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B-to-B Marketers: How to Get Better Clicks with Search Ads

Crafting Offers and Messages to Attract Qualified Prospects

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To motivate a click, marketers need to make a compelling offer and provide an urgent call to action. This is not news.

But in the particular case of search engine advertising, like Google AdWords, it's a bit more complicated, because marketers are paying for each click. Unqualified clicks diminish ROI and can be a real constraint for b-to-b marketers, whose target audience is often very narrow.

The other constraint found in search advertising is in the copy. There are only 130 characters, spread over four lines of type, to play with. So the offer needs to be simple and easy to explain. And the call to action must be extremely concise.

Success lies in crafting an offer and messaging that attracts qualified prospects, who have a good chance of converting to leads and customers, while at the same time weeding out the unqualified. This is not easy.

In direct response marketing, we know that response quality is typically inversely proportionate to response quantity. There are no free lunches. The more generous the offer, the higher the response -- and the less likely the respondent is to convert to a profitable customer. On the other hand, a hard offer (not as generous) forces prospects to put in more effort, resulting in lower response, but more committed respondents, who are likely to prove more valuable -- just costlier to acquire.

Here are some excellent offers that provide for both simplicity and the chance to manage quality in your search advertising.

1. Free information. This is always a popular and productive offer in business markets, where buyers need detailed information as part of their purchase process. Examples include a free case study, research report or white paper. Instead of presenting it as "free information," make the copy very specific, ideally including a snappy title or key benefit, such as "Free report on lead quality."

2. Free trial. Only people who are serious about your product are going to sign up for a trial. But you still take advantage of the word "free." Technology marketers have been offering free software trial subscriptions successfully for years.

3. Free consultation. This attracts a prospect who is looking for a deeper education in how to solve a business problem. The quality is baked in.

4. Free shipping. This is a great way to differentiate yourself in a highly competitive e-commerce environment. Free shipping has proven to be a very attractive offer, driving response, but is only redeemed on purchase, ensuring conversion.

Stay away from offers that motivate high response but poor quality -- a free mug or t-shirt, with no strings attached, for example, unless you can otherwise control who is shown the ad. Or, if your universe is small and you have good reason to grab up every possible prospect, add them to your database and qualify them over time.

Another way to qualify is with the ad copy. Here's an example: Warm-Transfer is a high-volume lead qualification service for companies acquiring consumer leads in insurance, mortgages and higher education. To serve any given client profitably, the service needs to be running a certain number of leads through its system. By adding the statement, "If you have 1,500+ leads per month" in the third line of its search ad copy, Warm-Transfer quadrupled the number of quality leads and avoided wasted conversations.

Specifying a price in the search ad can also serve to qualify, especially in e-commerce. The price will repel tire-kickers and limit clicks to serious buyers, thus improving ROI.

The final step to qualification is a dedicated landing page that explains in more detail the product or service, and why the prospect should fill out the form to get the conversation started.

And don't forget to test. A series of A/B split tests will answer a lot of questions about which offer, which copy, and what kind of landing page will attract the most -- and the most qualified -- buyers at the best ROI.

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