P4M4 Search Marketing

The aim of  Module 4 of Pillar 4 on Search marketing is to help you to be found by customers eager to buy.

Searchers Are Looking To Buy

  • These prospects know they have a problem and want help finding a solution
  • May
    • Think they know exactly what they want
    • Need education and guidance
  • Your job
    • To be found by your target market
    • Be considered credible and worthy of a closer look by qualified prospects

Potential customers can be split into a number of categories:

  • People who know they have a problem and are searching for a specific solution
  • People who know that have a problem and are searching for a general solution because they don’t know enough to get specific.
  • People browsing and who will buy if they see something that looks interesting
  • People who know they have a problem but haven’t yet found the motivation to look for a solution
  • People who have a problem but don’t know it yet

Search marketing focuses on the first three categories while outreach marketing is needed to make contact with the other two categories of potential buyers.

Your marketing has to handle specific searches, general searches (often starting with the problem) and browsers.

Specific searchers are often looking for a) price information, b) availability or c) checking up on product quality and service. They are ready or very nearly ready to buy so your marketing needs to give them the information they need easily and quickly.

General searchers are looking for information and guidance. Your marketing needs to give them reassurance they are in the right place and guide their buying decisions by helping them to set buying criteria.

Where Do People Search?

  • Internet Search Engines
    • Search Engine Optimisation
    • Pay Per Click
  • Internet Directories e.g. Yell.com
  • Yellow Pages
  • Ask family, friends & colleagues
  • Classified Ads
  • Trade shows and exhibitions
  • Retail shops and stores

It’s easy to connect search marketing with the search engines on the Internet.

Indeed much of this module is module is focused on helping you to rank well on search engines through both search engine optimisation and the natural (or organic) search rankings and pay per click marketing.

But the Internet is still “new” for many older people and those in less developed countries and for many others, the Internet isn’t the first place to carry out a search for potential suppliers.

Here are some statistics on the growth of Internet users:

  • December 1995 – 16 million users
  • December 2000 – 361 million
  • December 2005 – 1,018 million
  • December 2009 – 1,802 million

This growth will slow down as at December 2009, it’s estimated that 26.6% of the world’s population has access to the Internet.

So where did people search before the Internet search engines were invented?

They’d ask their friends for recommendations (see the Hidden Profit module on Customer Referrals) and they still do. Those recommendations are trusted more than any marketing message coming from a business.

The irony is that the other great development on the Internet – social media – has extended the scope and reach of the network of friends you can ask for recommendations far beyond the people you know well through face to face contact. The Internet has truly shrunk the world.

Potential customers used to look in Yellow Pages and still do.

I needed a door lock to be fixed two months ago and I never thought about using the Internet. I went straight to my copy of the Yellow Pages, looked up locksmiths and after some consideration phoned one, asked a qualifying question on price and I had someone out in 30 minutes and the lock fixed in 45.

The Yellow Pages has also gone online with Yell.com and there are plenty of other directories which may be chosen for Google. I don’t understand it myself but it happens.

Our search doesn’t end there. If I was looking for a new puppy, I’d probably check out the classified ads section in my local newspaper and judging by the number of advertisements, the classified are used by plenty of other people.

Sometime I even stand up and get out of the house and take my search to exhibitions and trade shows or out to the High Street and the retail stores.

It’s very nice to read reviews for products like new PCs but before I buy, I want to see the product and compare it to others.

Finally sometimes your search isn’t across companies but within a company.

Catalogues still work for some types of business and an ecommerce site on the Internet is a big catalogue with built in payment processing. If I want a new book, I go to Amazon, find and read the reviews and if it meets my expectations I order it. I never went near the search engines because Amazon has trained me to be a loyal customer.

Search Engines

  • Hitwise – 4 weeks to August 1 2009 (US)
  • Google 71.4%
  • Yahoo 17.2%
  • Bing (Microsoft) 8.0%
  • Others 3.4%
  • First page dominates
  • 62% of users only look at the first page
  • 92% of users never go past page 2
  • 70-80% organic, 20-30% paid

If you remember back ten years, there were crazy claims for the Internet and how it was going to take over all marketing. It seemed that all you had to do to get a flood of customers was to get a website.

