Director, Business and Industrial Markets
Mike Miller works closely with business-to-business (B2B) marketers across a variety of industry verticals—ranging from oil/energy and manufacturing/industrial to business services—that are using Google’s digital platforms in order to advertise. He spoke with eMarketer’s Tobi Elkin for the B2B Perspective Series about trends he’s seeing in the B2B marketing space.
eMarketer: What digital platforms and advertising services are Google’s B2B customers using?
Mike Miller: We still see a very strong orientation around search. We see some customers using display advertising and some moving into social, although they’re still trying to figure some of that out. We’ve also seen some customers starting to make use of video platforms. For us, that’s YouTube. Mobile is also a theme, although that cuts across each of those platforms.
We did some research last year with Compete, and we saw a sea change in terms of internet usage within the B2B space. Typically, you see incremental change from one year to the next, but in our research we saw a jump from 71% usage in 2011 to 88% in 2012 in terms of researching business purchases in the B2B space. That is a huge jump in one year. We also asked B2B marketers how they’ve used search to research business purchases and saw a 23% change year over year—it went from 67% of B2B marketers who relied on search for their business purchases to 90%.
eMarketer: What are B2B marketers using video channels on YouTube for?
Miller: It depends on the product or service. One category that’s popular is the how-to video, especially in the B2B space, because the products tend to be more complex. They might need some configuration, and you want to understand that before you make a purchase. The video also might feature a thought leader.
If you’re a B2B marketer looking to purchase a professional service, you might want to understand who that person is or [know more about] that firm or the perspective that they bring. It might be that you want to find out more about the ecosystem and about what is happening in the space. Often, video is a great way to be able to convey that [instead of] putting out a white paper or having it appear on your website.
“The C-suite indexes very high on using video. So if you’re a B2B marketer and you’re trying to reach the C-suite, video is a great way to go.”
eMarketer: Can you point out any differences in the industry verticals with respect to their engagement with digital channels?
Miller: In our research with Compete, we asked whether there is a difference across the customer segments: For example, is a small business purchaser following a different pattern than a C-level purchaser? The answer is yes. The C-suite indexes very high on using video. So if you’re a B2B marketer and you’re trying to reach the C-suite, video is a great way to go. While the C-level executive might not be the one making the final purchase, they’re consuming that video and influencing the purchase.
If you are targeting repeat purchasers, social is one of the places that you need to be because even though these are loyal customers, they are still out talking about your product, asking questions about it and engaging with their peers around it. So you want to make sure that you’re targeting your message within the social world.
eMarketer: What are the biggest marketing challenges B2B marketers are wrestling with?
Miller: One of them is how do you keep up. Video, mobile and social are growing at an exponential pace. You have to be flexible and adaptable enough in order to try to take advantage of what’s coming from these various platforms.
“By the time a B2B purchaser actually engages with a company or with a sales rep from that company, they’re 57% of the way through their decision process.”
Another challenge is how do you get your message across? What content do you use in these platforms? The message that you use on your corporate website or that you use in search is not going to be the same message that you want to convey in social or in video. You have to think about how you’re structured to take advantage of each new environment and situation.
You also want to make sure that messages are consistent. Often, organizations may have one group that’s focused on just one channel, another on a different channel, and the messages they’re placing in those channels aren’t consistent.
B2B marketers also need to think about how digital marketing reinforces the sales force. Another piece of research we did last year with the Corporate Executive Board showed that on average, by the time a B2B purchaser actually engages with a company or with a sales rep from that company, they’re 57% of the way through their decision process.