Many times after I’ve spoken on mobile search or mobile marketing, I’m approached by someone in B2B who is wondering if mobile search is just a B2C phenomenon, or if it’s something that B2B organizations can benefit from as well.
My answer, always, is: yes, mobile search and mobile marketing are just as relevant to B2B marketers, if not more so.
This is not intuitive, as mobile search is associated more with a need-it-now or local mindset, as Jon Miller explained a few years ago on Search Engine Land.
However, when you consider the evidence, you might agree that mobile search and mobile marketing should be a priority for B2B marketers today, and not sometime in the distant future. For example…
1. B2B Buyers Have Smartphones & Use Them For Business-Related Activity
A great study in Forbes from 2010 profiled business executives and how they use mobile devices. It turns out 82% of them have smartphones and many of them have more than one — both a Blackberry as well as an iPhone or Android phone.
Fifty-nine percent of these executives said they would rather make a business-related purchase over the mobile Web than over the phone, and the younger they were, the more comfortable they were with the idea.
In 2012, this number is likely to be even higher, as almost half of the executives surveyed said they believe a smartphone or Web-enabled tablet will be their primary device for business-related use within three years.
Consider email as a sign of where online communication is going, both in terms of executives and everyone else. Email usage in general has recently gone mobile, having surpassed desktop usage this year. If you’re an email marketer and you’re not thinking about mobile, you are way behind the curve. So far behind, in fact, that you may not be an email marketer for much longer.
But, as more people use smartphones, including these executives that rely on their mobile devices for communication, it’s only a matter of time before search marketers, and eventually all marketers not investing in mobile, will suffer the same fate.
2. B2B Buyers Search For B2B Keywords
Granted, our initial research on mobile keywords and categories showed that mobile searchers in the Business & Industrial category (as defined by the Google Adwords Keyword Tool) are not as likely to look for mobile-specific products and services as other categories; but, that doesn’t mean that B2B buyers aren’t using their phones to connect with vendors and services.
In fact, according to the Forbes survey, executives make, on average, seven mobile searches per day. When we look at actual searches from Google, it appears that many of these searches are business-related.
These were selected because they clearly represent B2B searches, but there are other keywords that could be relevant to B2B or B2C (e.g., Verizon, which is the top B2B advertiser), which have millions of searches from mobile devices.
The point is: contrary to intuition, B2B decision makers don’t just have smartphones; they do business searches on them. B2B marketers who understand this and prepare for it will be the only ones who profit from it.
3. B2B Buyers Buy B2B Goods On Mobile Devices
Even if B2B buyers didn’t actually convert on mobile devices, having mobile content would still be important. According to the Forbes research, mobile is just one of many touch points during the B2B buying cycle. Executives have multiple devices and use them all in researching and buying products and services.
On average, executives had 3.46 devices each; CEOs (4.21 devices) and CFOs (4.22 devices) had the most. Seventy-none percent of the executives prefer to make purchases on their computer, even if the research started on a smartphone, so conversion rates might be lower on smartphone. Nonetheless, having that information available on all devices is essential to making the sale.
The odd thing is, some executives do buy on a mobile device, even if they’re most comfortable doing it on a computer. As I reported on my blog in 2010, B2B buyers bought almost $700k from eBay in a week, according to eBay sales data. Given that eBay expects to do $10 billion in mobile revenue in 2012, that number is likely much larger today.
In fact, 59% of the respondents to the Forbes survey agreed or strongly agreed that they would rather make a business-related purchase over the mobile Web than over the phone.
As marketers, we might infer that it’s more important today to have mobile-friendly content to reach business executives than it is to have an 800 number.
Again, this may seem counter-intuitive to those of you still thinking of your targets as this guy…
But when you consider, the new reality is this guy, as the evidence suggests…
Or even this “guy”…
…you should realize that it’s a new era in B2B marketing. B2B marketers who want to reach business executives can’t afford to ignore mobile marketing any longer.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.