By S. Ryan DeShazer, Global Director of Search Marketing, GyroHSR
What I've always enjoyed about being a B2B search marketer is the inherent complexity involved in persuading the business buyer. Not only do communications need to speak to multiple stakeholders to the purchase decision, but those stakeholders typically happen to be pretty intelligent people, holding prominent roles in their organizations. Gimmicks definitely will not work here.
So the challenge to B2B search marketers is in determining how to secure multiple buy-ins from a finite and intelligent group, overcome a lengthy consideration process, while mitigating fears over high costs and risks associated with the transaction.
Nobody said this was easy work.
The trick to maintain your sanity, while delivering positive returns on ad spend is to focus on things that are under your control. In B2B search marketing, that means you have to do things a bit differently than in B2C. To succeed, you must:
1) Recognize that business purchase consideration cycles aren't always linear 2) Let micro B2B conversions show the way 3) Capitalize on navigational search 4) Draw qualitative conclusions from quantitative data
Business Purchase Consideration Cycles Aren't Always Linear
This is huge. B2B marketers tend to over-think programs and believe that their audiences fit neatly into pre-defined, academic categories of Awareness, Consideration, Negotiation, Purchase. In my experience, no B2B transaction actually maps to this type of consideration cycle. B2B transactions follow myriad paths to completion. The only commonality among B2B transactions is that, at some point, a company became aware of another's offerings and decided to ultimately purchase.
Not very helpful insight when planning a search program. So, what are B2B search marketers to do?
Let Micro B2B Conversions Show the Way
Not everything has to be about the purchase. Introduce a call-to-action that focuses just on the ultimate transaction and you will lose 95% of your potential audience. What is more impactful, is introducing offers or points of engagement that directly address individual stages of the consideration cycle. Think of these as "micro conversions," or opt-ins that map to earlier consideration.
For example, online ROI calculators can often be the perfect "offer" made to those considering a purchase, comparing alternatives, and attempting to determine the payback period of a capital investment. Provide website visitors with tools to better inform their purchase decision, and engagement with your website and brand will increase. Investigate what your competitive set is doing and see where you can borrow, and best their offers.
Capitalize on Navigational Search
Navigational search, or search terms that are queried specifically to navigate directly to a particular brand's website, are huge opportunities as well. In our experience, a disproportionately large number of search-driven conversions will come from brand-term queries.
It makes sense too. Anytime there is complexity in the purchase decision process, you can anticipate that a brand preference emerges as the transaction draws nearer. We see evidence of this as search-referred traffic becomes more brand-focused over the life of the visitor's website touches. In fact, we've invested in analytics technologies that specifically help us to investigate and understand the holistic chain of search events that lead to an ultimate conversion.
Clients don't always like focusing on branded terms as part of their Search programs, but they're essential to efficiently capturing and converting web audiences.
Draw Qualitative Conclusions from Quantitative Data
Marketing is not formulaic. It cannot be solved by mathematics, nor can it be run by software alone. Human intelligence and oversight are needed in order for marketing to ensure the brand realizes its full market potential. The raw numbers can, however, help to enhance our own understanding of the marketplace dynamics.
What is the search data telling us that we weren't aware of previously? Have our target audiences responded differently to our messaging than we originally hypothesized? Has our offer failed to entice action? If so, why has it failed? Can we test alternative messaging to see whether it's the messaging or the offer itself?
Data can lead us to either conclusions or more questions. Where we're taken to more questions, we follow-up with more hypotheses.
These four insights can help your search programs become far more comprehensive and relevant to B2B audiences. Your efforts and diligence will help round out a more complete view of your market, that in turn can be used to help establish a long-term competitive advantage. Ultimately, you will be engaging and converting more search-referred prospects than ever before.
S. Ryan DeShazer Global Director of Search Marketing, GyroHSR
Ryan DeShazer is a seasoned digital marketing professional, having served entrepreneurial stints at pay-per-click (PPC) marketing firm Clix Marketing and again as co-owner of interactive boutique NOEINK. His current responsibilities at GyroHSR include developing and advancing the firm's search engine marketing (SEM) capabilities.