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The Ultimate Guide to B2B Display Ads

By: Ed Carr

Display advertising in the B2B landscape is more than just a visual spectacle; it is a strategic tactic that, when implemented well, can deliver results. With display ads, you can grab the attention of decision-makers, solidify your brand’s top-of-mind presence, and significantly trim the complexities of B2B sales cycles. But what makes display ads stand out in a sea of digital marketing strategies, and how do you create compelling ads that bridge the gap between your brand and an increasingly discerning audience?

Let’s dive deep into display ads for B2B marketing, discover what they are, how you can use them, and ways to ensure maximum impact.

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What Are Display Ads?

Display ads are a dynamic form of digital marketing, relying on captivating visuals, including images and videos, to engage and entice audiences. Their visual appeal sets them apart, making it easier to convey messages and leave a lasting impact. These ads aren’t limited to passive content; they can include interactive elements like clickable buttons, forms, quizzes, and animations, allowing real-time audience engagement and actions within the ad. Display ads offer extensive reach across various online platforms, including websites, social media, mobile apps, and email, enabling businesses to connect with diverse audiences and adapt to multiple needs, from e-commerce to B2B services.

Display Ads vs. Other Ad Types

Display ads, as opposed to search ads and social media advertising, offer a distinctive approach to digital marketing. Search ads are text-based and cater to users with specific search queries on platforms like Google, capitalizing on immediate purchase intent. In contrast, display ads aim to cultivate interest and brand recognition over time. Social media advertising, designed for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, seamlessly integrates into users’ social feeds and stories. Unlike display ads, social media ads are tailored for specific platforms, with precise targeting options based on user interests, demographics, and behaviors, fostering direct social connections and engagement.

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Why Do Display Ads Work So Well for B2B

Display ads are a vital tool for B2B marketers, offering a strategic way to engage decision-makers and establish brand credibility. Let’s dive into the unique strengths of display advertising in the B2B landscape.

Capturing Decision-Maker Awareness

In the complex B2B landscape, purchase decisions involve multiple stakeholders with distinct concerns. Display ads effectively target decision-makers through tailored messaging that addresses their needs. This precision in messaging ensures that the right information reaches the right person at the right time, making display ads a powerful tool for capturing awareness and influencing choices where it matters most.

Branding and Top-of-Mind Awareness

In B2B, trust and brand recognition are pivotal. Display ads are a valuable tool for reinforcing your brand’s identity, ensuring it stays top-of-mind for your audience. This continual visual presence makes your brand the first choice when decision-makers are ready to buy. And consistency in branding through display ads cultivates familiarity, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.

Builds Credibility and Trust

Display ads build credibility and trust when strategically placed in reputable online environments. Being featured on industry-specific websites, respected publications, or alongside thought leadership content can inspire confidence in your brand by association. Trust is a cornerstone of B2B relationships, and it’s not just about the ad’s content but also where and how your audience encounters them. This trust-building aspect of display ads pays long-term dividends by establishing your brand as a reliable and knowledgeable industry source.

Helps Reduce Long Sales Cycles

B2B sales cycles are often long and intricate, but display ads are crucial in shortening these cycles. They offer a consistent brand presence throughout the B2B buyer’s journey, keeping potential customers engaged and nudging them toward conversion. Even if immediate purchase decisions aren’t made, maintaining this presence ensures your brand remains in consideration, significantly impacting enterprise-level deals that may span months or even years.

How to Improve Your Display Ads

Enhancing your B2B display ads is essential for campaign success. It’s not just about visuals; you need to know your audience, hone your ads, and continuously improve.

Focus on A/B Testing

A/B testing, or split testing, is crucial for optimizing display ads. It involves comparing two versions of an ad to determine which performs better. When conducting A/B tests, change one element at a time, like headlines or CTA buttons, to identify performance drivers. Clearly define objectives before testing, whether improving CTR, conversions, or engagement. Analyze test results and continuously make data-driven improvements for ongoing success.

