have fallen down the pecking order, all of which got me thinking. What are the most effective top of funnel tactics in mid-2023?

At FunnelFuel, we're pretty ambivalent to the source of paid media and cary no bias - indeed we measure the performance of the full funnel across a diverse range of B2B clients, giving us a level of insight which is largely unmatched. We help clients measure a LOT of social media marketing, alongside plenty of the other big channels - paid search, programmatic, SEO, television, audio, Digital out of Home (DooH) and many more.

My personal view is that the B2B marketers are missing a trick with their skewed mix. I note that the 22% who answered ABM are going to fall into the below wheelhouse, as indeed can the slightly vague 'video' 30%, but essentially targeted display advertising outside of social doesn't feature in the list. However, a well-executed programmatic advertising approach, leveraging Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and contextual targeting, has emerged as a highly effective and impactful tactic for inserting a brand into the research journey of B2B buyers. Now my honest absolute best guess on the above data, is that the TOFU goals have not been tightly defined enough, and without knowing the direction of the TOFU goals, it is hard to determine how good any tactic is versus another, but when you have the chance to use a tactic which 'jumps the gun' by getting in front of prospects at the very start. of their research journey, in a sector which has very long sales cycles, then it cannot be overlooked.

Lets delve into the evidence supporting the notion that programmatic advertising can be one of the most efficient top-of-funnel tactic for B2B marketers.

  1. B2B Marketers' Allocation of Resources: According to research conducted by Insider Intelligence, B2B marketers are increasingly investing in upper-funnel programmatic marketing tactics to drive brand awareness and engage potential buyers. This includes allocating a significant portion of their budgets to social media advertising, content marketing, influencer marketing, and display advertising.
  2. The Rise of Programmatic Advertising: Programmatic advertising has gained immense popularity in recent years, transforming the way B2B marketers approach paid media campaigns. With programmatic, marketers can leverage data-driven automation to reach highly targeted audiences at scale, optimising ad placements and budgets in real-time.
  3. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Approach: ABM has revolutionised B2B marketing strategies by focusing efforts on specific high-value accounts. By aligning programmatic advertising with ABM tactics, B2B marketers can target decision-makers and key stakeholders within their target accounts. This approach ensures that marketing efforts are directed towards the most relevant and influential audience, enhancing the effectiveness of top-of-funnel campaigns.
  4. Contextual Targeting: Contextual targeting allows advertisers to deliver relevant ads based on the content and context of the websites being visited by potential buyers. By aligning programmatic campaigns with contextual targeting, B2B marketers can insert their brand into the research journey of their target audience, reaching them at the right moment with personalised messages. This strategy enhances brand visibility, establishes credibility, and increases the likelihood of driving engagement and conversions.
  5. Supporting Evidence and Industry Reports: Several industry reports and studies support the effectiveness of programmatic advertising in driving top-of-funnel campaigns:
    1. According to a study by eMarketer (source: [2]), programmatic display advertising spending in the B2B sector is projected to reach significant heights in the coming years, indicating the growing confidence and success of this approach.
    2. A report by Dun & Bradstreet reveals that B2B marketers employing ABM strategies have experienced higher levels of customer engagement, improved lead quality, and increased marketing ROI.
    3. A study by Demandbase highlights that ABM-focused programmatic advertising generates higher click-through rates and greater engagement, leading to increased conversions and revenue.

SO what could a best in class Top of Funnel B2B paid media mix look like?

Besides what we saw in the above graphic, I'd venture that these 5 tactics have a lot to offer B2B marketers:

  1. Harnessing the Power of Targeted Programmatic Advertising: Targeted programmatic advertising, powered by advanced data-driven automation, has revolutionised the way B2B brands reach and engage their audiences. By utilising programmatic technology, brands can leverage comprehensive data insights to deliver personalised messages at scale, optimising ad placements and maximising campaign performance.
  2. Strategic Account-Based Marketing (ABM): ABM has emerged as a game-changing approach for B2B marketers. By aligning programmatic advertising with ABM strategies, leading brands can target high-value accounts and key decision-makers. This targeted approach ensures that ad placements are precisely tailored to reach the most influential stakeholders in the research journey, enhancing brand visibility and generating higher-quality leads.
  3. Contextual Targeting and Content Alignment: Contextual targeting allows B2B brands to deliver relevant ads based on the content and context of websites visited by their target audience. By aligning programmatic campaigns with contextual targeting and content alignment, brands can interject their messaging seamlessly into the research journey. This strategy enables them to position themselves as thought leaders and provide valuable insights to potential buyers at critical decision-making stages.
  4. Leveraging First-Party Data: Leading B2B brands understand the value of first-party data and use it to fuel their programmatic advertising campaigns. By utilising their own customer data and behavior insights, brands can precisely target prospects who align with their ideal customer profiles. This personalized approach helps increase relevancy, engagement, and conversion rates.
  5. Account-Based Retargeting: Account-based retargeting is an advanced tactic that further enhances the effectiveness of programmatic advertising. By tailoring ad content specifically for target accounts, brands can re-engage and nurture prospects who have already shown interest. This personalised retargeting strategy helps keep the brand top-of-mind during the research journey, driving higher conversion rates. Yes this may be associated with lower funnel activity, but it doesn't take much lateral thinking to slot in at the top of funnel either.
  6. Advanced Measurement, segmentation and Analytics: To optimise top-of-funnel paid media strategies, B2B brands rely on advanced measurement and analytics tools. By monitoring key metrics, such as impressions, click-through rates, lands, on-site goals and conversions, brands gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their campaigns. This data-driven approach allows for continuous optimisation and ensures that resources are allocated to the most impactful channels and messages

