B2B Marketing: Red-Headed Step-Child of SEM World?


Throughout #SESCHI 2010, citations of search & social marketing case studies have run rampant. “Did you hear about the Old Spice campaign? How about Skittles!?” Um, yeah. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard of them, maybe even posted on their branded Facebook page or tweeted at their spokesperson… desperately begging for him to engage you in a hilarious (& steamy-dreamy…) viral YouTube video…

The B2Bers among the Search Engine Strategies crowd were hungry for some hardcore business-facing case studies to bring home and proudly present to their bosses, like a beaming schoolgirl (or boy!) handing momo & dad a straight-A report card. The B2B Marketing panel did not disappoint, with presenters Mischa Stephens, senior optimization specialist at Google, and Chris Long, SVP of e-commerce and marketing at L-com, Inc. delivering the goods.

AIMCLEAR live-tweeted this session via (@lindsaylorraine). Read on for top tips shared by this dynamic duo.

Is Online Marketing Worthwhile for B2Bs?
Patricia Hursh, president of SmartSearch Marketing, thoughtfully introduced Mischa Stephens who got things rolling. Right off the bat, Mischa hit the crowd with some awesome take-home-and-show-your-boss stats about the value of search marketing for B2Bs. Business professionals rely on search and social. Feast your eyes on these numbers:

  • 84% of C-level executives find search very valuable in making business decisions
  • 83% of B2B buyers research online before their next purchase

Business decision makers are also on YouTube, Mischa pointed out. Here’s a couple more killer-awesome stats:

  • There are 1.5 million business-oriented queries on YouTube every week
  • YouTube reaches 36% of all business decision makers—more than 10 times that of Forbes.com
  • YouTube visitors are 11% more likely to be business decision makers than the average Internet user

So, how should a business use YouTube, or create video content for that matter? For the basics, you can check out the hot tactics that were covered in the video content creation session. And for inspiration, look no further than one of Mischa’s favorites, the Cisco Small Business channel on YouTube. With 998 subscribers, 17,162 channel views, and 254,169 total upload views (as of 10/21/2010), this is one company that knows its sh*t…and has set the bar for other B2Bs in this medium.


Some successful nuggets to note…

  • The channel’s ‘Innovators Forum.’ In this video series, “Entrepreneurs, experts in small business best practices, and authors of best-selling business books provide insight into how to run a small business better.” Topics range from handling a crisis to igniting innovation—solid stuff that almost any executive would be interested in.
  • Very few of these videos actually mention Cisco by name, but by offering valuable information to the community of small business owners the company targets, Cisco is doing wonders for its own branding.
  • Cisco encourages viewers to visit its website after viewing the videos to “discuss the topics, post your questions, read our guest bloggers, and hear from others.”

What else can a B2B do on YouTube? Mischa offered several suggestions, including:

  • Soliciting user-generated content
  • Sharing big ideas
  • Promoting an event
  • Building a community

Mischa’s final suggestion for B2Bs was to take a good look at mobile. Smartphones are set to surpass feature phones in the U.S. by 2011. As a result, B2B mobile search is a rapidly growing area.

Mobile PPC should be a part of the strategy, if it makes sense for the business, because CPC is lower and CTR is higher. He offered the following rules for optimizing for high-end mobile devices:

  • Separate campaigns to better manage mobile
  • Having a strong mobile call-to-action will increase performance
  • All types of landing pages work with high-end devices, including WAP
  • Start with keywords that work for desktop search
    • Search behavior is very similar because people use phones just like desktops nowadays
  • Be aggressive when bidding on mobile as there are fewer ad positions (only 5 as opposed to 10 on desktop)
  • Use the click-to-call feature if your business takes calls

B2B SEM in Practice
Chris Long took to the stage following Mischa to share his company’s experiences and best practices in B2B online marketing. L-com designs and manufactures cables, antennas, connectors and the like. Very sexy stuff!

“My job in e-commerce,” Chris explained, “is to make as few consumers buy our products as possible…consumers just kill us profit wise.” L-com jumps through a lot of hoops to make sure that only businesses buy stuff like this from them:


Chris and his team have been doing a lot right, evidenced by the company’s progress in SEO and PPC:

  • Web traffic up 200% since 1/1/10
  • PPC revenue/spend ratio up from 1.0 to 2.2 since 1/1/10
  • Triple digit ROI on BOTH

How can B2B companies be successful in search marketing? SEO is not an exact science, Chris preached to the crowd of nodding marketers.

  • Successful SEO depends on a large number of small efforts and a large amount of patience.
  • PPC success depends on a large number of test campaigns and sharp analytics to refine those campaigns.
  • Success in SEO comes from details.
  • Success in PPC comes from trial and error.

Before you start any search marketing effort, you need to be clear on what you want to do. As a first step, conduct market segmentation and customer profiling. Chris and his team found out the hard way that it was useless optimizing for the term ‘cables.’ It was a highly competitive category dominated by the likes of Radio Shack and Best Buy, and the traffic the keyword brought to the site was mostly consumer. The team quickly recognized the need for a change, and decided instead to optimize for the key phrase ‘cable assemblies.’ Why? Engineers don’t buy cables; they buy cable assemblies. By optimizing to that phrase, L-com was able to rank #5 on page 1 of the SERPs.

The best formula for success in B2B SEO, as L-com discovered, is niche keywords and targeting the DMU (decision-making unit). Even though the purchaser pulls the trigger on the purchase, the engineer tells purchasing “this is the product you need to buy.” The B2B buyer has specific criteria in mind for the purchase. Knowing that criteria is gold, Chris said.

Chris then explained the three broad sections of SEO:

  • Off-page (links, directories, social media, etc.)
  • On-page (optimized keyword-rich fresh content; linking structure; proper file, title, meta, image and alt names, etc.)
  • Behind the page (fast page loads, xml/html pages, adhere to latest standard, no broken links, good page structure, etc.)

Off-page tends to be the most costly, but the most valuable.

As for best practices in PPC, Chris recommended the following:

  • Don’t start without a serious commitment to automated analytics
  • Focus and dedicated resources are required
  • Always be testing (and refining)
  • Try anything
  • Good authors borrow; great authors steal (look at what other people are doing well and do that!)

And with that, the panel wrapped up a highly informative and timely session on search marketing tips for B2Bs. Look out for more coverage of #SESCHI on AIMCLEAR blog and via Twitter from Lauren (@beebow), Alyssa (@Aengleson) and me (@lindsaylorraine).

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