Just to be up front; this is not a best practice blog post. I simply wanted to share my story of a recent lead generation campaign, with the hope it might be useful for marketers running similar campaigns.

Best practice tips are heartily encouraged, but this is more about showing you what we did and the results we achieved.

A few months ago I wrote my first marketing eBook for SaleCycle (yay go me!) and launched an online lead generation campaign including paid social media and third-party publishers. The goal was to generate as many qualified leads as possible. 

N.B. I also used email, PPC and retargeting campaigns but wanted to focus this post on social media and third-party lead generation as these seemed the hardest to find numbers on.

The channels 

  • Twitter (promoted tweet and lead generation card)
  • Facebook (lead generation ad)
  • LinkedIn (sponsored content)

LinkedIn Sponsored Ad

Twitter Lead Generation

I used two separate third-party publishers to promote the eBook to their database, one primarily with US contacts and the other with a UK bias.

The other kit

For the landing pages for the eBook I used the excellent Unbounce integrated with our marketing automation software Pardot.

I tried to set myself some benchmarks for these activities in terms of total number of leads I could expect and cost per qualified lead. That turned out to be much harder than I’d originally bargained for (i.e. a Google search).

Google Search

Before you inundate me with links that show the cost per lead or cost per action of various lead gen activities (WordStream have got some great posts on these) - note my emphasis on “qualified” lead.

The challenges of B2B

Working in B2B marketing often means that not everyone will be the perfect fit as a client, therefore not every lead is going to be qualified.

To make sure our clients get the best possible service (not to mention results), we (SaleCycle) target enterprise brands looking to boost their online sales. So that means while we may appeal to smaller companies, it wouldn’t make business-sense for either of us to work together. (No hard feelings though).

This is the first job I’ve had where we’ve had to pass potential customers on to someone else who can better meet their needs (or most commonly; budgets). It took a while to get used to, but when you see the numbers behind it all, it makes sense for us.

For a first pass of qualifying marketing leads we use traffic estimators such as Alexa and SimilarWeb. Neither are 100% perfect so we throw in some common sense and brand “X factor” into the mix too.

However this challenge came through in bucketfuls during my lead generation campaign for the eBook. Let’s look at some of the numbers...

So as not to give away all the ingredients in SaleCycle’s “secret marketing sauce” these numbers are taken from the first $1,300 (or £1,000) spent in each channel. There’s no discernible increase or decrease in effectiveness for the spend after this, so these are pretty close to being representative numbers and percentages.

How much exposure did each channel provide? (per $1,300 spent)

Ad Views and CTR

Twitter was able to provide the largest audience for our ads, with the (now discontinued) lead generation card giving the biggest reach - almost a hundred times bigger than the UK publisher. However this smaller and more targeted audience generates a much better click through rate than its competitors.

This small audience was made up of people who had visited the publisher’s ecommerce topic pages in the last 30 days. This really matched with our target market and goes beyond the usual “60% of subscribers are client-side” demographics usually provided.

For the lead generation ads on Twitter and Facebook I’ve not included a CTR as the action is in the ad not on a landing page.

What about the downloads?

Downloads

Okay, so this table is almost like "the upside down" from Stranger Things when you compare the ranking for views with the ranking for conversion rate. On the surface it looks rosy for the social media channels with lots of views and a good number of downloads. But something unseemly is going on with the conversion %. 

In comparison, the publishers are setting world records for conversion rates from their subscribers.

But at the end of the day I’m looking for qualified leads so the social media channels still have the highest chance of providing these.

Where is the quality?

Leads

Well that didn’t quite work out for the social behemoths did it? Really small numbers of qualified B2B leads coming via Twitter and Facebook despite a healthy number of downloads.

For these social campaigns I employed the various types of targeting available such as look-a-like followers, followers of relevant accounts, locations, interests, custom audiences etc. It’s disappointing to see that this painstaking work didn’t reap more qualified leads to pass in to our nurture program and primed sales team.

