B2B Lead Generation Via Search Marketing (Part I)

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Search Engine Land Strictly Business

Feb 9, 2011 at 10:30am ET
by Patricia Hursh

According to a recent Marketing Sherpa report, the top 3 marketing challenges facing B2B marketers today are:

  1. Generating high quality leads
  2. Generating a high volume of leads, and
  3. Dealing with lengthening sales cycles

This column explores how business marketers are tackling these tough issues in terms of their search marketing efforts.

B2B Budgets Continue To Shift Toward Online Marketing

What are B2B marketers doing to combat today’s challenges? Clues might be found in how they allocated their 2010 budgets.

Not surprisingly, and according to the same Marketing Sherpa Report, four of the top five spending categories are related to online marketing.

2010 B2B Budgets, Top Categories

  • Website design, management and optimization (13% total marketing budget)
  • Email marketing (12% marketing budget)
  • SEO (11%)
  • PPC (9%)

In fact, the only traditional marketing effort in a top five budget position is Trade Shows (at 12% total marketing budget). This is a significant change from just a few years ago, when business marketers were spending most of their budgets on industry events, public relations, direct mail, and print.

These B2B budget trends clearly reflect marketers’ goal of generating a large volume of high quality leads.

Marketers are turning to cost-effective channels such as email and search — ideal for lead generation because volume and cost are relatively easy to control, and marketers are working on optimizing their websites – for both search engines and visitors.

Website Improvements, A Critical Part Of The Equation

As a B2B search marketer, I am very encouraged to see website design and optimization at the very top of the investment list! Savvy marketers realize that getting prospects to your website is only half the battle (and frankly, probably the easy part).

The harder part of the equation is getting clickers’ attention, motivating them to engage with your website, offering information and assets that are unique and truly valuable. Other challenges include making website interactions as fast and easy as possible, providing clear, compelling paths to conversion, and finally– gaining personal/business contact information for your lead follow-up and nurturing program.

Bottom line: PPC and SEO are only part of the equation. Advertising and optimization alone won’t improve your marketing ROI no matter how much traffic you drive.

Search Marketing Generates The Bulk Of B2B Leads

The balancing act between lead quantity and lead quality is a common marketing challenge, and is of particular interest to search marketers. Why? Because the majority of B2B leads are generated via search!

This chart shows the relative volume of B2B leads generated by various search sources and the lead quality associated with each of these methods.

Search Marketing Generating B2B Leads

SEO Delivers Superior Lead Volume & Quality

In terms of volume, B2B marketers report that the largest quantity of leads (coming from a single source) is generated from organic search (i.e. SEO efforts), followed by Google AdWords, followed by paid ads on other search networks (such as Bing/Yahoo and AOL), and lastly — paid listings on vertical engines (including: medical, legal, business, engineering and science).

Furthermore, regarding quality, B2B marketers feel that, in general, SEO generates a higher percentage of high quality leads than paid search advertising.

Search Marketing For Lead Generation

Search marketing and lead generation go hand-in-hand for B2B marketers. Recent industry reports indicate that:

  • Search marketing is the #1 driver of B2B leads.
  • SEO is particularly effective at generating a large volume of high-quality leads.
  • B2B marketers continue to shift funds to focus on website improvements and online marketing efforts such as SEO and PPC.

In my next column, we’ll explore industry trends around lead quality, and will focus on B2B search marketing combined with lead tracking, scoring and nurturing.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

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Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, Colorado-based search engine marketing agency. You can reach Patricia at patricia@smartsearchmarketing.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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