Search Marketing in B2B

  |  March 2, 2009   |  Comments

Five reasons why business-to-business marketers should invest in search engine marketing.

More often than not, when we talk about search, we almost by default think of the B2C (define) environment.

Search marketing seems perfectly suited to a variety of direct-to-consumer industries, such as hospitality and tourism, retail, pharmaceuticals, and aesthetic services. Jane is searching for a new hair salon. John is searching for a cold medicine. Jack is searching for a hotel to stay at on his vacation. If you offer a solution for a consumer, it makes sense to have a presence in the search engines.

But what if someone is searching on behalf of their company? What about procurement officers, purchasers, operations managers, resource managers, and the like? Don't they also need to undertake research and seek out information on potential vendors or suppliers to obtain products and services to run their business?

Of course!

So why do so many business owners think they don't need to consider search because they aren't marketing to individual consumers?

Just like an individual consumer searching for something to meet their needs, the B2B (define) information seeker has unique information needs to be met. These users seek out this information online, either to complement or replace traditional sources of information gathering (e.g., company brochures and trade shows). The Internet has become a reliable source of information for businesses and consumers alike, providing 24/7 access, along with typically more complete information than could be obtained through a direct mail piece or conference collateral.

And because online marketing can be so targeted and measurable, it's an efficient use of tight marketing dollars. And we're all feeling the need to stretch each dollar a bit further.

So consider search marketing if you're a business that offers products or services to other businesses. Here are some thoughts on why and how to do so:

  • Search marketing can help you reach a motivated audience when it's actively searching for what you offer. Imagine you manufacture backup generators for large office buildings. Wouldn't you want to ensure your site is among the first to come up when someone searches for "office building power backup"? As the searcher is essentially hand raising as part of your audience, you have the opportunity to serve up a highly targeted message and call-to-action to this person through either paid or organic listings.

  • Search marketing can help you reach those obscure or secondary targets more effectively. A niche business audience will always be interested in your organization's products or services that you've yet to uncover. Let's say you typically sell your employee wellness programs to large, public companies by directly approaching the human resources department on a one-to-one basis. However, some small- and medium-sized businesses might be interested in your services, but may never hear about them due to your focused approach. Search is a highly cost effective and low-risk method to reach out to audiences that may not be your priority, but can add supplemental revenue streams to help grow your business.

  • Search marketing can help leverage any press garnered from your business accomplishments. Savvy business people often subscribe to news feeds and obtain their industry news and updates online. If your company has something newsworthy (i.e. receives a prestigious award or certification, or is launching a new product), SEO (define) can be used to optimize your presence in key news resources. Just like a page on your site, your press releases can be optimized so they come up more frequently in news searches for relevant keywords. This will improve the visibility and profile of your company among businesspeople, and increase your chances of winning new business.

  • Search marketing can help position your company as a leader in your field. Leveraging thought-leadership tools (e.g., whitepapers, research studies, or case studies) can help your company be positioned on your industry's leading edge. Offering your B2B audience something of value in return for their contact information is a great way to generate qualified leads. For example, if your business provides Internet marketing services, you might offer a whitepaper on the key steps in formulating a digital strategy. B2B whitepaper marketing is particularly effective when using paid search. Best practices suggest choosing keywords that relate to the content of your whitepaper and driving into a targeted campaign landing page that enables the user to register to download the document within that first page. Stripping the landing page of extraneous links, navigation, or copy can also help keep them focused on the desired action and improve conversion rates.

  • Search marketing can give you an edge over your competition. Ensuring your site is at the top of the search engine listings when your business audience is searching can help combat competitive threat. All other things equal, the more well positioned you are in the listings, the higher your share of voice. Even if you have an extremely niche audience (e.g., your products are only used in military vehicles), search is a very cost effective way to gain a leg up over your competition. Although information seekers may be few and far between, those who do search are likely highly qualified, and those that click through even more so. Because online is likely a tertiary channel in very niche B2B industries, there's a good chance your competitors aren't actively pursuing e-marketing, giving your company a chance to own any online searching happening in this space.

While there are many other ways to leverage search for your business, these five suggestions are a good starting place for the B2B marketer. Invest in a small search pilot (with strong measurement in place) to test the space out and see if it drives ROI (define) for you. I'm quite confident you'll see a positive return on your B2B search marketing efforts.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, including a ClickZ track, plus more than 150 exhibitors, networking events, parties, and training days.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Early Bird Rates expire May 29. Register today and save!


Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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