Most (not all) of our paid search clients are B2B technology organizations. Their products and solutions are expensive, and the buying cycles are lengthy. They use paid search to generate leads – form fills mainly – which is challenging in today’s competitive technology space. What we find more often than not, is that generating a click through to a landing page, while challenging, is not the hard part. The hard part is getting that form fill!

We’ve conducted a number of A/B testing with regards to landing pages (see Jason’s blog here for some of the results) and played with short forms versus long forms all with some success, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the offer strategy.

First, let me back up…

Changing the number of required fields in a form does affect our conversion rates. People are simply more warry of providing their contact information today than ever. Makes sense, right. I mean how quickly does that first email come when you provide your email address in return for something? Pretty quickly! We’ve found, however, and it’s likely no surprise, that a short form beats a long form. In fact, we often recommend to our clients just asking for name and business email. We do this for a couple of reasons…

  1. Most companies today use some form of sales force automation tool. Armed with a business email address, our clients can set up drip marketing programs that work to build a prospect profile over time. If they appreciated the offer they responded to, providing the next offer along the buying cycle might require the proffering of a little more information, and so on.
  2. Most of our technology clients are generating leads in low numbers. They aren’t selling inexpensive solutions, so the value of a lead is much greater to them than if they’re selling a boxed product. As such, they can fill in prospect data armed with just a name using tools like LinkedIn or business directories. The data appending would be too cumbersome if they weren’t selling an enterprise solution.

While shorter forms generally convert better than long forms, at the heart of the conversion is the offer strategy. Before jumping into digital marketing 10 years ago, I spent 12 years rooted in direct marketing – both agency and client-side. I’ve been part of many direct response campaigns that integrated media including direct mail, email, online (now digital), and even telemarketing. All of these tactics and touches played a role in the B2B lead generation campaigns I managed, and all of them had different levels of success. Like any campaign, the tactics worked together to move a prospect along a decision path to engagement and dialogue. Depending on where in the buying cycle or decision process a prospect was ultimately determined when along the campaign touch points, they chose to engage.

The alignment of offers in a B2B buying cycle

Today, while integrated programs are still viable, I’m rooted firmly in one aspect of the overall strategy – paid search. Paid search can mean many different things in today’s digital landscape. For our clients it mostly means Google Ads, LinkedIn, or Facebook given the nature of lead generation for B2B clients in particular. And given that B2B nature, sales cycles and the decision process is rarely short (more on this in another blog). Suffice it to say, that depending on where in the cycle your ad targets, the offer needs to align. The below is a generalization of the decision stages in the B2B and the subsequent offer types that align best with that stage – of course this can vary greatly depending on what’s being sold, price points, etc. so don’t get too caught up in nuances:

The Importance of Offers in B2B Paid Search Marketing Campaigns - Table

The point I’m making here is that you need to align the messaging in your paid search ad with the decision stage and factor in the most appropriate offer. This offer road map can be of value as you build your sales automation, drip marketing program to target prospects.

Quick side story… when I worked at Babcock & Jenkins (R.I.P.) they were pioneers of sales automation before it was even called sales automation. They created the Web Profiler which made total sense for their main audience… B2B technology clients. They would send along a direct mail piece (or email), drive people to a web profile form where they asked a little information from the prospect. Remember, this was before the inundation of form fill requests. They would get maybe name, email, company. They would then send along an email asking a little more from the prospect – always with a relevant offer. This time, maybe they’d get company size, top three challenges, etc. Then comes the next offer. At the time, this was quite revolutionary, and it worked well because it makes sense, right?

Developing the right offers

When developing your paid search ads, you need to think about how your ads, messaging, and offers all align. When you are using Google Ads, you also need to add keywords to the equation. In short, you need to cover all your bases. Get your content marketing team going to create the arsenal of offers you need to speak to the entire buyer decision process. You’ll need:

  • eBooks and whitepapers – high-level guides that generate awareness or consolidate existing awareness to the problem that you solve. No need to sell your solution too hard at this point, just make situational awareness that a real problem exists and make it compelling.

5 Data Storage Challenges that You’ll Face in 2019

6 Data Center Storage Hurdles and How to Overcome Them Before You Trip

You get the idea… think beyond the boring whitepaper titles that put you to sleep before you even get into the main content.

  • Archived webcasts, informational videos, and eBooks/whitepapers – These content pieces should ratchet up the messaging to speak to the solutions to the problems. Assume at this point that the prospect knows about the challenges you framed earlier and need a solution to address them. The content should paint a picture of the problem and how you address it specifically. Don’t get into the weeds just yet… your sales team can address those directly with the prospect in the engagement phase. Afterall, you didn’t think you were going to sell a complex, B2B solution using just marketing tactics? You’ll need to engage sales – which I’ve been preaching forever!
  • Case studies and solution briefs – At this stage your prospect is looking for options. They may be aware of your solution depending on whether this is a first response or it’s part of your SFA marketing program. The prospect wants proof of concept… how is your solution stack up against others. This is where a solution brief or case study can play a big role. Be sure to have them that speak to the industries that you are targeting and that you serve. Hospitality, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. The prospect will resonate with a similar situation analysis.
  • ROI calculators and TCO/ROI briefs – These offers begin to really make the case for what you provide. It can come as something as simple as an ROI calculator that is embedded into a landing page, or as part of a detailed whitepaper, eBook, or brief that lays out the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return of investment (ROI). Again, to the extent you can make these industry-specific, the better.
  • Feature briefs – These are just simple feature/benefit briefs that can be used to help validate the prospect decision to select or engage. Remember, a sale for marketing at this point might be to simply get a sales person an in-person meeting to close the final deal. The content here is designed to simply say… “you made the right choice engaging with us. Well done!”

Paid search is a fantastic way to develop leads as well as awareness for more complex B2B products and solutions, but it needs to be done right. It goes way beyond a well-written ad. Ads need to be written and aligned with offers that speak to the decision-making process and buying cycle.

So get your content marketing teams busy, and as always… test, test, test!

Reach out to us. Whether you need a content audit or PPC audit, or something in-between, we’d be glad to help!