Today, the majority of b2b search marketing programs are focused on lead generation. Prospects are driven to landing pages where they register for white papers, demos, webinars, and other informational assets. A certain percentage of these registrants become sales leads, and ultimately customers. While lead gen programs do produce inquiries, this type of campaign may be short-sighted in the long run.
Lead generation success metrics
Because of this emphasis on lead generation, I’ve found that most b2b search marketers are focused on only a few success metrics, including:
- # registrants
- quality of registrations (i.e. how many registrants ultimately become leads and then customers)
This limited set of metrics adequately measures registrations (I discussed in my last column that registrations are not necessarily sales leads), but if this is all you’re tracking, you’re leaving a lot of marketing value on the table, in my opinion.
Budget allocation based on conversions only
Here’s a common scenario you might relate to. A b2b executive knows that her company is running a search advertising campaign… she goes to Google and conducts a search for a phrase that she thinks is exactly what the firm should be advertising on. She’s dismayed when NO ad is displayed. In fact, the firm’s ads are conspicuously missing on several searches she conducts.
Marketers are spending money on keywords, but obviously not the phrases she is searching for. Where’s the disconnect? They are likely focusing solely on lead gen metrics, and often times the most obvious, popular phrases don’t convert as well (or as cost-effectively) as less popular and more specific words. So, the marketers are diverting funds away from these big-volume, common phrases and focusing on only the best converting keywords.
This strategy may make sense from a pure lead gen perspective, but the executive intuitively knows that her company is not getting all the potential marketing value from this search program.
Search campaigns for branding and market positioning
The fact is it may be unacceptable not to show up for certain critical search phrases—even if these phrases don’t produce the most leads. It can be difficult to measure… but marketers must ask themselves, what is the opportunity cost associated with not being on the results page? Even if an organic listing is prominently displayed for a critical search query, many marketers want to write (or change) the message, provide a compelling call to action, and drive prospects directly to a specific landing page – so PPC ads may still make sense.
Recent studies from Forrester, Enquiro, and others indicate that business buyers use search engines extensively… and particularly in the awareness, research, and selection phases of the b2b buying cycle. Marketers should consider the value associated with reaching prospects early in this process… even if these searchers don’t complete a registration form and count as a conversion.
The moment of relevance
Although it’s not discussed nearly as often as lead generation, search advertising can be a great way for b2b marketers to build a brand, associate a product or service with a particular solution, and position a firm uniquely against the competition.
Putting your brand in front of a searcher at the moment they are online conducting research, looking for answers, or comparing solutions is a very powerful thing. Search uniquely gives marketers the ability to reach prospects at this moment of relevance.
Success metrics beyond conversions
Defining success for this type of branding or market positioning campaign is quite different than a lead gen effort and involves different success metrics. Marketers must focus on metrics like: number of ad impressions, share of total market impressions, cost-per-impression (CPM), click-through rate, volume of visitors, and cost-per-visitor.
Multiple marketing goals achieved simultaneously.
I recommend that marketers prioritize their goals and implement specific search programs to achieve each of their objectives. I work with several companies who run both lead gen and market visibility campaigns simultaneously and successfully.
I feel it is best to establish a separate search campaign for each goal. This allows marketers to better allocate funds and manage each campaign based on its unique success metrics.
Do continue to track registrations, inquires, and leads—for all of your campaigns, but don’t ignore the additional value search can deliver in terms of brand building, market positioning, and reaching prospects early and throughout the entire buying process.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.