As humans, we have always sought to answer our questions. Prior to the inception of the Internet and the rise of the search engine, we had a limited array of solutions when a question arose.
We could ask teachers or friends, and as you might imagine, this was a local and inefficient means to securing an exhaustive answer. We were not entirely without our systems, which in their time proved quite useful. One such system was the Dewey decimal system known well as the information retrieval of our public libraries. When it came to speed, accuracy and efficiency, this system was not without its limits.
Enter search engines. Never before have we had such rapid means to answer our questions as with a search engine. Walt Disney said once that “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Search enables us to fulfill our curiosity and helps us to navigate to our answers.
Why Should Your Customer Find You?
So why is this important for your B2B search marketing? Its importance points to an often overlooked dimension in the way we think of search. Search means so much more to all of us than we tend to think of in our everyday marketing lives.
To be truly successful and positioned for the future, we need to think about where search fits into the human journey, both in what people want to find and what you have a right to deliver.
I find it useful at times to take a step back and question even the approach of what we are trying to do as marketers. One element in B2B marketing is that we are always pressed to find the appropriate blend of tactics to most effectively meet our objectives.
But ask yourself, how often do we stop and think about why customers should be selecting your business in their lives?
The answer is certainly a varied one, but really getting into the roots of this core foundation can lead to key discoveries which will help you make the connections with your consumers. While it’s often too difficult to simply stop what we are currently executing, one way to invest this time appropriately is when there is an emerging trend and an opportunity converges with future demand.
Viewing Market Trends To Inform Search Strategy
I am often pleasantly surprised when a growth trend can help inform search strategy for my clients. As an example, let’s look at the realm of B2B e-commerce, the often overlooked cousin of retail e-commerce.
According to a recent Oracle Whitepaper (2012 B2B E-Commerce Survey: Results and Trends, Feb 2012), business to business revenue transacted online is approximately US$300 billion.
A separate study conducted by Forrester conservatively estimates that B2B e-commerce will be a $559 billion market in the US in 2013 (Key Trends In B2B eCommerce For 2013). I think it is safe to say the B2B e-commerce is poised for a major growth spurt, and this fact alone inspires us to think about how to prepare for this in our search campaigns.
What we can safely draw from this is the reality that something is moving B2B customers into a different behavior from offline to online. It could be the link between the speed of access and ability to transact more efficiently at scale that you find online. But no matter the reason, as a B2B search marketer, the question then becomes how you prepare for this potential in your business.
One of the key trends that the Forrester report goes on to identify is that “B2C e-commerce experiences drive the B2B e-commerce experience.”
In essence, B2B buyers want to have similar experiences to what they have seen in their lives as retail purchasers. While the decision to build the B2B e-commerce experience might be out of your control in search, we can begin to examine what has worked in B2C and how we can apply this to lay the foundation in our campaigns.
For example, a program that is already ahead of this curve can be seen below. As you can see, the client is enabling a retail-like experience, but also provides three means with which to connect to the audience, including chat, click-to-call, and email. This enables not only the query fulfillment of the end user, but also creates an internal business optimization opportunity. The client is able to identify the most effective communication channel through customer selection. This will help determine when a sale can be automated or when some human intervention is required.
Through this approach, a B2B sales organization can create a foundation to inform managing every transaction collaboratively with the customer.
If we then take this data, and build it into our search campaigns, we can extend this experience in the search journey through click-to-call ad copy or other extensions. When we do, we are assuring that our customers have a choice in how they find and engage with us.
Are You Available When & How Your Customer Wants To Find You?
In the end, the foundation is always about your Findability. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up.
Do you feel that in your B2B search campaign, across your customer personas, you are available at least 80% of the time? One area to examine closely is in mobile, another key trend that Forrester calls out as important to B2B e-commerce success. The same Forrester study goes on to cite that products distributor W.W. Grainger reported recently that nearly 50% of its mobile customers said they “feel comfortable enough to start placing orders” on a mobile device.
Furthermore, 55% of information workers use multiple devices for work, while 58% of those information workers who work remotely at least once a month use a smartphone regularly for work. We have all witnessed the explosion in mobile, and now any search campaign that is not building mobile as a separate campaign dimension is missing tremendous opportunity to be found.
Ask yourself how easily can your customers find and engage with you, and why should they? If you have any doubts, or a plethora of explanations come to mind, then perhaps your search program should explore what your end customers need you as the search ambassador to do for them.
The reason this is so important is that whether you plan for it or not, your customers are curious and looking for answers, even at this moment. By virtue of our human curiosity, search is and will remain a highly valuable method for marketing results since it’s in and of itself a human behavior. If they seek to find, and you provide them the answer they need, the results to your B2B search program will reflect your success.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.