by Brenda Wright
Successful search engine marketing is dependent on the identification and understanding of a website's target audiences, ensuring that the target audience will find the website, and that the website will provide the information and user experience being sought by them.
For a number of different types of vendors, there are two distinct website visitor groups involved in the buying funnel: Researchers and Decision Makers. For some vendors the Researchers are low to mid-management personnel gathering information for a C-level (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, etc) decision. For other vendors the Researchers are non-management and the Decision Makers are at the purchase agent level. There are also vendors who experience several levels of researches from non-management through mid-management with the decisions finally being made at the C-level or in committee.
As in any marketing endeavor, it is important to identify each target market group, where they are in the buying funnel, and then to build relevant personas based on demographics and experience with that target market. These personas enable websites to speak more directly and effectively to their target audience.
Researchers in the above situations are not Purchasers, and there can be a tendency to view Decision Makers as the more important of the two groups - after all, it is their signatures that appear on the final contract. However most decisions are directly influenced by the Researchers - which means that before a company will make it to the 'short list' for consideration it must address and fulfil the needs of the Researchers.
What do Researchers Want?
Researchers wants vary from product to product, however there are certain fundamentals that all vendors should be aware of:
Researchers, like everyone want to be treated with respect,
- Provide a professional clean website. Avoid unnecessary clutter that makes navigation difficult
- Don't keep them waiting with long load times
- Respect their search engine requests by taking them to the page on the website that best matches their search term (in sponsored search), and/or by optimizing each website page with the keyword(s) that best reflect the actual contents of each page
Provide researches with reliable information about your company as a potential vendor and the products/services you offer as well as the suitability to the Researcher's needs. Information should be:
- easy to find (site navigation must be intuitive to the Researchers) and
- formatted for easy download and subsequent use in report
Anticipate the needs of the Researcher - make it easy for them to dig down into greater detail or to rise up for a more global understanding. The use of text links in content is an excellent tool to achieve both these goals.
Assist the Researcher with the preparation of their reports so they can successfully present your product or service to the decision maker. Present information in a format and structure that will save the Researcher time and help them to quickly create a quality, professional report. This will require that the vendor understand the specific reporting needs of Researcher.
If the Researcher decides to request additional information, the option to contact the Sales Department or Customer Service should be only a click or a call away. Show the direct Sales/Service toll free number on every page as well as an easy e-mail link.
To make researching as smooth as possible and to avoid requiring the Researcher to cross the anonymity threshold too soon in the relationship, it is essential to carefully choose how much information to provide before requiring a Researcher to identify themselves. Once the Researcher has identified himself, decide if or at which point to contact the Researcher directly without a specific invitation to do so.
Some vendors have decided to take down the registration barriers to many of their white papers, thereby providing unimpeded research and reducing the number of 'not-ready' leads to their Sales Department. While this might be too big of a step for many vendors to follow, simplifying