Most articles giving us online marketing advice are aimed at the business to consumer (“B2C”) sector, rather than the business to business (“B2B”) sector in which most of us operate. This is simply because the more the sales process involves impulse online purchases, the easier it is to analyse. Who wants to try to work out the role which advertising plays in the endless deliberations over buying a £100,000 CNC machining centre, when you can talk about improving conversion rates on £4.99 book purchases?
We all know how much more difficult things are in B2B marketing. A “customer” will often be a group of people, and the sales process might take a year. Hardest of all is the fact that you can’t usually persuade people to buy your product just because it’s better. They’ll buy it when they perceive a need for something new, or simply when they get a project which requires components. Offering a better mousetrap is great, but you’re not going to sell one until your customer has some mice to get rid of.
The important thing, therefore, is to be there when they need you. That’s why search engine advertising has gone from nothing to everything in B2B marketing in just over ten short years. When I was a magazine editor, we had many advertisers who booked an advert every other issue, because that’s all their budget allowed. They had to hope that a buyer’s research process lasted more than one month, or they’d just have to settle for the fact that they’d miss half of the potential buyers who read that magazine.
With search engine marketing, it’s now possible to ensure you’re there, bang, whenever the buyer comes looking. That just requires money, and it’s easy (don’t even waste time learning how; people like us will do it for you, job done). The challenge now is following that up; creating the image which convinces buyers you’re the right supplier for them, and substantiating that. Advertising has become something which you can farm out and forget. Getting the rest right is making this the most exciting time ever to be in marketing.