Optimizing The Business Of Your B2B Search Program
With 2012 stretched out before us, it’s a perfect time for B2B marketers to make sure that the year ahead is poised for success.
By now you have laid the groundwork, and have clear learnings from your 2011 search efforts to build upon. But … are you operationally structured for success?
The Importance Of The Business Architecture
Marketers are often moving so quickly that they sometimes neglect to make sure they are operating from the optimal framework – their business architecture. Granted, doing exactly that can seem a bit like changing the tires on a moving car, but failing to do so can negatively impact your efforts.
For example, I recently met with a lead gen B2B marketer. At first I was impressed – their strategy was cutting edge, and they were executing on the latest paid search tactics. I thought: Fantastic! These guys are on the top of their marketing game!
But after a few discussions, it became abundantly clear that the foundation for their B2B program was not engineered to allow the campaigns to scale based on calendar demands and performance success.
Unfortunately, the program had a fixed monthly budget that was based on the previous year’s budget, and was in no way tied to the market reality. As a result, campaign performance was permanently limited.
With the above in mind, what is the business architecture that is defining your marketing success?
Evaluating The Business Structure In A B2B Search Campaign
In B2B search marketing, always begin with understanding the goals of the business in order to create a strategy to execute a marketing plan. However, sometimes the search goals can be too generic to frame a comprehensive strategy, and might include broad guidance like ‘grow revenue’ or ‘generate more leads’.
While this might be enough data for tactical execution, the large majority of B2B search marketers would find it challenging to map value to such vague goals, and would come up short in the opportunity threshold that is available. To ensure that you are in the best position to succeed, you have to first look at the frame of your business structure.
To get started, it’s important to identify the business foundation that is serving as the skeleton of your marketing operation.
Every marketer begins with a budget, but when was the last time your budget formulation was fully vetted?
To make sure that the B2B Search Program is engineered to succeed, it’s a good idea to think about the business needs that are driving the marketing campaigns.
The most important implication to consider is the bottom line impact to the business. Is there a need for short-term revenue? Is there a new product or service launch that requires an ROI in the short-, mid- or long-term? The need for sales is a key driver that tends to define a business foundation for many B2B companies, and it is most often associated with lead generation.
While this might seem like a business need unto itself, it is really the tactical realization of a business driver. Every company needs more sales, but the answer you need to look for is: What type of sale is going to drive the needed performance in the business? Is there a need for a many large-scale clients, or do small to mid-size clients deliver optimal profitability for the business?
No matter the business implication, understanding the areas where the business priorities are met is a key first step to assuring that your program has the right priorities in mind to frame goals and objectives. Once this is established, you can set your sights on defining the goals to meet the business need.
Once you identify and prioritize the bottom-line needs of the program, you can begin to frame the marketing goals that will help to you attain the results you seek. This can include a diverse set of marketing goals.
However, regardless of the composition of the marketing goal matrix, make certain that your search framework correlates with your business objectives. This is critical as it will help you make appropriate business decisions on how to structure the program.
Some examples of prioritized business goals that can inform a search campaign include the following:
Once you know what your business needs are, and you have established goals to meet those needs, you can begin to frame an operational strategy to set the foundation for a comprehensive B2B search marketing program.
Determining how to approach the program is another business decision that is imperative to ensure that the framework is sound. To be sure, there are costs and benefits associated with each approach, but taking the time to determine the right value is often overlooked in the process.
Outsourcing execution offers many benefits, including overall cost savings in labor, economies of scale, and improved quality in tactical expertise. Moreover, it can be very practical given that oftentimes, the skills needed to execute are not readily available in-house.
If the business needs are going to be met, then the benefits of bringing in a vendor (outsourcing) far outweigh the costs. Additionally, with a vendor, there is the added benefit of tying performance to a continued business relationship.
On the other hand, if your organization is able to find great talent and keep that talent trained on the latest approaches and techniques, then an in-house approach could be the means to achieving the ends.
The ability to execute effectively across channels (each with very complex tactical dimensions) is a key variable to consider in this approach. If the program is seeking modest gains as determined in the business needs identification, and prior year efforts have met those business needs, then this approach makes the most sense.
However, most often a hybrid approach is the path that a business will adopt, depending on the knowledge and expertise resident in its talent pool. This might include leaving new sales growth initiatives to an outsourced partner, while leveraging the internal team to execute CRM efforts.
Whatever the results of your execution analysis, make sure that the marketing performance is mapped to the business goals and satisfies the business needs. Once you weigh the costs, potential benefits, and general scalability of the team, you are ready to begin focusing on brilliant search marketing strategy and execution.
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