Microsoft Advertising has begun reaching out to a handful of search engine marketing (SEM) experts and small business customers, hoping to pair them up in the first part of an initiative to educate SMBs about adCenter and learn about their needs and challenges.
“It’s an initiative to see how we can better support our small business customers,” Tara Kriese, group product marketing manager for the search business group at Microsoft Advertising, told me.
The program doesn’t yet have a name, but its internal code name was Bing Express and it will eventually have a Bing-related brand. Kriese says this matchmaking between SEMs and small businesses is just the start of what will be a much broader program, though she wouldn’t reveal what future elements of the initiative might be.
So far, the company has been using an outside PR agency to reach out to expert SEMs, asking them to spend two hours mentoring small businesses on the phone in exchange for an undisclosed amount of free advertising on adCenter. They were also asked to develop three original blog posts on SEM and “the advantages of diversifying your marketing mix with search advertising on Bing.” It’s not clear where those blog posts will be published. The company also wrote a blog post that appears related asking for SEM expert volunteers, but asking them to keep the project secret.
Small businesses are a particularly tough audience to reach, given they are often too busy running their businesses to spend time marketing them — especially when the marketing approach requires they learn about the complex world of bidding on keywords, and everything else a search campaign involves. Google has sought to solve this problem with AdWords Express, a simplified product that only requires that marketers set a monthly budget and write ad copy. Microsoft faces a particularly difficult challenge here, as those businesses who can set aside time for search marketing will likely look to Google, and perhaps only Google.
“[The initiative] comes from the mindset that there are small businesses who leverage agencies, but there are a lot of businesses out there that cannot afford to have agency partners,” said Kriese. “How can we expand the learnings from those folks and help them to learn about search, and learn about marketing, period.”
The interactions between the SEMs and small businesses will be watched carefully, and learnings applied to future parts of the initiative and potentially to product developments to make adCenter more user friendly to SMBs.