I recently wrote research about search marketing best practices for business marketers but didn’t cover contextual advertising in it. Having spent over 5 years covering enterprise search or working for companies (Verity, Stratify) offering search-based products, I have to admit I am a bit more than skeptical about claims – like those made by Google Adsense, Kanoodle BrightAds, Quigo AdSonar, and Yahoo’s Publisher Network – that search-based contextual ads accurately match the host content and never appear on unrelated sites. The fact is – and anyone frustrated by the low quality of search results they see on most business-oriented Web sites will agree – getting machines to read, interpret, and characterize written text precisely is difficult and labor-intensive. And for every contextual placement that looks relevant, I can show you more that are way off the mark.
During a recent breakfast meeting with B2B marketers, someone asked “We sell many products, with each buying cycle involving multiple decision makers. Do I need to create a persona for each?” Persona is a word that has made its way into the business marketer’s vocabulary of late and we admit we’re doing our part to promote this approach as well. But are B2B marketers ready to use personas as a launch pad for establishing a more relevant dialog with prospects and customers?
Most are not. Judging from our customer interactions, the typical B2B firms’ approach to segmentation is quite rudimentary — they group customers by size, industry, and geography. These categories closely match their sales organization’s structure, but are divorced from marketing strategy. Few go further and extend buyer profiles to include role, behavior, demographics, or preferences.