The old adage, 'good things come to those who wait,' proved true as B2B search marketers gathered last Wednesday, June 23 in San Francisco for the long-awaited conference dedicated solely to B2B search marketing -- the B2B Search Strategy Summit. The online marketing event space may be littered with online marketing events and educational organizations, but one marketer, Mary O'Brien, identified a growing need for a more tailored and advanced conference geared toward B2B marketers. So, at long last, a B2B-specific search marketing conference was born, and on Wednesday, I found myself in a packed room, surrounded by B2B marketers all eagerly consuming and voraciously scribbling and typing their favorite tips, stats and case studies shared by some of the biggest names in the industry. The takeaways from the B2B Search Strategy Summit were many, but there are 5 in particular I'd like to highlight: Takeaway #1 -- Know Your Audience (or, C-Suite Decision Makers are Rolling up Their Sleeves & Getting Their Hands Dirty) Without a doubt, one of the themes all speakers both placed emphasis and agreement in was to 'know your audience.' Throughout the day, this seemingly simple and intuitive theme was referenced time and time again as the foundation for everything in search marketing from landing page selection to ad copy optimization. Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro first introduced the theme during his morning keynote with an interesting statistic from a 2009 Forbes Insights Study: 53% of C-Suite executives reportedly take the first pass at finding information online, with 26% starting the process and then delegating appropriately. No longer are C-Suites sitting idly as others do their work; more than 4 out of 5 are actively online searching for relevant information needed to make key business decisions or purchases. So how many marketers are currently catering their search marketing to this audience? Takeaway #2 -- Understanding Your Audience's B2B Buying Cycle is Key to Optimizing Your Search Marketing Campaign Structure To know your online audience is not enough, at least for Connie Stack of Wordstream and Angela Sanfilippo of You Send It. Both eloquently illustrated the importance of also understanding the intent and behaviors of your audience as they navigate through the B2B buying cycle in order to fully optimize and tailor search marketing efforts. Stack encouraged marketers to take the time to dissect the buying process and categorize keywords appropriately among the different phases of the buying process. From there, you can map content offerings appropriately to each keyword, thereby providing the foundation for ad copy, landing page selection and more. She shared the below image, taken from The Google/Tech Target Behavioral Research Project, as a 'how-to guide' of sorts for implementing this process. Sanfilippo also shared a more strategic view of the benefits and expectations for organizing your search marketing campaign around the phases of the buying process -- her distinction of the importance of branded vs. non-branded keywords in each of the phases is widely useful and insightful for both organizing and measuring campaign success. This is especially true for search engine marketers who use both general and vertical engines where branded vs. non-branded keywords play a unique role within each engine (and are often mistakenly evaluated alongside one another, leading to skewed performance analysis). Takeaway #3 -- Don't Just Know Your Audience: Show Them You Remember Them Jay Middleton of Adobe gave us a glimpse into the future of B2B Search Marketing in his afternoon keynote session when he appropriately took the mantra of knowing your audience to the next level. Interaction is easy, but engaging your target audience centers around the ability to continue to build upon that interaction in a way that is meaningful and personal to that audience. The more data we as marketers can collect on potential customers and leads, and the more data we can use to guide their brand experience, the better we'll be able to live up to this mantra. Adobe, Marketo and Salesforce.com were a few of the companies that showcased some of their best practices and resulting successes from taking the time to set up custom lead scoring, nurturing or marketing automation programs. It was clear when these programs were coupled with relevant, valuable content for the audience, success quickly followed. Takeaway #4 -- Don't Throw Away Hard Work Just Because You Think Your Job is Done As marketers, we're often held accountable for demand generation, lead generation and the lead nurture process. Beyond these responsibilities, we usually look to our sales force to carry their end of the bargain by closing the leads we determine sales ready. Lauren Vaccarello of Salesforce.com challenged the audience to redefine their responsibilities as marketers and place an emphasis on knowledge transference and team work in closing sales. While the marketing automation process can often be a complex and somewhat technical process that few sales reps have interest in understanding, Vaccarello encouraged marketers to take the time to educate sales on the journey their leads undergo throughout this process to provide sales context for contacting and engaging leads. Back to Middleton's point -- it's not only about knowing your audience but about showing them you remember them -- and it's up to the marketer to make sure sales has the information and understanding they need to provide a seamless experience. Takeaway #5 -- You Too Can & Should Be Using YouTube Many marketers recognize YouTube as a powerful marketing mechanism; many struggle to understand how B2B can benefit from such a seemingly B2C tool. Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR proved the efficacy of YouTube for B2B in sharing a cogent example of how he used YouTube to build hype for a high-end product before it formally hit the market. Jarboe leveraged YouTube as a means for buyers and enthusiasts to preview product design, capabilities and engage with the product in a dynamic and exciting way, which resulted in thousands of views and, even better, a dozen pre-sales totaling more than $1 million. If you're saying, 'good for them, but I just don't see our products, services or company making for a compelling YouTube video...' then I suggest you reread takeaway #1 above. What makes Jarboe's and Cisco's efforts and videos so well-received isn't a product or service, it's their understanding of what will engage, attract and entertain the audience. If you've taken the time to know your audience and understand what they find interesting, funny or engaging, then you too can use YouTube to your advantage. And, if you're smart about identifying and catering to your opinion leaders and product evangelists, you can rest easy in knowing that if they find value in your video, they'll be sure to share it with many, many others. In retrospect, these 5 takeaways probably could have been shortened to 1: Know your audience. Marketers far too often associate the word 'audience' with a certain demographic or firmographic, and spend the majority of our time looking to reach those demographics and find that 'sweet spot.' But in the end, our 'audience' is, in its simplest form, a person at a company within that demographic or firmographic who is looking to solve a problem, relate to others and feel understood.