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In the B2B market, an efficient PPC campaign needs to capture and motivate prospects throughout the decision-making and sales cycles; while always understanding that intent and CTR are not always uniquely matched with either the research or buying phase.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Best Influencers Go Home

I was recently asked by Gord Hotchkiss to look into the traffic and search engine share of a few of our B2B clients. He was being interviewed by a financial analyst wanting to collect some information about sponsored campaigns, whether or not there existed a perfect formula for budget allocation across the various engines, and whether or not the dreaded Panama (or highly anticipated depending on how much you like having real search volume numbers instead of Google type ranges) had made any effects as of yet.

Truthfully, it wasn't terribly involved and the insight was limited, but I started to think about the questions being asked a little more than usual - not necessarily because of the answers, but because the questions were being asked.

First of all, I take the firm stance that there never has been, nor will there ever be, a strict and perfect formula for running a sponosored campaign. The customer always has to be at the center of every decision - if you don't know what the opportunities are then your current analytics are the next best thing. What are existent clients using as their search engine of choice; if your client base is primarily being referred through Google, then Google should get your majority share. Starting any sponsored campaign based on your current customer base is not only a safe route, it is often times the best route.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of B2B marketers stop and fall relatively short. If you start a campaign based entirely on the information you have collected on your current client base, you will never grow, never see an uncharted opportunity, never make any inroads, and in the end, never hit any of your goals. Why? It isn't rocket science that when you give Google 60% of your total budget that it keeps feeding 60% of your total referrals. All things being equal, this is the way it always should be... however, with some of our strongest clients (those that have made the best inroads in usability issues and understanding that a strong sponsored campaign is about integrating and aligning solutions and not running independent solution lines), interesting opportunities have arisen when we have looked deeper into the popularity and daily traffic volumes of their current sponsored campaigns.

What did we find? In a nutshell, B2B influencers go home at some point in the day. I know this information is radical at its root, but believe me (as I write this at midnight), your market may not be at work all the time, but work - its thoughts, issues, needs - is still in their periphery.

The interesting thing is however that at home, some influencers haven't had the in-house tech guru assign their browser preferences. In fact, there home PC has probably been used by the entire family, and more than likely his teenage daughters are setting the default homepage as MySpace or GoogleTube. So what happens, for some odd reason the high converting query-engine match becomes MSN in the evening. Why? Because the IE browser search window uses MSN and sometimes that qualified target can't be bothered to change it at home.

Customers tend to define their own paths and their own schedules - answers and solutions are never predefined. Anlytics should only ever be a starting point, because if you rest on your laurels, there will always be somebody else to take advantage of that opportunity and pass you by.

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