Marketers share a universal truth: Budget is precious. And to secure additional trust  — in the form of hard currency — you need to prove that every dollar you spend will generate revenue.  

In other words, efficient spending + results = more budget

According to WebStrategies’ February 2020 CMO survey, on average, 13 percent of total marketing budget was allocated to social media spending. 

So, how do you optimize campaigns to squeeze the most out of your paid social budget? 

Mitchell Hanson, director of demand generation at ZoomInfo, shares how he minimizes ad waste—and how you can, too. In this story, we’ll explain:

  • Why you should run multiple variations of the same campaign simultaneously 
  • How to leverage audiences who show intent to purchase
  • How to allocate budget effectively using our tips and tricks 

STEP 1: Define your audience

At ZoomInfo, our demand generation team works closely with our product marketing team to understand who we need to pursue and why. For example, product marketing may tell demand generation that we should use targeted content to attract sales leaders to a new product that helps sales teams connect with prospects faster. In addition to zeroing in on specific job functions and funnel stage, we also segment our audience by company size and industry. 

Remember, if you use too many data points to segment your audience, you may exclude good-fit candidates. Instead, prioritize three to five data points when creating your ideal customer.

“Your segmentation strategy should be simple enough to be usable but relevant enough to be meaningful,” says Hanson. 

When it comes to picking channels, we focus on where our potential customers consume information. We always start by identifying the goal of our campaign—whether it’s engagement, driving traffic, or lead generation—and use that to guide our channel selection. 

“Some channels have a more sophisticated approach to targeting—test and iterate to find one that caters to your needs,” says Colin Chang, marketing programs manager at ZoomInfo. 

Tip: Ask yourself—where are you most likely to find and engage your audience? For example, 84 percent of salespeople are active on LinkedIn. If you want to target salespeople—you know where to go.

Once we determine who we’re targeting and the social platforms our audience prefers, then it’s time to build the campaign.

STEP 2: Use granular data to customize segments 

Most marketers are familiar with native targeting—using the built-in functionality on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to define and build an audience. However, native targeting chips away at your budget due to limited segmentation options, including a lack of intent signals that help identify your next customer. This means you’re wasting money targeting a lot of people who aren’t a good fit.

Here’s where our secret sauce comes in. 

Using the targeting capabilities on ZoomInfo’s platform, we search our database for people who meet the data points we identified in step one. For instance, we could filter through contacts to find VPs of sales at enterprise-sized companies in the SaaS industry in Massachusetts (that’s a mouthful!). Then we export that list to our chosen paid social channels and run it as a campaign.

In a separate campaign, we target the same list of people but filter for those showing intent to purchase. This targets a much smaller, more qualified subset of that group. 

We also run lookalike audience campaigns based on our lists. Facebook’s lookalike targeting functionality provides you with a list of people who share similar characteristics to an audience you’ve created—and it’s cheap. The catch? When used on native-built audiences, the quality isn’t great.

“Facebook makes you purchase based on country population size, so if you target one percent of the United States population, that’s roughly three million people,” Hanson says. “Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of waste there.”

Because ZoomInfo’s targeting capabilities are so strong, the lookalike audience match rates are much higher at the same low price.  

Tip: Base your lookalike audiences on ZoomInfo lists and reap the cost savings of lookalikes without sacrificing quality.

STEP 3: Run more campaigns—and add intent

In addition to these three campaigns, we run up to six more campaigns simultaneously to increase lead volume. Here are some examples: 

Native targeting: We define and create our audience within the platform we’re using, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. 

Pixel-based retargeting: We use pixel-based retargeting to re-engage those who recently visited our website, but bounced off before converting. 

Salesforce targeting: We use Salesforce lists to target people in specific stages of the sales funnel. 

For each campaign, we’ll run an additional campaign with intent layered in to target only those with the most buying potential. 

So, how exactly do we layer in intent? Using ZoomInfo’s platform, we search for companies that have recently consumed content on a specific topic (like B2B contact information) and opt-in to receive recommended contacts for key decision-makers at those companies. Then we export that list of contacts to the social platform we’re advertising on and kick off the campaign. 

STEP 4: Spend efficiently 

We serve the same ad to each audience, keeping creative assets, copy, and our offer the same. The key differentiator is who gets the ad. So you may be wondering: How do we run so many versions of the same campaign simultaneously without overspending? Here’s our process:

Our demand gen wizard Hanson starts by allocating the same amount of money to each campaign—and undercuts the social platform’s lowest recommended budget by about 25 percent. For example, if LinkedIn recommends bidding between $4 and $10 on cost-per-click, we may bid $3. 

However, we bid more on audiences with intent because they have higher conversion rates and are more likely to be in-market to buy. 

“If you’re seeing a 25 percent lift in conversion rates for audiences with intent compared to audiences without intent, don’t be afraid to increase your bid—it’ll pay off,” he says.

Though we lowball the cost-per-click, we don’t worry about a lack of lead volume. Why? Because we have multiple versions of the campaign running to make up for it.

Tip: Undercut the lowest budget that a social platform recommends spending by about 25 percent. This way, you won’t use up your daily budget, and you’ll keep cost-per-click consistently low.

“Because we’re bringing our cost-per-lead down so much, we’re also decreasing cost-per-MQL, cost-per-demo, cost-per-opportunity, and we’re set up for high ROI because we’re paying as little as possible right out of the gate,” Hanson says.

STEP 5: Track results 

Hanson runs every campaign for about a month before he makes any adjustments or turns any campaigns off. The reason? It’s important to give it time to fully mature before making changes. 

We monitor cost-per-click, lead-to-MQL conversion rate, cost-per-MQL, MQL-to-demo conversion rate, and ROI throughout each campaign. The lower the cost-per-click, and the higher the ROI—the better.

Cost-per-click (CPC): Indicates how much money to bid for an ad click (aka a chance to convert a lead). Typically, the lower, the better. If managed well, CPC is an early indicator of other success metrics.

Lead-to-marketing-qualified-lead (MQL): Shows the quality of leads the campaign brings in. A 100% lead-to-MQL rate means all leads are marketing qualified. This is zero-waste utopia, but a rate of 80% and above is good.

Cost-per-marketing-qualified-lead (CPMQL): Combines spend and lead quality. This tells you how efficient the campaign is, and helps determine if you’re paying too much per qualified lead in a campaign. 

Marketing qualified lead (MQL) to demo: Tells you how many MQLs are sales qualified. A high MQL to demo rate is essential to set you up for positive ROI.

Return on investment (ROI): The most important indicator of a successful campaign. This tells you the probability of profiting from your investment. 

When we leverage ZoomInfo’s targeting capabilities, we see up to a 20 percent relative lift in lead-to-MQL conversion rates compared to native targeting. When we layer intent on top, we can see a 25 percent relative lift in MQL-to-demo rates. 

Using this methodology, we achieve a near zero-waste approach to paid social advertising by:

  • Running multiple versions of the same campaign with varying audience segments simultaneously
  • Undercutting the bid on each campaign by about 25 percent (except for intent audiences)
  • Monitoring performance to adjust budget when necessary

And it works!

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