B-to-B marketers have unique search engine marketing (SEM) concerns, and those need to be singled out as a separate discipline. So says Lauren Vaccarello, director of search, display and social advertising for San Francisco-based customer relationship management software provider Salesforce.com.
In the likely event that keywords you meant to catch B-to-B traffic reel in B-to-C clicks, Vaccarello says one of the first SEO concerns for B-to-B search marketers becomes a reality. She provides two suggestions: marketers can either take the "quality score hit," or segment out the consumer traffic on the landing page and funnel those hits "somewhere else."
Vaccarello spoke during both SES New York 2011 B-to-B sessions, along with Eddie Choi, managing director of Hong Kong-based digital marketing agency Frontiers Digital Asia Limited; Marc Engelsman, vice president of client services and programs at Plainsboro, N.J.-based search engine and social media marketing consultancy and services firm Digital Brand Expressions; and Kevin Lee, CEO of New York-based search marketing agency DidIt.com.
Here are six tips from those sessions specifically for marketers engaging in B-to-B SEM:
1. Upper-funnel keywords are the most important ones for B-to-B buyers. Vaccarello says upper-funnel terms build trust and brand awareness. Trust is the most important factor for the relationship-driven B-to-B buying cycle.
"You need to be there in that early decision process," she says. Be perceived as a thought leader by being present on forums, on social media networks and in contextually targeted advertisements. Vaccarello suggests the Google Display Network as one contextual targeting avenue that allows businesses to be in front of buyers before they make their decisions. (It can even allow advertisers to be on a page where buyers are reading about the competition.)
Vaccarello says offering reviews and white papers at this time also helps as, for instance, "Eighty-eight percent of tech buyers research as much as possible" before buying. Start thinking of "view-through conversions" as contributing to sales. Just because viewers don't click on an ad the first time doesn't mean they won't remember it and visit it later, Vaccarello says. "You're just looking for a clear picture of where people consume your content."
For more proof that brand awareness matters, Vaccarello says Internet users are 27 percent more likely to search for a brand or product after seeing its display ad, and technology advertisers experience a 31 percent average lift in conversions after a brand awareness campaign.
2. Tie offline conversions to online activity. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is handy for the task of connecting demand-generating keywords, such as branded terms, with leads, Vaccarello says. The key is to pay attention to sales, watching which keywords "drive offline conversions [such as] opportunities, pipeline [and] closed deals" versus. form completions or other less important "conversions."
3. Collect enough information for CRM, business intelligence and campaign management platforms to do their jobs properly, says Lee. The tools should know which search engine and keywords prospects used, which ads they viewed and what the targeting parameters were—particularly regarding LinkedIn, Facebook and HTTP referrer. He says the tool should also collect visitors' IP address information, including geography and the time of day.
This information allows marketers to, for instance, target prospects based on what time of day it is for them—not what time of day it is for the marketer—which allows marketers to choose to bid less on keywords for less desirable times of day.
4. B-to-B marketing works best with incremental messaging, so retarget prospects, Lee says. Start by using "your own cookie pool" rather than third-party data sources, he suggests. Create segments based on recency of visit, then bid accordingly.
Lee also suggests marketers B-to-B build dynamic landing pages based on the information collected by the CRM tool. What he says helps in the process is having the IP address, whether it belongs to a consumer or B-to-B visitor, knowledge of previous visits, geography, Internet service provider data, and what keywords were used. "The better you make the user experience, the higher the ROI."
Although tracking involves data loss—especially in online to offline conversions, even with coupons—Lee says tracking does help eliminate some of the ambiguity inherent in marketing to B-to-B prospects who are humans, but represent businesses and are not consumers.
5. Focus on needs-based vs. product- or service-based keywords, Engelsman says. He says different types of keywords aid different stages of the buying process.
For instance, client Edmund Optics—a Barrington, N.J.-based optics, imaging, and photonics technology supplier—thinks of needs-based keyword searches as passing through the following stages:
- Informational research, "aspheric lenses";
- Resource recommendations, "aspheric lenses manufacturers";
- Competitive research, "cost of aspheric lenses";
- Ready to purchase, "germanium infrared aspheric lenses"; and
- Post-purchase/customer service, "aspheric lenses spec sheet."
For Edmund, each stage has value—including the post-purchase/customer service step, especially considering 80 percent of its business is driven by repeat customers, Engelsman says. If a customer has a bad experience, this stage represents the opportunity to turn it into a good one.
6. When operating internationally, be careful about making search behavior assumptions. Choi says, for instance, the biggest search engine in China isn't Google—it's Baidu. And while 457 million Chinese citizens logged on in 2010—an increase of 73.3 million—online conversions for offline events are very common. To illustrate the difference in conversion behavior, he says 80 percent of Chinese Web users view bulletin board sites, more commonly known as forums in the US, to search for product information. Then 64.5 percent of site users attend offline events organized by the BBS administrator.