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How to reach B2B audiences online? That’s the question.


It *is* indeed the question – most often focus of B2B digital marketing is on lead generation and marketing automation. Much less has been written about targeting.

Yet, B2B targeting is far from having been solved. The typical conversation between decision makers and agencies goes something like this.

Client: “All this online advertising is great – but I don’t want to reach regular people on Facebook. How can I reach managers who are interested in buying my products?”

So far the agency’s answer has been something like: “Well Sir, even the managers are using Facebook!”

Which, although true, remains as a quite shallow answer to a serious concern. Especially because the chance of finding the managers is in proportion to their prevalence in the general Facebook audience – that is, very tiny. Unless we solve the problem of targeting.

Solving the B2B targeting problem

Now, I’ve been interested in this question for a while. So far, I can see four tactics for reaching B2B audiences with digital marketing:

  1. Keyword targeting
  2. Manual display placements
  3. Advanced targeting criteria
  4. Audience looping process

Let’s explore each of these.

First, obviously we can opt for intent-based search marketing. When there is search volume, search advertising tends to outperform other digital marketing channels in terms of cost-efficiency. That’s because people are actively seeking for the products and services that show in the ads. However, the problem is that the industrial search volumes tend to be small in many verticals, leaving the impact on revenue very minimal. As such, the B2B marketer needs to look elsewhere to increase the number of leads.

Second, to get extra traffic we can go and buy media from known business press (e.g., Forbes, Wall Street Journal; you get the picture). The downsides of this approach are at least three:

a) CPM prices are often high in these venues, resulting typically in poor ROI – this is partly because the way ad space is priced relies on archaic methods, such as selling impressions, instead of modern approaches like click auctions

b) display advertising generally suffers from multiple problems, including banner blindness, ad clutter, and ad blockers. If you haven’t noticed, people don’t really like banner ads, or at least they seem to like them a lot less than text ads and Facebook Ads which are often better targeted and less intrusive

c) uncertainty – how can we know that the people of our industry are reading this publication? There may be other publications that they read, but those might not always be available to display advertisers.

Third, we can use various targeting parameters available in online platforms. For example, in Facebook and GDN you can find people by income level (e.g., top 10% of income earners) and net worth. However, here we assume that more rich people have better jobs, which is true in statistical sense but does not narrow the audience down enough to reach the B2B decision makers in our industry. Thus, it is better if we can get into direct targeting criteria, such as job position and company. And, we can.

For example, here is Facebook targeting for people who for Kone, the Finnish elevator company.

Figure 1 Targeting company employees on Facebook

In a similar vein, we can target a) industries and b) job titles on Facebook. Below are examples of both.

A. The current industries on Facebook Ads

  • Work > Industries > Management
  • Work > Industries > Administrative
  • Work > Industries > Sales
  • Work > Industries > Production
  • Work > Industries > Personal Care
  • Work > Industries > Education and Library
  • Work > Industries > Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Media
  • Work > Industries > Healthcare and Medical
  • Work > Industries > Transportation and Moving

B. Job Titles with search query ‘manager’:

  • Manager
  • Manager Employers
  • Talent manager
  • Manager (baseball)
  • Manager (association football)
  • Hotel manager
  • Sales Manager
  • Business Manager
  • Branch Manager
  • Relationship Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Finance Manager
  • Store Manager

For example, we could target people who work for ‘Kone’ and are ‘managers’. While this might work for corporations, targeting smaller companies is not possible because they are missing from Facebook’s database. We could also try and find the physical addresses of the corporations, and use geo-targeting to reach them – although without IP targeting (not available e.g. in Google and FB but can be purchased with big money elsewhere) it’s a shotgun approach, unless the company is located in the middle of nowhere. Overall, the problems of using targeting criteria include validation, sparsity and availability. I discuss these in the following.

a) validation – the accuracy of this data is not guaranteed, and we have no way of knowing that the ad platforms correctly classifies people. For example, I’ve seen people who most certainly don’t work for Facebook write Facebook as their employer.

b) sparsity – secondly, not that many people declare their workplace in Facebook, so the data is sparse and we don’t end up making a great number of qualified matches.

c) availability – all data is not available in all locations – e.g., Finland is missing the income level targeting.

Therein comes LinkedIn. As you can see from the following figure, LinkedIn provides several different targeting options that make it the most potential B2B marketing platform in the world.

Figure 2 LinkedIn targeting options

For example, we are likely to reach the proper Kone employees in different sub-companies, as visible from the following figure.

Figure 3 Company targeting on LinkedIn

While people may be careless about providing the correct job information on Facebook, on LinkedIn it is very rare that people would fake their job positions. Such behavior is easily captured and reported.

