Anne Holland

New Research: Search Marketing Not Best Tactic to Reach Global 1000 Execs — Or SMBs

August 7th, 2006

Over the past three years, I’ve seen paid search advertising rise exponentially to become the darling of business-to-business advertising. Marketer after marketer has told me how he or she has cut out much of their other advertising efforts and put the budget toward search because of its “effectiveness.”

And, let’s face it, there’s nothing that warms the cockles of a B-to-B marketer’s heart more than a truly targeted list. What more are search results than a self-targeted list?

So, this summer, when MarketingSherpa’s research team asked 1,900 business technology marketers to reveal which online advertising buy was most effective, I confidently expected the answer to be search advertising. I was wrong.

Turns out that search advertising was the most effective type of online ad for only one category — 84% of business technology marketers who target mid-sized organizations as their prospects using search ads rated them effective However, the marketers targeting extremely large organizations — the Fortune 1000 and the Global 1000 — did NOT rate search advertising as their top pick.

Plus, the marketers who targeted small organizations — ranging from your typical small office home office (SOHO) crowd to companies with fewer than 100 employees — said paid search advertising was not their top online pick. Search did pretty well, mind you, but it was not No. 1.

Key — please be aware this data was not sliced by the size of the marketers’ own organizations. Instead, it was sliced by the size of their prospect’s organization, because in marketing effectiveness it’s your prospect’s demographic that matters far more than your own.

So, what was most effective to reach the Fortune 1000 and Global 1000? White paper syndication services ruled the field at 78% effectiveness.

Why? My theory is that large organization decision makers often have a formal process by which they buy products and services. This formal process usually includes a research phase, most often assigned to a manager-level executive who combs the Web (and often trade shows) for appropriate vendor white papers as a starting point. This is why white paper syndication — the act of placing your white papers into the online library of third-party technology news and information sites (think CNET’s ZDNet, TechTarget, CMP TechWeb and others) — works exceptionally well when targeting the Fortune 1000.

On the other hand, white paper syndication was not one of the top picks to reach smaller companies. In fact, it was rated 19 points lower in effectiveness! Instead, to reach smaller organizations, the best rated online ad was an offer in a third-party email newsletter.

My guess is that executives at very small organizations, who may be wearing multiple job function hats, are more likely to respond to ads in email newsletters they’ve actively signed up for and respect. They have no time to go trolling for information, but may pay attention to media that’s pushed out to them — especially if it’s a quick, targeted read.

(Note: here’s a bit of irony — in general, the smaller a marketer’s own company is, the more likely that marketer is to devote more of his or her budget to online, especially search. Which I guess proves that what works for you in marketing may not be what works for those who are marketing to you.)

Anyway, given this data, I predict some frustration on B-to-B marketers’ parts when it comes to online media buying. Our research team discovered when looking over the online media field that although ads in third-party newsletters could be extremely effective, it can be harder to buy them than most other online media.

Many B-to-B media companies and trade associations offering ezine ads sell out their most popular newsletter spots months ahead of time. Plus, an increasing number will only sell a newsletter ad as part of a bundle. If you buy some banners, and perhaps sponsor a webinar, then they’ll toss in the email ads as well.

That’s unfortunate. While there is something to be said for your message being omnipresent across multiple media channels (the more places a prospect sees you in a particular time period, the more likely they’ll recall your message — up to a certain point), there also is a lot to be gained from targeting. If your prospect only reads newsletters and reacts to their ads, the rest of your banners are wasted.

Anyhow, it’s something to consider. In the meantime, if you’d like to see the detailed chart that this data is presented in, there’s a free download link immediately below.

Useful links related to this article

Executive Summary of MarketingSherpa’s Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide:

MarketingSherpa’s Business Technology Benchmark Guide 2007:

MarketingSherpa’s vendors:

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