Conclusion: As B2B marketers strive to maximise the impact of their top-of-funnel campaigns, programmatic advertising, coupled with ABM and contextual targeting, emerges as a powerful strategy. By leveraging programmatic technology, B2B marketers can efficiently insert their brand into the research journey of potential buyers, capturing their attention and establishing meaningful connections. The evidence and industry reports discussed in this blog post demonstrate the effectiveness of programmatic advertising as the most efficient top-of-funnel tactic for B2B marketers. By adopting this approach, businesses can drive brand awareness, engage their target audience, and ultimately accelerate their growth in the dynamic B2B marketplace.



B2B Positioning: How To De-position Your Competitors Using This Competitive Intelligence Framework & Gain Mindshare

Today, we're looking at B2B positioning and more specifically at how you can use advanced competitive intelligence gathering exercises to de-position your competitors and win their business. This journey begins with world class competitor research, with the intention of building GTM strategies which are proactive and on the front-foot. In B2B, as is equally the case in other product spheres, the best product/service isn't the one that is winning; the one that is winning is the one that is perceived to be the best. Therefore the name of this game is market perception and winning B2B mindshare. In a World where its easy to take potshots at competitors who are down, we'll explore how its far more powerful to de-position them when they're at their very best. We'll explore a 4 step process to build out a positioning framework and align it with your GTM strategy.

Competitive intelligence sits at the heart of a proper GTM strategy

Gaining an edge over competitors is crucial in any successful go-to-market strategy. The pandemic years pushed more of the B2B prospecting and customer acquisition process into digital channels, and since then we have seen forward thinking B2B brands winning digitally whilst some incumbents have been left behind. The first step on this journey will always be competitive intelligence, and the gathering of the right data points on your competitors in order to start to build a competitive narrative.  Competitive intelligence thus plays a vital role in this aspect, as it can either propel or hinder the penetration of your product in the market.

Successful competitive intelligence programs have the potential to produce heaps of beneficial outcomes if executed proficiently:

Of course, nothing I said above is revolutionary however in mid-2023, many of the companies that we work with here at FunnelFuel (judging by our CAB sessions, customer round-tables and the wider events that we attend/speak at/sponsor) continue to struggle to utilise competitive insights to drive meaningful opportunities, pipeline and revenue. As a result, sales confidence remains a challenge amongst GTM teams.

From what I can glean, most companies seem to build competitive intelligence which are centred around;

These activities may offer superficial backing to GTM teams, but they have minimal impact in generating interest or creating a market demand for your products. These are in many ways back-foot, reactive strategies whereas world class competitor intelligence should be putting your brand on the front foot. 

The best product or service in your niche is not the one that is winning

A great truism of the B2B market is that the best product is rarely winning in its category. This extends beyond B2B too, its a wider truism. Yet we often see the output of the above superficial market research in thinly veiled attempts to belittle competitors, using tactics aiming to devalue their rivals, disseminating false information, and muddling the facts in the market in hopes that consumers will opt for their product instead of their competitor's.

Now if your market is being 'won' by a product or service which isn't the best, it is being won by a product or service which is perceived to be the best. This is a really important point - you don't have to be the best, but you do have to be seen as being the best. All of those digital narratives are framed by market influencers and the narratives you help put into market versus hard fact. Plenty of people voicing an opinion aren't actually qualified to do so, and the loudest mouths are not always the most qualified or informed. Having those mouth-pieces promoting why your brand is the best is, by an order of magnitude, more effective for your pipeline and bottom line then having them whittle on about why competitorX is poor. 

So instead of taking direct, cheap shots at your competitors when they’re down, it’s far more effective to deposition competitors when they’re at their very best. If done optimally, you can create a surge of demand and interest for your products without even mentioning your competitors’ names. This becomes the go-to tactic to position your brand as the sector specialist, as the best-in-class, an almost peerless and competitor-less go-to product or service in your space.

The key is to have a thorough understanding of the market and take action at the opportune moment.

How to de-position your B2B competitors and win mindshare

There are a handful of really powerful tactics that you can employ as you approach this de-positioning exercise. One of the most effective is to discover the value props and messages which resonate with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

Not sure who your ICP is? This blog post explores 4 ways to make your buyer personas and how to construct your Ideal Customer Profile

There’s a ton of work that goes into this research, but at a high-level, a strong value proposition and messaging program includes the 4 stages below;

Upon completion of this task, you will have gained a precise understanding of the priorities of each of your specific customer groups, the terminology they use and the technique to communicate using their terminology. You will understand what matters to each buyer persona and how to use their language to explain your solutions to each persona. The better you put it into their language, explaining their problems and your solutions, the stronger the market narrative will become.

Typically, this depth of research into your niche will reveal a precise way that you can position yourself in contrast to your competitors, effectively de-positioning them as the solution for your niche of customers.

When it comes to GTM, de-positioning is just one small component of the plan. Over coming posts, we'll talk about how to;