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Search Plays a Dominant Role in B2B Sales

Savvy business buyers know the fastest and most efficient way to research and compare products and services is on the Web. Even the venerable Thomas Register recently went Web only, discontinuing their print catalog.

Two research studies examined the role of search in B2B marketing, each reporting that search engines play a dominant role in B2B purchase decisions.

B2B Transactions Are Unique

B2B transactions differ from consumer transactions because the sales process requires coordination among multiple personnel before a final decision is made. The time between researching the product and placing the order results in a long sales cycle.

The Role of Search in Business to Business Buying Decisions by Enquiro and Marketing Sherpa reports the following:

  • 93% of participants said they would research online when making a B2B purchase.

  • 95% said they would use a search engine at some point in the task.

  • 64% chose a search engine over consumer review sites, e-commerce sites, manufacturer’s sites and industry portals.

  • While manufacturer’s sites and industry portals were a starting place for big budget buyers, 87 percent said they would visit a search engine after visiting those sites.

Search Engines Dominate

The above study is rich with details, and the findings are too lengthy to cover entirely in this article. But here are some important conclusions:

  • Search engines play a dominant role in B2B purchases.
  • Search engines are used in the early or mid research phase in the buying cycle.
  • Google is favored over other search engines.
  • Search engine research takes place at least one to two months before the buying decision.
  • Good balance between organic and paid search is necessary. Organic links get over 70 percent of the clicks.
  • Position is a factor, with over 60 percent clicking on the top three listings.
  • Most users decide which listing to click within seconds of scanning the page.

B2B Buyers Prefer Search to Traditional Media

The Google-Millward Brown study examined technology purchases to identify sources of information used during a three-stage buying cycle defined as “research/engagement,” “consideration/comparison” and “ final purchase.”

The study found that B2B buyers used search engines more often than traditional media throughout the entire buying cycle. Google concluded that search advertising is more effective than trade magazine ads and other traditional B2B media.

  • Research phase: Search used 30 % more often than trade publications.
  • Consideration phase: Search used 21 % more often than B2B publications.
  • Final purchase phase: Search used 62 % more often than traditional media.

Not surprisingly, the study found that benefits and a strong call-to-action are crucial components of a sponsored link. This has implications for your Title and Description Tags in search engine optimization, as these tags are used to create organic links on the search result pages.

Are B2B Sites Optimized for Search Engines?

They all have websites, but according to research, most are not optimized to maximize search engine traffic. Research indicates that 80 to 90 percent of corporate and retail websites are not well optimized. Manufacturing sites also fall short. Yet, the research shows that properly optimized websites enjoy fantastic gains in unique visitors and conversions.

With all the qualified traffic originating from search engines, it is more important than ever for B2B marketers, wholesalers and B2B exchanges to ensure that their websites are correctly optimized for good positioning in search results. There is also good accountability and ROI with search engine optimization.

It’s a User-Friendly Tool

Search engine traffic is highly targeted. That’s because potential buyers who find your B2B offerings through search engines are looking for your products and services on their own; as a result, they are predisposed to hear your marketing message. You can’t find a more qualified prospect than that.

Here’s what distinguishes search engine marketing from other types of advertising:

  1. It is non-intrusive. Search marketing is a non-intrusive marketing tool. Most advertising, both online and offline, interrupts consumer behavior. If a user goes to a web site for info, up pops an intrusive ad. Reading a newspaper? Ads dominate and force articles to be continued on another page. With search engine marketing, the user is actively seeking your products, services, and information. They are delighted to be driven to your site.
  2. It is voluntary. Search marketing is the result of user-originated behavior. Your visitors from search engines and directories have voluntarily clicked on your listing rather than any competitor’s; thus, they are motivated to explore your offerings.

What Else Do B2B Marketers Need to Know?

How good is the ROI? How effective is search engine marketing for B2B firms? What are the key-points to consider for your B2B search engine-marketing plan? Please join me next week for the answers in Part 2.

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