If you have been on Mars (or indeed half term holidays) you may have missed a major disturbance in the force.

At first glance it doesn’t seem particularly dramatic but it has far reaching consequences for how you approach customer acquisition from hereon in.

Google has removed all PPC ads from the right hand side of the SERPs.

Even if don’t use PPC this is still the biggest wake up call to hit in many years.

What happened?

Many b2b businesses are currently analysing the commercial consequences. But it’s not looking good.

On one level Google is just providing desktop users with the same search experience as mobile users. The search community does seem intensely relaxed about the whole thing, with some experts seeing it as a net positive.

One study has shown that right hand ads only account for 5.51% of clicks anyway. So why the fuss?

Because that 5.51% slice of the action was where the little guy could compete with the big guys.

With the Relevancy Score, Google’s implicit contract meant that if you worked hard to understand your potential customers and provide a relevant user experience then you would be rewarded.

A level playing field for everyone.

But now there are only the top spots available, so those with the deepest pockets will win.

So why is it such a big wake up call?

This is not just about PPC. It’s about changing a mind-set that many b2b marketers have unwittingly fallen into:

Over reliance on the ‘one.’

It’s a cliché because it’s true. ‘One’ is the most dangerous word in business.

Over reliance on one marketing channel, one client, one key member of staff or one supplier.

One anything is a perilous strategy.

Over the years many b2b marketers have gradually become addicted to the perilous position of over-reliance on paid search as their one weapon of choice.

And now this is in danger of being whipped away. Or least made commercially unviable because the lazy and/ or stupid will now dominate.

A software client of ours is facing a £54 CPC for the premium ‘buyer intent’ keyword in their market. Even the most optimistic conversion rates and lifetime value projections make this completely unviable.

But they are competing against VC backed competitors where profit is a distant ambition and not a current reality. Competing with laziness and stupidity is impossible.

It’s not just PPC that the danger of over reliance on ‘one’ exists. For many it’s the “we just do the big industry event every year – everything else gets a backseat”. But what if the event organiser goes broke?

Certain activities will always produce a higher return than others. It’s the natural law of Pareto.

But as long as activity is still profitable then we need to keep it going. Investors call it a balanced portfolio.

Pound for pound, remarketing will probably be the most profitable lead acquisition channel there is. But do you drop your PR agency just because their ROI model is not as transparent and immediate?

The silver lining?

Hopefully you won’t have been too adversely hit by this unexpected kick in the teeth from Mountain View.

But if there is a silver lining it may be that you rethink your over reliance on the ‘one’. The winners will be those who think beyond route one activity and start to out-think rather than out-spend.

Think more about the whole buying cycle.

Think more about the customer.

Not just demographics and firmographics but individual psychographics.

  • What are these people really interested in?
  • What is the true conversation in the head?
  • How can I reach them earlier in the cycle?

Not just wait to compete with everyone else at the tail end of the buying cycle with premium keyword bids.

I may be slightly biased but I suspect the answer my friend is blowing in the wind of a documented content marketing strategy.

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