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How to Take on Bigger Players in B2B

Published: March 21, 2018

Author: Taylor Scott

You’re a mid-major, an at-large bid, and you’re not in the power 5. No, you’re not a collegiate basketball team in March; you’re an emerging business, looking to make a name for yourself amongst the big players that are your competition.

All metaphors aside, this has been and always will be the case for businesses looking to break into existing markets, and looking to take market share away from others in the industry. Capitalizing on digital media channels can be tricky: it can get expensive if done incorrectly, and it takes some creativity to steal accounts from your competitors. I’ll be going through a couple of strategies that will help you get started on challenging your competition utilizing paid digital media channels.

Study the field

The first step we’ll need to look at is figuring out who to go after. I’m sure by this point in the conversation, you know who are the big dogs, small fish, and everything in the middle. The ranking of said competition might depend on how much of the market they control, industry reviews, etc. However, their paid search strategy, volume, and execution might not equate to where they rank among businesses in the same silo. To get a better pulse on where things stand in the paid search space, we’ll need to look at some 3rd-party tools.
Utilizing tools like Spyfu, SEMRush, and other competitor research tools will get keyword and volume data that can be used rank competition, as well as providing any low-hanging fruit that may be available. This strategy really favors smaller businesses looking to take advantage of their competition and the volume that goes with the recognition. If you’re an upstart, being able to piggyback on thousands of branded term searches might bring in some additional traffic to your site without too much downside. The inverse can be said on larger companies. Bidding on the competition can potentially become a catch-22. It could yield fantastic results for your business, but it can also end up causing increased brand costs for your own terms, thus decreasing your usually most efficient paid search campaign type.

Go on the offensive

It’s important to understand that you should go after more than just your competitor’s branded keywords, especially if you’re chasing companies that don’t get that much volume on those terms. Another campaign type that we’d need to set up is one that goes after non-branded terms that your competitors rank highly on. These include terms that relate to the product or service that they offer (obviously being available with your company as well), product names, and industry terms/lingo specific to a potential lead’s funnel status (upper, mid, down funnel, closer to purchase, etc.). Keep in mind, there isn’t any rule against going after a competitor’s terms, especially trademarked terms, except that you do not use that trademarked term(s) in your ad copy (simply bidding on a term is fair game).
And remember: don’t just show up; that won’t win over many new users. Tell them why to click on your ad (is your product/service cheaper? Do you have better terms? Is your customer service better?) instead of your competitor’s. Define a value prop and hammer it hard; you have to have an angle (and good aim) to overcome a better-known competitor.

Set the right expectations

Once you’ve decided what route you’re taking, you’ll need to understand that this “challenger” campaign(s) should be judged differently than your existing efforts. Go through the last couple of months of data, if you have it, and get a baseline for how brand, non-brand, specialty campaigns are already performing. Then look at the KPIs you’re already using to judge those: cost-per-acquisition (CPA), impression share (IS), click-through rates (CTR), whatever your internal team has decided is the main metric per campaign type. Once you have your main metric(s), be sure to adjust to be more forgiving in your competitor campaigns.
If, for example, brand is CPA target based at $50/conversion (lead), we’ll probably look to at least double or triple that right out of the gate. You’re going after what we assume is solely “net-new” business.
Bottom line: keep expectations tempered, be realistic, and don’t get complacent with performance of your chosen KPI target.
While this is only a part of a more robust B2B search strategy, keeping with these essentials will have you set up for a Cinderella upset in March.

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