The Key to B-to-B Search
The length of the sales cycle for the typical B-to-B product or service is longer than that of B-to-C, for several reasons. First, the price point typically is higher. Next, there often are multiple people involved in the buying approval decision. And often corporate purchasing policies dictate that buyers obtain a minimum of three options for any purchase. As a result, there is far more time and effort spent on initial research into products and services by potential B-to-B customers, and transactions—or the desire to engage with a salesperson—rarely occur during a prospect's first Web site visit.
So B-to-B marketers need to focus their efforts on developing a keyword strategy that encompasses the entire continuum of the sales cycle, with targeted keywords for each and every phase in the process—from research through final sale. For example, someone searching for "fork lifts" may be at a relatively early stage in his research process, whereas the use of the search phrase "electric forklift dealers" demonstrates a higher degree of specificity and intent to purchase, and indicates that the searcher probably is further along in the buying cycle. Targeting keywords that are indicative of early stage search behavior is important, as doing so attracts searchers to your site early in the process. Capturing your target prospect at an early stage not only provides for a longer, deeper relationship with your organization, but it also keeps the prospect from finding the Web sites of your competitors.
Understanding a B-to-B site's real marketing objectives is paramount in devising an effective search marketing strategy. And since the marketing objective of most B-to-B sites is lead generation, not direct sales, the actions you want visitors to your site to take are different—and more numerous—than those of a B-to-C site.
Often, there are any number of conversion activities available to visitors of a B-to-B site, and they often can be aligned with the various stages of the sales cycle (as discussed above), reflected across the variety of visitors to your Web site. For example, some may want to print or download a copy of a product brochure. Others may want to read an educational white-paper or view a rich-media presentation. Still others may want to subscribe to your free newsletter, while some may want to speak to a salesperson or use the store locator.