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A People-Centric Approach to B2B Marketing

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to welcome two contributors from Google to our blog. Christina Rohde, Account Manager, and Andrew Brooks, Sr. Account Executive at Google, share their expertise on attracting an audience. 

Think about about the very familiar situation of going out for a nice meal. You are meeting a friend at that new Italian restaurant everyone is talking about, and you are looking forward to some authentic homemade pasta. You have been meaning to try this restaurant for some time, as you hear the pasta is “to die for.” The options are diverse, with tempting choices like fettuccine, fusilli, and ravioli. The different sauces allow you create your own personalized dish of deliciousness.

Now, imagine that you walk through the restaurant door, and the waiter immediately asks to for your order. You haven’t had the chance to settle in and acquainted with your surroundings, let alone peruse the menu.

How might this make you feel? Overwhelmed, confused, pressured, frustrated, or even angry? B2B buyers I’ve talked with confide that they often feel just like this when researching solutions and services. After all, even when we’re talking about business purchases — we’re selling to people, not corporations!

As a restaurant owner, you wouldn’t dream of subjecting customers to the such an unwelcoming atmosphere if you wanted them to come back or recommend your establishment to their friends, so why do we think this is acceptable behavior in B2B marketing?

The Right Approach To Educating Prospects

The majority of B2B companies still use lead forms to give prospects access to “gated” content or have a sales representative call them. We often hear, “It’s like being asked to marry someone before we’ve been on a date, it’s just too soon.” That’s why we recommend to use lead forms in a thoughtful way and combining them with some informative content. Offer a mix of ungated and gated assets, so that customers can get a taste of your offerings before committing. 

Forrester states that 74% of today’s B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase (US B2B eCommerce Forecast: 2015 To 2020, Forrester April 2, 2015). This means that they are comparing product prices, functionality, ease of use, IT infrastructure requirements, review sites, competitors all before engaging with a sales person to complete the purchase process.

Marketers need to give potential customers the opportunity to inform themselves on the merits of their solution before reaching out to you. Better informed prospects equal more qualified leads and more “sticky” customers. Think about what is important to you buyer. Is it cost? Ease of implementation? Reliability of the product? UI functionality? Service tiers? Then build a plan to deliver that information at just the the right moment. Relevant content that informs the buyer at each stage of the customer journey is critical to ensure not only a better customer experience, but to build trust and advocacy of your “brand” even before the phone rings.

Delivering Your Content to Your Customers

One of the most important parts of your content strategy is being found. 77% of buyers using digital media start their journey with a simple Google search. Let’s take a look at an example of how you might develop an SEM strategy to target SMB (small and mid-sized business) buyers and help educate them on your solutions.

We often hear marketers say that SMB buyers search for the exact same keywords as their Enterprise peers. This is probably true for some portion of the search queries out there, however, when SMB buyers do categorize themselves via their search terms (and they often will!), it is important to address this in your ad messages and your landing pages. This will help you stand out as a solution who understand their unique needs.

In this scenario we want to strive for quality over quantity. Here are three aspects of your campaign that you can personalize with your customer’s viewpoint in mind:

  • Your keywords: Define your SMB keyword set. This does not only mean to expand all your keywords by the term “smb” or “small business”. Think about what they are interested in. Is it cost, flexible integration, ease of implementation? If you are a SaaS provider you would also look at keywords like easy service software, cheap service software, service software implementation, or something else entirely?
  • Your ads: Create ad creative that emphasizes why and how your solution is the perfect fit for SMBs. What are the benefits of choosing you? And don’t forget to include relevant sitelinks and callout extensions.
  • Your landing pages: The one-size fits all content strategy belongs in the past. It’s time to rethink. Even if you don’t want to move away from a landing page with a lead form, create a welcoming page that reinforces your prospect is in the right place and will be getting tremendous value out of their interaction with you. Re-examine your forms and ask what you really need to capture at that moment to get them to the next step in their journey. Use smart forms to collect deeper information as they move through the buying cycle.

If you are interested in more ideas for improving your SEM strategy, check out Pardot’s recently released webinar Step Up Your SEO and SEM, a part of the B2B Marketing Bootcamp series.