Business to Business (B2B) search marketing can be tricky. It’s hard to dispute the value of getting into the consideration set of potential undecided customers that search on non-branded keyword phrases, but visibility isn’t necessarily always going to translate into a lead that a sales force can follow up on and turn into a sale, especially if your product or service has a big price tag or requires a major commitment.
The art of generating B2B leads online doesn’t get the credit that it deserves, especially on those big-ticket, high commitment, complicated sales. Typically these leads have very high costs per acquisition and very low conversion rates. The pool of ideal customers for these kind of products is relatively small, especially compared to consumer products or services.
When it comes to search marketing, both natural and paid, keyword selection can be tricky for B2B niches. What your ideal customer demographic may search for isn’t always abundantly clear. Say your company offers services to battery manufacturers to do testing on the batteries they make. The keyword “battery testing” has approximately 320 searches per month according to Google. But “battery testing” can mean different things to different people. For consumers it’s mostly an informational search query about how to test your car’s battery. A smaller niche of both consumers and businesses might be interested in figuring out how to test laptop computer batteries. And, an even smaller niche might be battery manufacturers (your ideal customers). Battery testing has “horizontal relevance” in that it means different things to different people.
The hard part about horizontal relevance is that search engines like Google favor what the majority are looking for in top ten natural search results, in other words if it’s mostly an informational search query and mostly searched by consumers the results will likely favor those type of pages.
You can add words to a keyword like battery testing to make it more qualified for your intended audience. Battery Testing becomes “Battery Testing Services”. A word like “Social Media Software” becomes “Enterprise Social Media Software“. The problem is volume. At its best “Battery Testing Services” probably gets about 20 searches a month. “Enterprise Social Media Software” might get 75 searches a month globally on Google.
There have been several studies of click through rates for natural search results. The most optimistic of all of them indicates that a number one ranking can get a little over 36% of the clicks:
If “Battery Testing” (yes I know, horizontal relevance…) gets 320 searches per month, a number one Google ranking with a 36.4% click through rate would get 115 clicks per month.
The next question you need to ask is about your conversion rate from natural search. Typically the larger and more complicated the sale the lower the conversion rate. Usually, the only call to action on most B2B websites is to “Request a Quote” or “Contact Us”. The conversions that come through on those calls to action might wind up being around 5% on brand keywords like your company’s name, but for a niche non-brand keyword a 1% conversion rate on those in natural search might be pretty good.
So assuming that 1% of those 115 clicks for that number one search ranking convert that works out to be only 1.15 conversions a month. A word that doesn’t even get 20 searches a month can’t be depended on to generate much in the way of regular lead volume.
With LinkedIn Advertising you don’t have to worry about keyword demographics. You can target the exact company your customers work for, the ideal job title of your customer or the LinkedIn Group that your ideal customer might belong to on LinkedIn.
I have to admit, I was skeptical that text ads on LinkedIn would be an effective tactic. But I have been amazed at the success we have had with delivering significant lead volume that is qualified.
Our focus has been on lower barrier to entry conversion actions like White Papers and Webinar Registrations, combined with a custom landing page experience to maximize results. Utilizing these tactics, has been over 1,000% more effective at getting potential clients to fill out a form and become potential leads than their websites ever delivered. That’s not an exaggeration, it really is that much more effective. The quality of the leads has been especially good also.
The fact that the pool of potential customers for these B2B niches is small hasn’t really been that big of a deal. There really isn’t a lot of waste because of the targeting. The costs are relatively low and the conversion rates are outstanding, provided a good value proposition is available to use as an asset to entice sign-up.
We use the same ads for driving attendance at our own Webinars and no other marketing tactic is coming close in terms of conversion rate or cost per conversion.
I in no way want to say that you should do LinkedIn Advertising instead of Search Engine Optimization. You need to do both. Typically the page you get to rank highly in search engine results is a product or service page and the focus of it has to be on those products or services in order to rank highly. The elements to make that searcher a lead don’t always help you get that high ranking.
An online marketing strategy needs to be as diversified as a smart financial investment strategy. Combining natural search, with search advertising, Display Advertising, LinkedIn Advertising, Content Marketing, Social Media and E-mail Marketing is just the smart thing to do. Using marketing automation software to tie all those tactics together and nurture those leads is even smarter.
The payoff of delivering a sale for these complicated products or services is usually significant. Being in the right spot, at the right time, when the right customer searches can often pay for the expense of your search marketing efforts. So even if search volume isn’t big or consistent it can still deliver your business the home run it’s looking for.