PPC for B2B: Real World Recommendations You Can Use


Today is part 2 of our week long series on Advanced PPC Strategies. When I solicited for feedback a few weeks ago, one of the best comments I received was a request for tips on managing PPC for business-to-business (B2B) clients. Through my experiences with B2B pay-per-click campaigns I understand why this is such an important topic. There are vast differences between targeting general consumers versus business professionals. In today’s post I’d like to explain how B2B clients will test your PPC skills with complex products, unique targeting considerations and specific concerns for keywords and ad texts.

Before I dive headfirst into the PPC nitty-gritty, I’m going to pose a question: Why is PPC even a good marketing tool for B2B clients? According to Enquiro’s 2007 Business to Business Survey, search engines are a major influence in B2B activities in every phase of the buying cycle (research through purchase). Additionally, 51% of the survey’s respondents started their research at a general search engine. This means that if you’re serious about finding those B2B leads, you need to be present on the search engines! Now, on to the nitty-gritty.

Understand the Product or Service

Before you can run a successful PPC campaign for any client (B2B, B2C, et. al), you have to have a solid understanding of your client’s product or service. This may seem like one of those common sense lectures, but let me assure you, it is very important! Most B2B products or services are very complex in nature. The first place to start is your client’s website. Read every page of content, then move on to relevant competitors and any industry articles you can find. Amy Konefal at the Closed-Loop Marketing Blog suggests that you go even deeper than merely reading online content. Ask your client for every piece of marketing literature they have – everything from direct mail, email and print advertising.

It is helpful to read how the company speaks to their customers in other mediums.

Taking the time to read up and understand your client’s product or service will give you a major step forward in managing their B2B PPC campaign. While you’re reading, take notes! Those notes will be the beginnings of a healthy keyword list and perhaps even basic ad text copy.

Targeting the Buying Cycles

The Sponsored B2B blog says it best: “The B2B client isn’t one person.” That is to say, there are typically a number of people who are involved in the purchase of a new product or service. The Enquiro survey breaks these individuals down into 4 types of buyers: Economic Buyer (accounting), Technical Buyer (IT), User Buyer (end-user) and Coach Buyer (someone with vested interest in the purchase: i.e. CEO, investor, etc.).

The B2B client isn’t one person. In fact, there are multiple stakeholders involved in the process of research and purchase, each one visiting your website at some point…

So, now you’re asking me, “how am I supposed to target all of these people?” What you first need to realize is that each one of these types of buyers are in a different phase of the buying cycle: Awareness. Research. Negotiation. Purchase. In a post I wrote a few months ago, I suggested that PPC marketers should utilize keywords that target each phase. The basic idea is one-word keywords are towards the beginning of the buying cycle with the long-tail, multiple word phrases at the purchasing end. By including keywords in your campaigns for each phase of the buying cycle, you will ensure that your ads are positioned in front of each type of B2B buyer.

Keywords and Ads

As I mentioned above, the notes you take on your client’s product will be your starting point for creating a healthy keyword list. Take that list and begin to create keyword phrases that detail the product or service. Andy Komack’s advice is to start with highly targeted keywords. It’s OK to be technical as with B2B client’s you’re generally targeting a very niche market who know the jargon. For a bidding strategy, bid low for general terms (but not low enough to trail off of page 1 of the SERPs) and really target your customers with higher bids on the long-tail keywords.

Ads for B2B campaigns are another tricky spot. The comment that spawned this blog post actually mentioned the use of “Buy Now” in B2B ads and a general concern for its effectiveness. I think there is merit to that statement. Most B2B customers aren’t in a “Buy Now” state of mind. Why is that? Long sales cycles. Honestly, it all comes down to how you’re leveraging your website for PPC. Are you actually selling a product? In that case, “Buy Now” might actually work! What if you’re pushing a white paper or webinar? In this case, “Sign-Up” or “Learn More” may be more suitable calls-to-action for your ads. Most importantly, your ads need to state your offer and set the searcher up for the content on your landing page (i.e. white paper, product/e-commerce).

Other Considerations

I already touched on this, but understanding your B2B client’s sales cycle is important. Yes, you need to know this for how you write ads, but it is also important from a tracking aspect. If your client’s leads take 3-6 months to turn into a sale, it’s imperative that they are employing the use of a CRM solution. This information will also offer you insight into how you can better leverage their website to obtain leads. Shorter sales cycle clients could be served well with traditional landing pages that use long lead forms. When the sales cycle is counted in months, you may want to consider offering collateral (i.e. white papers, webinars) with a simple sign-up (the simpler, the better).

Branding is another point to consider when managing PPC for B2B clients. Many advertisers disregard brand terms in their PPC efforts and should reconsider their actions! Don’t fall into the trap of assuming your potential customers already know your name and know how to find you.

Many B2B marketers feel that their customers and prospects already know their brand and/or how to find them; or that their sales force is already speaking with anyone they could envision as a client.

Bidding on your client’s brand names is PPC 101. These are going to be cheap clicks, but the most qualified clicks. Don’t relegate your brand keywords to just the name of your client, either. Include variations of their name, website (yes, bid on “www.insertclientnamehere.com”) and the names of their products and services.

B2B clients will definitely test your skills as a PPC advertiser, but with careful management they can be extremely successful. Remember to learn as much as you can about your client’s product or service. This will give you the groundwork to effectively target the different types of buyers and to create highly targeted ads and keyword lists.