Online advertising: are you prepared to ‘pay to play’? If so, where?

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Online advertising: are you prepared to ‘pay to play’? If so, where?

Online advertising: are you prepared to ‘pay to play’? If so, where?

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Can you continue to rely solely on SEO marketing to bring traffic to your website? Are your social media campaigns failing to extend beyond the audience that already knows you? Are you wondering what else you should be doing to drive new business from your digital marketing campaigns?

Increasingly, MSPs are looking to fill these gaps and increase conversions using paid online advertising. If you are one of these MSPs, perhaps it’s time to consider the options available to you.

For MSPs, the three most relevant online advertising platforms are: Google Adwords, Google Remarketing and paid advertising on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

A reminder of what they offer

The table below shows a brief description of each, together with a useful summary of pros and cons. You may find it helpful as a guide when considering which online advertising option to go for.

Platform Description Good because.. Not so good for MSPs because..
Google Adwords
(I am focussing on Search ads rather than Display ads, as these are most relevant to MSPs)
Search ads appear next to the Google search results of people looking for the products and services you offer.
You are charged only when people click to visit your website or call your business.
• Highly targeted to search terms (keywords).
• The largest potential reach in terms of leveraging Google.
• Ability to target by location, keywords, interests, device and more.
• Ideal for local or international campaigns.
• High levels of competition when, for example, the most in-demand search terms are combined with crowded locations such as London, so can be expensive.
• Conversion tracking can be challenging for longer sales cycles.
Easy to ‘set and forget’ – but you need to continuously monitor and tweak your campaign.
Google Remarketing Allows you to target previous visitors to your website with display ads shown on other websites or as they search Google for terms related to your services.

You can target all visitors or focus on specific criteria – such as those who visited a specific page but did not take action – request a quote or take advantage of a promotion, for example

• Shows who saw your ad but didn’t click it (view-through conversion tracking).
• Easy to target the ad by placing a tracking code on your website that uses cookies to reach people who have visited.
• For MSPs, it is generally more cost-effective than Adwords.
• You are relying on the initial traffic flow.
• Not so effective at reaching new audiences.
Paid social media
For MSPs, the preferred platforms seem to be Facebook Ads and LinkedIn.

Both have B2B-specific targeting mechanisms so can be very effective at putting content in front of your target audience in the early stages of information gathering.

Targeting can be specific where you know the names of the companies/people you want to connect with – or wider, where you specify eg vertical sector, company size and job title.

Facebook Ads
Once considered the preserve of B2C marketers, Facebook is now accepted as a useful B2B platform. Facebook Link Click Ads for example can help to send people to your landing pages or blog posts when you insert sponsored content in your targets’ news feeds. As a side benefit they may generate ‘likes’ for your page too.

Claiming 1.65 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the biggest and most frequently accessed platform.


LinkedIn
Pre-eminent for business and professional networking

With 433 million members worldwide, it has a smaller audience than Google and Facebook, but claims to offer B2B the ‘right’ kind of users rather than volume users.


LinkedIn offers three major options for self-service advertising:
¬ sponsored content
¬ sponsored InMail, and
¬ text ads

• Extensive targeting options, including custom audiences, locations and connections.
• Encourages interaction and content sharing, so good for engaging target audience.
• Can be more cost-effective per click.
• Flexible: easy to change the objective of the ad.
• Works particularly well for ads with eye-catching visuals.

• Claims to be the #1 social media platform for content distribution, with 94 percent of B2B marketers using LinkedIn for this purpose.
• Member demographics skew higher for both salaries and job responsibility than memberships of other social networks.
• Historically, LinkedIn advertising has lagged behind Facebook and Google, in terms of targeting capabilities – the new ‘matched audiences’ tool has addressed this however
• LinkedIn’s self-serve ad interface is designed to be easy enough for small businesses to use.

• Competition is increasing.
• Supporting content and other channels may be needed to engage your audience.
• Ads can easily get lost in the noise.
• Lots of trial and testing are required

LinkedIn
Pre-eminent for business and professional networking

With 433 million members worldwide, it has a smaller audience than Google and Facebook, but claims to offer B2B the ‘right’ kind of users rather than volume users.


