Look beyond the query
How to get an intent-based search experience with a real-time stream of customized global demand.
B2B demand generation and access to new business opportunities mostly rely on search, utilized since the 90's.
Yet, nothing notably changed in the method we can search in those two decades.
Is search obsolete?
The traditional approach to searching is to input a query and get a response. Search engines calculate the probable relevancy of information to our query, and basing on this they rank and display results.
Most of us treat this way of how search engines work as sufficient or "good enough". But maybe we should take a closer look on this state of sufficiency, specifically for the purpose of business search.
According to research studies, about 94% of SMBs (small and medium businesses) use some form of online search to find business information and cooperation opportunities.
They mostly start their journey with a traditional search engine (horizontal search), but finally resort to 12 different sources (including business directories - verticals) to fulfill their needs.
Working this way requires spending a large amount of time to end up with any meaningful usable information. Calling to mind the lifelong quote "time is money", the task becomes a sadly dubious venture.
Unsolved search problem
So, what is wrong with the business search?
Most of today’s search engines rely on a single-direction flow of information: entity (website/vendor) to searcher query.
While searching for services or products we can input a query to communicate our need, receive a response, and meanwhile possibly become a target for ads as well.
But while seeking new business customers there is no way for us to input our offer as a query and get back proper results. We have to buy out our own ads or perform search engine optimization (SEO) tricks to try to increase our reach among users who have already searched for similar products or services. Search engines target our audience based on their search queries and websites browsing activity, but they can’t distinguish between types of demand or accommodate two-way communication.
In both cases, whether we are a searcher or vendor, we cannot engage in straight personal interaction, because the information-seeking process is only a computer retrieval process where search engines are intermediaries.
Consumers buy what they want, business buyers – what they need
To be fair, for consumer and B2C requirements, search in its present form seems good enough.
But there is a substantial difference between the consumer and business markets. Consumers tend to buy what they want, and business buyers generally buy what they need.
Thus, for B2B purposes it is critical to identify searchers’ real needs and intent.
Serving the underserved
There is an evident on-demand interaction and intent gap when searching for business.
Bridging that gap would allow B2B searchers to quickly reach and consume online business opportunities.
It would be nice to finally look beyond the query and distinguish between a prospective business buyer and an individual private searcher. Access to such knowledge and its impact on B2B ROI (return on investment) results would be strikingly transformative.
The trick is to provide a search experience based on an understanding of the search query and on differentiating searchers' intent.
Match is the new search
Combining information retrieval with cross-distribution between both participating sides of the search process should be the primary and fundamental focus of an efficient business demand generation engine.
The next would be a targeted approach aimed at reaching potential business partners or customers, showing signs of readiness to cooperate or make a purchase, based on relayed intent.
Finding correlations between intent-based demands is a typical matching task, where traditional search is rather a supportive feature. A match engine could analyze searchers' query, distinguish between offers and needs, and promptly disseminate customized individual results.
A next-gen business-focused match engine could drive cost optimization for generating leads and reduce time-consuming routine mundane tasks. And as business searchers, through on-demand business opportunity live-streaming, we could experience a significant increase in ‘warmth' of online leads.
There is still a lot to be improved in search to stop forcing business from utilizing mostly B2C-designed channels for B2B demand generation purposes.
However, providing business with a real-time stream of customized global demands could be quite a good opening for replacing the traditional one-sided search process with continuous intent-based matching.
It’s all about match.