Effective Web marketing: Be relevant; be ready

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Search marketing allows companies to engage with people in a way that is relevant, authentic and unintrusive. In order to best utilize search marketing, b-to-b companies need to carefully consider how to be relevant and ready for the people who are looking online for specific products and services.

Every day, millions of people are looking for information online. By searching online and choosing to view certain Web sites, potential customers are raising their hands and expressing direct interest in a particular subject.

Take construction, for example. A projected 18 million people will search for information related to “construction” by the end of 2007. Over three years, the search trends have roughly followed industry trends (see graphic). For example, there is an annual—and predictable—dip in construction-related searches every year around Christmas.

But not every construction Web search is identical. Some information-seekers may be looking for plumbing supplies, while others may be searching for insulation specialists, tile cutters or general contractors.

Each of these 18 million queries signifies a moment of relevance for the Web searcher—an ideal time for a b-to-b company to deliver a brand or product message to the person conducting the search at that moment. By targeting advertisements to appear next to the results pages for specific search queries, search marketing allows companies to present information when Web searchers are actively seeking it out.

Much of this sounds like traditional lead generation. But the search marketing model goes beyond lead generation by allowing Internet users to choose what they see and when. This paves the way for b-to-b companies to have relevant and authentic conversations with people about their brand, products and services.

Be ready: Targeting advertisements to people searching online is an effective way to reach potential customers. But it is also crucial for b-to-b marketers to be ready online for interest generated offline. In other words, businesses need to recognize and plan online for trade shows, sponsorships, news and other events that are happening offline. These offline events increasingly encourage people to go online to find more information. Since the online platform allows brand marketers to refine their messaging, they can be relevant to people searching for additional information about a particular offline activity.

Take a NASCAR sponsorship, for example. NASCAR-related Google searches fluctuate during the year in response to particular races. The greatest spike occurs during the Daytona 500 (see graphic). A company that sponsors a NASCAR racecar driver should make its online marketing strategy part of the overall sponsorship. If that company isn’t ready for the Web traffic that may come from the NASCAR race, it will have lost an opportunity to engage the very people it was trying to reach with the sponsorship, people who are looking for additional information online.

Most industries also have offline trends that can drive traffic to its online assets. Consider the earlier example of construction searches. While construction-related searches dip during the winter holiday season, they roar back after the New Year.

Companies should factor relevance and readiness into how they plan their online marketing and advertising strategy. Planning around offline activities or seasonal trends can help companies find new business by connecting with potential customers when they are seeking information.

An online component should be central to every b-to-b marketer’s advertising strategy. But it’s not just about having a presence online with your Web site, it’s about using a robust (and growing) set of tools that provides marketers with the information they need to be relevant and ready to deliver messages online to potential customers. And it’s important that marketers evolve their strategies with the products and technology that will be developed in the future. This will allow them to continue to be relevant to people searching for information. Millions of people are searching for b-to-b-related information, and b-to-b companies need to be there when those potential customers “raise their hands” for that information.

Penry Price is VP-North America at Google, where he oversees the day-to day operations of the company’s media sales and account management teams throughout North America.

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