B2B Marketing Myth: "Our Customers Don't Find Us Using Search"
One of the most common statements we hear when helping our business-to-business clients is, "Why should we do content and search engine marketing? Our customers don't use search to find us." The myth is B2C strategies such as content marketing, search engine marketing and social media are not effective or relevant if you are a B2B brand. This is a pretty prevalent misconception really that, once addressed, can really become a competitive advantage and generate ROI for B2B.
The Difference Between B2B and B2C
We recognize you are not selling consumer products like books or bikini waxing. B2C products are bought more on the basis of emotion and impulse. There are also substantially more customers in B2C brands try to reach than in B2B. This is why content and search engine marketing are so important. B2C companies need exposure so that customers can discover their particular product. In essence, the more customers you need to reach, the more B2C content and search engine marketing you need to do.
We teach clients to create a marketing funnel for their online content. At the top of the funnel is content designed for exposure and discovery. The funnel needs to be as wide as possible. Not so in B2B marketing.
In B2B marketing, the good news is you actually need to do less to be as effective. Your funnel can be more narrow as opposed to B2C. You don't need as much "walk-in" traffic as a B2C. Think of it like the shopping mall which is full of B2C products. You try to reach the masses with a physical presence and draw attention. There also needs to be a lot of advertising as well. Now when it comes to bricks and mortar for B2B, your actual location becomes a destination of choice. Very rarely does anybody just stroll by and decides to make a spontaneous B2B purchase. They know who you are and come to find you.
Beyond this, there really are very few differences between B2B and B2C marketing online. The reason for this is the principles are the same for both. At the end of the day, both involve people searching online for help in finding and making a purchasing decision. The same habits that drive B2C behavior are applicable in B2B.
Two Reasons Why B2B Customers Use Search
There are two reasons why customers use search when it comes to a B2B purchase decision. First, B2B sales cycle is typically longer than a B2C transaction. Second is that, because of this extended sales cycle, more research is preferred before a B2B decision. If you understand these two factors, you will understand how to make content and search engine marketing work for you.
This means that, putting yourself in a customer's shoes, there are two things you need to accomplish in the B2B online marketing funnel. First is you need content that will keep them engaged through the entire sales process. The second is content that they can search to satisfy their research requirements.
In other words, your content and search engine marketing will be further down the funnel than the top like a B2C company. For example, let's take a corporate law firm and a construction company.
Example: Corporate Law Firm
For the law firm, a customer might search for a particular niche of expertise the law firm specializes in. If that firm only has content stating it practices corporate law, and its website is more or less a glorified brochure, then it will be lost in a sea of competitive noise online. However, if that firm is savvy and has published a series of articles online, specifically for that legal niche, then that customer has now entered the funnel. The more specific and relevant the content to their situation, the more engaged the potential client will be. In this case, you are not going be reaching thousands of prospects. Reaching a dozen will do because of the niche nature. The best part is that niche searches use very specific key words that are very easy to identify and target. In this case, a potential client wouldn't just search "corporate law." Instead, they may enter "Corporate trademark law firm," or "Employee and human rights lawyers." The more specialized the niche, the more specific and unique the keywords can be which makes it that much easier to find you.
Example: Commercial Construction
For the commercial construction company, customers will typically do as much due diligence as possible because of the high investment and the the fact everybody has a horror story about the trades industry. If any of the company's past projects were high profile and gained third-party press, making this information easily available online through the website and search would create tremendous amounts of credibility. Remember, people don't always trust what is on a company's own website. But being featured by other independent websites really boosts the credibility factor. And just like the law firm, industry related news, best practices or advice on safety and planning all contribute to moving the potential customer down the content funnel.
These are just two potential examples, of many, on how customers might be using search for a B2B transaction. Again, the principles are the same as B2C. Put yourself in the customer's shoes and make it as easy as possible to search and find content that is part of your online marketing funnel.