As we sat there at lunch, I could tell something was on his mind. Turns out, he was frustrated with management. Apparently they thought he should be doing more cool and innovative things with his search campaigns. “They just don’t get it,” he said. “They don’t understand that when it comes to search, B2B sites can’t push the envelope. It’s just not in their DNA.”
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I hear similar sentiments from B2B marketers all the time. I have found that while they’re interested in hearing about the innovative search marketing programs we are working on, telling them about it usually elicits a response along the lines of, “Oh that is really interesting, and would be of value to our business and customers/prospects, but we could never do that because, after all, we are in the B2B space. It’s the folks who do consumer marketing that have all the fun.”
Fortunately, that is not the case; a lot more can be done with B2B sites than they think. Innovative search marketing can, and should, be done by all types of organizations. My goal is to help you understand how to make your search marketing programs more innovative, how to connect with additional customers, and how to drive better results. To that end, I have developed a plan that can be implemented by all B2B marketers. It is designed to distinguish you from your competitors, and to help generate that precious ROI that everyone is looking for. The key elements of my plan are:
- Develop comprehensive metrics
- Learn about your consumers
- Focus on messaging yourself
- Test, test and test
- Find you place in Social Search
Attempting to cover each of these topics in one article would make for one heck of a long read. Instead, let’s examine each topic thoroughly in its own article. Today, I’ll focus on the metrics component. But before we begin, I want to point out that basic SEO and SEM best practices do not appear in the list above for a reason. Marketers must have a solid SEO and SEM foundation in place before moving on to more innovative approaches. I don’t plan to address the basics here, as many readers are familiar with numerous credible sources of information on these topics.
Develop comprehensive metrics
Just because you don’t directly sell anything on your website doesn’t mean you can’t leverage it to understand what is and isn’t working, and how visitors are behaving there. However, before you begin capturing this data, bear in mind that you must also develop actionable findings. Doing so is critical to your success, and will help your business in ways far beyond search marketing. Fortunately there are numerous good analytics packages to choose from, yet there is no one perfect solution. Given that, be certain to prioritize your needs, and work from there. And when it comes to actually using your data, think about it in terms of pre- and post-purchase analysis, or as I like to call it, prospects and customers.
Your main goals in this area should be to understand where your prospects come from, what they do when they arrive, and what steps you can take to help them convert more easily on your site.
For this purpose, a conversion is defined as a desired action you want visitors to take on your site, and commonly involves such things as: filling out a lead form, signing-up for a newsletter or white paper, a free trial, compatibility assessment, or visits to certain pages on the site.
It is essential that you understand whether these individuals came from a bookmark, direct navigation, a link on a partner site, organic search, or paid search campaign. Then you can begin to build conversion profiles that define the characteristics of visitors who convert best for you. For example, perhaps users from MSN organic and paid search convert best at your site after searching on three different phrases, or that users who entered the site on a specific page performed best.
This understanding is valuable for two reasons. First, armed with this knowledge, you can make adjustments to other campaigns such as email, TV, display, and other partnership programs to emphasize the specific online messages that are working for you. Second, you can also analyze your poorly performing profiles to understand what is not working. Often times, clients forget that by nature people are different, and as a result, they have different needs. Some seek emotional satisfaction, while others want data, and yet others want to know exactly how your product or service works. Ultimately, you will most likely find that if you make a concerted effort to speak to different types of people (personas) in the voice they listen for, you will improve your conversion rate.
Many B2B marketers prefer to have customers convert via phone rather than online. This approach seems to work best when the product or service is a high consideration item, when offerings are complex and involve several options, or when the purchase is more emotional. If your business falls into one of these categories, don’t fight your prospects by forcing them to convert online. Instead, develop ways to measure the impact your website is having on call volume. For example, there is a great service that rotates 800 numbers to facilitate tracking. I have also seen clients track leads driven by the web with a special offer that callers mention.
Once someone has become a customer, your analytics data no longer helps, right? Wrong. I continue to be amazed at why more B2B organizations do not monitor their customers for clues about their relationship. If your service is web based, then you have a nearly infinite amount of data available to you on how frequently your customers are engaging with your organization. This can give you a sense of the ongoing value they derive from your business, and can provide clues about up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Take the time to understand how well you are doing and your customer retention will improve.
The desire to be successful and innovative combined with the right guidance will allow B2B search marketers to stand out from the crowd. Don’t think that your search campaigns have to be stale just because you don’t sell anything online or feature a ton of flash on your site. Search marketing presents a great opportunity for you to be innovative and raise the expectations of your customers.
Next time we’ll explore learning about your customers and how to take that understanding to a whole new level.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.