Using Search Engines To Reach Business Executives

Many B2B marketers are frustrated by their inability to reach executive-level decision makers. Recent research indicates they needn’t look further than the internet. Let’s explore how marketers can utilize search engines to easily and cost-effectively reach executives online.

The B2B marketing challenge

When Forrester asked B2B Marketers about their top marketing challenges, the #1 issue identified (in the 2006 B2B Marketing Effectiveness Survey) was difficulty reaching decision makers… identified by 54% of those surveyed.

For firms selling expensive, high-consideration products and services, such as enterprise software solutions, marketers need to reach and influence C-level executives as part of a long, interactive sales process.

Trusted sources of information

A study just released by and Gartner focuses on C-level executive behavior. The research concludes that the Internet continues to be the most influential and important source of business information for C-level executives around the world. (Much to the disappointment of the newspaper industry!).

Highlights from the research include:

  • 67% of C-level executives say the Internet is their most important source of business information.

  • Senior executives research competitors and industry trends online daily.

Executives’ use of search engines

Several years ago Forbes published a more detailed study entitled A Day in the Life of CEOs Online. The survey looked at Web usage of CEOs and senior-level managers at large companies (with a thousand or more employees).

The report indicates strong C-level usage of search engines, as supported by the following facts:

  • 54 percent conduct online researches

  • 34 percent say they go to the Web first to find information on a product or service
  • 86 percent use search engines

This propensity for online research seems to apply to executives at small and medium-sized companies as well. According to a study by Bredin Business Information, when asked where they are most likely to start looking for information to manage or grow their business, 48% of SMB executives identified search engines as their starting point (results are based on an online survey of 338 business executives at companies with 500 or less employees).

Focus on Google

No doubt about it: the internet, and specifically search engines, play a critical role in executives’ decision making process.

B2B marketers should also know that business searchers prefer Google even more than the general public. A study by Enquiro in September of 2007 indicates that a whopping 72% of business searchers identified Google as their search engine of choice.

Understand how executives search

So what does all this mean for B2B marketers? How can you capitalize on executives’ online behaviors?

First, understand how executives search. Do some search query (keyword) analysis. In general, executives are interested in broad, strategic topics, and tend to focus on information such as industry research, market trends, competitive insights, new capabilities, and future predictions.

Second, B2B marketers must make sure that your company is (A) visible when these types of searches are conducted, and (B) that your message is relevant. Does your search listing—paid or organic—include strategic information and a compelling call to action that would appeal to an executive?

Pay particular attention to Google and also investigate any industry-specific search engines, directories, or portals that your target audience would likely use.

Align your messages with executives’ needs

Make sure your PPC ads, organic listings, and landing pages clearly position your firm as a strategic partner. Provide downloadable assets such as industry research reports, market trend analyses, and strategic competitive assessments. In other words, don’t present executives with a “free shipping” message!

The data is in. Executives are online. Executives are searching. Are you capitalizing on this behavior?

B2B marketers: Utilize search marketing to proactively position your firm as executives’ strategic partner of choice.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing


About The Author: is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, Colorado-based search engine marketing agency. You can reach Patricia at The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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