The downsides of LinkedIn are that a) the ad platform is less developed than those of Google and Facebook. If you’d like to rank them, ‘Google > Facebook > LinkedIn’ is the order from best to worst in terms of functionalities, although LinkedIn is rapidly catching up. Addtionally, b) the prices are considerably higher on LinkedIn than on Facebook or Google.

In the attempt to combine some of the good parts of each technique, I’ve created a simple process whereby we obtain leads through effective LinkedIn advertising and build segmented audiences for retargeting. This process is illustrated in the following figure.

Figure 4 Audience looping process

In particular, the idea is to create special landing pages that have a unique pixel configuration that corresponds to that audience — for example, you can “Managers from Mid-West US” who are targeted to a specific landing page that has unique Google and Facebook pixels with the proper description installed.

Managers from Mid-West -> Landing page A <–> Pixel A

Managers from upstate NY -> Landing page B <–> Pixel B

This way, you can segment your B2B audience further, and in retargeting through GDN, Facebook and potential other networks such as AdRoll, address them with highly tailored communication. In a similar vein, you want to cross-target to visitors you reach from those channels also on LinkedIn – see the figure.

Figure 5 Cross-retargeting

If you already have an email database (CRM, newsletter lists), you should obviously use that to build custom audiences, and then use lookalike audiences to maximize reach (called ‘Audience expansion’ on LinkedIn).

Since all the platforms provide the same metrics (CPC, clicks, conversions), the allocation of your budget can be elastically applied to where it provides the best return. This is aligned with optimization best practices. To identify the proper companies and job roles, you can do investigative lead research work by using tools such as Leadfeeder, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Ghostery, and


There are many targeting options for B2B digital marketing. For example,

  • income
  • net worth
  • IP address
  • industry
  • company
  • job title

Each has some strength and weaknesses. Ideally, the B2B digital marketing process captures the best parts of each platforms. Because we use LinkedIn, we can be sure that the seed audience is of high quality and accuracy. Then, we use the other platform’s superior reach and cheaper prices to re-address this audience with what I call ‘continued information’ (=not the same we told them already, but something more). We can also use GDN to narrow down the placement, thereby including only specific venues in retargeting.

Targeting or discovery?

Finally, I wanted to discuss an important matter. That is, some proponents of digital marketing suggest to foresake the notion of targeting altogether and focus on ‘inbound marketing’. The theory goes so that being present in social media venues where the industry folks participate, e.g. by answering their questions, one can build a reputation of opinion leader and therefore gain organic leads. Moreover, the inbound tactics entail the publication of free knowledge resources, such as ebooks, webinar and blog posts, all intended to attract organic traffic from social media and search engines to the company’s website. I’ve previously described inbound marketing as a paradigm that defines people as rational agents actively engaged in information retrieval activities, a view which contrasts seeing them as passive “targets” of advertising. Depending on which paradigm you subscribe to as a marketer, you might want to either maximize your targeting or your discoverability.

To many, it makes sense to view people as active information seekers. However, in the flipside I’ve observed inbound marketing is often uncertain and time-consuming process. In addition, companies engaged in struggle to measure their efforts effectively and actually deliver a credible ROI figure for inbound. Finally, the capabilities needed for that correspond to those needed for running a magazine publication, i.e. are not readily available in most organizations. The content game is fiercely competitive, and when you normalize the cost, e.g. CPM prices can be higher than for advertising. Or, the reach is very low, meaning that you really don’t get the impact you’re after. In my opinion, it makes no sense to foresake advertising – advertising should be the primary element in the marketing mix, and should you want to try out inbound marketing, its results should be transformed to conmensurable metrics that enable comparison between advertising and inbound marketing.

Please share if you have further ideas!

Further reading

Using Facebook Ads for B2B Targeting:

Google AdWords for B2B Organizations: 8 Questions Leadership Should Ask:

15 Audiences You Should Be Targeting with B2B Facebook Ads:

Defining SMQs: Strategic Marketing Questions


Too often, marketing is thought of being advertising and nothing more. However, already Levitt (1960) and Kotler (1970) established that marketing is a strategic priority. Many organizations, perhaps due to lack of marketers in their executive boards, have since forgotten this imperative.

Another reason for decreased importance of marketing is due to marketing scholars pushing the idea that “everything is marketing” which leads to decay of the marketing concept – if it is everything, it is nothing.

Nevertheless, if we reject the omni-marketing concept and return to the useful way of perceiving marketing, we observe the linkage between marketing and strategy.

