handshake1.jpgIt took me awhile to realize that paid search was not a game! Really. Paid search is big business and potentially a large amount of a small business marketing budget. But like many people, I jumped in headfirst and was enamored with tweaking ads, trying new keywords and spending my company's money. My early ways were more PPC Gunslinger than responsible Marketing Manager. Then, slowly over time, you realize that there are eerily similar parallels between paid search advertising and the face-to-face sales process.

Paid Search can be compared to a sales process that includes stages like prospecting, bonding and rapport, up-front contracts, and the close. There is obviously more to sales than that, but for the purpose of this post, we’ll keep it simple. Let's take a look at some of the similarities between PPC and sales.

Prospecting is finding qualified prospects at the right time in their buying cycle who may have interest in your product or service. In paid search this is called keyword research and targeted ad content. What would my target audience be searching on to find the answers to their questions? Will their search be different depending on where they are in the buying process? (also known as The Funnel in paid search) What problem can I promise to answer if they click on my ad? Using your ad content to show the searcher a solution to their inquiry is the key to this first step. Give them a reason to engage you and your brand.

The process of getting to know your prospect and building a relationship. With a phone call you get more than a nanosecond to make this happen. With paid search you get less. The bonding and rapport in paid search comes from the landing page experience. You’ve hooked the prospect with an alluring ad - now you get a few seconds to find a common ground with the user during their interaction with your landing page. The trick here is to give the searcher what they’re looking for out of the experience. Are they looking to buy? Do they want overview information? Are they looking to contact someone? You should know this from the keyword. For instance, did you advertise on Topps Baseball Cards or did you advertise on 1982 Topps Mint Baseball Card Set? The more specific the user gets the more detailed they’ll want information on their given interest. The more vague they get, the more they’re looking for an advertiser to lead them. Either way, you have a shot on the landing page to create a bond with the searcher. Don’t lose them!

Up Front Contract
In sales, this is where you and the prospect agree on what the next step should be. In paid search, this is your call to action. On your landing page, the correct call to action can make or break the sale. If you have a giant button saying BUY NOW when all they user wanted was some basic information, you’ll likely lose them. Again, its back to the keyword. What do you anticipate the searcher will want from your page? What call to action will lead them deeper into your site? If you and the searcher agree on that next step, you’ve set the up front contract and are ready to proceed.

The Close
In the sales process, this is that glorious moment when you put the purchase order in front of the customer and they sign. In Paid Search, this is called a conversion. Was the goal of your ad a sale, a lead, or just a certain amount of pages viewed on your site? Whatever the goal (and there has to be one), its been met by the searcher. If you nailed steps 1-3, step 4 should come easily as long as you keep giving the searcher what they’re asking for.

As a small business marketer, you can win at Paid Search and compete with companies 100 times your size if you keep in mind the traditional sales process.

November 6, 2007

Patrick Schaber is currently the Director of Marketing for Transition Networks, Inc – a data networking hardware manufacturer. His experience working for both large and small organizations has given him keen insights into many facets of marketing including, email marketing, advertising, search engine marketing, social media and more. Along with trainings and industry speaking engagements, Patrick authors his own site, The Lonely Marketer, which focuses on the diverse activities and culture related to the small business marketer.

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Search Engine Guide > Patrick Schaber > Bonding With Your PPC Prospect?