It seems that every day there's a new way to market to your prospects online. "Use Facebook," one person says. "Try Twitter," says another. But then your CEO is asking, "Why aren't we at the top of Google?"
How do you make sense of it all? Where do you focus your efforts?
As the founder of a search and social media marketing firm with SaaS clients, let me share some experience.
In a typical B2B purchase, as many as 22 people are involved1. One of the most important players is the technical buyer who evaluates different products vs. user pain points. Influencing the technical buyer is critical to success.
Buyers research using search and social media. A recent study indicated that 80% of the time decision makers found the vendor rather than the other way around2. Technical buyers identify search engines among their top 3 most powerful influencers, along with word of mouth and the vendor's website. Information gained from search now is more influential than trade shows, trade publications, and even advice from paid consultants.3 98% of technical buyers use Google search as a major part of their purchase process.4
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts enhance the ability for search engines to find and rank your website. While researching, prospects use search to identify appropriate solutions and leading vendors. Having your website appear in top positions can be a crucial vote of legitimacy. You must identify top keywords that your prospects would use to find you and then add content to your site in an SEO-compatible format to support them. For example, let's imagine a SaaS firm that offers collaborative help-desk capabilities - HelpDeskSaaS.com. Web copy and html tags should emphasize words like "customer support software" and "collaborative customer service, etc."
Google recently integrated videos, blogs & news into search results. This provides an excellent opportunity for nimble companies to jump ahead of their competitors in search ranking.
Pay Per Click
Realizing results from SEO is typically a twelve-month process; paid search (PPC) efforts bring more immediate results. With PPC, your offering is featured only when a user searches for keywords that you have selected. The keyword research process in PPC is much more extensive than in SEO. One must cast a wide net and advertise on thousands of keywords. The beauty of PPC is that it allows one to continually iterate and optimize throughout the duration of the campaign. For our HelpDeskSaaS.com example, we would recommend abbreviations ("cust support sw"), misspellings ("sport softwar") and benefits ("low-cost customer support software"). You can even target competitor keywords. Note that PPC is not "set and forget." PPC requires a systematic approach: thorough and ongoing keyword research, ad creative, focused landing pages, pipeline management, bid management, and analytics.
Social Media Marketing
The emergence of Web 2.0, user-generated content, and online social networks opens avenues to micro-target like never before. This results in a tremendous opportunity to identify members of self-selected communities.
- Social Media Sites - Social networks provide the backbone of peer influenced "soft-sell". When you see that your colleague is attending an event, you are significantly more likely to attend. Position2 clients often see success using Facebook and LinkedIn to generate leads for webinars.
- Blogs - An industry-focused blog is a great way to establish your expertise and maintain a dialog with your prospects and customers. Promoting your blog has the additional SEO benefits of creating a network of links with highly relevant sites.
- Forums - This is an invaluable resource for reputation monitoring. While you cannot edit other posts, you can respond to negative posts quickly.
- Social Bookmarking - Technical buyers (71%) identify whitepapers as a critical facet of their research efforts5. Services such as digg and del.ic.ious can be utilized to promote them to your targets.
At a Glance: Using Search and Social Media
|Use For||HelpDeskSaaS.com Case Example||Helpful Hint|
|SEO||Brand Visibility||Select highly-targeted keywords ||Develop content aligned with your keywords. Only link to and from relevant, quality sites.|
|PPC||Direct Marketing||Thousands of long tail keywords: ||Make sure ads go to customized landing pages - keep testing|
|SMM||Brand Visibility & Direct Marketing|| ||Respond quickly to any negative post|
Business buyers rely heavily upon search and social media for researching products and services. They often have in-depth information about potential vendors and have short-listed them well before the vendors have found them.
It is therefore critical that you not only have relevant and detailed content on your site, but you must be showing up where they are looking for you. To do so you must undertake an integrated and comprehensive search and social media marketing effort.
Rajiv Parikh is the CEO of Position2, a leading search and social media marketing firm. Rajiv has over 20 years of management experience at AltaVista, Sun Microsystems, NCR and AT&T.
1 MarketingSherpa, B2B Marketing Research, June 2007
2 MarketingSherpa, Business Technology Buyers Survey, March 2007
3 Enquiro, Business to Business Survey 2007
4 MarketingSherpa, Business Technology Marketing 2007-08
5 MarketingSherpa, Connecting Through Content Series, 2007