Segment Your Audiences

Audience segmentation is essential in tailoring your marketing efforts. Begin by defining specific audience segments, considering industry, job role, company size, and location. Crafting ad content that addresses each segment’s needs and pain points through personalization enhances engagement. Regularly monitor the performance of your segmented campaigns to identify the most responsive segments and refine your targeting accordingly.

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Create Engaging Messaging and CTAs

Compelling ad copy and clear and persuasive calls to action (CTAs) are essential. Understand your audience’s needs, objections, and goals. Address these directly in your messaging, emphasizing your product or service’s benefits. Keep CTAs concise and action-oriented, using phrases like “Get Started,” “Learn More,” or “Get More Info” to prompt user action. A/B testing can help refine CTAs by identifying which versions resonate best with your audience.

Keep Your Branding Consistent

Brand consistency is vital for building trust and recognition. Use brand guidelines to ensure that your ad design, color schemes, fonts, and tone of voice align with your brand. Your logo and other visual elements should be used consistently across all ads to boost brand recognition. You should also ensure that your ads’ messaging aligns with your overall brand message. A consistent narrative reinforces your brand image.

Use More Visuals and Media Elements

Visual content is at the heart of display advertising. Utilizing a variety of media elements can help engage your audience effectively. Use high-quality images and graphics that are relevant to your message. These visuals should capture attention and convey your brand’s personality. Incorporating interactive elements like quizzes, calculators, or polls can boost engagement and encourage interaction with your ads.

Focus on Geotargeting and Localization

Geotargeting allows you to target users based on their location. This can be especially powerful for B2B display ads. Understand local needs by researching your target audience’s specific pain points or preferences in different regions. Tailor your ad content to address these local considerations. If your audience spans different countries or regions, consider using language and cultural nuances that resonate with each audience. Adjust ad schedules to align with time zones and work hours that may vary by location.

Use Optimized Landing Pages

Your landing pages are critical in converting ad clicks into meaningful actions. Ensure your landing page content aligns with the ad that led users there. Maintain a consistent message and visual style. The landing page should have a clear and matching call to action. You should also make it easy for users to take the next step and ensure your page is loading fast. Slow pages can deter users from staying and taking action. With the increasing use of mobile devices, it’s also good to ensure your landing pages are mobile-friendly and responsive.

Don’t Ignore Ad Frequency or Timing

The frequency and timing of your ad displays can significantly impact their effectiveness. Monitor how frequently your ads are displayed to the same audience. Ad fatigue can lead to reduced engagement. Consider scheduling your ads to display at specific times or days of the week when your audience is most active or receptive. To maximize impact, plan your ad campaigns around relevant events, holidays, or industry-specific seasons.

Best Platforms for B2B Display Ads

Choosing the right platform for your B2B display ads is crucial to reaching your target audience effectively. Consider the nature of your product or service, target audience, and marketing goals when choosing the right platform for your B2B display ads. Here are some other best platforms for B2B display ads:

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a go-to platform for B2B advertising. It offers precise targeting options based on job titles, industries, and company sizes, making it ideal for reaching business decision-makers.
  • Google Display Network: Google’s vast network of websites and apps allows for extensive reach. It’s excellent for both brand awareness and lead generation. And Google’s advanced targeting options can help you reach specific B2B audiences.
  • Facebook: While Facebook is often associated with B2C advertising, it can also be effective for B2B, especially if your product or service has a broad appeal. Facebook allows you to target by job titles, industries, and interests.
  • X (Formerly Twitter): X is a platform where professionals discuss industry trends and news. It’s a great place to share thought leadership content and engage with B2B decision-makers.

Ad Design Best Practices

Creating effective display ads involves several key design elements. To capture your audience’s attention, use high-quality, relevant visuals, maintaining consistency with your brand’s color scheme for recognition. Legible fonts and a clear hierarchy of text enhance readability, while concise, value-driven messaging addresses audience pain points. Use strong and specific CTAs to prompt user action, potentially aided by a sense of urgency. Ensure mobile optimization for broad accessibility and regularly A/B test elements to optimize your ad’s performance.

Most importantly, maintain consistency between your ad visuals and messaging with your landing pages to build trust and encourage user engagement. These design principles, from imagery to typography, collectively play a crucial role in creating compelling display ads that drive user interaction.

