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B2B Paid Search: How to Advertise in Times of Economic Uncertainty

Lately, clients and co-workers are asking me how B2B tech advertisers are managing their digital marketing budgets when inflation is high and there is economic uncertainty. Many of them are in the process of planning their marketing campaigns for next year and want to hear what others are doing to adapt to the economic changes.

Advertisers are feeling the extra pressure to generate more leads and pipeline next year with flat or lower budgets. With that said, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the changes I am seeing in the B2B search engine marketing (SEM) space.

More Demand, Less Awareness

Given that B2B advertisers are getting additional pressure to generate more leads at a lower cost, advertisers with finite budgets are quickly making decisions and moving budget from awareness channels such as paid social and programmatic to paid search.

While B2B advertisers understand the importance of running campaigns to increase awareness, they are sacrificing awareness to add more budget to demand campaigns and generate incremental leads at an efficient cost per lead (CPL). At the end of the day, the success of their marketing program is measured by the number of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and pipeline they generate.

B2B SEM Advertisers Want to Play Safe

We have clients who love testing and are willing to take risks and we have other clients who are conservative and like to run tests at a very small scale. Lately, we are seeing more clients increase investment on top-performing keywords that drive leads, and they are less patient with tests. They are ending tests sooner if performance is not improving and are cutting budgets for testing new tactics.

B2B advertisers continue to test but are postponing riskier tests to next year. Current focus is enhancing and prioritizing what works to generate leads and finish the year strong.

Maximizing Budgets is Top Priority

Advertisers are trying to find ways to increase efficiency, which has prompted many of them to go into “end-of-year cleaning” mode. We are being aggressive with account hygiene and pausing what is not generating the expected results.

So, What Should B2B Advertisers Do?

Prioritize what works

It makes sense to prioritize the channels that drive results efficiently. When lead generation is the goal, paid search most often gets priority. However, testing shouldn’t be sacrificed as campaigns need to stay fresh to perform and competition is always high. I recommend separating a percentage of budget for testing, even if it is a tiny percentage.

Brand awareness is also important to fill the top of the funnel so demand campaigns can generate more leads. Reduce budgets for awareness channels if needed but try not to go dark. Remain present and top of mind for your audience.

Focus on user engagement

Even though maximizing budget should be a priority, focusing on messaging and engaging users should be a top priority too. Test a different strategy and prioritize the users’ business needs instead of your product and lead gen goals. These are not the times to look desperate. Make sure your audience loves your brand. How can you add more value to them?

Build brand loyalty

Most marketing efforts go into acquiring new users, but what if you focus on nurturing, retaining, and growing your existing customers too? Leverage your first-party data and cross-sell if you can.

Refresh your content

Is your content and messaging up to date? Are you addressing users’ current challenges and business needs? Invest in content as this can give you an advantage over competitors. You won’t move the needle with stale content. Nurture users and position yourself as a thought leader so you can see your MQLs increase next year.


We are living in times of economic uncertainty – let’s rethink our strategies and see this as an opportunity to take care of the customers we have, enhance what is working, and harvest for the future.