Spendesk’s Tim Whitehead on crafting your ad strategy around the customer journey

A strong ad strategy supported with videos and engaging content that speak directly to your customers is now more important than ever. To dive into the topic more, we caught up with Spendesk’s Head of Performance Marketing, Tim Whitehead.

A strong ad strategy supported with videos and engaging content that speak directly to your customers is now more important than ever for your company’s success, but the old ways of creating and distributing ads are broken.

Today, we’re more connected to people than ever. So delivering value upfront and nurturing relationships with your audience are must-dos if you want to stand out. 

Not only does a personalized approach help businesses meet rising customer expectations, but it’s also a distinct competitive advantage.

To dive into the topic more, we caught up with Spendesk’s Head of Performance Marketing, Tim Whitehead, to talk about the power of content, why you need to embrace algorithms, and the state of digital advertising right now.

Hey Tim, first I’d like to learn a little bit more about you and your role at Spendesk?

Tim: I am the Head of Performance Marketing at Spendesk, the company spending solution for today’s businesses taking on old-fashioned corporate cards and expense management. My team is made up of four rockstar inbound marketers responsible for demand generation across Europe and the UK.

We run paid and organic campaigns across the funnel, and work closely with our Ops and Sales teams to hit our marketing acquisition targets meaning leads, pipeline, and revenue.

What are the strategies and best-practices you bank on to scale your ad strategy?

Tim: Right now Spendesk is scaling fast. A key focus for 2021 is expanding our core paid channels to drive predictable revenue growth at an efficient cost of acquisition. SEM is most effective at capturing high-intent leads who are ready to buy.

Paid social is working well for us to build and engage audiences at the top of the funnel, and we’re also seeing strong results with partnerships and review sites. 

On the organic side, content is still queen. We’ll continue to invest in creating relevant, high-value content in English, French, and German across different channels. The best example of this is CFO Connect, a global community for finance leaders by Spendesk, offering thought leadership, virtual events and a Slack group as well as our new podcast CFO Yeah!

What’s your take on digital advertising right now? How do you find that sweet spot to create ads that connect with your audience?

Tim: I’m seeing three clear trends in B2B ads. First is to deliver value up front. The days of gated ebook downloads straight to a cold sales call are fading fast. Engaging your audience with ungated, relevant content that solves a problem, educates or informs will be better for your brand in the long run than a €50 email address.

Of course, it’s more difficult to measure the impact of these kinds of programs compared to traditional lead gen. But how many low value leads actually convert to revenue? Ask yourself how your customers actually want to engage with your product or service.

Second is to put your customers at the heart of your ad strategy. Show prospects exactly how real people benefit from your product. Even better, tell them using your customers’ own words.

In my experience, video is the most effective format to do this. One video can be repurposed into almost unlimited formats and messages which is great for efficiency. Ad platforms also tend to reward video content, making it one of the most cost-effective ways to reach your audience.

“Put your customers at the heart of your ad strategy. Show prospects exactly how real people benefit from your product.

Tim Whitehead, Head of Performance Marketing at Spendesk

Third is to embrace the algorithms. If you can feed Google and Facebook with enough first-party data on your highest value conversions and audiences, they are incredibly effective at finding similar audiences who are most likely to convert.

The flip side is to benefit from this fully you need to be moving towards more automated bidding strategies. This might be a bit of a shift for performance marketers used to keeping full control over their campaigns, in particular on the paid search side.

How does technology come into the picture? Do you have any tips for using tech that helps make your ad strategy easier?

Tim: Technology is the backbone of any successful ads strategy. We use a range of platforms and services to connect data from various platforms and channels and to build a full picture of where a prospect is in the funnel.

We can then serve more relevant and engaging ads to prospects depending on their level of engagement, and track the performance of leads generated from specific ads at each stage of the funnel in all of our key marketing and sales systems.

What are the benefits of automating ad creation in your opinion? Could you share some results you’ve seen that made an impact across your company?

Tim: We’re not automating ad creation at the moment. I can see lots of benefits in terms of testing efficiently at scale. It’s something we will probably look to test in the future.

What are some of your best practices that guide your ad strategy? What steps do you take to make sure ads are present in all markets and they engage your audience directly?

Tim: At Spendesk, we serve businesses across Europe, the UK and the US, which means we’re running ads in multiple markets and languages. We also serve businesses of all shapes and sizes in a wide range of industries, meaning we have to tailor messages based on use cases and industry verticals.

To ensure we’re present in all of our core markets and engaging our different audience directly, we follow three key principles.

First, creative development is centralised to ensure assets can be reused and repurposed for different markets without reinventing the wheel.

Second, campaign themes and messages are tailored based on market specific value propositions and use cases which we identify through data analysis, customer conversations, sales feedback and more.

Third, we follow a strict “test and learn” approach when launching campaigns in new markets to challenge assumptions and identify the most effective course of action.

How do you measure success and understand the real impact of ads at Spendesk?

Tim: Attribution can be particularly challenging in a B2B context, with multiple touch points over the buyer journey, long sales cycles and complex tool stacks. That’s why our data and revenue operations teams have invested a lot of time and resources building robust full-funnel reporting for our paid programmes.

We use Looker to bring together multiple data sources and track the direct impact of our ad spend across the funnel in terms of leads, pipeline, customers won and revenue.

We track performance by channel and campaign, and can go all the way down to the ad group or keyword level. In a SaaS business, it doesn’t just stop at the sale either, so we also track metrics like expansion and churn per channel.

Thank you to Tim for the interview. You can follow Tim on LinkedIn.

Jan 5, 2021
Andreea Serb
Content Strategist at Storyteq
Andreea is a content strategist at Storyteq and is passionate about writing, storytelling, and cross-functional collaboration. When she’s not busy typing away, you will always see her reading a good book.

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