Why Mobile Search Is Irrelevant To B2B Marketing
Mobile search is the hot topic this week, especially given SMX Local & Mobile and the fact that Google AdWords is showing text ads for free on mobile phones for the next 46 days.
I spend my days helping B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve marketing accountability, so naturally I got to thinking about how they could take advantage of mobile search in their demand generation efforts. My conclusion: mobile search (especially mobile paid search) is basically irrelevant for most business to business marketers.
Take a breath
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as excited about the explosive growth in mobile devices as the next guy. And there are plenty of reasons to be excited: almost 3 billion of them worldwide. Plus, consumers tend to feel a stronger connection with their mobile device than they do with their computer.
Mobile is clearly the killer application for local marketing. Plus, mobile devices bring new ways to interact with consumers, which leads to creative options to build brand and engagement. How exciting is it that we can watch YouTube and TV on our mobile devices?
Net-net, I’m bullish on mobile marketing in general. Even in B2B, there are some exciting opportunities for mobile marketing. For example, Marketing Sherpa found that 64% of B2B decision makers read their email on mobile devices. This means that every B2B marketer must be designing and testing their lead nurturing emails for how they work on mobile devices, especially the BlackBerry.
There are also some interesting opportunities in mobile for B2B publishers—and as a result, B2B brand advertising as well. Every B2B publication should ensure that its content is optimized for mobile devices, and brand advertisers can use mobile display ads to increase awareness. (Just don’t expect mobile browsers to click through very often.) As social networks make their way into business-to-business, mobile will play a role as well.
But what about mobile search?
The promise of mobile search is access to information whenever and wherever you need it, not just if you happen to be at your desk. For consumers, this is incredibly powerful. Personally, not a day goes by where I don’t use Google Mobile Maps on my Treo to get directions or look up an address or phone number.
According to iCrossing’s report, How America Searches – Mobile, a mobile searcher’s top priority is his or her immediate needs. The most popular searches are maps and directions, weather, and local information, followed by news, entertainment, sports, and finance.
But consider how B2B buyers use search. As I’ve discussed before, B2B search is quite different from B2C search. The majority of B2B buyers use search early in their buying process, typically a few weeks to a few months before the actual purchase. By far, their intent is to research a industry, product, or service.
This is typically not something the buyer does when he or she is out and about. When’s the last time you thought "I really need to put together a short list of vendors in the application integration space" while you were walking down the street? This is especially true since most mobile phones are personal devices; even if the "prosumer" uses the phone at work, when he is out of the office he won’t want business advertising intruding on his personal life.
Also, mobile searchers tend to use fewer keywords (three max), making it harder to target the more complex keywords in B2B. These keywords just doesn’t match how people use mobile search.
Even if the buyer were to use their mobile device to search for a B2B keyword, the way the searcher interacts with the browser is very different. On the computer, the searcher will click on multiple links as they look for the most relevant information; on the mobile phone, the searcher clicks on one link. Again, this makes it difficult for B2B marketers to leverage mobile search as a demand generation tool.
Perhaps most importantly, consider the goal of B2B search marketing. Because search happens early in the buying cycle, most B2B marketers want to use search marketing to capture leads in this early phase so they can nurture those leads until they are ready to speak with a sales rep. This means that the landing page is a critical component of a B2B search process —and the lead capture form is one of the most important pieces of the page.
But how should the B2B landing page adapt to mobile? It’s nearly impossible to capture a lead from a mobile landing page since almost no searcher will go through the effort to fill out a form on their mobile device. My tips for a B2B mobile landing page: ask only for an email address, and be sure to include your phone number (or even better, a custom phone number tied to the campaign) since mobile phones usually have "click to call" functionality.
I hope I’m wrong
I would love to be wrong about this. I hope that as technology evolves, mobile devices will get better (better screens, voice recognition, etc) and B2B mobile search will become a possibility. I’d love to hear examples of B2B advertisers who are successfully using mobile search, especially mobile paid search. I’d also love to see hear your thoughts about what makes a good B2B landing pages for mobile —I haven’t been able to find any. I welcome your comments.
Jon Miller is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve marketing accountability. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
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