How Display Ads Tie in with B2B Buyer Personas

Understanding your B2B buyer personas is vital for tailoring your display ad strategy. Audience segmentation is essential; and buyer personas allow you to segment easily. Different personas may have distinct pain points and interests that your ads should address. It’s equally important to ensure that your ad content aligns with the challenges and goals of your buyer personas. Speak directly to their needs and desires. You can also use the targeting options provided by advertising platforms to reach your buyer personas’ specific demographics and interests.

Measuring Display Ad Success

Measuring the effectiveness of your display ads is essential for optimizing your campaigns. Key metrics include the click-through rate (CTR), which measures the percentage of users who clicked on your ad, and the conversion rate, which tracks how many users who clicked on your ad completed the desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase. Cost per acquisition (CPA) is another critical metric to calculate the cost of acquiring a customer through your display ad campaign. To measure these metrics effectively, you can use tools provided by advertising platforms and third-party analytics tools like Google Analytics.

The Role of Retargeting in B2B Display Ads

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a strategy to re-engage users who have shown interest in your products or services but haven’t converted. Here’s how to incorporate retargeting into your B2B display ad strategy. Start by creating retargeting lists based on user behavior, such as those who visited your product pages but didn’t make a purchase. Ensure that your ad content aligns with the challenges and goals of your buyer personas and peak directly to their needs and desires.

Using Display Ads with Other Marketing Channels

Integrating display ads with other marketing channels is a powerful strategy for a holistic approach to reaching and converting your target audience. To amplify results, align your display ad messaging with other channels, like SEO and organic social media. Ensure consistency in keyword targeting between display ads and organic search, optimize landing pages for both, and promote content through ads to boost link building.

In social media, maintain message alignment, share organic social content through display ads, and use retargeting on social platforms for enhanced brand presence. With email marketing, segment lists based on display ad interactions and personalize email content to re-engage users. In content marketing, align display ad content with your overall strategy and use ads to promote gated content and distribute your marketing assets. This creates a cohesive journey for your audience.

Integrating these channels creates a seamless, multichannel marketing strategy, enhancing user experiences, maintaining brand consistency, and increasing the chances of conversion.

Compliance & Ad Policies to Know

Navigating the regulatory landscape is crucial to avoid legal issues with your display ad campaigns. You should:

  • Understand and comply with data protection laws like GDPR and CCPA, especially when handling user data for targeting and personalization
  • Adhere to advertising standards set by regulatory bodies and platforms to ensure your ads are not misleading or offensive
  • Familiarize yourself with specific industry regulations, such as healthcare and financial services, and tailor your ad content accordingly
  • Avoid infringing on the intellectual property rights of others, such as using copyrighted images or trademarks without permission
  • Follow ethical advertising practices that promote transparency and honesty in your marketing efforts

Examples of Successful B2B Display Ads

Here area few examples of recent successes using display ads:

Sagefrog & Razor Technology

Sagefrog & Razor Technology

Sagefrog incorporated display advertising into our strategy for Razor Technology’s marketing overhaul. By crafting targeted and visually compelling ads, they effectively reached the right audience. These ads played a crucial role in driving a surge in digital traffic and generating a 132% increase in new contacts, including key titles.

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HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform, demonstrated a highly effective B2B display ad campaign. They succeeded by offering educational content through display ads, such as eBooks and webinars, positioning themselves as valuable resources for marketers. HubSpot skillfully segmented its audience and leveraged A/B testing to optimize ad creatives, ensuring they resonated best with their audience.

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Salesforce, a global CRM software leader, executed a standout B2B display ad campaign. They excelled in personalization by tailoring ads to specific industries and businesses, addressing unique pain points and needs. Salesforce effectively incorporated customer success stories to build trust and credibility, and their clear and compelling calls to action (CTA) drove engagement. Maintaining cross-channel consistency reinforced their brand identity.

Trends in B2B Display Advertising

The digital marketing landscape is continually evolving, and keeping pace with emerging trends allows marketers to maximize the effectiveness of their display ad campaigns.


