Right, let’s start with something I believe to be true for almost every industrial and scientific company today: the biggest potential source of new business for all of you, and the one where you should be concentrating your time and money, is Google. The only exceptions I can think of are those companies whose customer base is tiny, finite, and completely known. If that’s you, then of course you’re going to spend your time and money on marketing directly to those six people. For everyone else, by all means go to exhibitions, run direct mail campaigns and set up telesales operations. But get Google right first.
I understand that I’m preaching to the converted; we have several clients whose promotional activity has become more and more centered around Google to the point where there’s nothing else now. And it’s working for them. They include some industry-leading names, which explains the mystery of how that major competitor disappeared from WidgetEx at the NEC a few years ago but still seems to be doing irritatingly well. One UK industrial components supplier I know, who in the past had never spent more than about £3,000-£4,000 a month on any individual promotional activity, has gradually increased its spend on Google AdWords to over £20,000 a month. How? By not doing anything else of note any longer. Their enquiry stream is very healthy, they tell me. (And no, they’re not a client of ours, although I live in hope).
For some of you, however, I know that although you “get it”, the company has an MD who’d be asking serious questions if he didn’t see his regular adverts in Widget World Monthly. It’s a sad situation, but an all-too-common one, trust me. (If you’re making any presentations about how your marketing budget ought to be re-thought in this online age, I have some good illustrative material here which you’re welcome to use. Just ask. Perhaps I should put on a seminar for MDs who still think it’s 1992.)
But given that you appreciate the importance of online search marketing (which, to all intents and purposes, means Google), the question is: should you be targeting the natural results, or the paid-for ones? The lazy answer, which I saw in a recent article, is “both”. But there is a distinction. If you have time (but no money), choose to improve your company’s standing in the natural Google results, using search engine optimisation (SEO). If you have money (but no time), choose to advertise through the pay-per-click (PPC) system, Google AdWords. If you have the luxury of both, then do both.
For those marketing managers who have to deal with an MD who won’t let go of the stuff which is wasting your company’s time and money, the obvious solution might be to farm out the things which keep him happy, and for you to concentrate on the stuff that works. I’d suggest your life might be much easier if you did it the other way around though, and that’s the conclusion which an increasing number of marketing managers are coming to. They’re getting on with keeping the MD happy, while the search engine stuff which actually delivers the goods is being outsourced to experts who just get on with it. Of course, I would say that. But I hope you can see it makes sense.