It’s not that companies don’t already know this (think about how much you’re searching online everyday!)—but that many of them often don’t understand the opportunity they’re missing.
Once solely a B2C consideration, search engine marketing (SEM) is quickly trickling into the B2B world—and saavy businesses are taking advantage of that trend by hiring companies or internal staff to manage their SEM efforts.
In my mind, SEM in the B2B world such as the AEC industry is as much a branding effort as it is a lead generation effort. They, in fact go hand-in-hand. The value of the brand is directly proportionate to the number of leads that enter the sales funnel and turn into gained clients.
Let’s take for instance an Architect headquartered in Richmond Virginia. Through traditional relationship building they’ve learned about a project for a new Fine Arts Museum to be built in Portland Oregon. Now, they don’t have an office in Portland, but have built and renovated hundreds of Museums on the East Coast. They need that local “flavor” and want to find an Engineer and Construction Manager in the Portland, OR area. Where does their research begin? Online.
The Marketing Coordinator sets out with goals in mind to find the right partner. Searching keywords like “engineer Portland” and “museum engineer Portland Oregon” etc. Then, moves into reviewing the website of these firms to ensure they have the proper expertise. The MC reviews social media pages, checks with her network and fellow SMPSers. Then takes the findings back to the principals who make the ultimate decision on who to align themselves with for the project.
Now, one thing is certain here: more than half of the time spent looking for the right partner was spent online. Whether it’s searching, reviewing websites, or social networking—that business is on the web.
So, if so much is done on the web, and so many folks are on the web, businesses need to take a proactive approach to managing their information and brand online. That means take a strategic approach to your SEM because everything that goes online can (and should) be optimized (social media vehicles, websites, press releases, resumes, project sheets etc.).
It’s about being found online, cutting through the clutter and having consistency at each touch point. Sound familiar? This is branding in its simplest form!
I think now architects, engineers and construction firms need to spend the appropriate amount of time and energy into effective market research. Stop guessing and truly analyze where their target audience and market spend their time.
If 60% of it is online, they need to have 60% of the marketing budget and effort directed as such. That said, 40% offline is still a BIG chunk and should by no means be abandoned. But, with a little research, some data for support, strategic decisions can be made to accommodate this increasingly important trend that is search engine marketing...which is really just an evolved extension of online branding.