Harsh words? Perhaps, and it's to no fault of the event organizers. The recent BtoB NetMarketing Breakfast in New York was one of the best functions I've attended lately, thanks in large part to the crowd it attracted. From catching up with old business friends to forging new connections, it was time well spent.
As for the panelists, BtoB offered an esteemed roundup of executives from Computer Associates, Nextel, T. Rowe Price, and Xerox.com. They were the main attraction, and I was eager to hear what they had to say.
They're also the reason I left cringing.
During the panelists' presentations, and the ensuing dialogue afterward moderated by BtoB Magazine Editor Ellis Booker, search engine marketing came up repeatedly - as the whipping boy of business-to-business firms. The worst part is that the criticisms were riddled with half-truths and misconceptions.
To be fair, much of what the panelists offered was invaluable, but it's time to right a few wrongs. All the myths below were expressed by at least one of the panelists.
MYTH: "People who see our ad can find our Web site."
REALITY: Wordtracker.com recently reported the top 10 searched terms for the day included "google," "yahoo," and "ebay." Also high on the list were terms such as "ask jeeves," "yahoo.com," "mapquest," "hotmail.com," "ebay.com," and a Web site that appeared to be a strange mix of literature and erotica. People search for search engine Web site URLs in search engines.
This alone should signal that maybe, just maybe, your customers aren't quite the go-getters you hope they are. Some of them might not even know you can find maps at Mapquest; accept this, and you're well on your way to fame and fortune.
The myth above begs the follow-up question: "So what about people who didn't see your ad?"
With Super Bowl advertising an exception, the universe of people who see an ad is always a fraction of the people who don't. This is even more true for business-to-business ads. Even with a buy spanning print and online editions of top outlets such as BtoB Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and InformationWeek, what are the odds that the majority of potential customers will have seen it?
There are two groups of people to keep in mind: those who saw the ad and didn't process it, and those who didn't see the ad. Suddenly you're dealing with, oh, nearly every prospect.
What's amazing is that there's a way to reach those who didn't see your ad. With search engine marketing, you can reach out to customers looking to find you - or your competitors. Use the medium right, and the odds will increase that they'll find you.
MYTH: "People don't do searches for big ticket B2B products and services."
REALITY: Let's go to Overture's Keyword Selector Tool. Below are tallies of searches conducted in Overture in September 2004:
*Enterprise asset management - 1,341 *Supply chain management software - 1,692 *Telecommunication infrastructure - 1,052 *Security management - 5,290 *Product life cycle management - 6,294 *Wireless solution - 3,409 *Document management services - 1,644
Okay, so these don't match the volume of searches for Ashlee Simpson. They do, however, represent qualified leads. Note that this is just for one search engine too.
MYTH: "Search is just for small businesses, and it's taking money away from the Yellow Pages. It's for people who can't afford advertising."
REALITY: Just how many established brands do I need to name here to show how ludicrous that line of thinking is? Such brands should either be insulted for the slap in the face or relieved that some normally fierce competitors are sitting this round out. It's like saying radio is solely for companies that can't afford television ads.
With these points noted, I did appreciate the candid discussion at the event. The panelists raised some good points too. For instance, it's true that hardly anyone ever searches for "institutional investment management" or "wireless business solutions." Still, that approach means viewing the search medium with blinders on.