Most will be familiar with the terms business-to-business and business-to-consumer and the difference between the two (the selling process and the buyer of the product or service is). What’s not always discussed is how the approach you take to link building changes depending on which of these sectors you’re working in.
There is a stark contrast between designing and executing a link building strategy for businesses whose product or service is designed for the end user, as opposed to another business. Techniques that work in one, will not work in the other. In this post, we’ll deliver an overview of the differences between the two sectors and present a few ideas for ways you can go about building links.
The internet is dominated by retail, and you could argue B2C businesses lend themselves a little easier to link building than their counterpart, certainly in terms of the volume of opportunities. The internet is made up of individuals and we’re ultimately all consumers. If you’re working for a consumer product, here are a couple of ideas to get your link building campaign started.
Having your product or service reviewed by relevant media should be a no-brainer. Potential customers are much more likely to trust a neutral, third party review of your product than they are to ‘take your word for it’. (Of course you’re going to say your product is good…)
Depending on the person or media reviewing your product, it is a means of reaching a wider audience than you’d normally have access to. It’s also an opportunity to open up dialogue with the end user of your product and get their feedback. Their opinion could be constructive and, if it’s not, it could be warning sign as to what the masses will think of your product.
The more unique your product or service the better, as it gives the writer an angle on reviewing the product.
Competitions often work very well for consumer products. Firstly, it might raise awareness of your business among people who might not normally be interested. It’s nice to win something, even if it’s not necessarily what we’re after.
If you really want the competition to be a success, it may be the case that you have to invest more in the prize than your actual products. For example, if you sell baths, the opportunity to win a bath is unlikely to cause too much of a stir. On the other hand, if it’s an opportunity to win a full suite, than much more people are likely to get involved. It’s an opportunity to push the ‘lifestyle’ angle, as opposed to merely a single, unexciting product.
This can also be a good way of quickly building an audience on Facebook or Twitter, if part of the entry requirement is to follow or like your page.
You need to think about the objective of your competition. Is it to grow an audience on social media? Or would it be better to borrow the attention of a blogger's already established audience? Is it something you want to push on your own website?
Business-to-business link building techniques are a different kettle of fish to business-to-consumer. When we generate coverage and a link for a b2c client, it’s easy to qualify how successful it’s been: how much traffic has it sent, what was the behaviour of these visitors and have they taken the desired action on the website.
It’s not always as straightforward for b2b. Whereas a consumer purchase can often be placed in seconds, the customer acquisition process in b2b can be blurred and difficult to track.
1. Industry Comment
A lot of the best linking opportunities will come from the more traditional trade media who have a presence online. If the b2b organisation has been established a while, it’s not unusual for there to be a prior relationship here; be they subscribers to the offline publication or one-time advertisers. Leverage this relationship: chances are they’ll be more than happy to take a bit of industry commenting for their blog and link back at the same time.
You will have to work with your client to come up with this content. The audience will be very knowledgeable, so the piece needs to be focussed and specific. Even if you can just get the key information and angle from the client, you can then use a copywriter to hammer it into shape. If all you can produce is a glorified advertorial, it’s unlikely to pass muster.
2. Existing Customers
One of the best ways linking opportunities for b2b companies is leveraging their existing relationships. It’s also one of the most difficult, especially if it’s undertaken by an agency on behalf of the business. Often, the barrier you’ll come up against here is finding a reason for them to link to you, other than the fact you’re their supplier (chances are they won’t have a links page or suitable place to link.) It’s also unlikely to be top of their priorities, so can require a lot of polite nudges and be a drawn out process.
Once you have the right angle though, things become a lot more straightforward. For example, if there’s a healthy relationship there, you might look to provide them with a testimonial. This way there’s value for them, as opposed to merely linking to you for your benefit. Another angle might be to feature them on the blog. Get pictures and quotes as an example of how you’ve done business with them. Aside from actually creating a decent post for the blog, it’s another reason for them to link to you, either from their site directly or in their social channels.
The more things change…
The ultimate objective of all marketing activities is the same, no matter what the sector. This should always be attracting new customers or selling more to existing ones.
The first job when devising your approach is to understand who the customer is and the landscape they inhabit online.
Creative Commons Image via poppet with a camera on Flickr.