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The B2B sales cycle can be quite long, lasting 2-6 months in many cases. Savvy SEOs should look at these long cycles as additional opportunities to reach potential customers. We advise our clients to get out ahead of their competitors by reaching prospects before they are looking for a specific solution. Most marketers focus on the final stage of the B2B sales cycle when conversion is most likely, but there is tremendous value in the early stages of search. You should have a search strategy for all phases of the B2B sales cycle, but the earliest phase is often neglected and therefore presents a great opportunity.
The earliest part of the B2B sales cycle is the Awareness Phase. The Awareness Phase is when a prospect begins to identify a pain point related to their business. Research has shown that B2B prospective customers are heavily turning to search to figure out how to address their problems and pain points.
For example, a plant manager at a manufacturing company might be searching for ways that he can cut overhead. His searches may include “manufacturing” along with “overhead” or “cost management”. If your company provides training guides or services that help boost employee productivity, then this plant manager is a target customer. Most people will only seek to optimize for terms like “training guide”, but if you can get in front of the prospect early, you can will have an advantage over your competition.
Use modified keyword research processes to identify Awareness Phase terms your customers are likely searching for. After determining the terms, create optimized content written for the appropriate audience that ties the pain point to your service or solution. All other standard and best SEO practices should be applied to this content in order to help it rank well in the search engines. Soon, traffic will start flowing in to these pages from search engines. The next step is to figure out what the Awareness Phase prospects should do once they reach your website.
Prospects in the Awareness Phase are usually nowhere close to making a purchase decision. Nor are they ready for a quote, so don’t ask for either. A softer call to action is needed, such as a whitepaper download about how your service helps address the pain point (Example: “Download our White Paper to Learn How Productivity Training can Help Lower Costs”).
To increase conversion of Awareness Phase visitors to leads, minimize the barriers your website presents to the prospect. If you are using a lead capture form for a whitepaper download, the prospect should have to only give up minimal contact information in order to receive the download. Remember, your website was an unexpected find for the prospect and they often are not ready to answer a bunch of questions such as: “timeframe to make a decision”.
Identifying keywords related to pain points, creating search engine optimized content for it and having a well placed soft call to action will attract targeted prospects early on and help build your sales pipeline. Use this new opportunity to establish a relationship, build credibility and gain a deeper understanding of the prospects needs before the competition does.