The business-to-business marketplace is infinitely more complex, and therefore, more challenging, than most of the business-to-consumer verticals. This reality extends into search marketing as well. Take the fact that B2B usually means complex sales (especially when it involves search as a potential lead generation channel) and then layer on the realities that for sales that are driven by organizations rather than individuals, one sale can involve multiple roles, including stakeholders with different needs--and most B2B sales can take months, or even years.

The biggest challenge with B2B transactions is that you're not talking to one buyer. Research (Matbuy, 1981) has shown that there are as many as six different roles--including the user, initiator, influencer, gatekeeper, decider and buyer - in most B2B purchase decisions. To make matters worse, these roles may not be filled by a single person, but a group of individuals, or, heaven forbid, a committee (tangential comment: how do you calculate the average IQ of a committee? Take the lowest IQ in the group and divide it by the number of people in the committee!) To complicate matters, each committee member has different levels of influence, takes part at different times, and has different perspectives and needs.

Usually, the buyer and decider are pretty far removed in the organization from the user, and the larger the organization, the bigger the gap. That means that the people making contact with the vendor have at least 3 degrees of separation (user:initiator:influencer:gatekeeper:decider) from the person who will actually be using the product or service. In search, it becomes vital to know who the person is who will be using the search engine.

Get the full story at MediaPost