Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and B2B: What Is It and Should I Be Doing It?

Leads. At times, it feels like they come at a premium and we as marketers are always trying to find the perfect method for filling the top of the funnel. You’ve heard us talk about the buyer journey in the past, and how one of the most important, if not the most important, step in converting a stranger into a customer is the awareness phase. What if I told you there was a way to put your content in front of motivated customers who are ready to buy at the precise moment they’re ready to make a purchase? Sounds great, doesn’t it? Maybe too good to be true? Well, this exact scenario is totally possible through SEM.

What is SEM?
In short, SEM is a paid effort that pushes your company or service to the top of search engine results. You bid on keywords or phrases that users of search engines like Google and Bing might enter when looking for a particular product or service, which ensures that your ad appears alongside the other organic results from that search query.
Now, the ads are clearly labeled (as you can see below), but according to WordStream, clicks on paid search listings beat out organic clicks by nearly a 2:1 margin for keywords with high commercial intent in the U.S. In other words, 64.6 percent of people click on Google Ads when they are looking to buy an item online.

SEM and B2B
On the surface, SEM can look like an obvious play for B2C companies, and in many cases it is a very effective way of marketing. But questions start to come up when it comes to B2B. It’s understandable. Something like lawn care doesn’t exactly compare in terms of price or lead time in relation to something an OEM sells to its customers, but that doesn’t mean SEM shouldn’t or can’t play a role in your marketing strategy. So, let’s focus on when SEM makes sense for B2B:
Brand Awareness. Whether you’re selling lawn care service or the chemical compounds that are used to make metal stronger, your brand will always be important. There is nothing wrong with buying the name of your company or product to ensure that  it is the first thing users see in Google. I think we can all agree that Apple has a strong brand awareness and owns its own name in terms of organic search. Guess what? They pay to make sure they are at the top.
Location. Location. Location. SEM also gives you the ability to geotarget where your ads run. Do you have products or services where the users’ needs differ based on region? SEM can be a great way to make sure the right product or service is showing up for the right customers.
Solution-Based Marketing. The best part about SEM is it allows your company to offer up a solution to potential customers right when they are in the middle of a problem. We understand that B2B lead times can be a little longer, but if a user is looking for what compounds are the most effective to increase the strength of their metal, and you have a white paper that covers the topic, paying to make sure you are at the top of the search results can be worth it. Plus, if you gate that content, you just added a lead to the funnel.
So, should I be doing SEM?
If you want an honest answer, I have absolutely no idea. But I would love to have a conversation, so we can find out.  The bottom line is, SEM can be complex in terms of a solid recommendation. There are a lot of variables like your budget, the keywords or phrases you want to show up for, your (or your CMS’) ability to develop a custom landing page and most importantly, understanding your overall business goals/objectives that factor into the decision to use SEM as a tactic. What I can tell you though, is that if executed properly it can be a great method for getting leads and filling your sales funnel.