According to 2017 research from the Content Marketing Institute 2017 research from the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers use an average of three methods of paid content promotion

But only between 24%-54% of marketers see value from their investment.

If you use paid advertising, then you know how much effort goes into selecting advertisers, writing copy, and testing your ads.

How can you improve your ads’ performance and get more of your ideal customers to view your content? 

I recently analyzed the copy from 135 white paper paid ads and compared the top and low performers to discover what works and what fails. 

Here are my findings:

1. Know your audience

One of the biggest factors impacting your ads’ success is how well your audience relates to your content. If your audience feels that you understand their needs and can help them, they will be more likely to respond to your calls to action. If your content isn’t relevant, they will tune your messages out.

Top performing ads had headlines that appeal to your publication’s audience. While this may seem like a no-brainer, you would be surprised by the number of ads that weren’t relevant to the target audience.

You don’t need to mention your audience by name in your ad’s headline, but you must make it clear that your content will help them solve one of their top challenges. Ads that directly mentioned the audience in the body copy tended to get more clicks. 

Some of the lowest-performing white paper ads also called out the audience directly. However, their subjects appeared either too broad or too niche for the readership. 

You must get clear on your audience so that you can pick the right lists or platforms for your ads. Here are some questions you can ask:

2. Have one clear offer

The strength of your calls to action directly impacts your conversions.

However, many B2B marketers treat the call to action like an afterthought. They may devote hours – or even days – to developing a piece of content only to spend a few minutes writing its call to action.

The lowest performing ads that I analyzed had confusing calls to action. Many contained too much information yet failed to tie the benefits of clicking to the audience’s roles. 

Top-performing ads clearly described what the reader would get when they clicked the link. They contained a big promise that related to a challenge that the publication’s readers desperately want to overcome. 

Understand your audience’s challenges and desires before you write a white paper and create an ad for it. 

images of various buttons with vague CTAs and megaphone in background

3. Avoid industry jargon and acronyms

The ads that included jargon and acronyms performed poorly and didn’t resonate with readers.

Communicating with jargon is understandable. Since you are immersed in your field on a daily basis, it may only seem natural that others should speak your language.

However, using jargon in your paid ads can make readers’ eyes glaze over. If your message gets lost under layers of complex technical talk, your prospects will look elsewhere for answers to their problems.

Use jargon only if you are 100% confident that the publication’s audience knows your subject and will understand the terms.

When in doubt, leave the jargon out.

4. Avoid the term “white paper”

A well-written white paper can create a powerful argument for your product or service.

But the term “white paper” is often associated with sales and can be seen as boring.

Terms such as “research,” “guide,” “template,” “checklist,” and “report,” got more clicks than “white paper.” People respond to resources that they can use to take immediate action and are more likely to trade their email addresses for them.

5. Use attention-grabbing copy

A few small changes to your ad copy can lead to big increases in your conversions.

Top-performing ads: 

Bottom performing ads:

6. Beware of typos and grammar mistakes

I found typos and grammar errors in many low-performing ads. Mistakes can cause confusion and erode reader trust.

The BBC reported on an e-commerce company that doubled its online revenue after fixing a typo on its website. According to the story, typos may cost companies millions of dollars a year, as customers will question your credibility if they find errors in your copy.

7. Use numbers in your headline

Eye tracking studies have shown that the eye is drawn to numbers. Use an odd number or a multiple of 10 in your headline, as they get more clicks than even numbers.   

Many top-performing ads included the year in the title. Showing that your content is current will help you engage people who need to keep up with best practices and stay ahead of their competitors. 

Next Steps 

1. Read 41 Fantastic Places to Promote Your B2B White Papers.

2. Click to share this article on LinkedIn. Sharing quality content increases your visibility and credibility with your existing contacts, creating conversations and potentially new business.

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