B2B Advertising Is Evolving—It’s Time to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


A question we often hear from B2B marketers is, “We’re seeing positive trends with our digital spend, but we’re feeling stuck with our advertising options. How can we reach our audience in new, inspiring ways?”

We’re here to say, it’s time for B2B marketers to get out of their comfort zones and open their minds to new media options.

According to The CMO Survey from September 2022, B2B organizations expect to increase their digital marketing spend by 12% this year, with 38% of that digital spend going towards paid media. While that’s still less than B2C counterparts, the gap is closing. B2B organizations are seeing value in digital investment, but often getting stuck within the same 2-3 channels—typically paid search, email marketing and some level of content marketing/SEO.

At Smith, we guide our B2B clients to open their mind to new media options and strategies, frequently delivering significant results. Here’s a taste of what we’ve learned and how the lessons can apply to other B2B businesses. 

Programmatic has a place in B2B

There’s a lot to learn—and take—from B2C marketing. After all, B2B buyers are real humans, using consumer devices, in and out of the office. Programmatic, particularly across connected tv and mobile channels, is an excellent place to start.

A programmatic expert at Smith, says B2B leaders need to reimagine where they are interacting with potential customers. “The way people work has changed. In the past, they were at a desk in an office. Now, they’re working from home, they’re on the move—you have to reach them where they are, which is on their mobile devices and watching connected TV across various platforms.”

Programmatic advertising provides a toolset to target audiences at a detailed level across many devices and types of content. Most B2B audiences are niche, which means higher CPMs, so it’s crucial to take the time up-front to build well-defined targets. Plus, Amarandei points out, “B2B buyers don’t make impulse decisions. The process requires more decision makers and consideration time.” Programmatic has the agility to reach B2B buyers through different points of the buying process, influencing their decision along the way.

LinkedIN costs are rising, approach with caution

There’s no doubt that LinkedIN advertising has potential for many B2B brands, but the competition for attention is high. LinkedIN costs are rising—with average CPM up to $33.80 and average CPC up to $5.38—which means decreased efficiency.

Smith digital strategist Chris Bennington questions LinkedIn’s ROI, citing rising costs and competition. “The rising cost and competition of LinkedIN advertising is real. While it’s a useful place for B2B organizations to reach highly-targeted audiences, organizations need to think more creatively about their campaigns. In many cases, it’s better to diversify efforts across new channels.”

But there are ways to maximize efficiency on the platform. “CPMs are high across the board, even with large broad audiences. So go the other direction and get hyper-targeted instead. Stay focused on core prospects, including target accounts and active sales leads.” He advises utilizing first-party data and leveraging LinkedIN’s vast targeting options, including narrowing by industry, title, company size, and growth rate. 

Another way to cut through LinkedIN’s crowded landscape is with out-of-the-norm creative. Try new formats, like videos and carousels, with hooks that would typically appear on consumer products. “The LinkedIN Ad space is littered with repetitive stock image ads. If you want to stop those scrolling thumbs, you have to step away from the norm,” says Bennington.

Prioritize resonance over reach

Maximizing reach is good, but avoid getting caught up in the spots and dots and ship vanilla value props. Instead, tap into impactful assets like thought leadership pieces when building media campaigns. 

By promoting internal subject matter experts, B2B organizations can build trust. But, unfortunately, it’s rarely a simple pursuit. Creating quality content takes time and support, so marketers often default to generalized messaging. We caution against this. Diversifying media campaign content is critical, particularly since most B2B media plans will include a high frequency to niche audiences. 

Creating fresh content isn’t the only path. Leveraging established industry voices is an ideal way to resonate. Long-term partnerships with content creators, such as consistent sponsorships on newsletters or with creators in the podcasting/video space, offer a unique level of intimacy with a leaned-in audience.

Break out of comfort zones

According to McKinsey research, integrated campaigns across four or more channels outperform single or dual-channel campaigns by 300%. So the time is now for B2B organizations to diversify their advertising by tapping into available data, tools, and creative options. Get unstuck in 2023. Smith is here to guide the way.