Basic questions

Tania Fowler wrote a great piece on marketing, citing some ideas of Professor Roger Martin’s HBR article (2014). Drawing from that article, the basic strategic marketing questions are:

  • Who are our customers? (segmentation)
  • Why do they care about our product? (USPs/value propositions/benefits)
  • How are their needs and desires evolving? (predictive insight)
  • What potential customers exist and why aren’t we reaching them? (market potential)

This is a good start, but we need to expand the list of questions. Borrowing from Osterwalder (2009) and McCarthy (1960), let’s apply BMC (9 dimensions of a business model) and 4P marketing mix thinking (Product, Place, Promotion, Price).

Business Model Canvas approach

This leads to the following set of questions:

  • What is the problem we are solving?
  • What are our current revenue models? (monetization)
  • How good are they from customer perspective? (consumer behavior)
  • What is our current pricing strategy? (Kotler’s pricing strategies)
  • How suitable is our pricing to customers? (compared to perceived value)
  • How profitable is our current pricing?
  • How competitive is our current pricing?
  • How could our pricing be improved?
  • Where are we distributing the product/solution?
  • Is this where customers buy similar products/solutions?
  • What are our potential revenue models?
  • Who are our potential partners? Why? (nature of win-win)

Basically, each question can be presented as a question of “now” and “future”, whereupon we can identify strategic gaps. Strategy is a lot about seeing one step ahead — the thing is, foresight should be based on some kind of realism, or else fallacies take the place of rationality. Another point from marketing and startup literature is that people are not buying products, but solutions (solution-based selling, product-market fit, etc.) Someone said the same thing about brands, but I think solution is more accurate in the strategic context.

Adding competitors and positioning

The major downside of BMC and 4P thinking from strategic perspective is their oversight of competition. Therefore, borrowing from Ries and Trout (1972) and Porter (1980), we add these questions:

  • Who are our direct competitors? (substitutes)
  • Who are our indirect competitors? (cross-verticality, e.g. Google challenging media companies)
  • How are we different from competitors? (value proposition matrix)
  • Do our differentiating factors truly matter to the customers? (reality check)
  • How do we communicate our main benefits to customers? (message)
  • How is our brand positioned in the minds of the customers? (positioning)
  • Are there other products customers need to solve their problem? What are they? (complements)

Defining the competitive advantage, or critical success factors (CSFs), leads into natural linkage to resources, as we need to ask what are the resources we need to execute, and how to acquire and commit those resources (often human capital).

Resource-based view

Therefore, I’m turning to resource-based thinking in asking:

  • What are our current resources?
  • What are the resources we need to be competitive? (VRIN framework)
  • How to we acquire those resources? (recruiting, M&As)
  • How do we commit those resources? (leadership, company culture)

Indeed, company culture is a strategic imperative which is often ignored in strategic decision making. Nowadays, perhaps more than ever, great companies are built on talent and competence. Related strategic management literature deals with dynamic capabilities (e.g., Teece, 2007) and resource-based view (RBV) (e.g., Wernerfelt, 1984). In practice, companies like Facebook and Google do everything possible to attract and retain the brightest minds.

Do not forget profitability

Finally, even the dreaded advertising questions have a strategic nature, relating to customer acquisition and loyalty, as well as ROI in regards to both as well as to our offering. Considering this, we add:

  • How much does it cost to acquire a new customer?
  • What are the best channels to acquire new customers?
  • Given the customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV), are we profitable?
  • How profitable are each products/product categories? (BCG matrix)
  • How can we make customers repeat purchases? (cross-selling, upselling)
  • What are the best channels to encourage repeat purchase?
  • How do we encourage customer loyalty?

As you can see, these questions are of strategic nature, too, because they are directly linked to revenue and customer. After all, business is about creating customers, as stated by Peter Drucker. However, Drucker also maintained that a business with no repeat customers is no business at all. Thus, marketing often focuses on customer acquisition and loyalty.

The full list of strategic marketing questions

Here are the questions in one list:

