Facebook Ads for B2B SaaS: Creating Advanced Audiences and the 80/20 of Messaging That Works

facebook ads for saas

There is an occasional tendency among B2B SaaS companies to write off Facebook as a viable channel for reaching potential customers. Often, they’ve either tried using Facebook ads that haven’t worked or they’ve opted not to try them at all.

But this tendency stands in contrast to what we see in our day to day work — which is that Facebook ads work for most (if not all) of our B2B SaaS clients in some capacity.

Whether it’s remarketing to prospects who are already in the funnel, or targeting cold prospects, Facebook ads can work for B2B SaaS and we have case studies to prove it.

For example, our client TouchBistro was able to increase leads through Facebook by 200% by using messaging that helped their target audience self-identify with their ads.

Facebook ad example for B2B SaaS by TouchBistro

One of TouchBistro’s successful ads.

So why do so many B2B SaaS businesses experience low conversion rates, high CPA’s, and poor lead quality with Facebook advertising? Or why do they choose not to leverage Facebook at all?

Case #1: Audience Targeting and Ad Messaging Issues

If Facebook ads haven’t worked for you, it might be because your audience is too small or doesn’t use the channel in a way that makes them easily reachable. But it’s also possible you’ve made mistakes with messaging or audience creation that have caused your ads to underperform.

We’ll go over ways to remedy these below.

Case #2: Unwilling to Test Facebook Ads

In our experience, some B2B companies are unwilling to invest in test campaigns without a guarantee that they will work. If you’ve opted not to try advertising on Facebook at all, you might be missing an opportunity to acquire new customers at a cost that’s equal to (or lower than) other platforms.

We recommend running test campaigns to find out if Facebook Ads are viable because the cost is worth it. If Facebook actually can work for you and you don’t use it, you could be leaving money on the table for years to come.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. The key to proper messaging
  2. Leveraging advanced audiences that we’ve found work well for B2B SaaS

Before we dive into messaging and audiences, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk briefly about the low hanging fruit: Facebook ad campaigns for retargeting.

Driving leads with paid social media like Facebook ads is one of the primary services we offer to B2B SaaS companies. Schedule a free SaaS scale session to learn more about how we can help grow your business.

B2B SaaS Facebook Ads for Retargeting

The benefit of retargeting campaigns is that you’re not guessing about who to show your ads to.

Individuals in a retargeted audience have already shown an interest by engaging with you on another channel, so they are mid-funnel in the customer journey. Their conversion rate is likely to be better than a newly-targeted top-of-funnel audience. And Facebook’s ad platform allows you to continually build up and retarget audiences made up of these more qualified prospects.

The way Facebook’s pixel automatically adds individuals to your retargeting audience is what makes these campaigns low hanging fruit. They don’t require the step of creating custom audiences from existing customer and prospect data.

At Powered By Search, we do omnichannel retargeting for all of our paid media clients. Regardless of the channel a prospect enters your funnel, we’ll use pixel data to remarket to them through Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

While LinkedIn or Google will often be the primary lead driver, once leads are identified, there’s no reason not to reach them in the other places where they spend time online.

The moral of the story: Facebook campaigns for retargeting are always worth testing. We recommend adding a Facebook pixel to your website to start creating a retargeting audience.

Now let’s talk messaging.

The Key to Proper Messaging for B2B SaaS Facebook Ads

One of the most important elements of Facebook Ad copy we see B2B companies leave out of their ads is an explicit call-out addressing who the ad is for.

Take this ad for example:

Hypothetical Facebook ad example from B2B SaaS company Restaurant Systems Pro.

This is a hypothetical mock-up of an ad for the purpose of this example.

While the “Who it’s for” is implied through the ad creative and copy, this requires a bit of effort from a Facebook user to recognize whether or not this ad is actually for them. And since we tend to have an allergy to ads and an ability to easily ignore them, when copy doesn’t jump out to a user saying THIS IS FOR YOU, most people will scroll right by.

We see calling out “Who it’s for” as the 80/20 of successful Facebook ads messaging because if you don’t capture someone’s attention with the first line of your ad, they won’t read the rest of it or take action. If you get this right, you’re much more likely to get engagement from right-fit prospects.

We can critique this ad further as well:

  • Using the word “Download” in both the title copy and the CTA is repetitive. It would be better to use the word once in the CTA and rephrase the title.
  • From a copy standpoint, the more personal you can be the better. So we always use “Get YOUR guide,” not OURS or THE.
  • The “Why?” is answered, to cut food costs, but this could be made even more specific.

Now let’s look at an example of the actual ad we ran for Restaurant Systems Pro:

Good example of a Facebook ad for B2B SaaS: Restaurant Owners and Managers! Is your restaurant losing money on food costs?

If you’re a restaurant owner or manager scrolling through your news feed, we’ve just taken all the work out of understanding if this ad is specifically for you.

The first thing you need for your ad to work is attention. Next, you want to connect with your prospect with the “Why?” and compel them to opt in with the “What?”.

For the “Why?” we chose the greatest customer pain point that our client’s product solved: losing money on food costs. This works to signal we understand the challenges they deal with in their work — and further grab their attention.

And then we present them with the “What?” — a free offer to provide them with 10 ways to help solve the greatest problem in their business. By specifically stating it’s a “FREE Guide” about “10 Ways to Lower Food Costs,” the user knows exactly what’s in it for them if they click.

