How We Failed at Facebook Ads for B2B Marketing

margarita - how we failed at facebook ads for b2b marketing

Sunday 9:30 PM, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Yep, you read that right: Mexico! My bosses took me to Mexico so we can brainstorm DashThis marketing strategies for the upcoming year (how awesome, eh!). Thanks to DashThis for this opportunity, by the way!


On our last night, after a surprisingly productive week, I was enjoying a margarita at the lobby bar. I was having a conversation with my boss on how, in my opinion, we do a lot of talking at the office, but we’re not delivering things as fast and as often as I’d like (typical struggle of a young digital marketer).


“It’s not rocket science”, I told him, “we just need great content that people want to read, articles with a great story, and a casual tone. And we need to publish this kind of content more often.”


People love stories about someone testing things out or trying out ideas… even if those ideas don’t end up working. Basic storytelling, you know?!


I told my boss: “How about we explain how I spent YOUR money on Facebook Ads for B2B marketing and how the ROI was, actually, not so good?” I was getting excited now, and tipsy me spontaneously said, “I’ll write this in the next 24 hours!” (Yeah… thanks, tipsy me!)


So now, that I’d talked the talk, I had to WALK THE WALK, as we like to say at DashThis.

Monday 11:00 AM, Cancun Airport, Mexico.

When I woke up the next morning, I was thinking, “oh, what did I say to my boss again?”


Tic-toc tic-toc; the clock was already ticking and the story wasn’t even started yet!


So now I’m writing this article on the plane, squeezed between my good pal and colleague Phil and, hopefully, another nice person (the guy was actually really nice… but mostly sleepy…)


Trying to write my article on how we failed at Facebook Ads for B2B Marketing


Come on, “WALK THE WALK!”, I told myself.


So, let me tell you the story of how I failed at Facebook Ads for B2B marketing, and what I learned from it.


It’s been a year since I started working at DashThis as an in-house digital marketer.


As is the case with most people working in this field, this has given me the chance to step up my  “advertising on Facebook” game and spend someone else’s money.


If you’ve never tried Facebook Ads, you definitely should (but finish reading this text first, though)! AdWords and Facebook are the most accessible and used platforms in digital marketing, so mastering these tools is crucial in the digital marketing game, in my humble opinion.


Which brings me to:

Takeaway #1

Use Facebook Ads in your marketing strategy, even if you’re in a B2B market.

Monday 2:00 PM, In the clouds, Somewhere.

Facebook offers a wide variety of options to target potential customers based on their interests, location, gender, age, etc. It’s pretty much limitless, provided you’re just a bit creative.


Because of all the possibilities, we decided to give it a try.


We tested different targeting options. For example, while the possibility to target by interest was nice, the lead quality we got from it was – let me put it this way – not really interesting.


We tried to tweak the copy, optimize the delivery, adjust the targeting, and tons of other concepts, but still, the results weren’t really living up to our expectations.


And that’s when I learned:

Takeaway #2

Take the time to invest enough money and do A/B testing, just to be sure the problem isn’t your Ad.

Don’t get me wrong: at first, it was amazing to get leads with a CPA more or less 50% lower than on Adwords!! “Cool stuff JP”, my boss would tell me!


And the volume was amaziiiiing!


In the end though, the leads weren’t actually converting to anything. And that, was my next lesson.

Takeaway #3

Take the time to figure out if your leads are actually making it through your sales funnel.

For our business, a user in the trial phase is considered a lead until it converts – which, in our case, means signing up for any of our plans (oh, you should sign up for one of our plans by the way… just sayin’).


To make sure that we would get legitimate leads that were more likely to convert, I had an idea on how to create a campaign that would target people working for companies that would be a great fit for DashThis.


To do this, I used the “employer” targeting option in Facebook Ads. This is a hidden gem, in my opinion. I’m pretty sure this option is based on what people write in the employer section of their profiles. But I’m not sure, since any number of sources are going to tell me a different story… but if you know exactly how this targeting option works, let me know in the comments!

Facebook Ads "employer" targeting option

Takeaway #4

Take advantage of Facebook Ads targeting options. For B2B purposes, you can choose the employer or job title.

Targeting by employer or job title works pretty well if:


  • You want to target smaller businesses;
  • You’re good at creating original ads / concepts;
  • There’s a large number of businesses you want to target;
  • You know the names of the businesses you want to target;
  • You’re willing to have a higher CPA;
  • You’re patient;
  • You don’t expect a lot of conversions.


