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Most Paid Search professionals began their career working the Business to Consumer (B2C) side of marketing, where you’re marketing your product directly to your consumer and looking to drive paid conversions. At some point, however, if we haven’t already, most of us will gain a client who sells Business to Business (B2B).
In this blog, we will be looking at some of the key differences between these two marketing types and strategies for those just entering the B2B marketing world.
Intro to B2B
One of the key differences in the B2B marketing world is that you, the marketer, are looking to drive leads – sales come later. B2B selling can be a long, arduous process that can take anywhere from a few days to several months from initial action to sale.
The typical B2B client sales process goes from initial lead, to qualified lead, to opportunity, to meeting, to contract, to contract signed/closed contract signed. Generally, our job as marketers is to drive as many leads and qualified leads as we can; after that it is up to the client’s sales team to finish the job and complete the sale/complete a signed contract.
An initial lead differs from a qualified lead in that it generally requires a much shorter lead process or questionnaire. Often to become an initial lead, a consumer will need to answer only a few questions such as name, email, phone, and maybe one more question. The qualified lead process takes a bit longer and often asks for much further detailed information: such as clients, spend, company information, etc.
In B2B, there are two types of qualified leads: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). A marketing qualified lead is the first stage of the qualified lead in which a marketer has gotten a consumer to go through the lead qualification process (often filling out client information, company information, etc.). From there, these leads are vetted by the sales team to see which of these are leads that the company wishes to pursue – often the company will have its own qualifications beyond the initial form – and that are likely to become closed won/contract signed accounts. These leads that have been examined by the sales team become Sales Qualified Leads.
Bidding – Expect High CPCs
Now that we understand a bit more about the B2B world holistically, we can begin to examine some of the specific details that will affect us as marketers. One of the biggest shocks for someone entering the B2B world is bidding and CPCs.
In B2B marketing, it is not uncommon for clicks to cost between $20 – $40. This can also be on the lower end of the B2B spectrum; I have seen competitive bids (with high quality score and expected CTR) that are upwards of $90, with some over $100.
These higher CPCs are caused by steep competition for the limited clicks and sales. Often sales are worth thousands of dollars or more and are unlikely to be occurring every day, forcing marketers and businesses into a heated battle to land these lucrative contracts.
Advertisers shouldn’t shy away from these higher CPC bids but should be aware and cultivate a carefully maintained list of keywords. Those keywords that aren’t converting properly should be negated or paused promptly, but advertisers should still take care to ensure that the keyword has been given the proper opportunity to drive traffic and collect data.
Bidding – Importance of Negative Keywords
As CPCs rise, so too does the importance of managing your negative keyword lists. While it can be hard to sift through all the spelling variations and misspellings in the search query reports, it is important to be sure that you are only paying those high CPCs for relevant traffic.
Often unqualified traffic can be disguised as relevant search queries, and advertisers must be able to sort out the unrelated traffic effectively. While you may not have the strongest understanding of your client’s business at first, they will. Using your client as a resource to understand keywords and traffic that you don’t understand yourself can be a helpful tool as you learn about their niche market. *
Strategy – Day Parting
As we continue to work in the B2B marketing world, we may notice further differences that distinguish B2B marketing from B2C. One of these differences is the time of day and day of week when queries and search traffic peak and fall.
B2B marketing primarily takes place during the regular working business day hours, although it can begin a few hours before or end a few hours after. This is because B2B queries are performed by a professional within a potential client’s business. This professional is searching during working hours for a product or service that their company needs. We often do not see these professionals continuing these business-related searches when they have gone home or left the office for the weekend.
As marketers, we should be conscientious of these differences in traffic volume and actively bid to increase spend during the peak traffic – when we are most likely to drive leads – and decrease spend when traffic begins to fall during the evenings and weekends.
Strategy – Bidding Adjustments
In B2B marketing, clients will have back-end data in CRMs (Salesforce, for instance) that they use to track qualified leads and those that turn into closed won/contracts signed. This data should be shared with the marketer directly through the platform, or indirectly through email summaries.
It is important for advertisers to be aware of these closed/signed contracts as they can provide insight into overall company health, percentage of leads that become signed contracts, and campaigns, ad groups, or keywords that are driving the highest volume of sales. However, when making bid and budget adjustments, marketers must understand that these sales are not the full picture of how campaigns are performing.
After a lead has become a SQL or converted into an opportunity, it is entirely on the client’s sales team to complete a signed contract. While your end goal is to help drive as many sales as possible for your client, it is hard to measure your own campaign success beyond the lead and qualified lead stage.
*One important caveat with this technique is that you should do the research yourself and learn about the client’s business and market yourself before turning to them. They can be a helpful tool, but be sure to do your own research first.