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(Continued from Part I and Part II)

 

It’s Site-Seeker, again, with another update on our marketing alliance and research initiative with HARDI. We’re actively conducting interviews with many members across all types of distributors. To be quite honest, we’re still learning about the HVACR industry; we’re learning ​ what ​we don’t know, and we’re learning ​ what ​you don’t know. It’s going to take some time for us to analyze the raw data of these interviews and create some high-value deliverables like buyer personas and marketing plans. But, we can speak right now to some things we’ve noticed that many HARDI members don’t know. 

 

This blog post will cover some basic topics about the online world and digital strategies as they may apply to HARDI members. 

 

Taking our lead from the foundational book (which we discussed in our previous post) by J. Michael Marks and Steve Deist, ​Myths and Misperceptions: How Markets Are Really Made in HVACR, let’s focus on the two areas of demand creation that best apply to the digital world: disruption and interception.

 

In brief, disruption means creating demand for your products by disrupting existing relationships with a new product or innovation; interception is taking advantage of a critical selling event (CSE) like a product failure or stock error to take over new business. ​Both methods of demand creation involve getting your company in fro​nt of new customers. Within the context of an online digital strategy, that means understanding how your customers and prospects use the internet.

 

As this is a more basic level piece, let’s focus on the real barn-broad targets: Google search and Facebook. We’ll also talk a little about the more nebulous array of websites and apps that comprise social media spaces.

 

Many B2B operations spend massively on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google and other platforms. A large percent of them fail to see returns on their investment. I’ll outline some tools and strategies to give you a sense of how to get something out of Google PPC. 

 

Every year, there are somewhere between 1 and 2 trillion searches made on Google. It is ​the web service, and everyone uses it. This obviously includes anyone who could possibly be a prospect. PPC works in the following way: you create a campaign that bids on certain keywords that Google users might search for. If someone searches for your keyword, your ad may appear. If they click on your ad, it links them to a web page of your choice on your website. With 1 to 2 trillion chances per year to get a customer, the appeal of Google PPC should be clear.

 

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There are many advanced techniques you can use to get value out of PPC, including retargeting ads; affiliate links to drive visitors to partner sites; local search ads to bring in customers who are literally right outside your door; and many more. But I’d like to suggest a very basic use for Google PPC: to gain prospective customers’ familiarity.

 

Interception and disruption both call for being in the right place at the right time. While you can’t always rank at the top of every Google search result, you can be right there among the PPC ads. And many internet searchers barely distinguish between “organic” (that is, the regular Google search results) and PPC ads on a search results page.

 

Having an efficient PPC presence on Google can put you in the right place when you’re most needed by a prospect.

 

A huge mistake many first-time PPC advertisers make is having a keyword list that’s too large. You might think you want to cover every part, piece of equipment, tool, service, and problem that a potential customer would search for. Often, you can generate web traffic this way, but you will spend a lot of money for little return. You can start off this way, but to have an effective PPC campaign, you need to constantly pare down and focus on high quality keywords that cost less than the expected value they will bring in. Google has built-in metrics to help you, like click-through rate (how many people clicked on your ad versus how many saw it; a higher CTR is good) or the cost per click (how much it cost every time someone clicked on an ad triggered by a particular keyword; you want this to be in line with its value to you). However, another effective way to structure and optimize your PPC campaign is to map certain keywords to various places in the purchase funnel.

 

Your particular business or industry may have a slightly different funnel, but broadly speaking a purchase funnel maps a prospect’s buying intent through problem awareness, solution awareness, solution comparison, buying, and implementation. You should have a keyword strategy for each step in the funnel. A beneficial side effect of creating your keyword strategy like this is that your PPC work can easily feed into content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), cutting down on overall work for your digital strategy.

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Now, something like 80% of all executives or employees with purchasing power make extensive use of Google search before making any sort of decision, but there’s another huge target for your digital strategy: Facebook.

 

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There are nearly 2 billion users on Facebook. Love it or hate it, it’s still the de facto standard online social media space. Your business probably doesn’t lend itself to having a robust social media plan — most B2B businesses simply don’t. But it would be a mistake to ignore Facebook altogether. Remember, the goal is to build familiarity with prospects in order to capitalize on interception or disruption opportunities. You can’t intercept a purchase from a competitor if your prospect doesn’t know you exist to fill that opportunity.

 

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There are myriad ways to use Facebook to build familiarity with your prospects. The first is very similar to the above, Facebook advertising. You’ve undoubtedly seen ads on the social network. If you’re like me, you rarely click on them but they do build brand awareness. They also have an uncanny ability to show up when I’ve been researching a related topic.

 

Taking a small step back, just having a Facebook presence is beneficial. Your Facebook page will invariably rank well for searches on your business name, and when a prospect is researching your company you want to have a robust online presence. Having no Facebook page (or a half-built, totally abandoned one) inspires little confidence in a prospective customer.

 

The content you choose to put on your Facebook can help, as well. Facebook now serves upwards of 8 billion video views per day. Its Facebook Live product has proven to be hugely popular. It treats Facebook-native video (opposed to YouTube and similar links to outside videos) preferentially. If video can in any way lend credibility to your company or offer value to your customers, Facebook is a great venue for it. By offering value without applying sales pressure, you can build awareness of your brand and stand out when an interception opportunity arises. Facebook is also a timely channel to share news and information that can help disruption opportunities, such as new product categories or industry news.

 

Finally, let’s think about other places that people congregate online that can fit into your digital strategy. There are other social networks like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. None of these may directly augment sales, but you should consider these for some out of the box applications like employment recruitment. The next generation of workers have grown up using these and similar services. Additionally, Twitter can be a good place to monitor local or industry news to look for disruption events.

 

Then there are more niche social networks and websites like Quora, Reddit, and LinkedIn. Each of these websites has specific communities devoted to sharing information and expertise. There are thousands of active users on Reddit’s HVAC-related communities asking and answering specific questions that you are experts in. You can jump into these conversations.  Any place experts and outsiders can meet and share information are opportunities to build your reputation and increase familiarity with your brand.

 

When an emergency arises — a normal distributor is out of a needed part or there’s a wrinkle in a building project that needs ironing out ASAP — prospects use any and every tool available to them. It could be a Tweet into the ether asking for help, a Google search, a question posted on Quora or Reddit. You really don’t know, but you can be prepared by having a presence online and a digital plan of action to capitalize on such events. This blog post has gone over just a few venues, and in a very broad way. But it’s my intention to give you a glimpse into what sorts of digital strategies your online marketing plan can offer. Hopefully, after you’ve read this you can open up your mind to some new possibilities for using online to help grow your business.

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