Using Paid Ads For B2B Demand Generation – Doing It The Counterintuitive Way

Paid ads for b2b

This article was originally published in the Elevate Your Marketing newsletter and has been repurposed and republished here with the author’s permission. Here is the link to the original article. 

Setting the context

Paid ads are a territory we have not explored in this newsletter yet. It is mostly because there is a ton of content out there on how to manage and optimize your ads for better results.

But today, we intend to share a different perspective on the topic with you. A view that at least some will see as unconventional, counterintuitive, and unusual – using paid advertisements to generate demand for your business.

Hence, this blog is going to be a little ‘adventurous’. So let’s get ready. We have a lot to cover.

Note: My article on how to create a demand gen engine is a good precursor and addition to this piece. So I would recommend you check it out. The link is given below:

A Step By Step Guide To Creating A Demand Gen Engine For B2B Businesses

Paid ads for generating demand? Really?

Yes, I mean it.

Traditionally, paid and PPC (Pay Per Click) ads have been used for capturing demand where marketers and growth professionals look for some quick wins. This usually involves capturing prospects who are in the market to buy your products and services. In the B2B world, Google ads (and to some extent Facebook ads) have thrived on this idea for a decade now.

For instance, think about someone who is looking for machine learning monitoring solutions. As one of the steps, the buyer might search on Google to find information about the leading providers of machine learning monitoring solutions. If there are companies bidding for relevant keywords related to the domain in Google ads, it is very likely that the first few results on SERP are sponsored ones.

In this case, the expectation of most marketers is that the buyer clicks on the ad and immediately converts into a lead.

While an immediate conversion could very much happen from an ad (depending on the intent of the user and the stage at which he/she is in the buying journey), a vast majority of interactions do not end up like this. They either act as a tool for creating awareness or as one of the many touchpoints in the buyer journey.

And this is the main reason why you need to look at paid ads as a demand generation channel as well, and not just a demand capture engine.

In addition to the above, given below are the other reasons I believe any paid ad platform can be used as a demand generation tool:

  • Almost every user needs a ‘warm-up’ before he/she buys your solution (unless they are already familiar with your business and what it can offer). While techniques like content marketing, SEO, and video marketing are scalable ways of doing it, they take time. Using ads here to generate top-of-the-mind awareness is a way to overcome this challenge.
  • Adding to the above point, taking a buyer through different stages of the funnel requires multiple layers of touchpoints (remember the multi-dimensional B2B marketing funnel?). This can be done in a very pointed manner with ads using retargeting. Retargeting allows you to target users based on their past actions across different time intervals (also called windows). Examples of such actions include website visits, video views, ad impressions, etc.
  • Ads help you target the users you want rather than doing a spray and pray. As I mentioned before, content marketing is scalable. But it’s tough to target a very select persona using it (I mean you can do that to some extent using SEO, but the % of relevant visits you get is usually not that high. Also, it takes time). Whether it’s Google ads, LinkedIn ads, or Facebook ads. you can use different parameters such as keywords, firmographic criteria, demographic characteristics, interest groups, etc., to do pointed targeting.

We will talk more about the methodology and framework to do demand gen using ads – the right way – in the next section. But here, I wanted to lay the foundation by proving that paid ads can definitely be used for B2B demand generation.

A framework for using paid ads for demand gen

Before we even look at the framework, we all need to understand that using ads for generating demand for your business requires a shift in mindset first. If you look at ads purely as a method to quickly generate some leads, you got some work to do in terms of your approach towards paid marketing and demand gen.

The whole premise of this new perspective is that it’s worth spending money on ads to generate demand which can later be leveraged to create a solid pipeline for your business.

With that in mind, here is the framework you can use to design your paid ads campaigns in a way that supports your demand gen goals:

paid ads for demand gen
Paid ads for demand generation – framework

At the outset, the framework might look simple. But let us get to the specifics of it to make it more relevant and relatable from a practical standpoint.

1. Define your target audience

This is fairly simple. Here, I am referring to creating a general criteria for your target audience. You can do this along the following parameters:

  • Firmographic criteria such as region, revenue, industry, number of employees, funding details, etc.
  • Demographic characteristics such as job title, function, interests, recent job switches, age, gender, etc.

2. Finalize ad channels

This might be a little deeper than you think. It’s not about picking 1 or 2 channels from popular ad platforms such as Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You need to go one level further and look for additional channels you can advertise on.

Ask yourself the following questions to find those channels:

  • Does my TG (Target Group) listen to podcasts?
  • What are the media companies and magazines (both online and offline) that have an active audience in my niche?
  • What about their favorite YouTube channels?

You can use a tool like SparkToro to find this information.

The next question is – what do you do with this information?

Unlike using the ad interface of Google, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., tapping into the above channels requires a different approach. For instance, if you need a YouTube creator to endorse your product or service, you need to get in touch with him or her individually. The same is the case with podcast advertisements. To complement your results from SparkToro, you can also try using a tool like Upfluence to find influencers in your space.

The idea here is not to ignore popular ad platforms, but rather add newer ways of reaching your target audience through innovative ways of advertising.

