Just what do search marketing and dating have in common? According to Seth Godin, the keynote speaker at last week’s Search Engine Strategies Conference in Toronto… plenty! When it comes to finding an appropriate partner and building a long-term relationship, there are some interesting analogies.
B2B marketing challenges
We know that business buyers go online – throughout the entire buying process — to research, compare and finally select products and services.
We also know that it’s common for offline marketing campaigns to drive prospects online where they search for more information about a company or product or service. And, conversely, online marketing, such as search, often ultimately leads to offline interactions, transactions and sales.
Finally, most marketers agree that the majority of B2B transactions are more complicated than consumer-oriented sales, involving multiple influencers and buyers through a longer sales cycle.
For more details on these B2B market realities, check out the recent research conducted by Enquiro.
Search marketing success metrics
Based on these unique challenges, B2B search marketers should ask themselves if their goals and success metrics address these issues. Specifically:
- Are you offering various online actions throughout the entire sales cycle that meet the needs of multiple types of
buyers and influencers?
- Are you taking into account the fact that various people from a single company will likely be involved and visit your website during the sales process?
- Or, are you only tracking visitors who complete a lead form or purchase online?
The dating analogy
At SES Toronto, permission marketing guru Seth Godin compared a typical online marketing program to a really bad dating strategy. Godin asked the audience to consider the following scenario: a single guy walks into a bar and asks the first women he sees to marry him. If this woman doesn’t accept, he asks the next, and the next, and the next—until he’s proposed to every woman in the room. He then goes to another bar, and then another, and another, and he repeats this process until someone actually accepts his proposal.
Hmmm… this method seems pretty ridiculous and remarkably ineffective—especially when compared to the socially acceptable process of selectively choosing who you want to date, building a relationship over time, and only then proposing marriage.
Yet, to Godin’s point, how many marketers just keep repeating (“shouting” in his words) the same worn out offer—placing their message in front of millions of “eyeballs”—even though it’s painfully apparent that very few strangers will fill out a lead form or buy a high-consideration item online, on their first visit!
Regardless of poor results, and extremely low conversion rates, many marketers simply keep shoving unqualified eyeballs down the same ineffective funnel.
Build selective relationships
What can B2B search marketers learn from Godin’s dating analogy?
To start, marketers should be much more selective about who they place their message in front of, and be willing to run campaigns designed to build relationships with the “right” people over the long haul.
For a search advertising campaign this means keywords, audience targeting criteria and ad copy that are unique to your business and quite precise. It also means landing pages that offer options. After all, not every visitor is ready or willing to fill-out a Contact Me form.
As I’ve written in the past, marketers should offer “mini-conversions”—actions which are truly useful to various types of prospects at different points in their buying process; actions that are valuable to prospects before they are ready to buy. Furthermore, marketers must understand the value of these actions. For example, what is it worth to have a first time visitor spend some time viewing your market research… or a repeat visitor interact with your product comparison chart… or an online prospect download a white paper or sign-up for a Webinar?
Unfortunately, many B2B marketers are so busy calculating what a sales lead is worth… that they completely ignore the value of all these interim, relationship-building actions.
A Campaign Illustration
To illustrate, let’s look at this successful search advertising campaign implemented by a database software company.
- To reach prospects early in the buying cycle… this firm uses fairly generic keywords (database software), ad copy that promotes general market data, and landing pages that feature unique, valuable industry research.
- To reach people in the product comparison phase, the company uses more detailed keywords (web based database software), ad copy that focuses on product differentiation, and landing pages featuring product comparison charts.
- Finally, for prospects ready to buy, the firm advertises against very specific, purchase-oriented keywords (purchase database application software), ad copy that focuses on unique product specifications, and landing pages with product selection and pricing tables and Request Quote forms.
Still kissing too many frogs?
Successful B2B search marketing programs require an awareness of the multiple buyers and influencers involved across all phases of the buying cycle as well as an appreciation that building a relationship over time requires multiple interactions, all of which deliver value.
This approach may be harder to measure and quantify than a simple cost/lead calculation… but then again, finding the perfect spouse isn’t fast and easy either!
Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, Colorado-based search engine marketing agency. You can reach Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
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