Question: What does traditional, outbound marketing have in common with fax machines and audio cassettes? Answer: All still exist, but because of the Internet, their heyday has passed.
Ten years ago, sellers had more control over product information than did the buyer. So, when a business was going to buy from another business, the buyer had to contact the seller early in the process to research the purchase. Consequently, the seller could exert a lot of influence over the buyer and the ultimate sale.
In that scenario, businesses marketed themselves with traditional tactics like trade shows, cold calling, direct mail, spam email, advertising and other interruptive methods.
Today, however, buyers start their shopping by looking on the Internet. More specifically, they use search engines, particularly Google.
And rather than contacting a salesperson at the outset of a purchase, research shows that business-to-business (B2B) buyers can be two-thirds of the way through their purchase before making their first contact with the seller.
That’s why many businesses have reallocated marketing dollars toward search engines to reach prospective customers effectively and inexpensively.
According to Marketing Sherpa, 98 percent of B2B buyers use Google when first researching a solution to a business problem.
So how does a business get found via a search engine? There are essentially two options: paid and organic results.
- Paid results are listings that require payment to the search engine to display a link for particular keywords. The most popular form of a paid listing is pay per click (PPC), which means that when someone clicks your listing link, you pay the search engine. For more competitive keywords, the price increases. And these paid results happen only when you pay.
- Organic results are gathered by the search engines and ranked according to the relevance of the search terms. The relevance is calculated by extensive algorithmic criteria, such as keyword match and the number of other sites linking to that website.
So which one is better? It is much more valuable to be listed in the organic results than in the paid results.
Organic search results are more valuable because people trust the objectivity of organic results more than paid. This is confirmed by extensive research indicating that 80 to 90 percent of search engine results that are clicked on are the organic results, not the paid results.
There are other benefits of ranking high in the organic results, including:
- No direct cost – in contrast to paying a “tax” per click, organic results are based on the search engine’s measure of your relevance and quality.
- More educated visitors – research shows that people who click on organic search results tend to have a higher level of education.
- Longer lasting results – the shelf life of organic results can be quite long, generating search results for long periods after the search engines have found your site.
Getting found via search engines is just one aspect of the new world of marketing.
The “new” or inbound marketing tactics that attract prospects rather than interrupt them also include search engine optimization, blogging, eBooks, whitepapers, website landing pages, conversion tools and sophisticated analytics.
All of these aspects of new, inbound marketing help businesses to drive more quality traffic to their sites, capture visitors as leads, convert the leads to customers and continuously analyze site activity to optimize the marketing efforts.
(This article originally appeared in Inside Business - The Hampton Roads Business Journal, on February 4, 2013.)
photo credit: Gibson Claire McGuire Regester via photopin cc