Looking to incorporate paid search into your B2B marketing mix? Columnist Pauline Jakober provides some advice for starting off on the right foot.
Here’s a common scenario in the B2B marketing space:
You’re a member of your B2B company’s marketing team. As part of that team, you’ve become accomplished in a variety of marketing channels, including email marketing, content marketing, organic search, trade shows and so forth.
But your team hasn’t yet taken the company into the paid search marketing channel. And as the most “digital-savvy” member of the group, you’ve been tapped to head the initiative. You’re excited to take on this responsibility, but you’re also nervous.
Before you start, you should know that when it comes to PPC, B2B marketers tend to trip up in certain specific areas. To give you a leg up, I’m going to describe five common mistakes that B2B paid search novices tend to make and how you can avoid them. Good luck!
Mistake #1: Rushing to launch
Rushing to launch is a common mistake — and an understandable one. When your company has a big promotion or event on the horizon, you want to have your PPC campaigns in place to support it.
This is something I’ve seen many times with our clients. They will set a deadline for launch and insist on sticking to it, even if all campaign elements aren’t in place.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for having deadlines. But sometimes a premature launch can do more harm than good.
Most often, when campaigns are launched prematurely, the missing elements are:
- Landing pages
- Conversion tracking
- Integration with other marketing channels
Without custom landing pages in place, your conversion rates are likely to be lower. Sometimes much lower. And this can lead to questions about the viability of your PPC program.
Without conversion tracking, it’s impossible to know exactly how well (or poorly) your campaigns are performing. And it’s hard to justify any marketing program when you don’t have numbers to back it up.
Failure to integrate with other marketing channels can lead to lost opportunities. And even worse, you might end up pillaging your efforts in other channels.
Even if you work with a PPC agency, your marketing and web development teams will still need to take some responsibility for these elements. Yes, we can set up your accounts. We can even select your keywords, write your ad messaging and run them by you for approval.
But some elements — especially post-click elements — require your involvement.
If the delay in implementing these elements is just a couple of days, then that’s usually not a big deal. But anything longer is worrying.
Mistake #2: Making decisions before the data is in
One of the great things about PPC is the ability to make tweaks and changes on the fly with little effort. Few other marketing channels offer this much flexibility.
But this flexibility is also a curse. Sometimes, it’s hard to be patient and wait for more data to accumulate before deciding to change campaign settings and elements.
For example, we had a client who wanted to review and update their ad messaging on a monthly basis. For a high-click-volume account, this wouldn’t be unreasonable. But this client was only getting a handful of clicks every month on some campaigns. We simply didn’t have enough data to inform monthly decision-making. So sure, we could make updates every month, but they would be a shot in the dark.
Therefore, it’s wiser to time your decision-making by activity volume (e.g., “We’ll re-evaluate when we reach x number of impressions and conversions”) instead of by calendar (e.g., “We’ll re-evaluate in a month”).
Mistake #3: Not bidding on brand
In PPC, “bidding on brand” means bidding on your brand name as keywords. So, for example, when a prospect searches your name (e.g., “Acme Business Solutions”), your ad displays with the search results.
As a B2B paid search newbie, you might think that bidding on brand isn’t necessary. After all, your team has optimized your website, and it’s bound to show up in organic search results.
That’s a common conclusion, but it’s also false. I can think of at least four reasons why you should bid on brand:
- Organic results + Paid results = Greater brand presence. Combining your organic listing with a paid search ad helps reinforce your brand presence. In fact, to have an organic listing without an accompanying paid aid can lead to questions: “If these guys are so prominent in the market, where’s their ad?”
- PPC gives greater control over messaging and click-through pages. While organic listings are great, they’ll never give you the precise control of paid search. With a paid search ad, your marketing team can dictate your exact messaging and click-through pages.
- By not bidding, you open ad space to your competitors. If you decide NOT to bid on your brand, that doesn’t mean your competitors won’t. Why make that ad space available to your competitors?
- Branded keywords usually cost less. If you’re still not convinced that you should bid on brand, know that branded keywords typically cost much less than unbranded keywords — which should make your decision easier.
Mistake #4: Resisting certain ad networks or tactics
Sometimes, B2B marketing teams have biases against certain paid search ad networks, strategies or tactics.
For example, it’s not uncommon for B2B businesses to refuse to advertise on the Google Display Network. Or they’ll say they don’t want to run AdWords remarketing campaigns.
I’m not sure where these biases come from. Maybe they’ve heard negative things from their associates. Maybe they’ve read something bad online. Or maybe they’ve tried something in the past, got burned and vowed never to do it again.
But you need to remember that paid search is an ever-evolving channel. It changes all the time. And your business changes, too. Consequently, what didn’t work two years ago might work well today.
In addition, every B2B industry, market and business is different. We all have different products, competitors, brand awareness, budgets and regulatory environments. So an ad strategy that was a total dud for one B2B company could be a total winner for another.
Quite simply, you won’t know whether specific ad networks, strategies or tactics will work for your B2B business unless your team gives them a try.
If you don’t have the budget to try everything, then that’s understandable. But often, you can start with one ad network (typically Search) and generate some good results. Then, you can use those results to justify a larger budget and expand into other areas.
If you DO have budget available now, then why limit your results? As a PPC agency, we consistently find that clients who are willing to dedicate a portion of their budget to “experimental approaches” do better over the long run. Because experimentation is the key to discovering effective strategies and getting great results over the long term.
Mistake #5: Going it alone
Perhaps the biggest mistake I see B2B paid search novices make is trying to do everything themselves. I understand this, too. Your marketing director wants to keep PPC management in-house. He or she wants to start small and see how things go. And you want the opportunity to prove yourself and grow your expertise.
And why shouldn’t you? After all, those AdWords “how to” videos make paid search look so easy! Surely you could watch a few, do some reading, and then put together a campaign. And maybe you can.
But then something will happen — your ad gets disapproved, or your leads won’t convert — and then things get a lot more complex and problematic.
The biggest issue with this approach is that it doesn’t provide a true test of what PPC can do for your B2B. And it might just breed the kind of “PPC doesn’t work for us” thinking that becomes very hard to reverse.
Consequently, PPC might be taken off the table entirely — sometimes for years — until someone is brave enough to champion it again. And in the meantime, your competitors benefit from your absence.
Don’t let mistakes derail your B2B PPC marketing
So when striking out on your own with paid search, give your marketing and web development teams the time they need to do things right from the outset. Then, resist making changes until you have a data-backed picture of what’s going on. Be sure to bid on your brand, and don’t take any ad networks, strategies or tactics off the table unless you have a valid reason for doing so.
And most importantly, don’t wait to get outside help if you need it.