Sunday, June 22, 2008

Business to Business Online Lead Generation 2008

It's leads, more often than not, that a Business to Business (B2B) company needs from their web site. We don't expect, or even want, to close sales online. Even more frequently with larger sales, they're typically closed on the phone or in person.

But how does our web site generate leads? And when we get them, how do we know where are leads are coming from?

We don't expect an e-commerce site that is ringing in sales all day, but we do expect a steady stream of qualified individuals that our sales team can follow up and close.

We want good leads. But how do we do it?

In a recent survey by Enquiro, 80% of B2B customers found the vendor, vs. 20% of vendors found the customer.

In every industry, every business, people are searching for solutions. As marketers, You have to learn the language of your customer, and be there when they search and where they search.

And search is not just the top 'search engines', like Google and Yahoo. For example, the top 3 business directories are:

  2. Knowledgestorm
  3. Thomasnet
And that just scratches the surface. In every industry there are blogs, forums, directories, vertical search engines, associations, trade magazine web sites... and then there's the news. There's Google News, Yahoo News (3x bigger!), industry news, newsletters, news sites and on and on.

When there's something on our mind, we start with search. Most of us have become adept with knowing where to search for what. Want a local business listing? Yellowpages. Need a book? Amazon. A Heath Question? WebMD. A funny TV commercial? YouTube. A Song? iTunes.

Research shows, and it's not hard to imagine, that almost every browsing session includes a search. And that search is usually with Google. Google is bar far the market leader in search and reach.

Our questions lead us to search. And so should our marketing program.

Why? Because everything starts with search. Offline media like television and radio spawns search. News starts us searching. When we need a solution to a very specific business problem? We search.

When our customers are searching for a solution we can provide, we need to be found. Whenever, wherever, and every time they search.

But what are they searching for? That is the key. THAT cannot be understated.

Figuring out what they're searching for is so important we can't just do it once and call it done. We need to do it all of the time. Or at the very least revisit it regularly.

We don't just need to be found or our company and product names. That's just the very beginning. We need to be in front of all of the people searching that have never heard of us, never used our products. But want something just like we have. Here are a few questions to illustrate how the thinking should go:
  • What are the generic names for our products and services? Not some of them - all of them.
  • What do people think the solution to their problem is?
  • What is the result or outcome that you provide?
  • Do your customers typically buy or have something else before they buy your solution? What are the generic phrases around that?
The number of terms in search queries are getting longer and longer as we as a society get better at search. Four word searches now outnumber one word searches. We are getting adept and pinpointing exactly what we want. But we do it in so many different ways. We need to find the most common ways to describe what we have, problem we solve, or what we deliver, and get found for that.

Great. How?

Here's a quick and simple overview:
  1. Understand your audience. Segment into major buying types so you can treat different people differently. You may want to create full blown personas.
  2. Give them what they want. People want to find more information online. More than what's in the brochure. They want to qualify themselves and qualify you before they ever make a contact. Understand what they want so you can give it to them. This is where segmentation comes in. Different people, different roles, need different information.
  3. Be clear about what you want - and ask for it. You'll have to be convincing. What will persuade your different buying types to pick up the phone, send an email, or fill out a request form? A whitepaper? Free trial? Case study, ebook, coupon, online discount, free gift, special offer, free membership, webinar, calculator tool, what else can you think of?
  4. Know what they're searching for. At this step your site plan may have what they need and what you need, but how are you going to be found? You may sell point of sale terminals, but they may be searching for card swipers. You may be looking to lend money, but they want to borrow it. You sell control room displays, they want a video wall. You have to get the words right.
  5. Create the content you need to be found. You may have to be creative to come up with content around the funny ways people describe your solution. But it's not that hard. You can write articles, a glossary, frequently asked questions. You can create your own "University". You can have a section on industry news or information. You can blog about the industry and cover a wide range of topics. How about an entire section that describes the problem that people have before they need your solution?
  6. Decide what you need to measure, set goals, and measure it. You want leads? How many? What kind? From where? Who are they? It's OK to be optimistic, but be realistic, too. How many leads do you get now vs. how many do you want to get? Measure your results every month.
That last point deserves more attention. You must measure what you actually want to get. Don't buy into a search program from a web developer that 'also does search' and wants to measure success by your rankings for phrases that they suggest. High rankings doesn't equal leads. More traffic doesn't equal leads. Leads equals leads.

Remember that like most things, a good search program requires sustained, iterative effort. And the Internet marketing agency must be held accountable for bottom line results. If you follow the six steps above with a good partner, and keep plugging away the results will come.

If you plug away at it, the results will come. It may sound cliche, but it if you aren't doing it, your competitors are. Ask a good search agency to compare you with your top competitors. If you don't know where you stand, you should.

If you haven't started, nows the time. As each day goes by, the leaders in Internet marketing get more entrenched. It's not too late, but the barriers to entry get higher every day.

I'll sign off today with a few thoughts on where the opportunities lie:
  1. The news. Google and Yahoo News get more than 1 million unique visitors searching every day. You can easily publish a press release and be inserted in the online news. There are far fewer press releases on your topic than there are web pages, and recency rules in the news. The premium shelf life of a press release in the online news is 30 days. Publish a new release every 30 days, optimize it for your money words, and you'll be nio the front page every day.
  2. Universal Search. The search engine results pages (SERPs) are changing. Instead of 10 blue links in the SERPS, search engines are experimenting with blended results from many mediums. This is the future. So instead of 10 sites, we'll have a mixture of news, images, videos and sites. If you create the news, tag and distribute images and videos, you have a chance to not be in the search results, but dominate them.
  3. Closing the loop. Knowing where to put your efforts is priceless. Work hard to create a system in your environment where you can track the source of not only every lead, but every new sale. Every new contact in your CRM system should have a source: tradeshow, search engine, keyword used, campaign clicked on, etc. Report on this and analyze it. What is delivering sales? Not rankings, not traffic, not leads, but sales. What is working and what isn't? Know this, and you'll be way ahead. You can optimize it further and your competitors and colleagues will wonder how you seem to be a media buying magician.

1 comment: said...

thanks for the post

very informative i particularly like your idea about press releases to google and yahoo