Better, non-programmatic ways to go up the B2B funnel


Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a good “I told you so,” but at least a couple of times on this fine domain, I’ve warned against reliance on display and programmatic. 

And if you weren’t convinced earlier, the kerfuffles surrounding TrueView and the programmatic ads directing users to AI-generated properties should at least add a healthy dose of skepticism to your POV on programmatic.

In other words, if you are still investing in programmatic, it’s time to consider other, more controllable alternatives for going upper-funnel and building awareness that you can capture later in search campaigns. 

This article looks at some of my favorite demand-creating channels and outlines steps for testing and incorporating them into your media mix.

Non-search channels for upper-funnel B2B engagement


To hopefully nobody’s surprise, my first choice here is LinkedIn simply because of the quality of its audiences and targeting. 

I don’t have enough data yet on tests with LinkedIn’s new thought leader ads, but they’re worth testing – especially since there are rumblings about organic reach trending down. 

Right-side ads are cheap placements; I’ve frequently enjoyed low enough CPMs to include them as supplements to broader campaigns. 

If you have a POV worth sharing – that is, well articulated and differentiated – test formats like carousel and video ads to see which prove most effective in engaging your ideal customer profile (ICP).


Facebook and Instagram are always worth testing because of their scale and format options.

Since your audiences will be fairly broad, tailor your messaging and creative appeal to the specific needs and challenges of your ICP to help filter out others who don’t fit. 

Note: Advantage+ has potential in the right circumstance, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it for B2B because you can only track online conversions.

You can only do so much to teach the algorithm about quality (which is to say you can upload offline conversion tracking, but you can’t optimize for your down-funnel audience segments like SQLs and opportunities just yet).


This is a much smaller platform than the other two, but SaaS businesses can find high-quality pockets of users at lower engagement costs. 

If you can dial into the edgy Reddit ethos and voice, you can potentially engage with people who wouldn’t be inclined to engage in ads otherwise. 


I don’t even understand what’s happening with X, so I advise watching Threads for monetization options as they roll out.


SEO, organic social, and effective content are all initiatives outside of paid media that will help go up the funnel.

Dig deeper: Building top-funnel content to influence bottom-funnel pages (with real example)

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There are plenty of ways to answer this question from an attribution and budgeting standpoint involving GA4 and/or third-party martech tools. 

But if you want to get going now, lock down the following:

  • If your goal is direct response or building awareness to build a pool for remarketing, test various messages and types of content with organic social and limited paid budgets to see what resonates. Focus on high-value content, insights, and data points that will stand out to your audience.
  • Think about audience options, what variable(s) you’ll isolate for testing and in what order.
  • Make sure you understand where you’ll carve out a testing budget, and be prepared to explain any related volume fluctuation to your client or execs if they ask. Setting expectations ahead of time is crucial.
  • Align creative based on your audiences and landing page experience.
  • Identify the KPIs for lower-funnel (e.g., demand capture) campaigns that you’ll monitor to gauge the impact of your demand creation.

Dig deeper: How to use always-on marketing in paid search

Other considerations for the upper funnel

Ultimately, your goal for these campaigns should be to drive efficient revenue (or at least revenue if you’re in big-time growth mode). 

Remember that upper-funnel campaigns will be most effective in helping you build brand and product awareness and demand. 

This doesn’t just apply to businesses creating new markets or big innovations. 

The reality is that most users looking at non-brand terms are already in-market, so the room for growth with those users is in making them aware of your brand and product.

Suppose your near-term goal of upper-funnel campaigns is to build remarketing pools. 

In that case, I recommend starting by driving people to your highest-value content and following up with supporting data and proof points about how your product can help them (case studies of work with similar companies are good here). 

Monitor your impression share of related brand and non-brand queries on Google, and make sure you’ve got enough coverage to support your upper-funnel efforts.

Non-programmatic channels for B2B upper-funnel success

If you still believe that programmatic can deliver efficient results for your campaigns beyond the usual remarketing ads, aiming to bring back visitors to a recently viewed product, I’ll reluctantly admit that it can work, but only in specific situations.

It needs to be in the right context, be highly relevant, and feature a compelling offer – and that really only applies to ecommerce.

Otherwise, remember the last time you were consuming content and were happy to be interrupted by an ad. Whether on mobile or desktop, programmatic ads are usually frustrating and won’t reflect positively on your brand. 

Rather than take your chances and hope some fun creative will do the trick, spend your time and money exploring other channels with more controls and better context. 

Dig deeper: 4 B2B paid media strategies to stay ahead of the curve

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.



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