A few posts ago we discussed organic search optimization and its importance for getting found when not throwing huge amounts of resources at Google AdWord campaigns. To briefly recap, staying “Google relevant” means websites must be regularly updated with useful, keyword-rich content so that search engine crawlers rank them high enough to be seen. At that point, an engaging meta description should entice users to click, introducing them into the sales cycle and sending “traffic juice” to the website’s organic search metrics. The more traffic you get, the more Google thinks you’re cool and the better your rankings will be.
However, from time to time, companies in the B2B landscape who manufacturer products that get resold find themselves competing with their distributors for Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate. Does it matter if customers find you through your website first? Good question. If your website primarily exists to redirect users to your distributor, it does appear to be a logical trade-off.
But there are reasons why you might want customers and prospects to stop by your website before visiting your distributor. For one, you want them to shop with your messaging in mind as it may help close the sale. Secondly, website traffic that correlates with sales efforts provides valuable feedback that can help determine the efficacy of those efforts. Most of all, you want to continue to build brand recognition so that a competitor’s brand doesn’t begin to lodge into your customer’s memory banks. Also, a great deal of searching in the high-tech and industrial marketplaces involve “brand searches”. Once you’ve got them looking for you by name they’re hooked, so keeping your brand prominent in the marketplace is vital for market maintenance and growth.
Now that we’ve answered that question, let’s take another look at the original problem: how does a company compete with its distributor for SERP rankings? The solution exists all around us in the B2C world. Brand partnerships are nothing new, and often accompany non-profit awareness ventures, but how many products can you think of off the top of your head that are sold by prominently featuring their reseller in their messaging? It could be a commercial for a brand of shoes that includes the name of a regional mall, or any advertisement that uses the terms “available at” and “participating retailers” in their copy. In other words, we’re conditioned to think of products in terms of where we can find them, and online shoppers are the same. Huge e-commerce sites like Amazon dominate organic search keyword rankings for a reason. Much like industrial product distributors, their website has loads of content related to your customer’s search terms – more than could ever be matched by the average company’s resources and capabilities. In fact, users now go to Amazon and begin their search there but they do so for a very important reason: they know what they want because of successful branding methods.
Putting together a “channel incentive” program, or partnering with your reseller through carefully coordinated marketing initiatives, could be an effective way to improve sales for you and your distributor. It can be a tricky proposition, as traditional marketing thinking involving brand dominance and continuity still informs most B2B marketing decisions, but it’s not unheard of to sell the two at once. Many sales meetings and seminars attempt to boost partnership morale with co-headlining video presentations and fancy swag that have been carefully designed with painful precision – only to be discarded after a single use. The point is, it doesn’t have to stop there. Developing goal-oriented digital marketing programs that focus on combined sales incentives are easily spread out and tested. For example, a single Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad that unites messaging and brand recognition can send users to a landing page that promotes both entities. What’s more, combining marketing budgets means sharing the risk, and could allow for higher AdWord bids and better positioning.
Think about it: if your brand becomes virtually synonymous with your reseller’s brand to a carefully targeted sector of the marketplace, you’ve doubled your marketing power for that sector. And with the right blend of goals and communication, a B2B partnership program that starts small could lead to much bigger things.
– S. Norton