4 New Marketing Fundamentals Impacting the B2B SEO Professional

March 21, 2013: In Forrester Senior Analyst Anthony Mullen’s new report, “Emerging Touchpoints Require A Marketing Mind Shift“, he identifies four fundamentals marketers must realize, in order to succeed in today’s technology and information-rich environment. His article in Advertising Age discusses these fundamentals, which are:

  • Design is the New Marketing
  • Value is the Currency
  • Agents Broker Brand Relationships
  • People are the Regulators

Citing additional Forrester research, Mullen indicates that more than half of US online adults are already annoyed by the amount of advertising they see, and 37% would rather not be contacted by brands at all.

Think about what that means in B2B buying cycles, where multiple individuals are impacting the decision making process.

If only two individuals are responsible, at least one is already annoyed. If there are more than two, there is a good chance the majority are already skeptical at the start.

Mullen’s four new marketing fundamentals offer some important takeaways for B2B search engine marketers. Here are some of the biggest ones I realized, organized by new marketing fundamental.

Design is the New Marketing

Executing the B2B marketing message is more complex than ever before. This is in part due to the sheer volume of data and information created coupled with the rapid development of technology across a range of platforms and devices. B2B SEO professionals need to be ever aware of how design and usability play a part in the prospective buyer’s desire to consume information accessed and presented.

We have already seen this discussion take center stage here and in resources like Copyblogger, Search Engine Land, and B2B Marketing Insider. Sharp design and good usability are important components of a good digital content strategy.

Key considerations B2B SEO professionals:

  • Design & Layout: Visual appearance and readability are critical factors in getting potential buyers to take the time to review content marketing assets. Optimization goes beyond keywords and broader design implications.
  • Search Results: Take note of how Google (and Yahoo/Bing) shift design and layout, and integration, of search engine results for important keyword phrases, to uncover new content opportunities and tactics for visibility.
  • Conversion Optimization: Test location and presentation of conversion actions to improve conversion rates, even if those actions are closer to top of funnel lead generation initiatives.

Value is the Currency

As discussed in a recent Search Engine Watch column highlighting the B2B content marketing process, I worry whether B2B marketers are more concerned with pumping out enough content versus developing the kind of content that their potential audience truly finds of value.

Consider immediate engagement metrics as well as long term goals, for purposes of defining quality in content marketing development. Engagement metrics provide guidance to how well are message is resonating with an audience in short term, and whether your content efforts are being accepted in social media circles. This MarketingSherpa 2013 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report chart outlines key social media metrics routinely tracked.

Measuring Social Media ROI

However as discussed in recent BtoB Research Insights piece, “Defining the Modern Marketer“, key metrics in the evaluation of overall marketing performance must end up focusing most heavily around sales performance and enablement. We need to keep revenue goals in mind at all times.

Defining Marketing ROI

Key considerations B2B SEO professionals:

  • Role of Engagement Metrics: Popular social sharing metrics are a great start but B2B SEO’s need to understand how those metrics play a part in a larger marketing strategy designed to generate leads. Social shares mean your content is getting accepted. Tie-ins to the lead funnel need to be established.
  • Prospect / Customer Reports: Visitor reporting data commonly associated with marketing automation systems present a clear path for B2B SEO’s to demonstrate value in content marketing assets and keyword strategies. It is critical for B2B SEO professionals to gain access to this information, in addition to more traditional website reporting tools.
  • Marketing Communication / PR: Associate social media shares to specific profiles of influence and make sure to pass this information to and from marketing communication groups. Give your PR team knowledge to help win the big pitch. Conversely, gain insight on where PR focus is so that you’re keeping track of the right influencers in social media / third party outreach.

Agents Broker Brand Relationships

B2B marketers need to understand that agents (in the form of hardware, software, and technology) play a part in delivering the brand experience and they can’t be afraid of new platforms. For example, I have experienced a fair amount of doubt from B2B marketers on the urgency in adopting Google+. With tight budgets and limited resources, it is tempting to justify limited to no involvement.

But we also must understand the extent to which Google+ represents a shift in search engine results technology, and the integral nature it will play in SEO moving forward.

The real point is that regardless of how powerful a brand might be, it is unlikely that direct traffic is the only channel sending customers (new and existing), even if that channel is of the highest quality. B2B marketers need to embrace the idea that their customers use multiple platforms, access points, and devices to find information.

Key considerations B2B SEO professionals:

  • Owned Media: Even though agents deliver B2B information the business should still own their intellectual property. Tactical adoption of third party platforms is specific to communication and outreach. Strategy and content still need to center around owned media assets.
  • Technology Innovation: Pay attention to emerging consumer channels, since their rapid adoption can lead to new marketing platforms for B2B organizations seeking the attention of buyers.
  • Website Reporting: In web analytics, third party referral reports, and audience reports such as device usage and location, provide important entry points for understanding strengths and opportunities for SEO / social media communication development.

People Are The Regulators

Finally, everything comes back to understanding the buyer. Be it related to design, value, or designated platform. As SEO professionals, we’ve learned that well thought out keyword research provides the foundation for effective SEO results. As B2B marketer professionals, SEO’s need to align themselves closer to buyer personal development, in an effort to truly understand what buyers are looking for (and how they are looking) when evaluating complex B2B solutions.

Key considerations B2B SEO professionals:

  • Sales Integration: Build keyword research into buyer persona development by asking sales personnel what keywords often come up in the sales discussions. Provide specific triggers (based on preliminary keyword research) for sales personnel to identify more detailed phrases and terminology. Quora is a great resource for mining situational questions to be aware of in the process.
  • Customer Service: Evaluate customer service data to understand common problems and challenges with products and solutions. For example, bug / support requests provide hints for content marketing development.
  • Website Reporting: Web analytics again plays a key role in this process. Long tail keyword queries and third party referral reports provide insight for new content development and uncovering key link partners and social media networking opportunities.

Final Thoughts

The B2B organization needs to realize how significantly the buyer’s ability to receive and process information is changing, through technology innovation and access. At a strategic level, understanding customers and buyers involves further exploration into the platform, device, and industry influences, and keyword strategy.

At the tactical level, for B2B SEO to be effective, assets need to optimized for design and layout, as well as keyword opportunity. Value is established through short term and long term metrics and benchmarks.

How has the shift in marketing mindset impacting your B2B internet marketing strategies? I would love to read your perspective and feedback via comments below.

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