Marketers: Beware of These B2B Display Advertising Mistakes

Marketing mistakes are costly. If you get one variable wrong — the audience, the content offer, or even the channel — you can waste thousands of dollars. Although B2B display advertising isn’t an exact science, enough experimentation can teach you valuable tricks of the trade.

Luckily for you, we’ve run the trials, talked to the experts, and are sharing some of the most common mistakes, so you never have to make them again.

Top Display Advertising Targeting Mistakes 

Getting your audience right is paramount to increasing conversion rates and spending efficiently. Yet marketers often struggle with this crucial step. Here are some common B2B display advertising mistakes:

Remarketing: Just because someone landed on your website doesn’t mean they’re a good-fit prospect. If you simply remarket to website visitors, you can end up with a lot of waste. 

“When you create a lookalike audience off of your remarketed audience, you go down a rabbit hole of bad leads. Sure, your cost per lead might be cheap, but your cost per marketing-qualified lead (MQL) will skyrocket,” says Colin Chang, a marketing programs manager at ZoomInfo.

Only using native audiences: Although some social channels’ native audiences are better than others, that doesn’t mean you should rely solely on native capabilities to pinpoint your desired audience segments. It’s better to add in dynamic data that is ever-changing and always up-to-speed with your audience’s most recent behaviors.

“Native targeting is okay in some cases, but there are so many ways to make it better,” says Mitchell Hanson, senior director of demand generation at ZoomInfo. “You can use dynamic audiences on their own or in concert with native audiences. Dynamic suppressed audiences keep out the waste, and dynamic intent audiences ensure you’re always in front of who’s in-market right now.”

You should match a list of strong prospects via your first-party data or a trusted third-party data provider to layer on top of the native audience. Your cost per lead might increase, but virtually all of your leads will be qualified or otherwise further along in the sales cycle.

Dismissing lookalike audiences on Facebook: There’s a common misconception that lookalike audiences are a waste of money. But this isn’t true if you use good lists. With a trusted B2B data provider, you can create lists of prospects based on granular attributes such as job title, company, industry, and even behaviors and interests. When you create a lookalike audience from good data, it can be very high quality while remaining noticeably less expensive. 

Using detailed expansion targeting: This increases your target audience size by adding additional interests — but you should be segmenting your audience, not broadening it. This feature essentially gives the platform the keys to serve the ad to whoever it thinks might be a good fit. “Don’t let social platforms hide behind algorithms to determine who they’re going to serve your ad to based on logic you don’t know,” says Caleb Rule, inbound and digital experience manager at The Pedowitz Group. “I’ve seen plenty of wasted spend on invalid ad clicks that never went to the website because I forgot to uncheck the box.”

Not suppressing audiences: Don’t forget to exclude competitors, employees, and anyone outside of your target audience from your campaign — and keep these audiences dynamic. The more targeted your audience is, the less money you’ll waste.

Only targeting upper-level management: The C-suite is busy. Employees lower on the org chart — directors, managers, even individual contributors — are typically the ones researching and advocating for your product before it reaches the executive level.

“In a lot of B2B businesses, we underestimate who the buying center is,” Rule says. “There could be up to 20 people influencing a given decision. The more expensive your offer is, the more people will be involved in that process.”

For top-of-funnel content offers, start by targeting potential influencers and company champions. The C-suite will come later. 

Creating unnecessary friction: Not all of your content offers need to be gated. The goal is to remove as many obstacles as possible that could prevent your target audience from converting. 

“You can still garner value from ungated assets,” Rule says. “If you click on my ad, I can pixel you and provide related content, so hopefully you’ll consume more and build trust with us. That way when you’re ready to buy, there’s already a level of familiarity.” 

However, if your offer is gated, try using built-in lead forms to minimize clicks so the user doesn’t need to travel to a different page. With a tool like FormComplete, you can even minimize the number of required form fields to just one or two pieces of information (like their name and email address) and let the database fill in the missing pieces on the back-end. 

Top Creative Mistakes on B2B Display Ads

In a platform saturated with noisy ads mixed with organic content, you’re fighting for eyeballs. To grab your target audience’s attention in just a few seconds, avoid these mistakes: 

Making your message too long: You have few words and little space to make your audience want to find out more. Keep your intro text where you can see all of it in the preview. Stay within the character limits of the platform so your message doesn’t get cut off. 

Obsessing over semantics: There is hot debate among marketers about how much you should adapt your language and tone based on the platform. Does your message on Facebook need to sound different than on LinkedIn? 

“We’ve done a lot of testing around this,” Hanson says. “All in all, this is not something I would recommend overengineering or fretting about.” 

What does matter is speaking to their needs in a way that resonates with them. Acknowledge that you know what their problem is and that you can provide a solution.

“Have personality,” Rule advises. “Your ad is coming from a company, and yet you’re talking to a human. So talk more like a human.”

Sizing incorrectly: It’s simple but important, make sure you’re using the right ad specs. For example, the ad specs for LinkedIn and Facebook are always 1200 x 628 pixels, while for Instagram it’s 1080 x 1350 pixels. If the dimensions are off, your ad will look funky and unprofessional, and conversion rates will suffer.

Top Display Ad Optimization Mistakes

“Optimize, optimize, optimize,” Chang says. The marketing landscape is constantly evolving, so frequent and deliberate optimization is critical to keeping your numbers up. Don’t make these mistakes: 

Changing multiple variables: When you A/B test, only change one variable at a time. If you change more than one, you won’t be able to determine which variable made the difference. For example, test the same ad with a different headline, CTA copy, or audience layered with intent data in separate campaigns to see what performs best.

Not having a strong segmentation strategy: Your audience shouldn’t be too narrow or too broad, but just targeted enough that your content and message can accurately speak to their needs. For example, you may want to segment and target by job title (VP of sales), industry (financial services), and level of intent (high intent) depending on your offer. 

Not optimizing down the funnel: Understand the difference between “cost per lead” and “cost per MQL.” Having a high volume of low-cost leads sounds great, but it doesn’t really matter if they don’t make their way to sales. Even though optimizing for MQLs is more expensive, that’s where you’ll see real return on investment. 

So, what makes B2B display advertising successful?

Always put the goal first. Ask yourself: Are we trying to gain brand awareness? Generate pipeline? Penetrate a certain market segment? Accelerate deals?

“The first step should always be examining the objective,” Hanson says. “Then ask yourself who the audience is. From there, you should be able to dictate which channels and how many to tap into, the content offer, and how much budget to put behind it.”

Don’t make the mistake of pigeonholing social channels. Facebook is not just used for one objective. Neither are LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, or even Reddit. “You can do anything on any channel based on what your business and audiences are,” Hanson says. Look at social channels as “how do people use this?” rather than “how do I need this to be used?”

Always maintain a customer-centric mindset and prioritize getting your audience right, and the rest will fall into place. 

Above all, make sure you have the right tools to set yourself up for success. With ZoomInfo Marketing, you can quickly and easily configure your audience and push it into LinkedIn, Facebook, and other display networks. With exceptional match rates, customer suppression, and the ability to target specific accounts, you can accelerate opportunities and drive unprecedented MQLs.