Personalization has been a buzzword in marketing for a while, and it’s now more critical than ever in B2B display advertising. Marketers are leveraging data and technology to deliver personalized content and ad experiences to their target audience. This involves tailoring ad creatives, messages, and landing pages to individual preferences and behaviors.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Account-based marketing (ABM) has gained traction in B2B marketing, and it’s closely tied to B2B display advertising. ABM focuses on targeting specific high-value accounts and decision-makers, and highly customized display ad campaigns are an excellent tool for this.

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AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are transforming B2B display advertising. These technologies enable marketers to analyze vast amounts of data, optimize ad targeting, and predict which ads will perform best. Ad platforms increasingly use AI to automate bid management, audience targeting, and ad creative optimization.

Native Advertising

Native advertising seamlessly integrates into the content of a website or platform, making it less intrusive and more engaging. B2B marketers are using native display ads to provide valuable content that aligns with the platform’s format and offers a more organic user experience.

Video Content

Video content is becoming more prevalent in B2B display advertising. Video ads can convey complex information in a visually engaging manner. Many B2B marketers are leveraging video ads to tell compelling stories about their products or services.

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of digital ads in real-time. It’s gaining popularity in B2B display advertising because of its efficiency and the ability to target audiences precisely. Marketers are using programmatic advertising to reach the right prospects at the right time.

Cross-Device Targeting

B2B decision-makers use multiple devices throughout their research and buying process. Cross-device targeting ensures that your display ads reach your target audience, whether on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. This trend allows for more comprehensive and consistent ad exposure.

Sustainability and Ethical Advertising

As corporate social responsibility gains importance, B2B advertisers are focusing on ethical and sustainable advertising practices. Display ad campaigns increasingly highlight a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes, which can resonate well with B2B buyers who value sustainability.

In-App Advertising

With the rise in mobile app usage, B2B advertisers are exploring in-app display advertising as an effective way to reach professionals where they spend a significant amount of their digital time.

Interactive Ads

Interactive display ads encourage engagement and user interaction. These ads allow users to explore a product, complete a quiz, or interact with the ad in some way, providing a more engaging and immersive experience.

Responsive Display Ads

Responsive display ads are pivotal in B2B marketing, providing adaptability across various devices, including desktops, smartphones, and tablets. This adaptability ensures your content looks and functions optimally on any screen, improving user experience and engagement. It simplifies ad management, allowing for a single ad that adapts to different devices, thus reaching a wider audience and increasing cost-efficiency. Additionally, responsive ads offer valuable data-driven optimization tools, enabling marketers to enhance their campaigns continually. In the ever-changing digital landscape, responsive display ads are essential for engaging, converting, and retaining the target B2B audience.

Incorporating responsive ads into your B2B marketing strategy is a forward-thinking move. It ensures you stay relevant and cost-effective and provides a seamless and user-friendly experience for your prospects, resulting in increased engagement and more successful B2B marketing endeavors.

Closing Thoughts on Display Ads in B2B Marketing

B2B display ads have become a pivotal tool in the marketer’s arsenal, offering numerous advantages that can’t be ignored. They capture attention and contribute significantly to brand building, trust formation, and an overall search engine marketing campaign. They can seamlessly integrate with other marketing channels and play a vital role in reducing long sales cycles.

Display ads effectively reach your target audience, engage with them, and drive conversions. They can propel your B2B marketing efforts to new heights when used strategically.

In other words, the potential of display advertising in B2B marketing is limitless, and the rewards are substantial.

Ready to Leap Ahead?

At Sagefrog, we understand that achieving B2B marketing success is an ever-evolving journey. That’s why we’re here to help you harness the full potential of display ads and seamlessly integrate them into your marketing arsenal. We’re display ad experts, and we’re ready to take your campaigns to the next level.

It’s time to make your mark in the B2B landscape. Let’s work together to create display ad campaigns that captivate decision-makers, boost brand awareness, reduce those long sales cycles, drive results, leave a lasting impact, and propel your brand to new heights.

Contact Sagefrog today and discover the endless possibilities of B2B display advertising.

Leap Ahead