The recipe, then, is:

  1. Call out “Who it’s for” up front to grab attention.
  2. Use a critical pain point to communicate “Why?” they should keep reading.
  3. Make your offer and describe the “What?” specifically.

What you actually choose to offer is the other key part of this equation.

Getting Your Offers Right: How to Meet Your Prospects Where They’re At

Another mistake we see SaaS companies make with their Facebook ads is offering trial offers or demo signups to cold prospects.

Lead generation through Facebook requires a softer approach. You want to give your audience ways to get to know you and the SaaS product you offer before you serve them ads asking for a sale.

We primarily offer resources like case studies, guides, and cheat sheets — content marketing assets that are digestible and have specific utility for target users.

From there, we can nurture leads through email marketing, Facebook Messenger, or retargeting ads (where we’ll eventually make the trial or demo offer).

Now that we’ve covered how to get your ad copy and offers right, we’re ready to discuss the hard part about B2B Facebook ads: creating audiences.

Leveraging Advanced Audiences for B2B SaaS Facebook Ads

Consider these 4 main targeting options on Facebook:

  1. Retargeting to users for whom you have already collected pixel data.
  2. Creating custom audiences based on interests and behaviors.
  3. Creating “lookalike audiences” based on data you have for customers and prospects.
  4. Targeting specific people when you have a list of target accounts (eg. account based marketing).

Like we said above, retargeting to users for whom you already have pixel data is always worth testing because you have the advantage of telling Facebook exactly who to target — people who have already engaged with you in other channels.

Creating custom audiences based on interests and behaviors is tricky with B2B SaaS. If you’re in the eCommerce space or selling to an audience whose business depends on spending a lot of time on Facebook, you’re more likely to be able to succeed with this route.

But many B2B companies will find that trying to create audiences based on the interests and behaviors of your target buyer persona results in reaching only a small percentage of the right people. This is one of the main reasons B2B companies struggle to make Facebook work for them.

Options 3 and 4 are where we find the most success for reaching cold prospects. These are what we’ll discuss below.

Option 3: 1% Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences allow you to upload data like phone numbers and email addresses from your CRM (Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.). Facebook will match this data to individual accounts to create a custom audience of your customers and prospects.

We recommend creating a campaign that targets a 1% lookalike audience based on a custom audience of your customers and prospects. This allows you to show your Facebook ads to people who are similar to them (and thus more likely to convert).

The way we approach 1% lookalike audience campaigns is to create a separate set of audiences for each country our client wants to target users in. Each ad set is made up of 4 tiers (as separate audiences):

  1. Existing customers
  2. Sales qualified leads (SQL’s)
  3. Marketing qualified leads (MQL’s)
  4. Lookalike downloaders (audience created by Facebook based on users who have downloaded a lead magnet from any channel)

Typically, the amount of data points (individuals in a given tier) will increase as you move down to the next tier, while the quality will decrease.

Data quality vs data points for Facebook 1% lookalike audiences.

The 1% lookalike for existing customers will have the lowest number of data points, but the highest quality because they’re based on your actual customers. The 1% lookalike on “lookalike downloaders” will presumably have the highest number of data points, but the lowest quality because they’re furthest away from being real customers.

For each audience, we’ll upload as much data as we have on the group in that tier (state, country, emails, phone numbers, LTV, etc.). The more detail we can provide, the better. 

Note: LTV is by far the most effective detail to include if you have it — our data shows audiences with a defined LTV are more likely to deliver results.

From there, we let Facebook do the work. We’re simply telling the platform, here are the buckets of audiences, go find whoever’s most likely to download a resource or book a demo based off these.

Note: This process does not require placing any emphasis on one audience over another. We’re not using different ads, messaging, or budgeting. We’re setting a budget, setting up our lead magnet campaigns (usually 2 ads running side by side), and letting Facebook do the rest.

By giving Facebook data based on real customers and prospects, you allow the platform to target potential customers much more effectively than when you try to create audiences based on interests and behaviors alone.

Now let’s look at Option 4.

Option 4: Audiences Based on Target Account Lists

In cases where our client has a target account list (like when they’re doing account based marketing), we can use this list to create an additional audience and target these people directly.

Similar to retargeting campaigns, when you have a target account list you get to tell Facebook exactly who to show your ads to.

While this isn’t a substitute for creating lookalike audiences, it’s an additional audience worth testing. The catch with audiences based on target account lists is that you’re at the mercy of the size and quality of your list. The key for these types of audiences to work is that you have a minimum of 10,000 target account contacts.

Any time you have this audience targeting opportunity, you should take it. It gives you the highest level of accuracy and lead quality. Prospects who click through to your landing pages will be much more likely to convert into paying customers.

Conclusion

While it might seem unintuitive to invest in Facebook as a channel to acquire new B2B customers, businesses are made up of people, and people use Facebook.

So even though many people use the platform more for personal life than work, they can still be reached with business-related ads with the right approach.

By utilizing Facebook’s advanced audience features like 1% lookalike audiences, and delivering messaging that takes all the work out of users understanding “Who it’s for,” you can make Facebook work to generate leads for your business.

Driving leads with paid social media like Facebook ads is one of the primary services we offer to B2B SaaS companies. Schedule a free SaaS scale session to learn more about how we can help grow your business.