  1. Who are our customers? (segmentation)
  2. Why do they care about our product? (USPs/value propositions/benefits)
  3. How are their needs and desires evolving? (predictive insight)
  4. What potential customers exist and why aren’t we reaching them? (market potential)
  5. What is the problem we are solving?
  6. What are our current revenue models? (monetization)
  7. How good are they from customer perspective? (consumer behavior)
  8. What is our current pricing strategy? (Kotler’s pricing strategies)
  9. How suitable is our pricing to customers? (compared to perceived value)
  10. How profitable is our current pricing?
  11. How competitive is our current pricing?
  12. How could our pricing be improved?
  13. Where are we distributing the product/solution?
  14. Is this where customers buy similar products/solutions?
  15. What are our potential revenue models?
  16. Who are our potential partners? Why? (nature of win-win)
  17. Who are our direct competitors? (substitutes)
  18. Who are our indirect competitors? (cross-verticality, e.g. Google challenging media companies)
  19. How are we different from competitors? (value proposition matrix)
  20. Do our differentiating factors truly matter to the customers? (reality check)
  21. How do we communicate our main benefits to customers? (message)
  22. How is our brand positioned in the minds of the customers? (positioning)
  23. Are there other products customers need to solve their problem? What are they? (complements)
  24. What are our current resources?
  25. What are the resources we need to be competitive? (VRIN framework)
  26. How to we acquire those resources? (recruiting, M&As)
  27. How do we commit those resources? (leadership, company culture)
  28. How much does it cost to acquire a new customer?
  29. What are the best channels to acquire new customers?
  30. Given the customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV), are we profitable?
  31. How profitable are each products/product categories? (BCG matrix)
  32. How can we make customers repeat purchases? (cross-selling, upselling)
  33. What are the best channels to encourage repeat purchase?
  34. How do we encourage customer loyalty?

The list should be universally applicable to all companies. But filling in the list is not “oh, let me guess” type of exercise. As you can see, answering to many questions requires customer and competitor insight that, as the startup guru Steve Blank says, needs to be retrieved by getting out of the building. Those activities are time-consuming and costly. But only if the base information is accurate, strategic planning serves a purpose. So don’t fall prey to guesswork fallacy.

Implementing the list

One of the most important things in strategic planning is iteration — it’s not “set and forget”, but “rinse and repeat”. So, asking these questions should be repeated from time to time. However, people tend to forget repetition. That’s why corporations often use consultants — they need fresh eyes to spot opportunities they’re missing due to organizational myopia.

Moreover, communicating the answers across the organization is crucial. Having a shared vision ensures each atomic decision maker is able to act in the best possible way, enabling adaptive or emergent strategy as opposed to planned strategy (Mintzberg, 1978). For this to truly work, customer insight needs to be internalized by everyone in the organization. In other words, strategic information needs to be made transparent (which it is not, in most organizations).

And for the information to translate into action, the organization should be built to be nimble; empowering people, distributing power and reducing unnecessary hierarchy. People are not stupid: give them a vision and your trust, and they will work for a common cause. Keep them in silos and treat them as sub-ordinates, and they become passive employees instead of psychological owners.

Concluding remarks

We can say that marketing is a strategic priority, or that strategic planning depends on the marketing function. Either way, marketing questions are strategic questions. In fact, strategic management and strategic marketing are highly overlapping concepts. Considering both research and practice, their division can be seen artificial and even counter-productive. For example, strategic management scholars and marketing scholars may speak of the same things with different names. The same applies to the relationship between CEOs and marketing executives. Joining forces reduces redundancy and leads to a better future of strategic decision-making.

Meaningless marketing

I’d say 70% of marketing campaigns have little to no real effect. Most certainly they don’t have a positive return in hard currency.

Yet, most marketers spend their time running around, planning all sorts of campaigns and competitions people couldn’t care less of. They are professional producers of spam, where in fact they should be focusing on core of the business: understanding why customers buy, how could they buy more, what sort of products should we make, how can the business model be improved, etc. The wider concept of marketing deals with navigating the current and the future market; it is not about making people buy stuff they don’t need.

To a great extent, I blame the marketing education. In the academia, we don’t really get the real concept of marketing into our students’ minds. Even the students majoring in marketing don’t truly “get” that marketing is not the same as advertising; too often, they have a narrow understanding of it and are then easily molded into the perverse industry standards, ending up in the purgatory of meaningless campaigns while convincing themselves they’re doing something of real value.

But marketing is not about campaigns, and it sure as hell is not about “creating Facebook competitions”. Rather, marketing is a process of continuous improvement of the business. Yes, this includes campaigns because the business cycles in many industries follow seasonal patterns, and we need to communicate outwards. But marketing has so much more to give for strategy, if only marketers would stop wasting their time and instead focus on the essential.

Now, what I wrote here is only based on anecdotal evidence arising from personal observations. It would be interesting, and indeed of great importance, to find out if it’s correct that most marketers are wasting their time on petty campaigns instead of the big picture. This could be done for example by conducting a study that answers the questions:

  1. What do marketers do with their time?
  2. How does that contribute to the bottom line?
  3. Why? (That is, what is the real value created for a) the customer and b) the organization)
  4. How is the value being measured and defended inside the organization?

If nothing else, every marketer should ask themselves those questions.

