by Tim Rowe

How Brex Used Billboards to 10X their ROI

Jul 13, 2021

OOH| Reduce CAC| How Billboards Work

Brex is one of the hottest startups to hit the scene in years, more than doubling its valuation in just twelve months. In late April, it announced a $425 million raise at a $7.4 billion valuation. In the startup ecosystem and beyond, business owners are wondering what the secret is – but the answer may surprise you.

A huge part of Brex’s success is attributable to Out of Home advertising.

Brex burst onto the scene not through investments in Facebook or Google Ads, but traditional billboards.

CEO Henrique Dubugras credits the company’s billboard spend with making its other marketing work better.

 

Conventional Digital-First Marketing Fell Flat for Brex Before Adopting Out of Home

Brex provides business credit cards and cash management solutions exclusively to technology companies. Its products deliver an extra layer of protection by ensuring that cardholders who default for any reason aren’t at risk of damaging their credit or endangering their personal assets.

Not surprisingly, Out of Home advertising wasn’t Brex’s first stop. Like most high-tech firms, it started with a conventional digital marketing strategy heavy on Google and Facebook ad spend. But, although digital makes attribution easy, its lead acquisition potential was disappointing – even after hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CEO Henrique Dubugras wanted his team to “think outside the box.”

The answer turned out to be right outside their window.

 

Easy ROI Measurement and Low Cost of Acquisition Was Brex’s Winning Formula

“A lot of our market is in San Francisco,” Dubugras explains, and that means many of the decision-makers are engineers or developers. “They’re stuck in this mentality of you have to put out one dollar and get out three dollars.” That also includes small experiments and scaling up – approaches that simply weren’t working.

Looking at Out of Home advertising, Dubugras decided, “We took a little bit of a bold move and said ‘We’re just going to buy all that we can.’” That included a variety of billboards throughout the Bay Area, with one right on Folsom Street – believed to be the most visible asset in the campaign.

Says Dubugras:

“We scaled faster than we thought we would. I think we had a very aggressive plan and I think we did like 2x what we thought we were going to do. […] We went to where other people weren’t going and we went bold. We basically bought a [ton] of billboards in San Francisco, and a lot of people recognize us from that.”

To know that they were getting real value, the Brex team needed to do a little bit more thinking. They decided to tie the billboards in with other outbound marketing. As a result, they got customer feedback demonstrating that the billboards had, indeed, created better results for their other campaigns.

When the Brex team did outreach, leads consistently said they had seen the billboards. Buying space on several billboards gave Brex’s brand the repetition and local clout it needed. Plus, the decision to go all-in meant each billboard was available at a much lower rate – a better deal than simply choosing one.

With the low cost of acquisition and overwhelming evidence of ROI, Out of Home was a natural fit.

 

Brex CEO Estimates Out of Home Outperformed Google and Facebook by a Whopping 10x

As for all those conventional digital buys, Dubugras estimates they delivered a tenth of the results of billboards.

Brex brought clear advantages to the table. Their market is highly concentrated right within their local area. And their value proposition is crystal clear: They work with technology companies and only technology companies. This enabled crisp, effective Out of Home messaging.

No matter what industry you serve, however, there are lessons to be learned.

B2B enterprises are slogging uphill against increasingly saturated digital channels. Out of home advertising can unlock the potential of digital and accelerate results for your other campaigns. Email, calling, direct mail, and much more benefit as your Out of Home advertising lays the foundation for brand recognition.

Just like Brex, you can discover your cold leads aren’t so cold after all.

How would it feel to hear again and again from decision-makers, “Oh yeah, I know you!”

That’s the hallmark of an advertising campaign that gives you real value. Working in concert with all of your other efforts, a well-calibrated Out of Home advertising approach clears the path for you to connect with the high-ticket clients who form the cornerstones of your Account-Based Marketing strategy.

If it feels like you’re going nowhere fast with conventional digital marketing, the answer isn’t to double down. Out of Home advertising is the missing piece that makes your other marketing and advertising more powerful. And odds are good that your competitors have overlooked it entirely.

 

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