It worked pretty well for us: we actually got some nice leads.


To be honest, when the first lead came in, I was S-T-O-K-E-D.


I was convinced that I had found a way to make our Facebook Ads game great again (LOL).


But actually… not so much. The CPA for this campaign was about 2000% higher than usual.


In addition, the leads never even converted.


Even though I don’t think we failed that much, I think I can explain why it happened.


So now’s the time to remember the 3-step graph from your marketing classes:




For the visual people among you, here’s my friend Franck Nadeau’s version, from Snipcart, an e-commerce solution for developers:


Franck @ Snipcart explaining a conversion funnel

Basically: we lost focus. We weren’t looking at the big picture anymore. We wanted movement in our CONVERSION KPIs, but the strategy we were using was more inline with boosting AWARENESS.


If you have a B2B product or service in a niche market and your buying process isn’t too long, using focusing on AWARENESS might be a good idea.


And naturally, we always want to improve our AWARENESS. However, it isn’t our primary focus. We’ve actually managed to make a name for ourselves in our niche, so people tend to already be aware of our brand.


However, there are lots of people actively shopping around for a reporting tool, and there aren’t many great & simple solutions with awesome support (um… that because we’re the only one!! Sales pitch: done). We want these people, those who are in the real “buying” phase of the process, to know that our focus is on the people who want a simple reporting tool with an excellent layer of service. This is what we offer. And there are people looking for this specific service at the moment.


So instead of working on general brand AWARENESS with my limited resources, time, and budget, I would rather focus on the bottom of the funnel: CONVERSION. The people actively shopping for a tool and who already know what’s out there? That’s who we need to pinpoint. And that’s why, ultimately, I think Facebook Ads wasn’t a great fit for B2B marketing.


This is when I learned:

Takeaway #5

Take the time to set your KPIs right from the start, so you can optimize your ads and make sure you’re always on target.

There are many features in Facebook that you can use to succeed at advertising online within a reasonable budget. In our case, remarketing works just fine.


Since AWARENESS isn’t our main focus, what we actually needed was a way to reach users who had already visited our site, who were perhaps already in the free trial phase, and who just needed that final push to become loyal, long-term users.


That’s pretty much what remarketing did for us – it gave that little push we were looking for.


Takeaway #6

Use Facebook for remarketing!

Monday 6:00 PM, Montreal Airport, Canada

We just landed in Canada. What a productive day! I’m about to actually succeed at “WALKING THE WALK”… so… thanks margarita-me for your talk?!


I turned off my phone’s airplane mode and sent the first draft of this article to Stephane in order to get his feedback.

Monday 7:30 PM, Madrid Motel, halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, Canada

BOOM! (that’s what I like to say when we’re about to deliver a project).


Steph just replied to me with his favorite saying, “mets-ça en ligne!”, which literally means “put this online!”


steph fb ads comment


Will do, boss!


It’s nice to set yourself goals and ACT on them instead of being frustrated by just talking about them.


And now, I have some advice for you: GO and try advertising on Facebook for your B2B marketing. I’m here trying to write a blog post with a pinch of storytelling, so why couldn’t you at least try Facebook Ads?


Go ahead, it won’t cost much, and you’ll see for yourself if Facebook is a good channel for you or not.


Every business is unique and every market is different. It’s not easy to tell if Facebook Ads would work or not for your company, but you never know unless you give it a try! If you’re a classic B2B company, I would recommend using Lead Ads. I’ve gotten some great feedback from our own clients (who are awesome digital agencies, by the way) who are using them for B2B purposes.


At the end of the day, I feel proud of myself. I know Stephane will be happy, and so will my colleagues. I created value for our business instead of just talking about it; I actually wrote an article when I said I would.


I set myself goals and deadlines and I WALKED THE WALK.


So no matter what your goals are, or what you think needs to be done, remember this:

Takeaway #7

Do stuff, often. You’ll never know what works if you don’t try anything.

PS: If I were you, I would definitely give Facebook Ads a try, and I would set my KPIs right from the start. If you want to create awareness, look for likes, comments, clicks, shares, and other engagement metrics. Of course, you should also create your own Facebook Ads B2B dashboard with our Facebook Ads reporting tool, and don’t hesitate to reach out! We offer mind-blowing support!!

Jean-Philippe Jean-Philippe Cantin

JP is one of our Digital Marketing Specialists. Passionate about analytics and inbound marketing, he’s always looking for new ways to generate more traffic and improve conversion rates. 

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