Over the past few weeks, I have had some clients ask me to take a look at their digital marketing – particularly organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Paid Search (PPC). Although we have always done some work in these areas, it is the first time in a while that I have had the opportunity to take BSA’s joined-up, real-world marketing approach as a starting point, and on this basis, review the work of some ‘specialist‘ digital marketers working on niche Business to Business (B2B) accounts. It has been interesting! First, I must stress that I have only reviewed half a dozen accounts, but I am seeing some features symptomatic of a common theme. The B2B Digital Marketing Strategy (SEO or PPC) is on a parallel track to the business marketing strategy – but not always are the two aligned and joined-up. When I look at digital marketing in isolation, with no reference to wider marketing considerations of the business, the process can look sensible but actually, the objectives are focused more on digital marketing goals and less on underlying development of the business. There is sometimes too much focus on delivering good-looking statistics rather than results that really impact on the business.
An SEO example – track the visitors
Search engine optimisation often starts by deciding on a series of keywords and phrases to optimise for. Using these keyphrases in a search, will (hopefully) see your website ranking high on the first page of search results. Many SEO service providers then focus on developing your website content to make it more likely that when the target keyword/phrase is searched for, your site will appear in the results, All very well so far but here’s the problem: What if only a few people actually search for that term? Your site may rank well but the SEO effort won’t deliver high-quality visitors to your site! We did some “testing in this area and put the results into a post “SEO as an effective marketing strategy“. It’s a while since we did this but I think it is still very relevant. There are tools that will give an idea of how often a keyword/phrase is used in searches but these are only really useful where a phrase generates a lot of searches. Yet in most niche B2B markets, particularly if you are primarily interested in targeting regionally (as many B2B service companies are) the number of relevant searches for specific niche terms doesn’t register in the stats. What to do: If you are using targeted SEO services, make sure you are monitoring real site traffic generated, not just search engine ranking. The goal of SEO should always be to deliver high-quality, relevant visitors to your website.
A PPC example – Company name as a search term?
Paid search avoids all that time-consuming Search Engine Optimisation! In principle, paid search can get your website to show at the top of Google today. Note: Other search engines are available! Of course, every time someone then clicks the PPC link to your website, you pay. With a niche B2B company, it can be that the nature of your business means relevant customers will be searching for very specific terms for which it is relatively straightforward to get organic (SEO) rankings. Although SEO setup can have a cost, the clicks are free! The nature of many specialist Business to Business companies is that much new business comes via referral. The potential customer knows of your company before they start to search. They often start by searching for your company by name. Unless your company name is similar to a big brand name, you should be able to get effective organic search ranking for your company name. Even so, many PPC accounts still use the company name as one of the search terms! OK, the click cost may not be high but if you can get your company name to the top of a Google search organically, why pay for company name searches as well? What to do: Not everyone may approve of this but how about doing PPC against your competitor company name? You need to be a bit careful, though as you must not use competitor logos or any registered trademarks. Of course, they can potentially do the same to you! Overall I see mass-market/Business to Consumer principles being applied to niche market B2B companies where customer motivation is quite different. In B2B, the buying process is less impulsive and more about relationship building. Customer engagement is a longer and more subtle process.
In the world of B2B, I believe the overall digital marketing objective should be growing engagement rather than simply generating leads. Most of our clients operate in B2B/Technical niche markets. Here, business opportunities tend to develop when a potential client has built trust and confidence in your ability to deliver. Building this relationship can take time. If you focus on relevant targets (quality over quantity) and encourage them to engage. Perhaps initially by signing up to a newsletter. You then have a platform from which you have some control to build connection and relationships. It is through these the confidence and awareness of your capabilities can grow. When your potential customer needs your products/services, you are top of the list as a potential supplier. B2B marketing is a process, not an event. A joined-up approach should drive this process. A solid base of relevant customer engagement is at the heart of effective B2B marketing. If you use it appropriately, digital can be a powerful ally in this process.