At any one time, 95% of your potential customers are not in the market looking to buy, according to research by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and LinkedIn’s B2B Institute.
Only 5% of your audience is “in-market” now looking to buy, so your advertising largely hits buyers who will not buy anytime soon.
How can marketers be top-of-mind for buyers at whatever point they decide to buy?
One great way to do this is through always-on marketing, which seeks to build awareness and create brand-relevant memories through messaging.
Here’s what you need to know about always-on marketing and how to apply it in your search marketing campaigns.
What is always-on marketing?
Always-on marketing is a strategy that aims to keep your brand consistently visible in the market through ongoing campaigns.
The main objective is to ensure your target audience knows your brand and its solutions even before they are ready to purchase.
Always-on marketing enhances brand awareness and boosts brand equity. It uses metrics from the full marketing funnel to judge performance, from reach all the way down to revenue.
Why always-on marketing matters
Short-term lead generation campaigns continue to dominate the marketing landscape.
These campaigns result in brief revenue spikes, followed by stagnant revenue growth.
So, why do most marketers prioritize these short-term strategies?
That’s because they often respond to the immediate revenue needs of businesses, which demand quick results.
In recent times, marketing, particularly on the digital side, has leaned heavily toward strict “performance-based” campaigns, expecting rapid results within just two weeks.
Success is then solely measured based on lead generation.
Instead, marketers should use always-on marketing programs incorporating full-funnel campaigns for long-term durations.
If embraced, this approach can elevate marketers from reactive short-term campaign executors to strategic long-term builders of brands and drivers of revenue.
Always-on marketing requires more planning, content, creativity, budget and time over standard short-term lead generation campaigns.
All of this should be exciting to any marketer, but it will take time and persuasion to convince your company, especially your finance team, to approve.
Testing new marketing approaches is key to learning and growth. Making big bets can yield big returns.
Always-on marketing in paid search
Always-on marketing for paid search runs across the entire marketing funnel from top of funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU) to bottom of the funnel (BOFU) to ensure your brand is always in the marketing funnel while your target audience searches.
This approach moves well beyond traditional paid search campaigns that are conversion focused with target cost-per-conversions or conversion volume goals.
Always-on paid search campaigns include optimizing for those “performance marketing” metrics.
Still, they also include optimizing your campaigns for TOFU awareness metrics like impression share and MOFU engagement metrics like click-through rate.
An always-on approach to paid search involves a full-funnel execution of:
- Content strategy.
- Messaging alignment.
- Ad creation.
- User-journey development.
- Lead nurturing.
- Metric identification/measurement.
- Budget allocation.
- Keyword selection.
From a content strategy perspective, TOFU and MOFU landing pages should have ungated content that:
- Speaks to your brand.
- Describes high-level category offerings.
- Displays data that addresses customer pain points.
- Provides social proof.
BOFU content should only be gated if it is extremely high-value. Examples are signature research reports or annual surveys with valuable and original data.
Gone are the days of gating standard ebooks, whitepapers, checklists, etc. Give that type of content away without gating it during the TOFU and MOFU stages.
Budget allocation is another important consideration. When allocating your budget between funnel stages, 60-40 is a good rule of thumb.
- 60% should go to keywords within TOFU and MOFU.
- 40% of your budget should go to BOFU keywords.
This allocation ensures your brand has visibility across the entire search journey to build awareness and drive revenue.
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Always-on paid search keywords
Dividing keywords into TOFU, MOFU and BOFU is not an exact science.
There are keyword research tools that can help aid in this process and complement your knowledge of your audience and your experience as a paid search marketer.
After initial testing, you should always re-evaluate the stratification of your keywords and make adjustments as needed.
Below are practical recommendations on how to begin to segment your keywords by stage of the funnel.
- Branded keywords
- Your brand is your most important asset. Promote and protect it as competitors bid.
- Competitor keywords
- The searcher might be your competitor’s customer now, but that does not mean they will always be. Competitive conquest can increase your brand awareness to relevant prospects. Remember, we’re judging TOFU on awareness metrics like impression share, not conversions.
- Industry-level keywords
- Find and bid on industry-level terms. For example, a cybersecurity firm could bid on terms such as “cybersecurity” or “cybersecurity solutions.” Judge performance on impressions and impression share.
- Category-level keywords
- Building on the cybersecurity example, go one level down and bid on terms like “threat intelligence.” Judge the performance of these keywords on engagement metrics such as click-through rate and website engagement metrics. Do not judge these keywords on conversions, leads or revenue.
- Comparison keywords
- Bid on terms aimed at searchers comparing companies or solutions within your space. For example, “top cybersecurity companies.”
- Product-level keywords
- Product-level keywords are traditional lead generation-focused keywords that are transactional and product-driven. For a cybersecurity firm, an example would be “managed detection and response (MDR) software.” Judge these types of keywords on revenue generation.
Always-on duration and budget
The always-on marketing approach needs to be both full funnel and long duration to be impactful to your brand.
That said, always-on paid search can be costly, so be strategic. When the budget is limited, cut back based on the performance metrics relevant to each funnel stage.
Do not just cut the budget of TOFU and MOFU keywords. Focusing just on BOFU keywords will land you again in the cycle of short bursts of revenue followed by flat growth.
Push back, say “no,” and advocate for strategic budget allocations based on long-term brand building and revenue growth.
Champion always-on marketing
Now that you have an understanding of always-on marketing, test it. Give it a try at your organization via a six-month or nine-month-long paid search pilot.
Move beyond short-term campaigns promoting a webinar or a gated whitepaper. Embrace a full-funnel, long-term view of paid search.
Implementing such a trial will not be easy but begin with socializing and advocating for the idea.
Paid search marketers can and should be more than reactive campaign executioners, so champion always-on marketing and become a strategic brand builder and revenue driver.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.