Conventional wisdom tells us the fastest and most efficient way to research and compare products and pricing is on the web. Recently, this belief was confirmed by two research studies examining the role of search in B2B marketing.
First, Enquiro and Marketing Sherpa demonstrated the dominance of search in B2B transactions. Now, a Google-Millward Brown study corroborates the importance of search in the B2B sales cycle.
B2B Transactions Are Unique
As you know, B2B transactions differ from consumer transactions because the decision requires coordination among several personnel before the final sale is made. The time between researching the product and placing the order results in a long sales cycle.
Enquiro's "The Role of Search in Business to Business Buying Decisions" is a well-designed study of approximately 1,500 participants who responded to a 40-question survey about B2B buying habits. You can download the entire report for free. Below are a few highlights:
Search Engines Dominate
The study is too rich with details to cover entirely in this article. But here are some important conclusions:
B2B Buyers Prefer Search to Traditional Media
The Google-Millward Brown study examined technology purchases to identify sources of information used during a three-stage buying cycle defined as “research/engagement,” “consideration/comparison” and “ final purchase.”
The study found that B2B buyers used search engines more often than traditional media throughout the entire buying cycle. Google concluded that search advertising is more effective than trade magazine ads and other traditional B2B media.
The study also found that benefits and strong call-to-action are crucial components of a sponsored link (duh!). This has implications for the title and description of your web pages as these elements are used to create organic links on the search result pages.
Are B2B Sites Optimized for Search Engines?
They all have websites, but according to research, most aren’t optimized to maximize search engine traffic. Research indicates that 80 to 90 percent of corporate websites are not well optimized. Most recently, Fathom reported manufacturing sites ignore this marketing opportunity. Yet, this same research shows that properly optimized websites enjoy fantastic gains in unique visitors and conversions.
With all the qualified traffic originating from search engines, it is more important than ever for B2B marketers, wholesalers and B2B exchanges to ensure that their web sites are correctly optimized for good positioning in search results. There is also great value in search engine optimization as a marketing tool.
It’s a User-Friendly Tool
Search engine traffic is highly targeted. That's because potential buyers who find your B2B offerings through search engines are looking for your products and services on their own; as a result, they are predisposed to hear your marketing message. You can't find a more qualified prospect than that.
Here's what distinguishes search engine marketing from other types of advertising:
What Else Do B2B Marketers Need to Know?
How good is the ROI? How effective is search engine marketing for B2B firms? What are the key-points to consider for your B2B search engine-marketing plan? Please join me next week for the answers in Part 2.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
June 21, 2005
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.
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