B-to-B : Search for Business
How B-to-B marketers can differentiate and target 'immediate' and 'considered' conversions in search engine marketingSeptember 2012 By James Trezona
Typing a product into a search engine is something consumers do, but it doesn't have a place in serious B-to-B selling, right? The assumption is that, instead of search, B-to-B buyers are more informed (directly or via partnerships), more strategic and more considered in their purchasing than consumers who rely on the Internet to find products, services and solutions. In truth, that premise is not just wrong, it's completely upside down.
If we divide B-to-B purchases into "considered" and "immediate," we could say the latter does behave in a consumer fashion—investing limited research effort and generally a primary desire to just find the best value point (although the brand story often remains a big influence, even here). These immediate purchases, too, may lend themselves to the small-office/home-office B-to-B markets; which, in many ways, behave as a consumer would.
But it's the considered purchases that are really where search marketing comes into its own, and where it gets interesting. That's where marketing has really changed.
Take the Story Back
Vendors used to have the majority of control on the information that informed buying decisions. However, peer group discussions have always been the top-influencing factor beyond vendors' control. And now, through search and social techniques, a buyer's ability to access a global group of "peers" is super-charged. Control has shifted.
Enlightened marketers quickly realized that to become a critical part of today's selling process, they needed to be able to curate peer-group discussions and relevant online content and leverage an analysis that flows from this. If done well, this analysis and resulting action can create a virtuous spiral of positive engagement: As more buyers and influencers engage with a marketer's own communities and content, this engagement will feature more prominently in search results and more buyers will see it.
Because search, social and content are inextricably linked, search engines tend to favor social content. And a huge driver of social visibility of marketing is driven by search visibility—we might call this linkage "a virtuous spiral."
Another often overlooked role of search in B-to-B marketing is that we can actually use search functionality as a driver of insight into target audiences—a research tool. Marketers who use search as a blunt inbound tool, and only look at clicks or conversions of their paid campaigns, miss a huge potential value of search—the analysis of the search terms themselves and the intelligence they can derive from these.