3. Design the strategy for each channel

This is where the channel-wise optimization tactics and techniques come in. For example, Google search ads involve defining the following:

  • Campaign type
  • Keywords
  • Budget
  • Headlines
  • Descriptions
  • Callouts
  • Sitelinks
  • Landing page
  • Structured snippets
  • UTM tracking

There is more to Google ads than the above. But you get the point here. Depending on the platform you are using, you optimize various elements such as targeting, messaging & copy, tracking methodology, etc., to make sure you get the best out of your advertising efforts.

The only thing to keep in mind here is that your objective is to generate demand, and not leads. You are aiming to create a top-of-the-funnel demand layer for your business. Hence, your tactics for each ad platform have to be designed accordingly.

For instance, in Google search ads, you need to stay away from using transactional keywords (more about types of keywords here). Similarly, for every platform or ad type, make sure your copy and creative are not focused on immediate conversion (unless it’s a retargeting ad).

4. Determine the KPIs for each ad or channel

The KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your ads and channels should help you to measure how much demand you have been able to generate. However, this doesn’t mean that you measure the top-of-the-funnel metrics alone. You also need to figure out how this demand resulted in bottom-of-the-funnel outcomes.

Let us take the example of LinkedIn ads here. The different types of on-platform metrics you would measure are:

metrics for linkedin ads

On- platform metrics you should measure for Linkedin Ads

  • Impressions
  • Clicks/CTR
  • Ad spend
  • Website demographics
  • Account statistics
  • Conversions

In a similar fashion, define the metrics you would like to measure for each channel or ad type. You also need to extend the measurement beyond the native platform to whatever attribution tool you are using (say Google Analytics) to ensure your demand gen goals are met (we will discuss measuring success again in one of the upcoming steps in the framework).

Also read:

10 metrics to measure B2B brand awareness and reach

Metrics you should measure to assess the effectiveness of your B2B marketing efforts

5. Define a retargeting routine

Retargeting is nothing but the exercise of targeting a segment of people who have already taken an action on your ad or content. It could be an impression, click, or even a video view.

Let us look at how this works for LinkedIn.

At a 10000 feet level, you need to essentially decide 4 things when it comes to running a retargeting ad:

  • The retargeting criteria/segment of the audience you wish to retarget.
  • The ad type you choose to do the retargeting.
  • The asset you promote (case study, customer story, your USPs, etc.).
  • The period for which you will run the retargeting campaign.

The objective of this step is to define the retargeting layer in a way that continues to generate demand for your solutions, or directly convert the demand you generated in the cold or top-of-the-funnel ad layer.

6. Build supporting content

This is nothing but creating the asset you are planning to use for the ad. Examples include:

  • Landing page
  • Video
  • Carousel
  • Banner
  • Whitepaper
  • Case study
  • Ebook

Again, remember that your primary objective is to attract some eyeballs to your business, and not force them or trick them into buying. Think about giving value first before you ask for it.

7. Create ad content

This is quite straightforward. The ad content you need to create will completely depend on the ad platform, your target audience, and the ad type. But broadly speaking, there are two things you need to work on here:

  1. The text content: the ad copy (headlines, descriptions)
  2. The creative: banners, carousels. videos, etc.

When it comes to ad content, here are some best practices to make sure that you stay focused on demand generation:

  • Assume your user doesn’t know your business. This will help you approach the content from a point of view of introducing what you offer than trying to sell what you have.
  • Avoid using transactional and forceful copy.
  • Always give something of value to the user in the form of expert tips, playbooks, best practices, etc., before you ask for something in return.

8. Measure success

This relates back to step #4 – the KPIs you defined for each ad channel. You need to have the right measurement systems in place to evaluate the success of your paid ads from a demand gen standpoint. This requires a two-pronged approach:

  1. Measure metrics at a campaign or platform level.
  2. Measure relevant metrics such as pipeline, revenue, increase in brand awareness, etc., at the organizational level.

The former is about measuring on-platform metrics while the latter is about understanding how the demand has led to real business outcomes.

9. Finetuning

Irrespective of your objective of running ads, you need to keep fine-tuning target criteria. ad copy, supporting content, budget, choice of channels, etc. Advertising is an exercise that requires continuous experimentation and optimization. So be sure to make the necessary changes as you progress.

The act of trial and error shouldn’t stop with one cycle. You need to keep doing it as long as the ad engine is running. That’s what great marketers do, isn’t it?


I know that we covered a lot in this blog – a framework for using paid ads for demand gen, different ad optimization techniques, targeting criteria, metrics, and much more. Rather than getting into the very details of managing and optimizing ads on various platforms, my objective was to set a process for leveraging paid ads to attract people who are currently not ready (or warmed up enough) to buy your solutions. I also wanted to discuss a whole new perspective on using paid ads in our marketing efforts.

In addition, my point here is not that you ignore conversion-based ads completely. What you need to do instead is to find a balance between the two approaches.

Hope this blog served these purposes and was a useful read for you all.

Skalegrow – B2B email marketing services

With marketing getting tougher and tougher, every wrong foot you make might hamper your growth. What you need is the right guidance and a helping hand. This is where Skalegrow can make a sea of difference.

Skalegrow helps IT, tech, SaaS, and embedded systems companies leverage new-age marketing tactics to grow their business. Check out the below intro video to learn more about what Skalegrow brings to the table:

Email marketing is one of our focus areas. We are already helping some of our clients generate leads and improve brand awareness using innovative email marketing techniques. Visit our email marketing services page to learn more about how we can help. You could also write to us at


About the author

Naseef KPO

Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.

Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.

You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.