So business owners spent thousands to get a website no one ever visited.

The search engines are cruel.

The top 2 or 3 places in a Google search dominate, the rest of page one is OK but past page 2 and to be blunt, you may as well not exist.

Organic search ranking beats sponsored listings by two or three to one. The sponsored linked in Google are those that appear down the right hand side of the page and sometimes at the top above the natural listings in a shaded area. Each time you click, it costs the advertiser a little bit of money.

We’ll look at how to pay to be on the first page of Google but first, let’s see how to get on page 1 of Google for free in the organic searches.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation or SEO is the ability to get your website ranked in the organic or natural search listings in Google and the other search engines.

These are free clicks but SEO can take a lot of time and effort if you are competing for popular search phrases nationally or internationally.

If you compete locally, it is often quick and easy to get yourself a page 1 ranking in Google for your main search terms.

Read: Search engine optimisation

Pay Per Click (PPC)

If search engine optimisation takes time and effort and is free, pay per click advertising is quick and easy to create but each click costs you money.

An effective Internet marketing business will use both SEO and PPC since they compliment each other. You can take advantage of the free traffic you get for the search times you’ve targeted and succeeded in getting good rankings and sweep up the other terms with PPC.

Read: Pay Per Click Advertising

Yellow Pages

Before the Internet, the Yellow Pages used to be the main place potential buyers would look for a supplier.

Its role has been overtaken for many searchers but some products and services suit the Yellow Pages better.

If you’ve got water flooding from your kitchen ceiling, are you going to take the time to search the Internet and read the websites of all the plumbers listed… assuming the good plumbers have bothered with a website?

Or are you going to reach for the Yellow Pages?

The Yellow Pages will still be the natural place to look for those people who are not Internet savvy or who don’t have easy access.

Read: Yellow Pages Advertising

Classified Ads in Newspapers

I have bought newspapers for their classified ads.

Want a job? Check out Thursday’s evening paper.

Want a new house? Get Friday’s paper with the Property supplement.

Want a puppy? See what’s offered in the local classified ads.

Read: Classified Ads

Exhibitions & Trade Shows

Another way potential buyers will search for information and products to buy is to visit an exhibition or trade show.

Read: Exhibitions & Trade Shows

Referrals

Another way to find a supplier is to ask your family, friends and colleagues for their experiences and recommendations.

This is a casual word of mouth recommendation based on the question being asked.

“Do you know anybody who can service my car?”

“We’re thinking about having a new kitchen. Where the people who did your kitchen any good?”

To get these types of recommendation, you need to be easy to remember and refer.

First, if you must sell a great product and service so look for opportunities to be be amazing.

Second you want your customers to be able to give a clear message about what you can do.

Imagine asking a friend who owns a small business what he or she thinks of the accountant. You won’t act on a lukewarm recommendation like  “I’m with John Jones of Smith & Jones. He seems OK to me.”

Third, it is a good idea to hand out marketing materials with your marketing message clearly presented. You can do it on the basis of “I’d like you to have this so if you need more work done, you’ll know who to contact.”

Fourth, keep in contact – if you want referrals then you need to be top of mind when your potential referrer is asked. You don’t want “My chap was really good. He did everything I wanted and more but what was his name?”

If you do get referred, say thank you and perhaps give some kind of gift. This is the type of behaviour you want to encourage so reward it. Also if you are referred, keep your referrer up-to-date with what’s happening. It’s only polite and will encourage repeat referrals. It may also prompt an extra phone call from your referrer to your potential customer and any help you can get is appreciated.

Finally, deliver on your promises. Referrers put their own reputations on the line for you. Make sure you live up to their high expectations.

You can learn much more about Customer Referrals in my Hidden Profit module.

What To Do

  • Decide how prospects looking for your products and services can find you
  • Get your own presence on the Internet – website, blog, content sites, directories
  • Do the basics and target local searches
  • For more popular searches use PPC and monitor the results carefully
  • Decide on other search methods – do or drop
  • Make it easier for customers to refer you

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