Facebook Ads: too high performance might turn on you (theoretically)


Now, earlier I wrote a post arguing that Facebook has an incentive to lower the CPC of well-targeting advertisers because better targeting improves user experience (in two-sided market terms, relevance through more precise targeting reduces the negative indirect network effects perceived by ad targets). You can read that post here.

However, consider the point from another perspective: the well-targeting advertiser is making rents (excessive profits) from their advertising which Facebook wants and as the platform owner is able to capture.

In this scenario, Facebook has an incentive to actually increase the CPC of a well-targeting advertiser until the advertiser’s marginal profit is aligned with marginal cost. In such a case, it would still make sense for the advertiser to continue investing (so the user experience remains satisfactory), but Facebook’s profit would be increased by the magnitude of the advertiser’s rent.

Problem of private information

This would require that Facebook be aware of the profit function of its advertisers which as for now might be private information to the advertisers. But had Facebook this information, it could consider it in the click-price calculation. Now, obviously that would violate the “objective” nature of Facebook’s VCG ad auction — it’s currently set to consider maximum CPC and ad performance (negative feedback, CTR, but not profit as far as I know). However, advertisers would not be able to monitor the use of their profit function because the precise ad auctions are carried out in a black box (i.e., asymmetric information). Thus, the scenario represents a type of moral hazard for Facebook – a potential risk the advertisers may not be aware of.

Origin of the idea

This idea I actually got from one of my students who said that “oh, I don’t think micro-targeting is useful“. Then I asked why and he said “because Facebook is probably charging too much from it”. I said to him that’s not the case, but also that it could be and the idea is interesting. Here I just elaborated it a bit further.

Also read this article about micro-targeting.

Micro-targeting is super interesting for B2B and personal branding (e.g., job seeking).

Another related point, that might interest you Jim (in case you’re reading this :), is the action of distributing profitable keywords by the platform owner between advertisers in search advertising. For example, Google could control impression share so that each advertiser would receive a satisfactory (given their profit function) portion of traffic WHILE optimizing its own return.


This idea is not well-developed though; it rests on the notion that there is heterogeneity in advertisers’ willingness to pay (arising e.g., from different in margins, average order values, operational efficiency or such) that would benefit the platform owner; I suspect it could be the case that the second-price auction anyway considers this as long as advertisers are bidding truthfully, in which case there’s no need for such “manipulation” by Google as the prices are always set to maximum anyway. So, just a random idea at this point.

Why human services are needed for world peace

The bot can be boss, as long as we have jobs.

Why are human services the future of our economy? (And, therefore, an absolute requirement for world peace [1].)

For three reasons:

  1. They do not pollute or waste material resources (or tend to do so with significantly less degree than material consumption)
  2. Exponential growth of population absolutely requires more human labor (supply and demand of labor)
  3. There’s no limit to service creation, but by type and nature they are infinite (because people’s needs are infinite and ever-changing)

Consequently, critical, absolutely critical measures are needed in the Western economies to enable true service economy.

Here are some ideas:

  • Taxation of human labor (VAT of services) must be drastically cut.
  • Side-costs of employing people (instead of machines) must be drastically cut.
  • Any technological solutions (e.g., platforms) increasing the match between supply and demand of human labor must be endorsed, and respectively all barriers such as cartels, removed.

Human services are the key to sustainable and socially balanced consumption – I look at Finland back in the 1950s; we were a real service economy. Today, every job possible has been replaced either by automation or by self-service (which companies call “customer participation”). We’re a digital self-service economy, not a service economy anymore.

I long for the days when we had bellboys, cleaning ladies, office clerks, research assistants and other support staff — they are important jobs which nowadays are no more. Self-service and efficiency are in fact the enemies of employment. We must consider if we want a society optimized for efficiency or one optimized for well-being (I’m starting to sound like, Bernie Sanders; which might not be a bad thing as such, but the argument has a deeper rationale in it).

Maximum efficiency is not maximum employment, far from it.

Regarding Silicon Valley and startups, there should be a counter-movement against efficiency. So far, software has been eating the world, and the world — at least in terms of job market — is becoming increasingly less. Granted, many new job types have been created to compensate for the loss, but much more is needed to fill the gap software is leaving. I think there needs to be a call for new type of startups, ones that empower human work. If you think about it, there already exists some good examples – Uber, Taskrabbit, Fiverr, Upwork are some of them. But all too often the core value proposition of a startup is based on its ability to reduce “waste” – that is, human labor.

I do not think there is any limit to creation of human services. People are never completely satisfied, and their new needs spawn new services, which in turn require new services, and so on and on. In fact, the only limit to consumption of services is one’s time and cognitive abilities! This is good and well, even hopeful if we think of the big picture. But I do think an environment needs to be created where incentives for providing human services match those of machine services, or at least approach that much more than what it currently does.

