Long. Arduous. Complex. However you describe it, the B2B buying cycle is anything but quick and easy. However, it does have one constant: relationship building is key. To remain competitive, B2B marketers must invest in relationship marketing.
What it can do for you
You’ve worked hard to get your message out to your audience, and you’ve spent valuable advertising dollars making it happen. But because the B2B buying cycle is so circuitous, it is often paved with countless opportunities for competitors to steal your customers and chip away at your market share. But relationship marketing can help you combat the situation. In fact, the earlier you begin, the safer you’ll be from competitor theft. Specifically, relationship marketing can help you extend the conversation with your consumers further, past the first or second impression and deep into the buying cycle
How it works
My buddy Tom is a B2B search marketer. Every day he works hard to drive online product trials and yearly subscriptions. Anything but a B2B newbie, Tom knows that building strong relationships with his audience is the best way he can differentiate his business from the competition. To accomplish this, Tom launches a search campaign and studies the audience data so he can best understand his targets and how they differ from one another. Next, by leveraging those findings, he can craft different ads that will speak to various levels of the purchase funnel and make initial contact with “hand-raisers”. Finally, by analyzing what best resonates with his targets, Tom is then able to place his ads in the most relevant spot for his audience. This approach allows him to connect with his targets deeper in the funnel, and strengthen the relationship.
3 Steps to make it happen
Below are three relationship marketing tips to help you build stronger relationships with your consumers:
- Understand behavior.
The first step in relationship marketing is to understand your consumers’ behavior. Fortunately, search can help with that. Because search is based on demand, it is relatively easy to build an audience profile based on search queries. The best way to accomplish this is to test, test, test. For instance, you might want to test and compare branded and non-branded keywords to see which drives more awareness, brand engagement, and purchases. From there, you can analyze and understand where your brand comes into play in the mind of your audience.
For example, if you see high click through numbers on your top funnel keywords, but not middle or bottom funnel keywords, then you know that your brand is dropping off your customers’ radar. Or perhaps your bottom funnel keywords receive high impression volumes but low click through numbers. In this case, you know that you’re being considered for purchase, but something is keeping the customer from pulling the trigger. Tests such as these will help you understand your customers’ behavior and allow you to adjust your strategy to close the deal.
- Make the connection.
The second step of relationship marketing is to use your messaging to start a conversation with your audience. And the valuable behavioral data gathered in Step 1 will help you craft messaging that will resonate with your targets. But before you begin, be sure to keep the purchase funnel in mind and segment your audience. You want to cater to all levels of the decision process: educate your top of the funnel audience, tout your benefits to the middle of the funnel, and use your strong call-to-action lines at the bottom of the funnel to close the sale.
Unfortunately, many marketers fail to do exactly that and then wonder why their ad has dismal performance. For example, would you be surprised that a search ad with a strong call to action –“Save 40% Today!” or “Save $200 By Registering Today!” — has poor performance on general, non-branded keywords? Neither would I. Consumers searching on top of the funnel keywords are looking for information, not to make a purchase. In short, it is essential to appropriately craft your messaging for each level of the funnel.
- Be where your audience is.
Now that you’ve identified your audiences’ behaviors and crafted your messaging to speak to each segment, it is now time to keep your brand top of mind with your consumer. But a single impression on Google will hardly make a long lasting impression. Instead, you’ve got to capitalize on your opportunities to continually reach out to them, and Retargeting can help you do just that. In fact, it is ideal for industries with long buying cycles.
One of the many features of paid search is its ability to retarget customers through various ad networks out in the market. For example, Google AdWords offers a fairly robust program where the marketer can utilize either their existing PPC ads or display creative to retarget their audience or build new custom units. In fact, there are endless possibilities for remarketing.
For instance, marketers can follow up an initial purchase with a companion product or run a special promotion for consumers who have searched a number of times, but haven’t clicked-through. Ultimately, you want to create a customized retargeting plan that will keep your brand top of mind across the buying cycle.
Overall, relationship building is essential to B2B marketers. Those that leverage relationship marketing throughout the long B2B buying cycle will net an advantage over the competition.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.