B2B and B2C Marketers Can Learn From Each Other

Anyone who’s worked in marketing for a week knows there’s a difference between the strategies and tactics for business-to-consumer (B2C) and those for business-to-business (B2B) online advertising. Yet in some ways, they’re more alike than they are different.

From a 30,000-foot view, the objectives are identical: drive sales. Once you cut below the clouds, of course, the means to drive sales can be very different, primarily because the audiences are so different.

Look at the recent $345 million acquisition of Business.com by R.H. Donnelley. For over 100 years, R.H. Donnelley has been a formidable channel for the B2C marketing channel in both on- and offline markets. Why, then, the big investment in B2B?

It was noted Business.com had a well-oiled performance-based marketing network that the mainstay will be able to leverage quickly. But that’s not the big picture.

Crossing Over in Local Search Makes Sense

B2B and B2C audiences are different. So are their search habits and behaviors. Business.com offered R.H. Donnelley a deep stream of potential revenue growth.

If you look at the U.S. business marketplace, there are 15 to 18 million U.S. business locations. Many will dispute the actual figure because the total depends on your definition of a business or a business location.

We could argue over whether a business must have a physical location to be considered a business. It probably doesn’t, but how does a B2B marketer reach a marketplace with no physical location? You can’t simply knock on the door of a business that’s operated out of a home, not to mention the federal restrictions on telemarketing to a residence.

to ease this marketing headache, let’s assume the number is in the 15 to 18 million range. Based on Localeze figures, then, there are 5 million-plus businesses offering products and services for which most consumers have little need.

Localeze has a sister company that compiles business data from yellow pages directories and numerous other sources. According to that firm’s reporting, there are about 11.5 million B2B firms in the U.S. This is a fairly large segment with the same need as B2C outfits: to reach prospective buyers. More specifically, buyers searching online for particular products and services.

Look across the online advertising marketplace. There aren’t as many online advertising sites that cater to the special needs of B2B firms. So through Business.com, R.H. Donnelley may be tapping into an unmined business segment.

Find a Niche for Search Optimization

When we look at these two types of broad business classifications, B2B and B2C, it may make sense to further dissect the needs of the more traditional B2C businesses and try to understand if certain sites within the local search industry offer better targeting or audiences for certain types of categories.

Is one Internet yellow pages (IYP) site better than another for the restaurant category? Or are search engines better suited for that category than the IYPs?

Look at the Citysearch.com’s front page. It’s quite apparent it intends to be a great place to look for restaurants. In fact, many of the places I go for lunch in downtown Chicago have a “Best of Citysearch” sticker in the window.

But what about other categories? Does it make sense for a business owner to go beyond audience measurement and reach in determining what site offers the highest quality lead to a specific business category?

I think it does, however I also recommend (as I usually do) to ensure your business information is correctly represented everywhere on the Web. Once you’ve accomplished that, it’s time to consider buying online advertising. Where do you start?

Most local search sites can provide extensive statistics regarding their audience and the types of search queries they attract. You can also conduct research on your own. Yahoo has a tool that allows you to analyze how many searches and local searches are conducted for certain keywords and categories.

If it makes sense for B2B marketers to focus their online marketing efforts, it most likely makes sense for B2C marketers to further refine their strategies.

Do search engines have different audiences than the social-networking sites, IYP sites, and so forth? When analyzing a potential online marketing site or network, be sure to confirm if it’s a good match for your type of business.

You can get a sense of what a site promotes by simply looking at the first page. When I opened Citysearch, the first thing I was presented with was a large picture of a medium-rare, 16 oz. filet mignon. If you run a restaurant, this is the place for you to be.

Join us for SES San Jose on August 20-23, in San Jose, California.

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