This is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed with real structural reforms in the society; as of yet, I haven’t seen ANY of that — not even discussion — in Finland. It’s as if the world was moving but the politicians were asleep, stuck in some old glory days. But in the end we all want the same thing – we want those old days BACK, when everyone had a job. It’s just that we cannot do it without adjusting the policies — radically — to the radical change of productivity which has taken place in the past decades.

It’s like another candidate — not Sanders — says: We gotta start winning again.

End notes

[1] The premise here is that the well-being of a middle class is required for a balanced and peaceful society. In contrast, the crumbling middle class will cause social unrest and wide dissatisfaction which will channel out in political radicalism, scapegoat seeking, and even wars between nations. Jobs are not just jobs, they are vehicle for peace.

The author has taught services marketing at the Turku School of Economics.

The Digital Marketing Brief – four things to ask your client

Recently I had an email correspondence with one my brightest digital marketing students. He asked for advice on creating an AdWords campaign plan.

I told him the plan should include certain elements, and only them (it’s easy to make a long and useless plan, and difficult to do it short and useful).

Anyway, in the process I also told him how to make sure he gets the necessary information from the client. These four things I’d like to share with everyone looking for a crystal-clear marketing brief.

They are:

1. campaign goal
2. target group
3. budget
4. duration

First, you want to know the client’s goal. In general, it can direct response (sales) or indirect response (awareness). This affects two things:

  • metrics you include as your KPIs — in other words, will you optimize for impressions, clicks, or conversions.
  • channels you include — if the client wants direct response, search-engine advertising is usually more effective than social media (and vice versa).

The channel selection is the first thing to include into your campaign plan.

Second, you want the client’s understanding of the target group. This affects targeting – in search-engine advertising it’s the keywords you choose; in social media advertising it’s the demographic targeting; in display it’s the managed placements.

Based on this information, you want to make a list (of keywords / placements / demographic types). These targeting elements are the second thing to include into your campaign plan.

Third, the budget matters a great deal. It affects two things:

  • how many channels to choose
  • how to set daily budgets

The bigger the budget is, the more channels can be included in the campaign plan. It’s not always linear, however; e.g. when search volumes are high and the goal is direct response, it makes most sense to spend all on search. But generally, it’s possible to target several stages in customers’ purchase funnel (i.e., stages they go through prior to conversion).

Hence, the budget spend is the third thing to include into your campaign plan.

The daily budget you calculate by dividing the total budget with the number of channels and the duration (in days) of the campaign. At this point, you can allocate the budget in different ways, e.g. search = 2xsocial. It’s important to notice that in social and display you can usually spend as much money as you want, because the available ad inventory is in effect unlimited. But in search the spend is curbed by natural search volumes.

I’m into digital marketing, startups, platforms. Download my dissertation on startup dilemmas:

Startup syndromes: “The Iznogoud Syndrome”

1. Definition

The Iznogoud Syndrome can be defined as follows:

A startup strives to disrupt existing market structures instead of adapting to them.

In most industries, existing relationships are strong, cemented and will not change due to one startup. Therefore, a better strategy is to find ways of providing utility in the existing ecosystem.

2. Origins

The name of this startup syndrome is based on the French comic character who wants to “become Caliph instead of the Caliph“, and continuously fails in that (over-ambitious) attempt. Much similarly, many startups are over-ambitious in their attempt to succeed. In my experience, they have an idealistic worldview while lacking a realistic perspective on the business landscape. While this works for some outliers – for example Steve Jobs – better results can be achieved with a realistic worldview on average. The world is driven by probabilities and hence it’s better to target averages than outliers.

3. Examples

I see them all the time. Most startups I advise in startup courses and events aim at disintermediation: they want to remove vendors from the market and replace them. For example, a startup wanted to remove recruiting agencies by making their own recruiting platform. Since recruiting agencies already have the customer relationships, it’s an unrealistic scenario. What upset me was that the team didn’t even consider providing value to the recruiting agencies, but intuitively saw them as junk to be replaced.

Another example: there is a local dominant service providing information on dance events, which holds something like 90% of market (everyone uses it). Yet, it has major usability issues. Instead of partnering with the current market leader to fix their problems, the startup wants to create its competing platform from scratch and then “steal” all users. That’s an unrealistic scenario. All around, there is too much emphasis put on disintermediation and seeing current market operators either as waste or competitors as oppose to potential partners in user acquisition, distribution or whatever.

