Thoughts on Salesforce and Google
Some gorillas came to visit Marketo today…
Google and Salesforce.com announced a new “Strategic Global Alliance” and a new product: Salesforce Group Edition featuring Google AdWords. I guess they agree that there is some real value in mashing up Google and Salesforce.com into a single seamless process — something we do very well at Marketo with our Marketo Search Marketing offering. The only thing that seems to be missing from the new Google/Salesforce.com offering is…anything new! It’s the good ol’ Google AdWords user interface. The good ol’ Salesforce.com web-to-lead technology. And the good ol’ Salesforce.com lead module.
More importantly, the gorillas’ new offering doesn’t seem to address any of the key pain points that B2B marketers feel when trying to use AdWords to drive new business leads. For example:
1) Landing pages are critical!
There are credible statistics that as many as 3 out of 4 B2B-oriented PPC links on Google do not lead to a landing page that is specifically relevant to end users’ search keyword and the PPC advertisement that they clicked on. According to a study from Atlas, conversion rates on poorly relevant landing pages are typically 1% or less, while conversion rates on highly relevant pages can be as high as 10%+. In other words, the value of a PPC click can be multiplied by 10x if the advertiser has a very specific, relevant landing page. But the trouble is, landing pages are hard! Marketers cite lack of internal resources, lack of IT support, tight deadlines, and other barriers to creating the dozens or even hundreds of well-tested landing pages that are necessary to maximize the value of PPC advertising for B2B demand generation.
Google has a good gig going — they get paid whether or not the target landing page is any good. But for effective PPC demand generation, marketing professionals need a quick and easy way to create, deploy, manage, and test dozens or even hundreds of content-rich, relevant landing pages, all without the need for IT support or HTML programming skills. I don’t see this mentioned in the gorillas’ offering.
2) Bid optimization
If you have a $10,000 / month AdWords budget and 200 keywords, how should you set your bids to maximize the number of revenue-producing business leads that you generate? Hmmm… Some words perform great, but are very expensive to buy. Many less expensive but highly relevant words may perform very well, if you can find them and figure out how much to bid for them. And some words may generate a lot of clicks, and thus a lot of PPC cost, but do not translate into revenue-producing customers.
From our experience at Marketo, bidding is not something that many B2B marketers have mastered, and it’s no surprise, since it’s a very hard problem. Google has historically not provided tools to help with this problem, in part because it’s not in their best interest to do so. The right bid optimization tool — one that truly “mashes up” and takes advantage of information from Google, landing page conversions, leads, opportunities, and resulting revenue — can drive a 20%-50% improvement in PPC effectiveness. This translates into substantial cost savings, or better yet, generation of many more high quality business leads for the same cost. I can’t find anything in the Google/Salesforce offering to help with this problem.
3) So the user clicked and filled out a form…then what?
Pay-per-click marketing is awesome, and is transforming the B2B demand generation process. But only a tiny fraction of prospective B2B buyers are ready to talk to a sales person when they click on a PPC link. Instead, they are exploring and conducting research, and they expect to get relevant and useful information, not a sales pitch. In B2B marketing, a PPC click is just the start of a process — like planting a seed. Once planted, a seed needs water, sunlight, time, and a dose of TLC before the result is ready for harvest. Same with a B2B lead…once the PPC click happens, the B2B marketer must initiate a relevant, informative, and patient nurturing process to guide the lead from the research stage to being truly “sales ready”.
It is only by mastering this lead nurturing process that the B2B marketer can reliably and repeatedly deliver leads to their sales channel that are ripe and ready to buy. Doing so requires effective use of a variety of channels and tools to “synchronize” the lead nurturing process with the buyer’s needs, giving the buyer access to the information they want when they want it as they move from research to action. In the end, B2B marketing is not about PPC any more than farming is about sticking a bunch of seeds into the ground. I don’t see anything in the Google/Salesforce.com announcement that acknowledges, let alone, addresses this need.
It’s kind of scary to get a visit from the gorillas, with the noise and chest-thumping and all. But when I look hard, I can’t find a lot else there. In the end, I think we’ll do just fine at Marketo as long as we continue focus on the real problems that B2B marketers face in trying to make effective use of PPC, and even more important, on giving B2B marketing professionals the complete end-to-end tools and processes they need to effectively and efficiently deliver true ready-to-buy leads to their sales colleagues.