Guest post author Melissa Mackey
You’ve probably heard of the 4 P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
And if you do B2B PPC, you might look at those elements and think “none of these apply to my campaigns!”
B2B advertisers do have a product, although it might be a service rather than a tangible product. Of course, there are prices and places involved. And B2B advertisers might offer a “promotion” of a free trial or demo.
But B2B advertising feels very different from B2C in that advertisers are not engaging in ecommerce. No one is going to click on an ad for six-figure SaaS software, put it in their shopping cart, and enter their credit card to check out.
Here are a few ways B2B PPC is different from B2C, and how to succeed with B2B PPC.
B2B isn’t the same as B2C.
It may seem obvious that the two are different, but search engines struggle to understand the nuances between B2B and B2C.
Often, similar queries have very different meanings in B2B than in B2C. And search engines are notorious for serving B2B-focused ads on B2C queries. Engines don’t understand the intent behind the queries – although they’ve gotten much better recently.
Still, so many searches are ambiguous, making it tricky for the search engines to tell whether users are looking for a solution for themselves personally, or for their business.
Take the query “security systems.”
If I’m searching for “security systems,” I might be looking for home security options. All I might need is a few security cameras and a monitoring system.
Or, I might be looking for an advanced business security system for a large corporate office building with thousands of employees. In addition to heavy duty monitoring, I’ll need access control, IT capabilities, and other business considerations that don’t factor in to a home use situation.
Personas are important.
In B2C, personas are often irrelevant. Your customers are whoever buys your stuff.
But for B2B, personas are important to understand, as they’ll drive a lot of your strategy – especially if you’re running paid social in addition to paid search. Defining personas early in the planning process will help you decide how to segment your audiences and content.
Audiences are a great way to hone in on the B2B user.
Everyone is talking about audiences these days, especially since audiences have become an important signal for ad serving in PPC.
Keywords are still important, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. That said, audiences are crucial to ensuring a successful B2B campaign.
Ideally, B2B advertisers will use first-party audiences as a major component of their PPC efforts.
First-party audiences are people you already know something about: either they’re customers, prospects, or people who’ve visited your website.
Targeting first-party audiences is a great way to weed out B2C and other irrelevant traffic from your B2B campaigns.
If you don’t have any first-party audience data, don’t fret. But do install the engine tracking tags so you can start creating retargeting audiences based on website visitors’ activity.
Targeting other audiences is important, too. While there aren’t as many choices for B2B-focused in-market and affinity audiences, the engines have expanded their options recently.
Also, it’s good to test non-B2B segments to see how they perform. For example, if you’re trying to reach C-level executives, you might try targeting Luxury Vehicles, Travel/5-Star Hotels, and Fine Jewelry.
Spend some time researching your audience, and thinking about the best way to reach them.
For top-of-funnel campaigns, content is king.
You’ve probably heard the saying about digital advertising: Don’t ask the prospect to marry you the first time you meet.
In other words, don’t hammer a first-time visitor with offers to buy, buy, buy!
Nowhere is that saying truer than in B2B PPC.
Users are not going to buy a six-figure piece of industrial equipment, or an enterprise software package, or whatever B2B businesses are selling, on the first go-round. Prospects turn to search engines when they are just beginning to research solutions to their problems. They’re not ready to buy yet.
Content is king for upper-funnel B2B PPC campaigns. You must have good content to sell your audience.
B2B measurement can be tricky.
Front-end measurement for B2B PPC is easy: just slap Google Analytics or another package on your site, and you can track visits, user behavior, and even website conversions. The problem is, website conversions are usually not a purchase – they’re a lead. What happens to those leads once they convert online?
That’s the loop that’s surprisingly difficult to close. B2B advertisers tend to be behind the times when it comes to tracking systems and processes. A shocking number of businesses are using old-school CRM systems, or even pencil and paper, to track leads. They have no idea what happens to them once they go to the sales team.
The good news is, Google now allows advertisers to connect their CRM system directly to Google Ads. So if you’re using Salesforce, Hubspot, or any of the other common CRM systems, you can import data on MQLs, SQLs, and other key actions in the funnel to see just how the leads performed once in the system.
Low lead volume creates challenges.
Low lead volume can also be an issue for B2B. For businesses selling expensive services or equipment, it’s not unusual to see only 4-5 leads (form fills) per month.
Low lead volume creates challenges for PPC automation. Using automation is a must in today’s PPC world, but what do you do if you don’t get enough leads to feed good data to the machine?
I spoke about this very topic at SMX Next in November 2022. Read the recap to see how you can make automation work for lead generation.
To learn more about how B2B differs from B2C, check out Hubspot’s excellent guide to B2B marketing.