Startups should realize they are not alone in the market, but the market has been there for a hundred years. They cannot just show up and say “hey, I’m going to change how you’ve done business for 100 years.” Or they can, but they will most likely fail. This is all well for the industry in which it doesn’t matter if 9 out of 10 fail, as the one winning brings the profits, but for an individual startup it makes more sense to get the odds of success (even average one) greater. So you see, what is good for the startup industry in general is not the same as what is good for your startup in particular.

4. Similarity to other startup syndromes

The Iznogoud syndrome is similar to “Market education syndrome”, according to which an innovation created by the startup falls short in consumer adoption regardless of its technical quality – many VC’s avoid products requiring considerable market education costs. Whereas the Market education syndrome can be seen a particular issue in B2C markets, the Iznogoud syndrome is more acute in B2B markets.

5. Recommendations

Simply put, startups should learn more about their customers or clients. They need to understand their business logic (B2B) or daily routines (B2C) and how value can be provided there. In B2B markets, there are generally two ways to provide value for clients:

  • help them sell more
  • help them cut costs

If you do so, potential clients are more likely to listen. As stated previously, this is a more realistic scenario in doing business than thinking ways of replacing them.

I’m into digital marketing, startups, platforms. Download my dissertation on startup dilemmas:

A simple formula for assessing the feasibility of AdWords cases

Update [24th March, 2017]: In addition to the formula explained in the post, I would add the following general criteria for a good AdWords case: 1) Low-Medium competition (high CPCs force to look for alternative channels), 2) Good website/landing pages (i.e., load fast, easy to navigate, have text information relevant to the keywords.


Google AdWords is a form of on-demand marketing which matches demand (keywords) with supply (ads). Because it provides good relevance between demand and supply, it efficiently fulfills the core purpose of marketing which is, again, to match supply and demand. However, while this property of AdWords makes it generally much more effective than other forms of online marketing, it also leads to a major limitation: the campaigns cannot scale beyond natural search volumes.

I often tell this to my students participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC), but a few of them always fall into the “trap of low search volume”. I will explain this in the following.

Selection criteria

First, the relevant dimensions for assessing the potential in AdWords are:

  • geographic range: the based on the company’s offerings
  • product range

These can vary from low to high so that

Low geographic range x Low product range = Trap of low search volume

Low geographic range x High product range = Potential risk of low search volume

High geographic range x Low product range = Potential risk of low search volume

High geographic range x High product range = High search volume (Best case for AdWords)

In other words, this formula favors companies with nationwide distribution and large product range. These campaigns tend to scale the best and offer the best ratio between cost and value of optimization. In contrast, local business with one or two products or services are the least feasible candidates.

What does the trap of limited search volume mean?

Well, first of all it means the spend will be low. In GOMC, this means some teams struggle to spend the required $250 during the three-week campaign window.

Second, and more importantly, it means these cases are less interesting for marketers. They offer little room for optimization (because spend is low and there is very little data to work with).

Also for this reason the management cost of running these campaigns (=the amount a marketer can charge for his/her services) can become unbalanced: for example, if the yearly spend of a low-volume campaign is, say $400 and the marketers charges $100 per hour for his/her work, there is no point for client to pay for many working hours, as their cost quickly exceeds that of the media budget.


As a marketer, you always want to select the best case to amplify with your skills. You can think of it through two dimensions:

  • marketing
  • product

By multiplying them, we get the following.

Bad marketing x Bad product = Bad results

Bad marketing x Good product = Okay results

Good marketing x Bad product = Bad results

Good marketing x Good product = Good results

The same in numbers:

0 x 0 = 0

0 x 1 = 0

1 x 0 = 0

1 x 1 = 1

In other words, it makes sense to choose a case which is good for you as a marketer. A good case will work decently with bad marketing, but not vice versa. And only coupled with good marketing will the maximum potential of a good product be achieved.


Joni Salminen
Ph.D., marketing

How to calculate metrics for an AdWords campaign plan

I teach this very simple formula to my students when they are required to write a pre-campaign report for the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC).

You want to report metrics in a table like this:

budget    ctr      cpc    clicks    impressions
250         0,05   0,2     1250    25000

(The numbers are examples.)

To calculate estimates for a campaign plan, you only need to know three figures:

  • budget
  • goal CTR
  • goal CPC

In the case of GOMC, the budget is set to $250. In other marketing cases, it is based on your marketing plan.

Goal CTR is what you want to accomplish with your ads. I usually say a CTR of 5% is a good target. Based on bidding strategy and competition, however, it can range between 3 and 10%. Less than 3% is not desirable, as it indicates poor relevance between keywords and ads.

