B2B & B2C Search Marketing Closer Than You Might Think

At every SES show, I hear from those involved with business-to-business marketing that they want more content on that topic. OK, I've got more planned for our San Jose show this August. But the differences may not be as great as some people assume.

I've talked with a lot of attendees who raised "B2B" issues to me that I've found just as applicable to those running business-to-consumer sites. Similarly, I've read far too many pitches to speak about B2B search marketing issues at SES that don't hold up as being unique to B2B, when I review them.

That's why reading The Shortest Distance from B to C from David Berkowitz at MediaPost recently really resonated with me. He reflects on a B2C speaker being at a B2B breakfast and finds that the differences between the two may not be as great as some assume. But there are some things that do stand out for B2Bers, in particular:

  • Conversion Latency: It can take a long time for the B2B purchaser to, well, purchase. Speakers on our long-standing panels we've had on search marketing at our SES shows on B2B search marketing have said the same. You need to measure against a very long time horizon with B2B, otherwise you may miss sales you can attribute to search.
     
  • Offline Purchases: One speaker at our show once quipped about a $2 million B2B sale not being something that was going to happen online. If you sell B2B products or services for large prices, expect that most of those sales will happen offline. Understand how to track and relate them back to search, less you miss out.

Of course, as Berkowitz points out, both of these points are valid to B2C, as well. Most purchases don't happen immediately after a search, and many purchases take place offline in the B2C world, as well (and see Most Conversions Happen Offline; You Need To Measure These! for more on this).

Here are some additional points I find unique to B2B search marketing, having moderated a session on the topic recently:

  • Low Frequency Of Search Terms: B2B marketers are frustrated, to say the least, that Google won't let them run ads that may only generate a query a few times per month. Google interprets a low clickthrough on an ad as a sign that it isn't relevant, so it may disable/disallow the ad from still showing. B2B marketers say there is interest -- and interest that produces good sales -- but the B2B searchers are fewer. When ads are disabled, they're left with no way to reach out.
     
  • B2B Search Engines: B2B purchases use vertical B2B search engines, such as Business.com, KnowledgeStorm and ThomasB2B. B2B search marketers want to consider these along with the majors.
     
  • Landing Pages: For the B2B audience, a landing page may need to be much different than what you might present to a B2C visitor.

Looking for more? Business to Business Forum covers presentations and tips out of our B2B session at SES Chicago in December 2004. Search Engine Marketing Boosts ROI for B2B Sites covers the same session from SES San Jose 2002. Creating Compelling Search Engine Ads and Landing Pages touches on landing page issues for B2B versus B2C. B2B SEM: Sorting Ambiguous Traffic and B2B Search Best Practices from ClickZ are both older articles with tips from Kevin Lee for the B2Ber.