Paid search engine marketing (PPC) has been essential to the success of online B2B marketing for an incredibly long time (by digital marketing standards anyway). According to the CMI, it’s the type of paid media used most often by B2B Marketers, and is considered the most effective as well.

But that time has come to branch out your digital marketing activity and try something new. And while paid search has served many a B2B marketer well, what about the other options available – the ‘new kids on the block’?

Both native advertising and paid social media have been at the forefront of discussion recently – Will B2B marketers ever see success from native advertising? Does social media really have the potential as a serious revenue driver?

Essentially, will these new channels generate more leads and a healthy ROI?

We’ve scoured the web near and far to find out whether native advertising and paid social media are really worth their weight in gold for B2B marketers.

Native Content Advertising

What is it?

Native content advertising is the process of bidding to promote your content across a chosen supplier’s network. The primary aim is to boost the reach of your content in order to drive more traffic to that content source (be that your website, landing page, or blog).

The Pros:

Quick, easy set up

Eager to dip your B2B toes in the native waters? Native advertising platforms like Outbrain and Taboola have made it super easy to get set up and started – enter the URL of your content, set your bid, set your date and off you go. Take a look at Velocity’s full run down on the Outbrain platform here.

Comes in a huge variety of forms

Not ready for a full-blown advertising platform just yet? Native advertising comes in the form of promoted social posts too with the likes of promoted tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn sponsored updates. For B2B Marketers, the social platforms provide opportunities for highly-niche targeting and controlled budget allocation, meaning you can keep an eagle eye on optimising your cost-per-enquiry.

Through the roof content reach

Businesses like Radius have used promoted content posts on social media to drive reach 21x greater than their average audience post reach. If you’re goals are to drive traffic to your content and boost its reach, than native advertising could be the cost effective way to go.

Any problems?

The fine line

Native advertising is designed to ‘blend in’ with its host site. So naturally, there’s a very fine line between promoting content and blatant selling. If your reader can tell the difference, you risk bad press from the likes of comedian John Oliver – watch his take on the topic here.

The verdict for B2B marketers:

So maybe the lead generation jury is still out on that one…But is it worth the budget?

Native ads generate an 18% higher intent to purchase and a significant increase in targeted brand exposure. If you’re a B2B company in a highly-niche industry, this could be a quick win if you’re looking to drive brand reach and generate traffic to your content.

Paid Social Media

What is it?

Paid social media advertising helps businesses find new prospects by using user’s own-shared information as targeting options across all of the major social media networks. When social media advertising first launched a few years back, no one could have expected its estimated revenue to reach $8.4 billion in such a short period (yikes!).

The Pros:

Turbo-charged targeting options

Whether you want to target by interest, behaviour or even ‘lookalike’ filters…the list of targeting options across the social platforms is…endless. Even though you’re serving ads to individuals, not businesses, the high-level targeting means you increase the relevance of the ad’s you serve to your B2B audience, so you know you’re reaching the right buyers.

Analytics heaven

As with any other lead generation channel, conversion rate optimisation on your online campaigns is essential if you want to grow conversion, generate more leads and boost your ROI. And with a whole host of metrics available within each platform’s dashboard, you can monitor and forecast conversion at every stage of the sales funnel to generate the best return possible.

Any problems?

Be prepared for lower conversion rates

Even with the turbo-charged targeting options, paid social media advertising can typically drive lower conversion rates (2.49% according to Marketing Land) in comparison to other channels. But don’t let that put you off!

The verdict for B2B marketers:

Marketers that allocate ad spend to social channels generally see a 25% lift in the number of sales generated by advertising – social media can be a huge lead generation contributor for B2B marketers IF done right. Success is a delicate balance of accurate targeting, relevant messaging and continued conversion rate optimisation. Take a peek at our latest articles on what warning signs to look out for, as well as which metrics you need to measure for lead generation success.

If you’re goals are to drive traffic and brand awareness through increased content reach, than native advertising is a digital channel worth testing. But if lead generation is the name of your game than it may be time to test and invest in paid social media activity.

But no matter which option you choose to investigate further, forecasting your activity at every stage of the sales funnel is essential if you want to generate the best return possible.

Forecast right and your well on your way to digital success – Download the free Digital Marketing ROI Forecaster here.

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