The Cost (and Remedy) to Low Quality B2B Paid Search Leads.

February 7, 2008: The most prevalent difference between B2B and B2C paid search management is seen in what activity each type of client views as a conversion.

Evaluating Business to Consumer (B2C) Conversions

When a paid search campaign is pulling consumers to a landing page, the conversion action almost always results in traceable revenue. This data can be used to evaluate the return on investment generated by the paid search campaign, all the way down to the keyword level.

In this case it is very simple to set benchmarks & goals. We want to create as many sales as possible at the highest rate of return per sale.

Evaluating Business to Business (B2B) Conversions

Here the conversion action is is usually some type of information request, white paper download, sign up to see product demo, or a request for a free trial. After communication is initiated, the sales cycle could last anywhere from several weeks to half a year, or more. This makes it very difficult to assign a real-time value to any specific inbound lead.

The Cost of B2B Leads

Once the lead has been created we can designate a monetary cost to it (Cost Per Action, or CPA).

In addition, there is the time value associated with the company’s sales force in qualifying and contacting the lead (not easy to quantify, but definitely a drain on internal resources). There is nothing more frustrating than to have a steady stream of low quality leads coming in. Web forms that are unfinished, filled with fake contact information, or poorly targeted can cost a company even more in wasted time, irritation, and goodwill.

Low-Quality Leads Can Result In

  • Paid search leads may be given a lower priority than leads that are created through other channels.
  • Borderline leads may be more readily dismissed.
  • A salesperson may decide to e-mail a prospect that they are given from the Web, and then not follow up if there is not an immediate response.
  • The attitude towards the paid search expenditures will suffer.

The likelihood of a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between Marketing and Sales (a challenge in most companies!) becomes unlikely if the Sales team can not find anything positive to say about your marketing leads.

Why Aren’t Companies More Sophisticated in Tracking Their Leads?

The best methods for tracking leads take 2 things – money and time.

Ideally, the client is very savvy and has entirely bought into the effectiveness of paid search. You share information, have access to (and help provide) CRM data, and they have implemented the proper tracking and Web analytics packages.

This is obviously not always the case. There are instances where the client hasn’t fully bought into the value of paid search, or perhaps you, as the agency, are hindered in helping with a full analysis because:

  • The client wishes to keep prospect/client information private (sometimes even despite a signed NDA)
  • Your client contacts do not have the time to keep you updated with the status of dozens of leads on several different steps in the sales process.

For these situations, I have provided a few guidelines that you may consider to narrow the potential funnel and better qualify incoming leads.

Reduce Your Exposure With Better Keyword Targeting

In a B2C/e-tail scenario – While this Monet waterlilies paperweight might be the most interesting paperweight I have ever seen, I would have no problem testing some really broad keywords for it – most suitably, paperweight. With the ability to track revenue we can make almost immediate decisions on whether or not it is valuable to purchase specific keywords.

In the B2B space general and broad keywords will often be your downfall.

An example:

You are running a paid search campaign for mobile VSAT routers. The product is very expensive and it typically serves government, military, and the natural resource sectors. By function, it can also be described as a “router”, a “network router”, or a “wireless router.”

If we chose to advertise under these broad keyword terms, we would undoubtedly burn through our click budget in no time and create little or no qualified leads. The key is to be as specific as possible in keyword selection, choosing keywords that are relevant to the markets and audiences being targeted.

Some Additional Keyword Tips:

  • Stay away from broad match terms wherever possible.
  • Avoid single word or common terms: Racks and Industrial Warehouse Racks are very different
  • Trade journals, research, and professionals in the field will know how they refer to their products – follow their lead!
  • Keep away from buzzwords wherever possible. Do industry people actually refer them as solutions?
  • Generously employ negative keywords.

Make Your Ads Harder to Read

Our first line of defense to limit exposure to the wrong audience is through choosing keywords appropriately. When this fails, we can still rely on the ad message as a deterrence. People tend to have the uncanny ability to tell when an advertisement is aimed at them.

Which of these ads is more appropriate for a B2B audience?

Sample Ads

Some Additional Ad Copy Tips:

  • Speak to the target audience, use model numbers and technical jargon only if appropriate.
  • Stay away from consumer focussed terms such as free, cheap, discount.
  • Highlight conversion actions – Request a Demo is not entirely different from Free Trial, but a “free trial” might be construed as more consumer-oriented.

Tailor your Contact Form for Potential Customer

It is a common lead generation strategy to make the contact form unmistakably large and prevalent on the landing page. Often there is no navigation on the page either – it puts the searcher in an awkward position where they can either fill out the form or bounce right off the page.

The contact form should be of a singular purpose: the open the communication process between both parties. There should be no incentive to falsify information. Charts, graphs, and egos benefit most from a large amount of incoming leads.

Any B2B manager would gladly accept less, but more qualified leads, as opposed to an endless stream of forms that don’t make it past the quality filter.

Some Additional Landing Page Tips:

  • Don’t remove the navigation. A well organized site is more credible than a single landing page.
  • Be sophisticated with your form. Make fields for organization and address required.
  • Do not hide content behind the form unless you have a really good reason. Dangling white papers or case studies as carrots can certainly net you more leads, but how many of the leads generated this way are good business opportunities? Does it push potential leads away?
  • Phone numbers and email addresses might make it easy for leads to get in touch with you but are even more difficult to track.

In Closing

Inundating the sales team with mediocre quality prospects is the fastest way to get them to disregard search as a valuable lead generation tool.

Perhaps somewhere there is a blog post furiously being scrawled away called “How to Make Your Paid Search Manager Happy” but until then its our job to make sure that the traffic that makes it through is well targeted and qualified.

After that its up to them.

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Scott Stone

"We have a successful online business, and wanted to take the next step. We approached KoMarketing with the notion of leveraging its expertise in building better search rankings. Both in our defined critical areas and across the board, KoMarketing has helped us grow our presence. They were hired to expand our visibility, but took extra steps to provide many useful recommendations for other areas of our online presence that have had positive impacts. Derek and his staff work hard and take extra steps to ensure you succeed. They are an outstanding partner." - Scott Stone, Advertising & E-Business Manager, Cisco Eagle

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