Think like your customer. You have probably heard that phrase before. Okay, not much new there, but have you considered “searching like your customer?”
We have to think about how people are searching online to better understand how they are buying, or intending to buy. Have you tried re-creating the steps that a buyer might go through when searching for your product or service? Let me be clearer – we are missing the opportunity in our marketing and sales if we don’t evaluate what I call the “search funnel.”
What exactly is a search funnel?
There are tons of illustrations about sales funnels and how you move leads through to close. This is similar. Buyers, searchers, drop into a funnel at the top and swirl around in the wide part for a while. As they get more focused, they fall or travel deeper into the funnel. I like to view these searchers, buyers, as skydivers. Some of them are experts and can hit the mark they aim for; others are simply striving to land on earth again.
Marketing is supposed to drive prospects directly to the company sales team or into the top of a sales funnel, right? The brochure or trade show exhibit or email newsletter lures them in and they decide to buy based on what we’ve said or written. Is that accurate or even close to true?
In 2007, Enquiro (I know, I know – it is a little dated), a search marketing firm, studied how people purchase online (business to business, not consumer). They found, not surprisingly, that online research was critical to the purchase decision.
A few facts from Enquiro:
• Google dominates B2B search with 77% of the market
• 74.4% click organic results; 18.7% click paid ads
• 85.3% reported they would go online before making a purchase
A recent client wanted to know the following: “How do doctors behave online? Are they active? Do they purchase? Do they use Software-as-a-Service products?”
As we explored these questions, we researched about buyer intent, but something was missing in our research and in their marketing and sales efforts. We kept looking for ways to short circuit or get around buyer intent because we couldn’t find that much info on how doctors buy services online (for their practices, not as consumers). Search intent and search behavior became our focus instead of buyer intent.
So I went looking in the world of pay-per-click and SEO/SEM experts who dwell in the land of customer search patterns. What I found was language different than my search funnel visual, but that was clearly talking about the same thing.
The search optimization and pay-per-click experts were talking about moving from generic keywords to brand, or specific keywords. They talked about traffic and conversion and how each type of keyword played a role. Both were important obviously, but we often focus so heavily on conversion that we miss the lead nurture opportunity that generic keywords allow.