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ant-searchingTo connect with today’s B2B buyers, you need to produce and make easily accessible a range of content that guides prospects through the buying cycle. Consider a few data points that back this up:

  • According to IDC’s Third Annual Buyer Experience Study: Guidance for Sales & Marketing, released in April 2010, respondents rated “consumption of vendor content” as the most important part of their pre-purchase activities for IT products or solutions.
  • As ITSMA and Pierre Audoin Consultants revealed in their study released last September (How Customers Choose Solution Providers, 2009: The Importance of Personalization, Epiphanies, and Social Media), after asking colleagues for referrals, the next most popular activity for B2B buyers seeking an alternative solution is to conduct an online search.

And the report Breaking Out Of The Funnel: A Look Inside the Mind of the New Generation BtoB Buyer published by DemandGen Report highlighted the following:

 

“Almost 95% of recent purchasers said the solution provider they chose provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.’ ” (Of note: “case studies, best practices data, white papers, ROI tools, and vendor comparison analysis were cited as the most helpful content sources.”)

It’s All About Getting Found on Search Engines

All this means that a critical component of your content marketing strategy is making sure your content is found in the search engines. After all, it’s where the research process often begins.

A recent article on MediaPost summarized a Webinar presented by Jennifer Howard, who leads Google’s B2B market group. Here are the stats that caught my eye:

  • 79% increase in query volume for B2B terms during the last two years.
  • Approximately 62% of business buyers now spend more time researching product and services online than they did prior to the recession.
  • 65% of C-Suite executives conduct six or more work-related searches daily.
  • About 99% of small-business owners use the Internet for research and cite it as the most effective tool to find suppliers.

As the article explains:

“The new analysis identifies the role online search contributes to the decision-making process as the ‘zero moment of truth’ (ZMOT)…with online marketing, marketers have an opportunity to stay with the consumer all along the purchase path as they consume content, watch videos and participate in forums.” (Note that “consumer” here is used in reference to a B2B buyer.)

Embed Keywords into All Content and Web Pages

These trends underscore the importance of embedding keywords into every content asset and related web page on your site and others where you maintain a presence. This includes your white papers, blog posts, case studies, competitive comparisons, brochures, press releases, video and podcast abstracts, and even discussions on sites such as LinkedIn.

Create Landing Pages

And if you’re not already doing so, create dedicated landing pages for each content asset. Not only does this help prospects easily access the content they came across in the search engine results, it boosts your rankings in those results pages when you embed the keyword terms your prospects are searching on.

Align Keywords with Prospects’ Terminology

It goes without saying, but make sure you align your keywords with the terms your prospects are searching on. For example, at the beginning of the research process, they’re mainly interested in trends, issues, and best practices – that means they won’t be searching for a specific product type or vendor name. The following diagram from a Google webinar on using paid search for B2B provides more details.

google-keywords

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Steps to Success

I was going to lay out ALL the steps marketers should take to capitalize on these trends, but Rob Garner, a senior strategy director for digital marketing company iCrossing, just contributed a timely article to MediaPost about content publishing strategy. He suggests the following for marketers that want to succeed as online publishers:

  1. Perform in-depth keyword and market research
  2. Identify types of content to be targeted (videos, images, news, text, etc.)
  3. Plan to develop containers for the asset types that will be promoted (HTML, feeds, Web site architecture, etc.)
  4. Develop a detailed content strategy
  5. Develop a strategic plan for social content dissemination and engagement
  6. Identify primary and secondary metrics
  7. Customize dashboards and analytics platforms to accommodate new metrics
  8. Determine the specific resources needed for content development, deployment and social interaction, based on the scale determined in the strategy

For the details behind each step, check out Rob’s article.