How to Acquire Fortune 500 Users / Leads with Facebook Ads

Wow – I’ve spent a lot of time using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter ads over the last 5 years. Most of my paid advertising efforts have been focused on attracting and converting enterprise leads including fortune 2,000 and similar fast-growing companies.

Although the title with fortune 500 is much sexier! This post is about my experience attracting and converting high-quality business leads (B2B) and users (B2C2B) using Facebook’s advertising platform.

Using the strategies outlined below, we’ve managed to acquire decision makers from companies like LinkedIn, Salesforce, Adobe, HP, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft and many others. Acquisition cost varies by the target audience, however, I’ve found Facebook to come in at 100-150% lower than LinkedIn ads when done properly.

Acquisition: B2B (leads) vs. B2C2B (users)

When I was working at Pivotal Labs, we were really focused on B2B (enterprise) lead generation by promoting some pretty awesome mobile trend and industry reports – we built mobile apps for the top media, financial services, retail, hospitality and healthcare businesses. We had a good size team of experienced content creators and were pumping out content across all of these verticals.

It was pretty easy with a little budget, some creative LinkedIn ads and nicely designed landing pages to attract high-quality fortune 500 leads on LinkedIn. We tested a bit on Facebook but didn’t have much success – so we doubled down on LinkedIn, our top performing channel. We had a consistent lead gen machine running at a cost-per-lead well below the industry average. This was a pretty easy process to get up and running.

In my previous role as Director of Marketing at, we’re taking a much different approach to acquiring customers. We’re focusing on a B2C2B (business-to-consumer-to-business) model where we attract individual users and earn their trust by providing a great product for free. Tomasz Tunguz wrote a great piece on why this strategy is so popular among emerging SaaS businesses.

Once we’ve earned an individual business user’s trust and provided real value, we can promote our premium paid product and encourage them to invite the rest of their team. This is obviously a simplified explanation, however, you can see how it’s possible to create a viral-ish effect by tapping into the rest of their team.

From the top of the funnel, it’s very similar to B2C user acquisition although it’s much harder to reach business users at scale with paid advertising on platforms like LinkedIn where we’re competing with companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn and HubSpot. So I turned to Facebook and told myself – I need to make this sh*% work!

3 Acquisition Strategies for Attracting & Converting the Fortune 500

1. Creative: Be Different, Emotional and Get People Talking

Attracting business users, especially in a competitive space, can cost a lot of money very quickly. On top of that, instead of simply asking for someone’s email address, I’m asking them to create an account > connect their email addresses > social accounts and some professional information. That’s a lot to ask from someone who is typically used to filling out a form (probably with the wrong email address) to get access to an ebook or resource guide. In order to gain their trust, you need to be extremely clear on your product’s value while also gaining their attention in a feed filled with other advertisements, breaking news stories and baby pictures.

After 100s of creative variations, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best performing ads follow these guidelines:

  • They don’t look anything like the other ads on Facebook (even if they are as ugly as hell).
  • They strike an emotional chord with your target audience on a topic they are extremely passionate about and relates to your product.
  • They get people talking – if you are successful at the first two, you’ll be surprised at how many people engage your advertisement with comments, likes, hates etc. You need to respond and keep the conversations going.

Don’t be afraid to try something completely new and out of the ordinary. The more people who engage with your ad = more eyes = lower conversion costs. You’ll be surprised to find out that some of the simplest ads can acquire execs from your target audience.


2. Spend Time Building the Perfect Target Audience

Targeting the perfect business audience on LinkedIn is extremely easy with their in-depth options, but keep in mind that ease of use comes with a price tag. According to the folks over at effinamazing, LinkedIn CPC can cost anywhere from $2-11 depending on your level of targeting. But let’s face it – to reach a unique business audience requires a great deal of targeting.

Targeting on Facebook has come a long way, although it can take a lot longer to build your perfect audience. LinkedIn does a great job at standardizing their targeting options while Facebook sort of jams everything together. Following the guidelines below, be sure to save your custom audiences so you can continue to optimize as you go. There are a few areas that you’ll want to focus on in order to filter out the crap (there’s a lot of it on Facebook) and get in front of a high-quality business audience:

  • Target by job titles: Although Facebook has professional interests and work industries available as broader categories, I’ve always found these to provide really low-quality business users. Job titles have been the most effective targeting option in my experience by far, however it can take some time to get right. Facebook provides a wide variety of custom job titles which you’ll need to go through and add every single variation of a relevant job title – it’s a pain in the ass but once you save your audience you shouldn’t have to do it again. (I currently have over 100+ variations of a business development role, for example).
  • Remove outliers with large filters – competitors, major blogs and news sites: You can keep narrowing your audience by targeting users who are also interested in your competitors which show up as interests. Your competitors must be large enough to show up, however, it’s pretty useful to ensure those job titles are filtered through at least 1 other large targeting option since Facebook has such a large user base. You might have a few large competitors that remove the outliers who don’t meet your criteria as well as some popular blogs and news sites where your audience spends time.
  • Chisel away unwanted audiences 1 niche at a time: Once you’ve got your ads running, you should have a system set up where you can see where users are coming from – I use mixpanel for this. It makes it easy to see the quality of users that are coming in from Facebook ads and determine if you’re attracting the right people. You’ll then want to start excluding people who don’t match your audience. For example, I don’t want to reach car salesman but they started showing up one day – so I excluded people with related titles, interests etc. This can take awhile to get a handle on so it’s critical you keep an eye on new sign-ups. You can also target people who work at fortune 500 companies by listing them all off, however, I found this ineffective for me personally. You’ll also want to avoid filtering out your entire audience with broad narrowing interests. It’s best to keep chiseling away to build your perfect audience by reviewing trends from your reports on a weekly basis.

It can take a lot of patience to reach business users, however, once you find your sweet spot you’ll be able to keep using the same audience and build sub-audiences that are even more targeted.


3. Optimize for the Right Conversion

I really think the introduction of the Facebook Conversion Pixel was a turning point for the advertising platform. It’s incredibly easy to set up so that you can track the performance of your campaigns and optimize your spend to focus on users who are more likely to convert. You’ll also be able to review which targeting options provided the most conversions.

Before you set up your conversion pixel, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking the right conversion. For example, I really don’t care how many people sign up for an account, I’m much more interested in users who complete a specific step in our onboarding and become an actual user – this is what I track as a conversion and it’s where I spend a lot of time optimizing. We’ve made a habit of checking these metrics on a weekly basis and optimizing every step of the process by reviewing the conversion numbers at each step of the onboarding flow. It could be a big project like minimizing your landing page or something as minor as making your confirmation email more clear.

This is a pretty quick overview of how I’ve learned to attract high-quality business users / leads as a cost much lower than the industry average on Facebook. However, when you’re looking at your costs, it’s important to consider how competitive your industry is and what a conversion is worth to your business. Once you find your groove, you can turn up the engines!

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