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Beware of the ‘smartest’ guy in the room

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Beware of the ‘smartest’ guy in the room


Everyone loves an expert. I certainly do. When I’m taking my car in for repairs, getting a job done around the house, or using an accountant to do the tax thing every year, I rejoice in the fact that there is someone smarter and better than I am in a special field of knowledge. That leaves me to crack on with the stuff I’m good at. It’s a comfort to know that there are people dedicated single-mindedly to a task, because naturally if you spend all your time in one special area of expertise, you would have to be pretty damn good.

This is true for all experts, in all fields except for volcanologists. I’m thinking of that Earth-burp known as Mount St Helens back in 1980. The experts said not to worry, let’s evacuate people to a distance of 13 kilometres into a ‘safe’ zone. There was just the small issue that the experts’ only knowledge base was Hawaiian volcanoes, which have open craters to erupt in a violently controlled manner.

Mount St Helens was a completely different kettle-of-fish, no open vent, and even when a massive bulge appeared on the Northern flank, no-one except for a chap called Jack Hyde pointed out how nasty it could be. Jack was not a part of the ‘expert’ panel, so his voice was not heard at the time. What came next was a catastrophic explosion beyond comprehension. The world’s greatest landslide screamed 250 kilometres per hour down the mountain, carrying enough material to bury Manhattan to a depth of 120 metres. Then the main show with an explosion of five hundred atomic bombs, killing people as far away as 30 kilometres, as the blast went out of that bulge, the experts had considered as ‘insignificant’.

On second thoughts there are experts in other fields who also get it wrong, such as (pause for effect) digital media people. In fact they are so far off the pace, they don’t even have a proper sounding title, at least volcanologists have that much going for them. On the other hand, when a ‘digital media person’ cocks-up it’s not quite as cataclysmic on human life, so I guess on that score, it all evens out.

The real issue is, when an expert digital media person talks about B2B, are they an expert with B2B? They could by all rights be a borderline genius with digital media, but in the world of B2C, creating buzz for corn flakes or launching ecommerce sites, which creates impressive bio-copy, stating how much business their digital media expertise has generated. Problem is, without a deep understanding of B2B, innovation and technology companies are blowing holes into their budgets and credibility following the advice of ‘experts’.

The most striking example is in the world of SEO, with many taking the same approach to selling large capex products as you would when flogging collectable Hot Wheels. The most obvious difference is the time to buy. My boy takes about 20 seconds to decide what Hot Wheel he wants, a B2B buyer will take 2 years or more, just on the due diligence. Perhaps the best illustration of the expert gap is with key word strategy.

B2C searchers often use well-known brand names, such as Hot Wheels, because many already know what they want to buy. The real hunt is for the best source. If a B2C searcher uses a generic term, expect less variance such as ‘toy car’.

B2B keyword strategy is more complex, because often there are many ways to skin a cat. Imagine for instance, you sold cat-skinning technology, not a bad thought at all really. In any case, you have a business, which sells technology licensing for a remote controlled plant that skins a thousand fur balls per day, using various ingenious methods.

To attract licensees/investors/customers, you need your key word strategy to cover not only the bleeding obvious such as your brand and ‘cat skinning’ but also ‘slaughter systems’, ‘slaughter technologies’, ‘food processing’, ‘animal management systems’, and dozens of other related and specific search terms.

You also have to consider the variation of what to call things, because people will use weird combinations of words because of industry-specific lingo or generic terms. Your typical B2B searcher uses words focused on the need or problem, rather than a product or solution. Add multiple searches during the buying cycle and multiple parties influencing the sale, B2B SEO keyword strategy can quickly become more complex than a weasel chasing a snake in your trousers.


Kimon Lycos

Kimon Lycos is founder of Mihell & Lycos, a leading business-to-business marketing communications agency, helping companies sell technology and innovation to other companies. He is also an Adjunct Professor with RMIT University. Tweet Kimon: @b2bmarketer, and visit Mihell & Lycos website.

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