The New Reality of B2B Online Marketing

By Tad Miller | Oct 22, 2012
More Articles by Tad

I absolutely love search advertising. Give me a couple of months and a significant amount of data from it and I can maximize its conversion performance to a level that most people will never be able to achieve.  But increasingly that level of maximum performance from search quite honestly isn’t enough for our business clients selling to other businesses online, especially in high tech niches. It didn’t used to be so difficult, but things have changed.

Competing Against the Ham-Fisted Bidder

nohandsAs an agency in the B2B space we are very conscientious about generating leads and generating them at an affordable cost per lead (the cost per lead obviously can’t be more than the value of the eventual sale).  We absolutely know what an acceptable cost per lead is for our clients, and we have a pretty good idea of what a competitor’s likely range of cost per lead is.

Our belief is that the competition in many (possibly most) cases in B2B segments is ignoring the idea of profitable advertising.  Quite frequently ego and not success metrics guides these decisions.  Being number one for the keyword is valued more than the results that clicks on that keyword delivers.  We believe that for the most part that the managers of these accounts are not experienced at managing search advertising accounts, or don’t have sufficient time to devote to it.

All of these factors combine to either make your costs per click way too high to meet your cost per lead goals or force you to lower your ad position and in order to meet cost per lead goals while at the same time significantly decreasing your lead volume.

The PPC keyword “Long Tail” only Exists When Google Allows It To

We have historically taken a lot of pride in maximizing the exact matching of keywords searched and minimizing the reliance on overly broad matched keywords that cost more and tend to lower click through rates.  We have generated huge keyword lists and managed to maximize conversions and minimized conversion costs.

The same tactics still work with advertising on consumer products, but increasingly in several B2B niches it does not.  Search volumes on these highly targeted and highly relevant keywords tend to be low due to the small size of the B2B niche they are in.  What we have increasingly seen in recent months is that our client’s Google Adwords Accounts are full of keywords with the “Low Search Volume” warning:

Our translation of this warning is “this keyword isn’t worth our server space because it just isn’t competitive enough, we are going to instead serve your ads for this search query on an overly broad “Broad Match” keyword that makes us more money”.

I have no way of proving it, but it’s our belief that these warnings have only recently become an epidemic in our B2B Adwords accounts.  This reduces relevancy, increases cost per click and makes it much more difficult to compete.

The “Enterprise” B2B Issue

We frequently have clients that sell a “Best in Breed” Enterprise Level Product.  Translation:  It costs more than most businesses can actually afford and has more bells and whistles than a small business would ever need.  The problem with using search advertising with keywords to target enterprise level customers is that the keywords searched by large “enterprise level” businesses are often the same keywords searched by smaller businesses.

There aren’t really “enterprise” keywords or “small business” keywords.  As an example, we had a client that sold “Social Media Marketing Software” that wanted to target large “Enterprise Level” customers that could afford a very expensive software suite that required a one year commitment.

The problem is that the 40 year old guy living in his parent’s basement with a “band” that has a Facebook page oftentimes searches the same keywords that the Chief Marketing Officer of an INC 500 company searches when it comes to “Social Media Marketing Software”…  Appending the word “enterprise” onto that keyword can be a way to “demographically” eliminate untargeted traffic, but it’s not really a great solution in paid search advertising.  Keywords don’t really have demographics that you can rely on.

Which one of these is the CMO of Xerox? Their Search Query Choices Might Not Be Very Different:

What works Better for B2B Right Now?

Contextual Display

Believe it or not we are having more success on B2B Search Advertising on the Google Display Network for most clients than on the Google Search Network.  The same keywords that get “Low Search” warnings on the Search Network seem to work just fine when used in Contextual Display Campaigns that show on sites that utilize Google Adsense Ads (aka the Google Display Network) and contain content that matches your keywords.  The clicks are also much more affordable as well.


Google calls it “remarketing”.  Essentially, it allows you to target advertising on the Google Display Network to your site visitors.  You can customize your Display advertising to the specific pages of your site that they visited.  We are also very excited about expanding the same tactic to the Facebook Exchange network for our clients.  We customize the ad copy and landing page experience based on the pages visited or possible buying stage that the site visitor might be in.

We believe that with the very long sales cycle that some of our large commitment B2B clients have, generating multiple touches with Display Advertising helps speed up that sales cycle and keeps potential customers thinking about the offering.

LinkedIn Advertising

I came off of a pretty intense 6 year engagement for large Business to Consumer advertiser and the results from any kind of Display Advertising were terrible in comparison to search advertising success.  So based off that experience and huge amount of data I saw on a regular basis, I had my doubts about how successful a Display advertising buy on LinkedIn could be.  But I was wrong to take the context of a large B2C advertising client and apply it to B2B client niche audiences.

The power of the demographic targeting on LinkedIn is impressive.  Top notch B2B marketers know who exactly their ideal client is.  They know the companies they want to sell to are, they know the job titles of the decision makers at those companies and they have a pretty good idea about the LinkedIn Groups that those target demographics might be members of on LinkedIn are.  LinkedIn allows you target all of that.

The demographics are essentially trumping the keywords in terms of the conversions delivered and the cost per lead.  There is no other more successful tactic for our B2B clients right now at driving leads.  It’s also the most successful tactic we use for our own marketing.

But we are working on a tactic that we believe that can be even more effective.  Even if you don’t get a conversion from LinkedIn, if you get a click from that targeted demographic on your custom landing page for that LinkedIn campaign you can use Google Remarketing or possibly the new Facebook Exchange Network to keep showing Display Ads with retargeting to those specific demographics.  This has the effect of amplifying the power of those super targeted LinkedIn demographics on a larger scale across the largest Display Ad Network and the largest social network.  So even if you fail to convert with LinkedIn on your first campaign, you will get multiple chances in the future to advertise to your targeted demographics.

Marketing Automation

Just because you got someone to watch a webinar or download a white paper doesn’t mean you are going to turn that lead into a sale.  Marketing automation software, especially ones with tools that allow for progressive profiling can help B2B marketers nurture leads into sales:

Get More Leads from Search with Marketing Automation from Search Mojo

Oh By The Way…SEO Still Works Great for B2B

The long tail lives, breathes and thrives in Natural Search for B2B.  The same SEO tactics that worked 5 years ago still work today.  Developing content with a value proposition for your idea clients works very well.  Writing about the problems your product or services solves and following SEO best practices will likely always work.

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