Goal CPC is what you want to pay for clicks. Ideally, you want the CTR to be as high as possible and CPC as low as possible to maximize traffic (website visitors). The actual figure will be based on competition as well as your quality score (to which CTR contributes, among other factors of relevance).
Quality score can be enabled by customizing columns in keyword view; the bid estimates for your keywords can be retrieved via Keyword planner, as well as by looking at bid estimates (first-page and top-of-page) in the keyword view. In Finland, I usually say €0.2 is a good target for average CPC. In other markets, the CPC tends to be higher.

Out of the previous figures, you can calculate other metrics:

  • clicks = budget / cpc
  • impressions = clicks / ctr

The calculation assumes full usage of budget, which is not always possible when organic search volumes limit the growth (this is just a general limitation of search advertising).

Bugs and problems in Facebook Ads [UPDATED 10/08/2016]


I’ve been doing a lot of Facebook advertising. Compared to Google AdWords, Facebook Ads is missing a lot of features, and has annoying bugs. I’m listing these problems here, in case anyone working at Facebook would like to have an advertiser’s opinion, and that people working with programmatic ad platforms see how difficult it is to create — if not perfect, then at least a satisfactory system.

A caveat: although I’m updating the list from time to time, it might be some bugs are already corrected and the missing features added. The ones fixed have been pointed out by strike-through.

Acknowledgments: A big thanks goes to Mr. Tommi Salenius, who is my right hand in digital marketing.

[UPDATED 10/08/2016]

  • add ‘like disavow tool’ (cf. Google’s link disavow)
  • ‘Facebook marketing partner’ –> expanding to smaller agencies (cf. Google Partners)
  • save target groups when making targeting in ad creation tool
  • add possibility to exclude saved audiences
  • ads receive an unequal number of impressions; if many ads in one ad set, most of them receive zero impressions
  • de-duping target group frequency across campaigns (overlapping audiences: avoid inflation of total frequency by de-duping)
  • distribute budget automatically between campaigns and ad sets
  • Split option in Power Editor does not split an existing audiences, but actually creates a new (complementing) one
  • add possibility to exclude age groups (could be done with exclusion of saved audiences)
  • sorting columns does not work in Power Editor reports section
  • sorting based on conversions does not work properly in Ads Manager columns (it calculates some sort of average)
  • re-position image in Power Editor –> not possible to see preview
  • in web interface impossible to make advance connection with parameter OR – now it uses AND – for example, fans of my page AND friends of fans makes target group impossibly small
  • does not show total budget (or any totals) in campaign view (UPDATE: partly fixed for some metrics, but total budget still not visible)
  • impossible to target competitors’ fans (what are the barriers for making this happen?)
  • breakdowns not possible based on e.g. education level (more breakdown possibilities)
  • possibility to set budget at campaign level
  • no possibility to filter campaign (cf. adwords) –> trying to find a campaign quickly is a pain
  • utm tagging missing –> impossible to track from 3rd party analytics
  • shared budget feature is missing –> you should copy this feature from AdWords
  • when copying campaigns, impossible to change goal (really stupid, cannot test performance with different goals)
  • campaign reporting –> no trends, no graphs –> impossible to assess long-term development of campaigns (compared to AdWords)
  • campaign page –> no possibility to change metric for graph (much better in AdWords where two metrics can be freely chosen)
  • no frequency cap (again, possible in AdWords)
  • no ‘compare to previous time period’ option in reports (unlike AdWords)
  • no possibility to delete images in image gallery –> wtf, makes it very difficult to manage
  • too small image size in image gallery –> again, hard to manage images
  • not possible to copy numbers in power editor (!!!) –> sometimes, you’d want to copy numbers between campaigns or into excel
  • power editor loses text field content when changing ad (field)
  • power editor does not enable image variation
  • web version does not show all image variation ads in first pageload
  • unable to copy ad sets in web interface –> impossible to make quick new versions targeting e.g. newsfeed vs. right column
  • doesn’t show pause status in ads while in review
  • power editor does not copy ad statuses while duplicating ad sets
  • rotate evenly option missing –> compare to AdWords
  • cta not possible to be removed in powereditor once put into ads
  • unable to revert to suggested image in web interface after choosing image from gallery
  • facebook ads no sound in video preview
  • missing bid modifiers: e.g. for ad placement, e.g. -50 %, right column

Problems in Page Insights:

  • inability to answer standard questions such as: what are the all-time most liked posts? how many posts did we do last month?

Want to contribute? Send me bugs and/or missing features and I’ll list them here.

Dr. Joni Salminen holds a PhD in marketing from the Turku School of Economics. His research interests relate to startups, platforms, and digital marketing.

Contact email: [email protected]