5 Ways to Use Display Advertising in B2B Marketing [VIDEO]

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In this video blog, we cover the role of display advertising in a business-to-business marketing mix.
Below is a transcript of the video with a touch of editing for readability.

Here are 5 ways you can use display advertising in a business-to-business context.

Branding & Awareness

Branding and awareness is a common use case for display advertising, but you don’t see it as much in business-to-business settings.  Indeed, display ads tend to be more of a direct response tool, where marketers crave click-through rates and conversions to make it worthwhile. As a result, B2B marketers tend to shun display ads with the exception of some large brands.

But that does not mean that B2B marketers should not use display ads. Instead, consider limiting your display ads to people who have met certain “qualification” criteria, such as page visits or time on site. Retargeting in this context, specifically for branding, can make you appear larger than you are, which is a great use case for B2B display advertising.

Top-of-the-funnel Lead Generation

Top-of-the-funnel (“TOFU”) lead generation is an important part of B2B marketing.  It starts by encouraging prospects to visit your site. Various DSPs, including Google, allow you to identify segments of people that you want to target – even if they have never been to your site before. For instance, LinkedIn’s and Facebook’s lookalike targeting allows you to identify professionals in your sweet spot. Messaging them with ads will drive them to your website so you can win their contact information.


Buyer education typically happens through downloadable content, either gated or ungated, such as eBooks, white papers, webinars, and so on.  It is not enough to just drive traffic to your website, you have to convert it into a known lead.

In this context, display ads help drive higher conversion rates for educational content. For instance, delivering retargeted ads that tease out snippets from an eBook as a way to convince a visitor to overcome the gate.

In other cases, B2B marketers can leverage ungated content in unison with retargeted segments to maintain communication with a visitor – even where they don’t provide an email address. Effectively, marketers may consider cookies as ephemeral emails to build a relationship with a prospect off-site.

Closing Deals

Today’s B2B buyers are researching multiple vendors, and staying top-of-mind is an important part of closing sales. You educated them, they downloaded content, they are in your email drip campaigns, but did you stop display advertising to them? Are you sending them the right message?

It is no good to nurture prospects with precise email messages on the one hand, and then on the other, show a disparate ad that talks about branding, rather than building credibility through testimonials. Your display advertising and your email marketing automation should be in sync – supporting one another to create an increase in open rates, an increase in click-through rates, and an increase in your conversion rates all the way down the funnel (from visitor to a known lead, to an MQL, sales qualified lead, and even CRM win).

Illustration of display ads mirroring email marketing campaign.

Customer Success

Who would have thought that you could use display advertising for customer success? Some are calling 2015 the year of customer success, and there are great companies out there like Gainsight, Totango, Bluenose, and others that help SaaS companies retain and grow their customer base.

In this context, consider using display ads that are personalized for each SaaS user. Imagine connecting a Gainsight, Intercom, or Totango alert about a customer slipping away into a display ad that addresses the issue. The ad may encourage that user to use a “killer feature” that converts them into a long-term customer.  Or perhaps the ad encourages the SaaS user to contact their account manager to drive deeper usage.

This approach works well when that SaaS user has become jaded to automated emails from your customer success platform. Display advertising can feel omnipresent yet in the background, reminding the user, “yes, I do need to resolve that issue,” and prompting them to respond.


Here are the 5 roles that display advertising can play for a business-to-business marketer:

  1. branding and awareness;
  2. top-of-the-funnel filler;
  3. education;
  4. closing accounts and;
  5. customer success.

The savviest B2B marketers are telling a story through their display advertising. This is feasible through automated advertising platforms that allow you to create a narrative with your ads in a way that is relevant and personalized to the visitor, to the prospect, to the lead, and even the customer.