It’s certainly an area I need to dig into for my next campaign to understand how this can be improved. I think on reflection, the lead generation card was perhaps not an ideal activity for a B2B campaign targeting business email addresses. It relies on people using their work emails for the social accounts. Something I don’t do.

Where should the money be spent next time?

So after looking through those metrics it’s time to get fiscal...

CPL

As I mentioned before, this data comes from the first $1,300 (£1,000) spent in each channel, nonetheless the results above are eye-opening.

For us the CPL (cost per lead) is the metric we will focus on as a benchmark for future campaigns.

I’ve included the cost per download as an email address is often enough for a lead generation campaign, regardless of whether it is a business or personal account. Unsurprisingly (for me at least) the Facebook and Twitter lead generation ads came out as the cheapest per download.

However their CPL is so high it’s going to take a serious review of the ads and targeting before I put more money on these channels for a similar campaign. Lots of experts claim Facebook is the place to be for B2B. 

Google FB B2B

It’s interesting to see that the publishers produced the most economical leads and shows that if you can pinpoint a publisher or two that have the interest of your target market they are a great source of qualified leads. Like any battle-hardened marketer, I did some haggling on their prices to get to something I was comfortable with; a mix of targeting and value for money.

Despite being the business network I was fairly (and pleasantly) surprised about the performance of LinkedIn and feel there are more gains to be made there next time. I will be trying out the text ad option for my next campaign to see how the clicks and conversions compare to a sponsored update.

LinkedIn Text Ads

The next step of measurement will be for me to keep tracking the value of opportunities and closed deals influenced by these campaigns. It’s currently sitting at over $50,000 for these leads which gives a potential ROI of nearly 700% for the first year of the deals.

I don’t have any benchmarks but those numbers make me smile!

What did I learn?

There’s a few quick takeaways that jumped out at me during the campaign that I think are worth sharing and may help other B2B marketers.

1. Be clear on what makes a qualified lead.

The results above show that the social media giants of Facebook and Twitter can easily provide downloads, but don’t appear to be great at targeting qualified B2B prospects.

In comparison, the third-party publishers charge per download but some will offer a greater amount of targeting to ensure more of these downloads qualify as leads. The UK publisher used for this campaign provided a really targeted audience and that shows in the results.

2. Stay on top of the social media campaigns.

This one didn’t really hit home until after my campaigns had ended and I was pulling the results together. But it can’t be overstated how easy it is to change and optimize social media lead generation campaigns.

I believe I could have generated more leads from these channels if I’d changed the targeting, budget and ads as I learnt more throughout the campaign.

3. Take the time to look at the numbers.

Again, this one only really became clear after the campaign while I was writing this post, but it’s the key one to help me learn for the next campaigns.

Without taking the time to review the numbers and what they really boiled down to I could be ploughing my money into Facebook and Twitter; their cost per download is pretty decent and they gave me the biggest reach. But I would have missed the fact that the real gems were the third-party publishers and the opportunity to improve the LinkedIn numbers too.

There’s rarely a quiet time to do this kind of analysis but I’m sure it’ll help improve my future campaigns.

What’s next?

I think most of you are more than ready to agree with my opening statement that this post isn’t a how-to or a best practice guide, but I’ve certainly learnt a lot to take into my next campaigns. 

My three main points to focus on next time will be:

  • Social media targeting - how can I do it better?
  • Landing pages - how can I increase qualified leads (and decrease the others) at this stage?
  • Results - be more reactive to in-campaign results and trends. Do ads or channels need ditching and switching?

The purpose of this post was to provide a set of numbers other B2B marketers can use to frame their results or help plan their campaigns with. I hope it helps my peers out there. Please let me know any thoughts and don’t be too quick to jump in to point out any glaring rookie-mistakes ;-)

For more on this topic, see:

Jack Ford

Published 3 November, 2017 by Jack Ford

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