Recently, one of my team members informed me that the new CFO of one of our clients isn’t a big fan of advertising.
The gist of his argument is this: the company is going to get sales via its listing in organic search results. So why pay for Google ads when they’re not necessary?
This non-belief in advertising came to the fore in a recent request. The CFO asked us to start testing ads that drive only new visitors to “buy” pages on their website. He doesn’t see the point in sending new visitors to pages that inform or educate when they’ll end up buying from this company regardless.
It’s the kind of request that would send many B2B marketers running for the hills.
Do marketing fundamentals still hold?
While this scenario may give B2B marketers anxiety, it does raise some valid questions that are worth pondering:
1. Is “the customer journey” still a valid concept?
Back in the early days of my career, leads were seen as black or white. They either converted or they didn’t.
Then, some nuance was added. Leads were divided into cold leads, warm leads, and hot leads.
More recently, most people began to think of leads as existing on a continuum, which eventually developed into the customer journey concept.
Choosing to send new visitors directly to “buy” pages circumvents this customer journey. You’re betting that you can take leads from point A to Z to make a sale—skipping all the touchpoints in between. If this bet pays off, what does that say about the whole customer journey concept?
2. Do leads only exist in only one of two categories?
The “send people directly to a buy page” approach is underpinned by the assumption that leads can be cleanly divided into two groups: people who are going to buy and people who are not. So you send everyone to a “buy” page—and those who are going to buy will and those who aren’t going to buy won’t.
But is this a useful way to think about leads?
Say, for example, I have a problem I need to solve. To figure out how to solve that problem, and with which product, I attend webinars, sign up for demos, and join sales presentations. Eventually, I make a purchase.
Is it fair to conclude that I would have made that purchase all along? Was I always in the “going to buy” group?
Or is it possible that something in the messaging and sales pitch encouraged me to choose THAT company with THAT product?
3. How likely is it that a B2B lead will visit your website for the first time and make a purchase?
For a small purchase, such as pens or tealights, web visitors might make a purchase the first time they visit a site because these are low-cost/low-involved items. So, they land on your site from an ad, see the pens they need, and decide to buy. Why not? It’s a low-risk decision.
But does this happen in B2B? Especially when products cost thousands of dollars and the purchase decision needs to go through an approval process. It seems unlikely.
Surely, before that purchase is made, the visitor will do some research, which would include visiting the company’s website multiple times.
My friend Lisa Lazarczyk makes this point perfectly in a recent LinkedIn post where she describes the path she followed to make a recent purchase. In this example, she buys a consumer good. But the same process would apply, although even more so, for a B2B purchase.
Lisa is absolutely right. It’s not one ad that gets us to buy. The purchase decision is influenced by many factors. (But we all already know that right? Right?!)
4. Can a company truly be the ONLY game in town?
You might be the leader in your market. But can you truly claim you’re the ONLY game in town?
Because there’s a big difference between the two.
Unless you can truly say everyone in your target market now AND in the future knows your brand name and will go directly to your website to buy your products, you’ll always be vulnerable to competition. And so, shuttering your advertising accounts is risky.
In the case of our client, the company is very dominant in their market and has gained even more market share in the past few years. However, they also have a lot of competition, and those competitors are investing heavily in advertising.
So, what happens to leads—even if they’re few—that click on a competitor ad? They become missed opportunities….
There’s no one right answer
Look, as we all know there’s no ONE correct way to advertise and promote your products and services. Results will vary depending on your business, products, location, customers, and brand, to name a few.
I pose these questions not to provide answers, but to consider more deeply the assumptions we all make—assumptions that lurk behind even the most simple directives: such as sending new website visitors to a “buy now!” page.
As for this client, we’re hoping that by testing this “direct-to-buy-page” strategy, we’ll demonstrate the value of all the other strategies we’ve employed over the years to grow this account. After all, this company has been our client for 12 years, and we’ve seen them through many challenging times.
We truly hope we can see them through this challenge as well. They’ve always loved testing new ideas and strategies, and we love that they love that! It’s been a very successful partnership.
Plus, we work with many AMAZING people at this company, and we don’t want to give up those relationships!