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Vertical Search & Tapping the B2B Tech-Buyer Market

The B2B audience: we know their needs are not being entirely met by general search engines and they are the buyers with the largest budgets. But do we truly understand their needs and tendencies? With the results of a recent survey by Enquiro, “Marketing to a B2B Technical Buyer” we are now closer to tapping the B2B buyers’ potential than ever before.

First, we need to understand what a technical buyer is and what influences them during the purchasing process.

What’s a Technical Buyer, and how do we define a purchasing cycle?

Let’s get to the “what” first. A Technical Buyer is charged with matching the needs of the organization or product to a solution that will satisfy those needs, while ensuring the solution is compliant with the technical (IT, etc.) aspects of the company.

What’s unique about a technical buyer is that he or she receives feedback and suggestions from the personnel that will use the technology daily — think where the rubber meets the road — and from the strategic decision-makers of the organization, who make the ultimate financial decisions. Technical buyers are typically the CTO, IT managers or even the controllers or financial officers of companies.

The relationship the technical buyer has with the product user and with the company’s strategic decision-makers places them in two critical points in the purchasing cycle. Consider the four stages of the purchasing process: awareness, where someone – usually a user of the technology – determines a need; research, where all new products are considered and researched; negotiation, where the best solutions are evaluated more intently; and finally, the actual act of purchasing. The technical buyer exists mainly in the research stage and also plays a significant role in the negotiation stage (56.3 and 16.3 percent, respectively, of tech buyers exist in those two cycles, according to the Enquiro research), meaning that while they may not find the problem or allocate funds for the actual purchase, they are involved in the entire journey in between. In other words, they are the long link between need and conversion.

What influences and ultimately hooks a technical buyer?

We’ve established the impact and importance of the technical buyer. Now how do we get their attention, keep it and get them to tell their boss to buy the product?

Technical buyers search content. It’s all about content and how to find it – which makes sense. Technical buyers exist mostly in the research phase, so they need the content in order to present the best and most compliant options to the ultimate decision-makers. In recent research by Marketing Sherpa, about three out of four technical buyers Pget their knowledge more than 25 percent of the time from vendor-generated or sponsored content. Among the highest rate of response by the sample when asked what content they prefer were white papers, product literature, case studies and articles in industry journals.

But you must get their attention first. And this happens through the Web and begins before the research stage in the awareness stage. In fact, the respondents rated, on a scale of 1 to 7, online influencers including search engines and vendor websites higher than offline influencers such as trade shows and even word of mouth. Among those online influencers that build awareness, search tops the list of most influential, scoring an average 5.4 out of 7 on the “how influential” scale given to respondents.

Vendor-generated content – such as blogs, Webinars and articles about industry observations and trends – holds B2B buyers’ attention throughout the research phase, as the field of possible vendors reduces to the “finalists” that proceed to the negotiation phase. This is where the third party confirmations of your messages come into play, i.e. articles in industry journals and user testimonials.

Essentially, optimizing your site for vertical and general search engines will have the most impact in the awareness stage, having information about your product will keep the research flowing on your website, and links to third-party content about your products will propel you to the negotiation stage.

What does vertical search have to do with it?

Every third time a business user conducts research on a major search engine, it fails to deliver pertinent information (2006 Outsell survey). The inaccuracies of general search engines for directed business queries are well-documented, but new research shows that the vertical searches are filling that gap.

Our famed technical buyer is 2 percent more likely to use a B2B vertical search engine than the rest of his B2B population and 8 percent less likely to use a general search engine than his B2B counterparts. This “information cockpit” of relevant vertical industry options along with the more accurate vendor and manufacturer results provided by VSEs, provide the user blended content such as reference articles and industry research, both of which appeal to the technical buyer.

To get the results you want from a vertical search engine, remember to adjust your content and keywords for the target markets you want to reach.

Now that you have the background on the technical buyers and what influences them during the purchasing process – namely rich content, relevant vertical results and information that speak to the user and the company decision-maker – tapping that BtoB potential might come a little easier.

Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, the comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries world wide.

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Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, the leading vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries.

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