12 Questions B2B Marketers are Asking (or Should be Asking)

Blogging from SES San Jose, 2009

At a conference like SES, you’ll find search agencies, representatives from the search engines, consultants, bloggers, … and marketers. The marketers will fall into dozens of categories, by industry, company size, etc., and B2C and/or B2B. I’ve spent a great deal of time with B2B marketers over the last couple of years at trade shows like this one, as well as in sales calls, webinars and client meetings. These are some of the questions you will hear them asking in San Jose.  They will come up in sessions, in the coffee line-ups, and yes, maybe even occasionally at the #SearchBash.

It often starts with the standard challenges tied to Search, like increased visibility, traffic, lead quality, and brand management. But a lot of it goes beyond search:

1.      Am I getting everything I can out of our analytics software? The answer I hear most of the time is a convincing: NO.

2.      Is Search working in tandem with other online channels? If I outsource SEO and PPC, will they work with our web developers, ad agency, PR, etc.?  Also, can a search agency understand my vertical industry well enough?

3.      Is my paid Search cannibalizing traffic that would otherwise be coming from SEO?

4.      Do we have an accurate model of our customer’s buying process? This question is often followed by, “it depends”, or even silence. How does the buying funnel model apply?

5.      How much of our marketing/sales cycle can be handled online? Is it siloed off from our face-to-face meetings with prospects?

6.      Marketing automation software – how much can it do?  How does it tie in to our sales CRM?  Lead nurturing: how much can be automated? What are we supposed to nurture leads with?

7.      How do I measure engagement over a long sales cycle and multiple buyers at the same time?

8.      Reporting: how do I attribute a sales opportunity to the proper marketing campaign(s)? Who gets credit for the sales lead?

9.      Social media: is it relevant to my buyers, really? Can’t we just start our own social network? Who in the company should be managing the Twitter account? The Facebook profile? Should our YouTube videos be professionally done? How do buyer demographics affect the way they buy from us? Do digital natives operate differently than digital immigrants?

10.   What about tools like PPC bid management software? At what point can we afford to make the investment, and will it be more effective?

11.   If only our whole marketing team really got search… How can we get everybody on the same page?

12.   Is a thought leadership strategy effective? How can we get started? I think this is especially relevant for service-based B2B companies seeking to establish their brand. There are several examples of companies that have built a fabulous reputation and wide visibility this way without spending a ton of money on advertising.

These questions don’t have quick answers, and each one is worthy of an in-depth panel discussion in itself.  But if you’re at SES today, you might want to check out one of the following four sessions on the B2B and verticals track, including Gord Hotchkiss’ panel called The BuyerSphere Project, Understanding B2B Buying Behavior.

mapping-the-buyersphere

The SES San Jose Survival Guide (Top Ten Things To Do Before Going to SES)

As I write this, thousands of us search marketing folks around the globe are packing our bags and getting ready to swoop into San Jose, California for the largest search engine strategies conference of the year, known by the industry simply as SES San Jose. Our company has been a part of these conferences for some time, but each show is a mixture of old and new. And for many of you who may be attending SES San Jose for the first time, here is something you may just want to bookmark and read during some downtime in the airport:

My SES San Jose Survival Guide

1. Follow the SES San Jose hashtag #sessj on Twitter. You will find a lot of great people there. And if the hashtag isn’t enough, here are two Twitter accounts you’ll want to follow right away: @matt_mcgowan and @SESConf.

2. Become a fan of the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo Facebook page. They currently have 503 fans and counting.

3. Join the SES LinkedIn group: over 8,500 members and counting.

4. Subscribe to the SES YouTube Channel. You’ll find over 300 videos which have been posted over the past couple of years.

5. Flip through the July 2009 edition of the SES Magazine. There will undoubtedly a lot of these to be found at the conference itself, but you may not have known that they also have an online version.

6. A closer look at the SES San Jose conference agenda. I won’t reveal my favorites in this post, but take a look at these buzz words, courtesy of wordle.net:
wordle-ses-500

7. Watch SES San Jose social media metrics on socialmention.com.

8. Check out the Search Engine Strategies blog.

9. For more official PR material, take a look at the SES press room.

and, last but not least…

10. Don’t forget to pack good walking shoes, a generous stack of your business cards, and an RSVP to the WebmasterRadio.FM Search Bash Tuesday night.

Have I forgotten anything? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!