Search Marketing

Optimize Pay Per Click Campaigns for B2B Marketing

By Jon Miller

Most search engine marketing solutions and agencies cater to the needs of high-volume B2C clients and do not focus on the very different challenges faced by B2B marketers. Some of these differences include:

B2C Search Engine Marketing B2B Search Engine Marketing
High volume, low value searches Low volume, high value searches
Focus on clicks and transactions Focus on conversions and leads
Single decision maker Multiple decision makers
Search intent to buy Search intent to research
Transactional landing pages Lead capture landing pages
Purchase immediately Purchase months to weeks later
No hand-offs from Sales to Marketing Closed-loop lead management required

Let's look deeper at some of the unique challenges presented by B2B search engine marketing:

Low Volume, High Value Searches
Leads, Not Traffic
Multiple Decision Makers
Lead Capture Landing Pages
Lead Nurturing
Closed-Loop Lead Management
Low Volume, High Value Searches
The word "mp3 player" costs much less, gets more traffic, and has more competition than a B2B word like "CRM". However, the top position on Google for CRM is more than 2.5 times more expensive than the top position for mp3 player. Although mp3 player gets 10x more traffic, the value of a qualified CRM lead is much higher.

In other words, B2C search marketers must optimize for "high-volume, low-value" words, while B2B search marketing needs to optimize for "low-volume, high-value" words. This implies different words and different ways to set bids. Since many of the popular bid optimization solutions are tuned for B2C clients, B2B marketers may be left with suboptimal results.

Leads, Not Traffic
Most B2C search marketing companies focus on generating traffic rather than qualified leads. (One popular vendor claims it will "drives throngs of new visitors to your website" and only mentions leads as an afterthought at the bottom of the page.) Look through the list of services they provide, and you see lots of references to automated bid management, but no references to maximizing conversions.

This works for high-volume B2C keywords, but in the high-value, low-volume world of B2B search it is critical that you focus significant attention on finding the right words (i.e. the words your target prospects actually use when searching) and on converting as many of those clicks into qualified leads as possible.

Multiple Decision Makers
Buying an mp3 player does not usually require a complex approval process, while B2B transactions typically have an entire committee of individuals involved in making a final purchase decision, including champions, economic buyers, influencers, gatekeepers, and users.

Each role uses search in different ways, with different motivations, and at different times during the sales cycle. One individual has a problem and uses search just to see whether a solution exists. Another wants to research the space so she can be educated in discussions with peers and bosses. Yet another needs to identify a list of requirements or create a short-list of vendors. And others still want to build an ROI justification, design an implementation plan, or understand how a new system will impact their day to day work. A complete B2B search engine marketing campaign must use keywords, ads, and landing pages that speak to each of these needs.

Lead Capture Landing Pages
The Internet has transformed how people research and buy complex B2B purchases. Search has killed the trade show as the first place most people learn about a solution (in fact, over 93% of prospects start their buying process online). Buyers want to be much more educated before they engage with a sales person, and as a result they spend significant time researching before they ever want to be contacted.

What this means is that in B2B marketing, the buying process is only beginning when a customer first clicks on an ad. Without the ability to capture the prospect's attention — and their contact information — you lose the ability stay in touch and deepen the relationship once they leave your site.

The best practice is to use landing pages. Relevant landing pages drive better quality scores and get better ranking, and they have dramatically higher conversion rates compared to sending clicks to your home page. Despite this, only about a quarter of B2B companies send PPC clicks to keyword specific landing pages. The problem is that landing page optimization requires building and maintaining dozens of landing pages, which most companies find too difficult to manage. What's needed is a solution that assists with both landing page creation and landing page testing.

Lead Nurturing
Because B2B buyers use search early in their sales cycle, only about 25% of the traffic on your site is ready to speak with a sales person. Sending the other 75% to Sales before the prospect is ready annoys both the prospect and the sales rep, who is left with the impression that leads from Marketing are poorly qualified.

The solution is to use lead nurturing, a disciplined marketing-driven process of helping qualified prospects who are not yet sales-ready move through their buying process. This means progressively understanding more about the prospect's needs and using targeted one-to-one communications to build your company's position as a trusted advisor, which implies that PPC campaigns need to be an integrated part of a complete, multi-channel demand generation process.

Closed-Loop Lead Management
Once the lead is passed to sales, the B2B search marketer's job is still not finished. Unlike in B2C marketing, the time between the first click and a closed sale can be weeks or months or years. This implies the need to integrate PPC campaigns with CRM systems such as, so that marketers can track and report which clicks turn into leads, opportunities, and revenue and use the closed-loop learning to refine keywords and optimize bids.

B2B search engine marketing involves challenges and opportunities that are quite different from those faced by B2C marketers. Because the goal is to drive high-quality leads to sales, not to generate traffic, marketers must use different strategies for discovering keywords, setting bids, managing conversions, and measuring results. Only by paying as much (or more) attention to what happens after the click will B2B marketers be able to ensure optimal results for their PPC campaigns.

About the Author
Jon Miller is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of affordable, easy-to use-marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve accountability.

Tags: Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, Search Engine Marketing, SEM

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