LinkedIn offers three major options for self-service advertising:
¬ sponsored content
¬ sponsored InMail, and
¬ text ads

• Claims to be the #1 social media platform for content distribution, with 94 percent of B2B marketers using LinkedIn for this purpose.
• Member demographics skew higher for both salaries and job responsibility than memberships of other social networks.
• Historically, LinkedIn advertising has lagged behind Facebook and Google, in terms of targeting capabilities – the new ‘matched audiences’ tool has addressed this however
• LinkedIn’s self-serve ad interface is designed to be easy enough for small businesses to use.
• LinkedIn is still often perceived as a recruiting platform. How many users are just looking to change jobs?
• Because it gives access to higher-value audience, advertising can come at a premium price although the conversion rate can be higher, making the cost per lead acceptable.
Because you are likely paying more, it is all the more important to carefully identify your buyer personae and ensure CTAs are perceived of value to them.

Identifying the best online advertising option to drive new business for you

It’s one thing knowing the options; quite another to decide which is best for you. This is a very specialised area and when you start out, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the statistics being bandied around.

If it’s reach you’re looking for, Google Search has over a billion users, Facebook has two billion; LinkedIn claims more than 500 million members; and Twitter’s average monthly active users (MAUs) reached 328 million in Q1 2017.

But how many of these are likely prospects for your IT services?

The only way to discover this is to try each of them out for a limited period and see how they compare in terms of delivering the most conversions (i.e. number of people who take the desired action).

Ultimately, it may come down to cost – in which case your available marketing budget may be making the decision for you.

As noted earlier, Google Adwords can work out expensive for MSPs – unless you can identify keywords that aren’t so hotly contested. You can get an idea of likely cost by searching on the keywords to see how many competitors you have (if you don’t already know this!) and by using tools such as Google Ad’s Keyword Planner or SEMrush to help.

Google Remarketing can be a more cost-effective option, but it is also more limited in its ability to reach new audiences so may not be the best option if your goal is to drive new business leads.

Increasingly, MSP money is going on social media advertising – Facebook Ads and LinkedIn in particular.

LinkedIn can also be expensive, but if its business focus means that your campaign will result in a higher number of conversions, then it could be the best investment. I’ve seen figures quoted by Dragonsearch[1] that suggest an average 20% conversion rate with LinkedIn, resulting in a cost per lead of around $50.

Twitter is significantly cheaper than LinkedIn and while not specifically a business channel, it is used by business people. Users can be targeted by the accounts they follow or the keywords they use, so it is relatively straightforward to identify your target audience.

Then there are Facebook Ads. Facebook is considered to offer more value for money for MSPs, with a significantly lower cost-per-click (CPC) than Google AdWords. It’s very difficult to find meaningful comparative figures for PPC/online advertising, but according to AdEspresso[2] the average CPC for Facebook Ads in the US was $0.28 in Q3 of 2016, while for Google AdWords the search average CPC was $2.32 according to research quoted by WordStream[3] . While the exact values may vary, the overall comparison seems clear-cut.

If you get a significantly higher conversion rate from your Google AdWords campaign however, then that would be the best investment for you.

Short of using a crystal ball, when selecting one (or more) options, it really does come down to assigning a modest budget to try each (I’ve seen suggested figures from $2,000–$5000 for this trial period) – and the results will hopefully give you a feel for what will work best for you.

Why you should consider paid online advertising

And if you are not totally convinced yet, just take a quick look at some of the benefits of paid online advertising:

  1. It’s fast: to set up and to see results
  2. It’s measurable: everything from costs, number of views, clicks, conversions – and much more can be tracked.
  3. It’s not affected by any changes made to the ranking algorithms of Google or other search engines.
  4. It’s flexible so you can segment your target audience, tailoring ads to specific prospects at specific times and on preferred devices.
  5. It’s very effective for generating local interest thanks to highly developed location targeting.
  6. You are in control of what you spend.
  7. You only pay when your ad is clicked.
  8. It’s an effective way to test out new services and gain information that can be applied to other digital marketing campaigns – most successful keywords, for example.


Why wouldn’t you pay-to-play?

If you consistently appear among the first half-dozen companies in the search listings – and have a steady flow of traffic to your website, you may not need to use PPC advertising right now.

If, on the other hand, your website is not being found and you are not immediately visible in search rankings, then it’s probably worth assigning some budget and giving it a try.

In a crowded managed services marketplace you need to be using every marketing tool at your disposal to raise your visibility.

If you don’t, your competitors will.

If you missed any of the earlier blogs in our sales and marketing series, you can catch up here: 

We all talk about digital marketing but is it delivering for your MSP business?

How do you know if your SEO strategy is not working – and what can you do?

Is email marketing delivering for your MSP business?

Are you a social success?

 
 
[1] Source: B2B Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report
[2] Source: Dragonsearch
[3] Source: adespresso.com
[4] Source: wordstream.com